Grand Slam West Review – GSW 2015 Part 4

by | May 6, 2016 | Blog - "All The News That's Unfit For Print", Excursions & Expeditions, Grand Slam | 0 comments

Day One… still
Blinded Me With Science

Several of us hopped out of our rigs and started walking down the hill to see what the big deal was.  We rounded the bend to see everyone else gathered around the stock 2 wheel drive WJ that was rocker deep in mud where the stream crossed the road; or at least where there used to be a road anyway.  So, a quick note about this stock 2wd WJ with street tires, because I know some of you are wondering.  If you remember, this was supposed to be the easy trail.  A relaxing scenic drive over a grated and maintained dirt road, that under normal circumstances, your average family car could handle; under normal circumstances.  The fact that this rig made it this far, through everything we had to go through and was just now getting stuck, is a true testament to the Jeep name, as well as the guy behind the wheel.  It wasn’t a huge deal really; by the time we arrived on the scene, tow straps and winches were already being deployed.  This was some nasty mud!  Deep, slick, sloppy, soupy mud that even gave a couple of the lifted rigs a run for their money.  After a few tugs the 2wd was free; on the wrong side of the creek, but none the less free.  I really didn’t see what the big deal was, yeah, it was some nasty mud, but it could be crossed, and then we just go up this little road here, right?  Still curious as to what all the fuss was about, I walked up to explore the road.  The road itself was just over one car width wide with steep walls about 8 to 10 feet high rising above on each side; sort of a micro canyon.  Needing to see it myself, I sloshed through the mud up this micro canyon, following the boot prints of who ever had just explored it before me.  Umm, wow; I understood what all the fuss was about.  The surface I was walking on, all the while assuming was the road surface, turned out to be the surface left behind after the water had stopped cutting.  The actual road surface, what was left of it anyway, was about 10 feet above where I was walking.  Yeah, we weren’t going that way.  Shortly, Kevin would join me, just as stunned as I was.  When we returned to the group, maps were out, someone had driven off to scout for an alternate route, and everyone was trying to figure out what to do next, as it was starting to get dark and another storm was bearing down on us.  The call to turn around and go back rang out several times, but in my mind that wasn’t an option. Without having seen it themselves, I don’t think the fact that “the road is gone”, was really settling into many people’s minds.  We had told everyone about the missing road behind crossing 22, but it was only those of us in the last 3 Jeeps who had actually seen with our own eyes, that in fact, there was no road to go back to.  It took us a good while to get from crossing 22 to where we were at this point.  It was going to take at least that long to get back to 22, and then we would have another 21 crossings of entirely unknown condition to contend with.  Add to that the prevailing belief that everything down hill (the direction water tends to flow) was going to be worse than what we had seen thus far.  Oh, and yeah, there was that storm that was bearing down on us.  We dodged a very big, very wet bullet the first time around, I did not want to be back in that canyon when it flooded again; it might be us that washes away this time.  Thankfully, there was quite a bit of scouting by multiple people going on during this time, and news came back of a bypass that we had completely missed.  This meant getting all of the rigs through that mud pit, so out came the winches and tow straps, and with a healthy dose of teamwork and raw torque, we made it through just fine.  Having bested yet another obstacle, we pointed our wheels towards higher ground, leaving this beautiful valley behind as we barreled over a mountain pass.  We put the pedals down; we were home free!

As we descended the other side of the mountain pass, our convoy once more came to a stop, just short of the bottom.  And once more a voice over the CB said, “This road is unpassable.  We have to turn around and go back”.  At first I thought it was a joke, but we weren’t moving and people were exiting their Jeeps.  So, out of the Jeep and down the hill we went.  Yep, this road was in pretty bad shape, but not as bad as some other stuff we’d come through, and it had several bypass options.  At this point, our makeshift team of volunteer civil engineers had gotten pretty good at figuring out what to do rather quickly.  We had gained more experience than any of us really wanted at that point.  The first section wasn’t too bad, we just needed some good spotters.  Then came two washed out back to back sections where we had no choice but to just rebuild the road.  Out came the shovels as a few guys went off rock hunting.  Shovels clanged, dirt flew, fingers pointed, and huge rocks mysteriously dropped from the sky as we built up a base for our new road.  I know this sounds all “Hy-Ho-Seven-Dwarfish”, but this was not something that happened quickly; this took a while, and we were all very tired and starting to get a bit cranky.  For many of us, this relaxing scenic adventure had stopped being fun several hours ago.  But we all knew we had to work together and soldier on if we were going to get out of this, so we kept our frustrations in check, mostly, and pressed on, eventually rebuilding enough of the road that we could spot every rig safely through.  The road once again headed up the mountain, putting us once more on high ground.  We put the pedals down; we were home free!

(at this point, it is dark and so far my new camera rig lacks any light source, so sorry, no more pictures)
Heading down the mountain again, we came to another spot where a stream had at some point transformed into a river and taken it upon itself to completely excavate the road.  Are you starting to see a pattern yet?  This crossing looked to be fairly easy relative to what we’d been through; the ground beneath the now absent road was comprised of decent sized rocks rather than deep mud.  We were pretty sure this wasn’t going to be a problem, we would just have to help the 2wd WJ across.  We knew from the rest of the day’s experience to approach it with caution though.  Justin, Jess, and their monster WJ riding high on 37’s either volunteered or were volunteered to scout the crossing.

Ugh, I’ve been writing all day, so let’s take a break here.  How about a quick science lesson?  Oh, you didn’t know this was going to be educational as well did you?  Well it is, so lucky you.

Liquefaction: noun

  1. The act or process of liquefying or making liquid.
  2. The state of being liquid.
  3. Conversion of soil into a fluid-like mass during an earthquake or seismic event.

So, I think we’ve all had some experience with this.  You’re at the beach, standing on the wet solid sand close to the water, you work your feet up and down in the same spot for a bit, and the solid sand turns to liquid as you start to sink.  I used to do that all the time as a child.  As a matter of fact, Kevin and I were doing it to entertain ourselves at crossing 22 while waiting for the water to subside.  It’s fun!  Most of the time.

Okay, science lesson over, back to the story.  So Justin maneuvered his mighty blue beast to the rock bed that used to be a road, along the way crossing a flat patch of damp but solid dirt about the length of his Jeep.  He decided that he needed a better line around a boulder in front of him, and backed up.  Does everyone remember their science lesson?  The simple act of driving that rig across the dirt once was enough to trigger liquefaction, and that Jeep sank.  Blurp!  (Yes, that’s the sound a sinking Jeep makes) Trying to drive out of it, which is the natural thing to do, only liquefied the ground even more and he sank even deeper.  Remember those big 37” tires?  When we got to him there was only about 2” of tire still above the surface.  Like so many times before, our valiant team sprang into action.  Okay, look, I’m going to be completely honest here; at this point our valiant team was stumbling and staggering like an army of drunkards, into action.  God, we were so exhausted, and we had no idea how many more of these we had yet to deal with.  Yep…I was in Moab….(sigh) damnit.  We managed to get a winch Jeep to the other side of the mud, as the call (more like a whimper at this point), for shovels and rocks rang as it had so many times before.  After about an hour of digging, rock stacking, winching, and very nearly losing a hi-lift jack to the crushing depths of Davey Jones’ really freakn’ muddy locker, we finally pulled the Jeep free.  Compared to that, getting everyone else across the rocks was an absolute breeze!  We only had one small hick-up left to deal with.  After we had ushered everyone safely through the rocks and got them underway, I hopped back into Kevin’s Jeep with Ally, who was driving.  Kevin, having failed during all the commotion to make note of the fact that everyone else had been spotted around this one particular section, proceeded to spot Ally straight into that section and Blurp!  You remember that sound?  From just a little bit ago?  The passenger side of Kevin’s WJ was sunk in mud a ¼ of the way up the doors.  But cut us a break, at that point we could barely stand or see straight, and it was, as I said, a small hick-up. The driver side thankfully was still on solid ground and we had a winch and another rig with us; we were free in about 5 minutes.  Now we needed to catch up with the rest of the group, so we put the pedals down; we were home free!

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