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Arizona Back Country Trip

Contributed By: George Andrews and Len Sullivan

Len Sullivan and Doug B posted the story. I have cut and pasted it/them below.


Part 1:

This was one leg of a dual run, where both trails meet in the vicinityof Bartlett Lake. Those attending the Log Corral portion include myself(DougB), Ed (Coyote), GeorgeA, KenU and friend, JimS, and GregC.We assembled near Sycamore Creek at about 9a, and were off by 9:20 orso. We crossed over the creek and generally followed Sycamore Canyon forabout ten minutes, then turned west into Log Corral Canyon. There's avery narrow gate in the trail, but we all managed to squeeze through,though not w/ much room to spare for George's J-Cherokee. Shortly afterthat, we were in the creek and the class 4 section. We all got out toscope it out, and plan our lines. As mentioned in a previous post, thisis not a section of trail to be tried w/ a stock vehicle. Suspensionmods, good tires, and LSD or lockers are really needed, though Gregmade it w/ his open diff but lifted YJ - obviously, superior drivingskill and excellent spotting helped :) There was a bit of water in the creek, so that made the rocks a bitslippery, but taking it very slow, and with plently of spotting help, weall made it through, with only (relatively minor) scrapes, and a few newdents on rocker bars and bumpers...just enough to add character. Heading on through through the narrow canyon, whe went through somefairly well wooded and shaded areas, which then opened up to widerSenorian terrain. Here, we headed down into some deep sandy gullies,which were fun. If you were standing in the open, you'd never see theJeeps, the gullies were that deep.Eventually, we made it up to the saddle, to Log Corral, and a spectaularview if the lake and surrounding country. It was quite windy up there.We stopped and had lunch, and chatted briefly w/ some hikers who hadpassed us back at the class 4 rocks. They were a bit surprised we hadmade it through.After lunch, we headed down toward the lake...made it to the power linetrail, and, not yet seeing the second group, continued west to the lakeitself. Here there are some steep sandy hills that are fun to playaround in....which we of course did.After a bit, we headed back to Power Line trail, and started headingout, figuring we'd run into the second group. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we linked up, stretched out legs and had good time talking to everyone bout Jeep stuff.From here, we headed out to SR 87. Len, I believe, is doing a trailreport for that section (Power Line) so I'll leave the rest to him.As usual...had a great time.DougB

Part 2

The Arizona Virtual Jeep Club ) had a dual trail run today: two groups of jeeps - two intersecting trails -meet in the middle kinda thing. One group took the Power Line trail, which, oddly enough, follows a power line, and the other group took the Log Corral trail. Power Line varies from a class two to a low three, Log Corral is a class 4. The kids and I loaded up the J-10 and joined the group running the Power Line, looking forward to a day of 'wheeling with the "little jeeps" and also looking forward to meeting George Andrews, a fellow FSJ-list member. We live in the same town, subscribe to two of the same email lists, and belong to the same Jeep club, but we had never met. As far as I know, we have the only two FSJ's in the club. George went for the hardcore stuff on the Log Corral run ( Hey George! give us a write up!), so we had to wait until the groups met to find each other.

We met up with the other 4 Jeeps at the trailhead at about 10:20. While we were shaking hands and saying our hello's, one of the drivers that I hadn't met before said that she didn't think that I was part of the group until the other people recognized me because I didn't have a Jeep! AAARGH! One of the other TJ drivers was kind enough to tell her that it really was a Jeep - it was just bigger. Her reply was "Cool. If it gets too bad I'll just park in the back and you can carry me."

We hit the trail after we had all aired down, and I volunteered to play 'tail end charlie' for the group. I like being the last in line, since it gives me a chance to see how everyone else tackles the obstacles and pick my best line. The down side is that whenever I do something cool, there's no one to see it! I also get to close all the gates, but that's no big deal. The first hour or so of the trail was very scenic and easy. There was some chatter on the CB about what gear was best to run in, and the group leader said that he was in 4 LOW!. Here I was rockin' along in 2 HIGH, wondering when I would get to put it in 4 wheel drive, and the little guys were in 4 LOW! He later said that it was so that he didn't have to use the brakes going down the hills ( a good point ), but it gave me a nice ego boost for the moment.

After a short side trip down a dead end trail ( it looked like the right one to me too ), we got into the fun stuff. The trail changed from reasonably wide and well traveled into narrow and rocky, then got narrower, rockier, and twistier. We were on switchbacks going down the side of a mountain, and the trail was washed out at every turn. The washouts towards the top weren't too bad, but they got worse as we went down. I knew I was in for a rough time when I saw the TJ in front of me scrape his rear bumper going through the first nasty one. My truck sits a few inches higher than his TJ, but my extra wheelbase had me worried. Dan, the TJ driver, stopped after he got through it to make sure that I would make it. I remember seeing his son looking at me through the rear window and shaking his head, as if he was saying "He'll never make that." He was almost right.

Today was only the third time I've taken the J-10 out for some serious 4 wheeling, so I'm still learning how to approach different kinds of obstacles. I've never had to deal with a turn that would require a full right lock on the steering wheel that also had a 3 foot deep, 3 foot wide section washed out in the middle. The short version is that I hit it wrong. I started by swinging as wide as I could to the left and trying to get a straight line into the cut - bad idea. I made the drop off just fine, but then the front of my frame ( my tube front bumper is still in the backyard, waiting to get the brackets welded on ) hit the upslope square on and we came to a very solid and fast stop. what? I admit it must have looked pretty funny, with the headlights and grill damn near in the dirt and the tail of the truck pointing way up in the air, but it didn't seem funny at the time. I popped it in reverse and goosed it, hoping that I could get out of the hole. I moved back about a foot, and then had an idea. I dropped it back into first gear and cut the wheels to the left. This gave me just enough of an angle to the slope that the front tires bit in and started to pull me up. Right about then I realized two things: First, I was now headed TOWARDS the side of the mountain, and Second, I was still in 4 HIGH. Oh well.....when in doubt, punch it. Much to the delight of the kids watching from the TJ, I came roaring up out of the hole and onto the side of the mountain, taking a big divit out of the downslope with my trailer hitch. As soon as I felt the rear bumper come out of the dirt, I cranked the wheels hard right to get off of the side of the mountain before I rolled the truck. Dan apparently didn't expect me to come out of the hole so fast, and had stopped only about 20 feet up the trail. It was great seeing the look on the kid's face in his back seat change from "no chance" to "OH SH*T!" After that he left me a little more room. :-)

The turns and washouts got progressively worse as we went lower, but I had the technique now. I would start the turn late instead of early so that I could approach the opposite side at an angle, and complete the turn on the side of the mountain. I also started running them in 4 LOW so that I wouldn't have to be quite so aggressive with the throttle. I'm glad there weren't any trees ( well, at least not any big ones ) or boulders next to any of the washouts. I dragged the rear bumper on EVERY one, so it looks like a lift of at least 2" is on the shopping list. The rear quarter panels are getting a little higher each time I take it out ( one rock at a time ), but I can't raise the bumper without some suspension help. :-) One good thing about it though: the bumper is now straighter than it was when I hit the trail. It was bent at about a 45 degree angle at each end, thanks to the DSPO backing into things. I hooked the passenger side on a really big rock coming out of one of the washouts and jerked it almost straight again. It sounded and felt like I had ripped the whole thing off, but the frame mounts on the trailer hitch saved me.

Part 3

After one particularly bad washout, I remarked over the CB that if these got any worse someone would have to carry me through. The trail leader laughingly replied "Wait 'till you see what's next." Wonderful. Coming up was a washout deeper and narrower than the last one, with a tighter turn, followed by an off camber section of trail barely wider than my truck with a drop off of what looked like about 1000 feet on the outside. Lovely. However, before the washout we had to crawl over a rockslide that had buried the trail. Perfect. The rockslide must have been pretty recent, since there were several boulders and a small tree in the middle of it, and no tracks over the top. We all got out and moved the larger boulders and the tree to the side of the cliff, and rearranged some of the medium sized rocks to help make steps over the one remaining big one. The rockslide looked intimidating, but was actually pretty easy. It was loose, and my rear end hopped around a bit, but it wasn't too bad.

I was worried about the washout after the rockslide. All of the little Jeeps were bumping their rear bumpers going through it, and the trail on the other side was at enough of an angle that I could see both mirrors on the lead Jeep as he went through it. I guess that everyone knew that I would have trouble with it, because they all stopped to watch. I tried the late turn approach, but this washout was deep enough that even that didn't work. I ended up nose down in the hole again with my front spring shackles buried in the opposite bank. Oh well, time to go up the side of the mountain again. I backed up a bit, turned towards the mountain, and did the "punch it, bump, thump, scrape, roar thing again. Now I was really off camber on the side of the mountain, the carb was starting to flood out, and my daughter was screaming because she thought we were going to roll over. Side hung floats are great for up and down, but they don't work well on a sideways slope with the passenger side a couple of feet lower than the drivers side. I got back on the trail, but it was still tilted to the right enough that the carb couldn't compensate. I had to pop it into neutral and bring the RPM's up to 2000 just to keep it running. Dan was walking back to see if I was OK ( I hit the back end pretty hard coming out ), but I waved him back and started yelling over the CB that I had to get off of the slope before my truck died. We all got rolling and I chugged along in a cloud of black smoke until we got to a level spot.

There were a few more washouts after that, but none were as bad. I was still scraping the rear bumper, but I made it through without any real trouble. I only had one more difficult spot to get through before we met up with the rest of the group, but it involved a different kind of clearance. Two trees had grown or fallen together over the trail, in a turn of course, that were barely higher than my camper shell. I cleared them, but only by about half an inch.

A few bumps and turns later we met up with the rest of the group in a large wash. These were the hardcore guys who had taken the class 4 route, and right in the middle of them was a big, badass brown and red Cherokee. I was the last of the group to arrive, so by the time I had the kids unloaded everyone was milling around in a big crowd. I was trying to figure out how to find George, when one of them walked right up to me and said "You must be Len." Nice to have met you George.

The group spent about half an hour getting to know each other ( we're an internet club - the only time we meet is on the trail ) and admiring all the rigs. Let me tell you: George's truck is STOUT! 35 inch tires, tons of lift, Mad Max bumper, custom nerf bars, winch, lights, roof rack, big block Chevrolet -- it's sweet. And Barney. Can't forget Barney. He has a stuffed Barney hanging from the trailer hitch with a chain around his neck. If you've got kids, you'd love it. The lady who didn't think I had a Jeep looked at George's rig and said "My God! That's huge!" George just smiled and said thank you.

We had quite a group on the way out - twelve Jeeps, I think. Every once in a while we'd see pieces of Barney stuffing in the road where George had found a dip. George didn't have any trouble with the low hanging trees; he just drove through and broke them off. Made it very easy for me. :-)

The off camber part of the trail wasn't nearly as bad going the other way, since the carb was tilted in the other direction. I was still dragging the rear bumper through the washouts, but someone had thoughfully removed several inches of soil from them earlier in the day so getting out of them was a little easier. Even the big one went easily - I guess experience with how to deal with an obstacle is more important than any doo-dad you can put on the truck.

We had to stop twice on the way out for trail repairs. The first was when George's fuel pump fuse blew going up a hill. He's a quick troubleshooter and had it going again in just a few minutes. The second stop took a little longer. One of the CJ-5's (also running an injected Chevy big block....hmmmm) had a fuel pump failure. The driver had the foresight to carry a spare, and had it swapped out in about 20 minutes. After that, we were back on the easy part of the trail.

When we got back to the pavement, we all aired up, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. Six of us went to Denny's to eat and talk Jeeps and trails - a good way to end a fun day.

I haven't done a thorough inspection of the J-10 yet, but I don't think I damaged anything. The only bad part of the trip came while we were airing up when my daughter shut the truck door on her thumb. She was screaming like only a hurt 7 year old can, so after I made sure that nothing was broken I tried the "hurt child" test: I handed her the wrong soda. She passed. As soon as she realized that she had her brother's soda instead of hers, she stopped her screaming and said in a perfectly normal voice "That's Nathan's soda Daddy. Mine is over there." Of course as soon as she remembered that her thumb hurt she started screaming again. After a couple of hugs and having Daddy kiss it to make it better we were on our way. She's fine. Her thumb was on the rubber door seal, so it was just pinched. It's not even bruised.

Another good day 'wheelin.

Len Sullivan
1978 J-10 "The Plow"
Phoenix, AZ

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