Yes, this is a long post, but the story deserves the telling!
Well, the stars and planets were aligned correctly, so Isaac, Nate and I met in Downieville to make a quick run up Spring Creek before it became buried under snow. We headed for the trail around 9am, aired down and ready to roll over some rocks.
Isaac and Nate crawled up the first obstacle without issue, but I needed a little guidance from Isaac to get the heavy-ass FJ out of the rut.
At the top we saw Jeeps ahead of us in the distance and as we caught up to them, we got our first hint of snow on the trail.
We found the Jeepers examining the next obstacle. Minutes ticked by as they pondered their route, one of them commenting that he was concerned about flex because he still had sway bars connected. The three IFS guys just kind of… blinked… Both Jeeps tackled it with no problems, the one getting a wee wheel stand in, and then the Yotas climbed over no problem as well.
Further up the trail, more fun was had as we passed the Jeepers taking the View east.
Isaac then began breaking trail and we had our first challenge. Isaac and Nate took the harder line on the left, while I got hung up early and stayed right.
The Rock Garden proved to be all kinds of fun
All but one of the Jeeps took the bypass
And this guy came along… but that’s a WHOLE ‘nother story…
Nate and I finished our fun in the Rock Garden while the Jeepers replaced a tire after ripping off a valve stem.
… but then the REAL fun began. Remember this guy? This is where the story begins…
As we were making our way up the Garden, we heard the familiar “PING!!” of axle problems come from this rig. Turns out he blew the rear diff ring and pinion. We had assumed he was with the Jeeps and they were helping him, but he, in fact, was up there alone. It turns out he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and we were in the right place at the right time… for him.
Not to beleaguer the point, but he and his three young friends were out test driving his new rig. He did not have the owner’s manual and I doubt had ever been off-road before. He and his friends were very gracious and grateful for our help as we diagnosed the problem and advised them on their options. They decided to try to drive to the top of the trail where they could get a tow to civilization and we told them we would be behind them if they ran into more trouble.
We had our last bit of fun a little way up the trail
It did not take long for us to catch up to the LR spinning wheels in the next rocky section and we had a heart-to-heart about the situation. We showed the driver how to put the rig in 4WD and low-range. Despite this, it was apparent his driving out was not feasible, and we couldn’t leave them there, so we offered to tow him. Isaac and Nate daisy-chained their rigs and started hauling the LR up the trail, spinning, bucking, bouncing, and since the LR driver didn’t know how to work the rig, hauling his dead weight most of the way.
After what seemed like hours of this, rigging, re-rigging, pulling each-other on and off rocks, etc., we got to a point where I could get by all the rigs and I offered to start pulling (both my own weight and the LR
) The off-camber turn I started on resulted in the LR pulling me off the road and I had to winch myself back on.
During all this there were 2 dirt bikes coming up the trail behind us, one with a broken clutch. Now THAT is hardcore!! When I was getting ready to tow the LR, I realized that I’d left one of my gear bags back down the trail, the one with the tow gear in it!! Just as I was about to turn around to go get it, the bikes arrived and one of them had my bag strapped to his back and we traded water for gear, a damn good deal for me!
This is pretty much the mindset at this point.
I had to chain up to get the LR around the bend, and I was amazed: the same dirt biker that brought me my gear helped me get the chains on. Freakin’ amazing guy. I then had the easiest section yet to tow him through to the top. Go figure. In retrospect I should have strapped on all 4 chains and drug the LR the whole way to save the thrashing that Isaac and Nate went through for the majority of the tow. Oh well, live and learn.
We got them to the top and we all caravanned to the road, after which we said our goodbyes with many thanks all around. Perhaps we will see them on this forum in the near future.
Better teamwork I have not seen between snow, mud, rocks, broken rig and folks who needed help and were gracious enough to accept it and maintain a sense of humor.
We made it out with a modicum of body damage, well-used sliders and skids, a tweaked wrist and hopefully some new friends.
Thanks for a great day folks!