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Barking Dog Trail Bites Back

Contributed By: Ethan Brady

Colorado Fullsize Jeep Association Barking Dog Trail Run: 

     We met in Lyons at the Diamond Shamrock gas station because it was a gas station and because it was an obvious landmark that everyone could find. Susan and I arrived at an unknown time (neither of us had watches, and MudPuppy’s clock was not set right) and we found everyone waiting. Michael and his mom were in Troubled Child. His friend Mitch and another buddy were in a rather stock looking Nissan with IFS. Steve and Jody and their son James were in Old Orange. James (from Moab Off-Road in Ault) and Heather (fiancee) were in James’ Jeep. Susan and I were in MudPuppy with a newly lifted rear end, thanks to 3" blocks, Michael’s old springs and Steve’s muscle help. With CB’s on channel 4, we rolled out, Steve and Jody taking the lead, and Michael bringing up the rear, making sure no one fell out of line. We arrived at the trail, pulled over to air down and the most amazing thing happened: MudPuppy’s transfer case shifted into 4HI without grinding, clunking or making thrashing noises of any kind! I almost didn’t think it engaged at all, until I went to shift into 4LO and the lever shifted smoothly. It was truly amazing. We aired down with various tools and tricks. Michael used QuickAir deflators, Steve used old ends of fix-a-flat (a really trick and cheap idea!) and I used Susan’s Ford Escort carkeys. (The Escort is good for something….) As we were airing down, a group of well equipped "little Jeeps" with big tires <g> came up behind us. Sensing that they were better outfitted than us, we let them pass and head up the trail first, so they would not have to wait for us. This turned out to be a good thing. With everyone aired down, we headed up the trail, Old Orange leading, with MudPuppy and the Nissan next, and James and Michael driving the rear. I seemed to have lost what little 4 wheeling senses I had learned last year, as I managed to get stuck in LOTS of places. Good thing that my axles and differentials are fairly tough, as I scraped, banged and dragged them pretty good. And this was all on the first hard spot. It wasn’t long before the strap came out and MudPuppy was strapped out of the mess I had gotten into. Susan at points had gotten out, deciding it was safer to watch the carnage from afar. I was initially dismayed at my driving skills as I got strapped through parts where the Nissan made it through. But things evened out in the end, as I lent assistance to the Nissan to pull them through some spots, too. While we were motoring along, Michael mentions casually on the radio that his mom needs to be @ DIA by 7pm to make her 8pm flight home. "Really?!" I ask, and he replies "Yes. I’m not joking." Good thing the trail is short. Only a few more ‘hard’ spots and then the trail peters out into a bumpy road with a few rough spots, according to those who have run the trail before. As we cross the stream (again) and make a right turn, the trail straightens out a little and presents us with the last big hurdle. I stay well behind, in case Steve needs to back up for another line, or to charge it. Susan and I wait our turn, next, guessing that we’ll DEFINITELY need the strap for this part! My mind wanders, thinking of what will get scraped on this part. Well, Steve is really pounding it hard, and Ol’ Orange is really bouncing around, clawing it’s way further up the trail. Suddenly, disaster. Susan and I watch in silence as the right side of Ol’ Orange tips up in the air and rolls onto it’s side. But it didn’t stop there, and it continues onto the roof and stops. Finally. It sorta seemed like slow motion. Once it stopped, I heard Michael on the CB asking what’s going on. Before I can respond "Rollover", I realize I have already turned off MudPuppy and was jumping out and heading up the trail. I think James had already jumped out, and we kinda stumbled over each other racing towards the Jeep. By the time we got up there, Steve, Jody and their son, James, had already popped their seatbelts and were lying on the roof. After numerous assurances to us that they were indeed OK, they crawled out unassisted. Aside from being scared sh*tless and a little shaken up, they escaped unharmed. This was due to mostly one thing: They were wearing seatbelts. (And a strong roof.) After re-assuring ourselves that they were all OK, we went about the necessary, but we-really-didn’t-wanna-have-to-do-this chore of righting the Jeep and continuing on. It was silly to turn around, as the trail eased up after this obstacle. It would have been harder to turn around than continue. With Michael watching the time, Steve strapped chains to the Jeep and James maneuvered his winch equipped Jeep into position. With MudPuppy serving as an anchor, (something it does all too well), and tow straps on the winch cable for safety, we watched as Ol’ Orange was turned over and the roof was again facing skyward. Then we could really see the damage. We knew the roof was caved in (only in the middle front and part of the rear), but the whole body appeared to be slightly skewed and the doors didn’t shut. Obviously, the windshield was lost, as was one side rear window. Steve set about "fishing" for his sockets, as they had fallen in the creek. We never did find his extra camera lens, though. Steve checked all cylinders for oil, blew oil out of 2, and the Jeep roared to life again. Accompanied by lots of white smoke. However, the most important part (of course) was that everyone was safe, and amazingly without injuries. No matter how badly damaged the Jeep was, the thing that mattered was that the same # of people who started the trail were going to finish the trail. I’d much rather have lost the Jeep completely and had to have left it there, than to have one of our friends hurt or killed. So, in that regard, it was a GREAT day. (I work in a hospital, but not in a medical area!) Once we were operational again, the glass and stuff that was in the Jeep was BACK in the Jeep, we pressed onward. James carefully crawled over the obstacle that had claimed one Jeep. I followed behind, under the expert guidance of several spotters. And got stuck. Not because of spotting, but because of the lack of lift and my stock size tires. Hmmmm. Bigger really is better… So, with a tug from the strap, I’m through. Next up, the Nissan. With a tug of a strap, he is through, too. Michael, of course, makes it through like he’s driving in downtown Denver. (Hmm… I wonder which is worse…) After this, the trail really did get easier, with only a few semi-tough parts, including one spot where I rammed my passenger side tow hook straight into a rock. Ouch! I backed it up and tried again…. At some point, I also dented my driver side door, too. But it popped back out, leaving only a small scratch in the woodgrain. I love tough trucks. The last major obstacle was a creek crossing. The trail crossed the creek straight on, and there was no way to take it at an angle. So, you have to head straight in and hope for the best. As I watched James in front of me, I am thinking, there is NO way my front end is gonna make it through. (Remember, only the rear is lifted, making the front bumper actually a little LOWER than usual.) Sure enough, my wheels hit the bottom of the creek and forward motion stops. But wait, this is DIRT. This isn’t a large, unforgiving boulder formed millions of years ago and put there to stop my Jeep. It’s just dirt. Soooo, I back it up a little, and stomp on it, hoping nothing vital breaks or falls off. Sure enough, the creekbed yields to 2 tons of Full Size Jeep and MudPuppy scrambles somewhat ungracefully to the other side. I was hoping I wouldn’t need to be strapped AGAIN! We motored to the top of that section, where the trail met the graded dirt road. Steve and Jody, James and Heather, and Susan and I stayed behind to eat lunch, while Michael headed back with his Mom and his friend Mitch and his friend head out, too. It was sorta hard to say we had a "fun" day, or even a "good" day. But we all knew it could have been much worse. We’re very glad to still have all our 4 wheeling friends around for another day! (Oh, and Jody gets to get another Jeep, now.) 

Ethan B

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