It was a long, cold and snowy day on Spring Creek, but we still had a great time. We ended up on the trail for over 12 hours, with six vehicles and no one else on the trail other than a single ATV. Mike ended up pulling almost everyone through the last parts -- otherwise we'd still be there!
When we were down at Starbucks in Downieville it seemed like we might be overpreparing for bad weather because most people were in multiple layers and looked ready for a trek through Antarctica. It turned out to be good planning because it got really snowy and cold later on, even though the weather was nice when we started. The early trail had a light dusting of snow in shady areas and we had blue skies.
Everyone took the optional first obstacle, which was very rutted and muddy and probably the most difficult it's been since we started running it. Everyone hit the rock on the side of the big slab except for Mike, who missed it by about an inch. It helped to have a Wrangler on this one, because you had to come up and make a very tight turn to get through it. This gave Joe some issues in his Tacoma so he finally had to winch himself through it after trying a few different lines that didn't work out. He didn't manage to get through it without hitting the side of his truck on a rock and getting a little trail damage.
Cheryl got through it pretty easily but also got trail damage when she scraped her rear rim along a rock and broke the center cap.
We kept going and the snow turned from dustings to actual accumulation on the trail. That made the edge of the cliff a little scarier than usual because it was completely covered in a couple of inches of snow that had only seen a single ATV (we followed his tracks all day and talked to him at lunch on his way down).
The rocks on the cliff edge were a little more challenging than usual but no one had any issues. Even though we were in the sun and the weather was still nice the snow wasn't melting. We kept going up the switchbacks, stopping for a quick lunch at our usual spot.
We all took the optional dirt hill that cuts off one of the switchbacks. Bob R. went first and had to give it quite a few tries before breaking through the snow and getting some traction on the dirt below it. His speedometer said he was going 30mph but he crawled up it, tires spinning. That made it a little easier for everyone else so it didn't give anyone else any trouble. Joe was in 4-high which wasn't giving him enough to get up it easily, so he had to work his way up it. That probably made it more fun anyway!
We worked our way up the switchbacks and the snow kept getting deeper. Then it started to snow very lightly and we found ourselves in a fog that was pretty thick at times. This fog would come and go throughout the rest of the day.
When we got to the third rocky obstacle Bob R. tried it in a few different directions but the rocks were very slippery and it made it very difficult to get through it. He backed down and Bob S. ran through it quickly, managing to get through without sliding around too much. While he was doing that, Bob R. got a little too close to the edge and almost slid off the side.
Bob R. tried again and everyone pushed, helping him get through the slippery rocks. Eric and Mike went through it like it was nothing, and so did Cheryl. Joe made it look the easiest, just driving right through.
The snow was anywhere from 3 to 6 inches deep when we finally got to the Rock Garden at about 3:00PM. It was pretty ugly, because if you spun your tires at all you ended up making a sheet of ice. That meant that the further back you were in line the worse it was going to be.
Bob S. tackled the Rock Garden and drove straight through it. It was a pretty impressive run! That made everyone else think we weren't going to be there very long (there was no one else there, after all) but we were very wrong about that.
Bob R. tried to get going again, just before where the bypass starts. He found himself completely stuck where he was, spinning on the icy snow. Everyone else would have the same problem in the same area. That area of small rocks would end up being the hardest section of the trail for everyone.
Bob R. managed to get around the big rock at the start and decided to take the bypass. He worked at it for a very long time, spinning tires and making it to the section between the trees (about 25 feet into the bypass). He wasn't going any further.
At the same time, Don drove Cheryl's Jeep into the main section of the Rock Garden. He kept sliding off the rocks and nearly high-centering himself every time. It was really a mess by this time, with everything freezing up. He hooked up his winch and tried to pull himself over the big rock giving him troubles.
He had his front differential wedged against the rock, pulling with the winch. The back tires actually came off the ground a few inches, so all 4 tires were hanging in the air. He let up on the winch and it immediately snapped the cable. More trail damage for Cheryl!
Cheryl started up the bypass and got stuck too, so now both Bob R. and Cheryl were stuck. Eric was busy spinning his wheels in the slick section of small rocks, and Mike and Joe were stuck behind him. Bob S. was still at the top of the hill.
During all of this, people were walking around and falling all over the place. It was the Trail Damage Ice Capades 2004. There were a lot of bruises made during that time, because everywhere a tire had been was now a sheet of slick, icy snow.
Bob S. came back down and stopped at the top section of the bypass, hoping to pull Bob R. and Cheryl up. He ended up stuck in the bypass too, then.
Mike made his way around Eric and winched himself through the Rock Garden. Then he turned around and attached himself to a tree, facing down the trail and pointing at the spinning and stuck Jeeps. One by one he winched everyone out of the bypass as Joe winched himself through the Rock Garden.
Once we got to the top of the Rock Garden it was completely dark and about 7:00PM. We were all in a line and everyone started moving again through the rocky climb to the top. We got a little way through it before realizing that Eric wasn't going to have too much luck in the snow at the back of the icy line with no lockers.
Mike and Eric started the long process of attaching Mike's winch to a tree up ahead, then winching himself and Eric up the trail attached with a tow strap. It was slow going but it was working.
Bob S. and Joe were pretty far ahead at the front and we discussed turning around and going back down, even though we were very close to the end of the trail. We decided we'd rather take the time to winch all the way to the end rather than go by the cliff edges again.
Bob S. and Joe left as we worked our slow way to the top. There were a few slippery parts for Bob R. but Cheryl had no problems, driving around like she wasn't even on snow.
When Bob R. and Cheryl got past the last little switchback they stopped to wait for Mike and Eric to winch themselves a little closer. When they started up again both Bob R. and Cheryl slid off the side of the trail and were stuck.
Cheryl managed to slide backwards down the hill to safety, but Bob R. was really stuck and not in a good position. The Hi-Lift was pulled out but it wasn't working very well so we were going to have to wait for Mike to come to the rescue again.
When Mike and Eric were at the bottom of the switchback, Mike went up to pull Bob R. back onto the trail. The squeeze to get past Bob's bumper was tight and Mike hit his fender flare on Bob's fog light, ripping off Mike's fender flare. It was cold, the snow was deep, and it was about 10:00PM.
Mike went ahead to the meadow, turned around, and came back down to pull Bob R. out. When he got him out he backed all the way to the meadow with Bob R. following him. Bob got in Mike's Jeep and Mike came back to get Eric.
All this time, Eric spun his tires but he wasn't going anywhere. When Mike got back, Cheryl went on ahead to wait in the meadow while Mike got Eric going again.
When we were all in the meadow, we continued on down to Idaho Springs without any trouble. It was nice to see the amount of snow decrease as we got lower in elevation, down to no snow at all when we made it to town to air up.
It was a cold day, but it was fun! Everything changes in snow.
Reports from Other Days: 13
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