Submitted by Mike Whittington on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 21:28
Run:MOAB Spring Vacation
Moab Spring Trip March 31 – April 5, 2019 Attendees: Bob & Cory Boltner Paul Rourman Gary Martin Mike, Lori & Steve Sullivan Rich & Corkey Wohlers John & Mary Labbett Dwayne Wilson Mike & Chris Whittington Jerome Blunck Bob & Kathy Besch Garth & Niki Thomas Joe & Orit Picker Bob & David Marshall Mike & Terey Sidlinger With exception of a few folks who went out on Sunday to poke around in the rocks and sand, most of the group arrived on Sunday, March 31 to begin trail runs on Monday morning. Most of us stayed at Spanish Trails RV Park. Joe was just down the road at KOA and Bob and David Marshall stayed at a motel in town. Spanish Trails had a nice covered pavilion with picnic tables. This made a nice place to get together in the evenings. With the exception of a bit of rain and snow on Sunday, the weather was perfect all week with lows in the 40-50 range and days in the high 60s to low 70s. Monday, April 1. Hells Revenge Trail. On Monday morning, we met for a drivers’ meeting at 9:00 to go over the basics for the week, communication, safety, etc. We then headed out for the first run of the week: Hell’s Revenge. Hell’s Revenge is 90% slick rock. “Slick Rock” is a misnomer as it is sandstone with (I am told) the traction of 150 grit sandpaper. It almost seems like you could crawl vertically…almost. Hell’s Revenge is a good place to get ready for the week ahead. Learn the Moab Bump, etc. We stopped for lunch at an overlook with a great view of the Colorado River below. Most of the group even did Hell’s Gate. We took a look at The Escalator but decided not to try that one. All made it through the entire trail with no problems encountered. Tuesday, April 2. Behind The Rocks Trail. This is a long trail. I had not been on this trail for at least 15 years and forgot most of it or it has changed that much. Within a few hundred yards from the trailhead we hit our first major obstacle, a stair stepped steep 40’ climb. Since this was still early in the week we all chose to winch it. After passing Lone Rock with Balcony and Picture Frame Arches we headed for obstacles with names like High Dive and Upchuck. We then found our way to White Knuckle Hill; WKH has a drop off of approximately 6 feet almost straight down. Nobody wanted to attempt to drive it unassisted. After formulating a plan, we set up a winching daisy chain. The Jeep going over the drop off was winched down by the Jeep behind. That Jeep was connected to the winch line from the vehicle behind it and so on. All worked very well with no incidences. For the last Jeep- Rich and Corkey’s, we had Jerome in his Jeep facing uphill. We then ran his winch line through a snatch block and to the back of Rich’s Jeep, then simply lowered it off the ledge the same way we did everyone else. Smooth as butter! On the way back to town, Panamint Paul’s Cherokee broke and had to be left behind. After we got back to camp, Paul, Bob B. and Jerome headed back out with the parts needed to repair Paul’s Cherokee. They go back to camp at 1:00 am. Thanks guys. Wednesday, April 3. Steel Bender Flat Pass Route. This trail starts close to the RV Park where most of us were staying. Steel Bender isn’t really difficult but since it is closer to the LaSal Mountains than any other trail we ran, the scenery was amazing. Our trail started in Mill Creek Canyon where we crossed a running stream several times. After the canyon the trail took us through a lot of cedar trees, slick rock and sand with just enough obstacles to keep it interesting. I believe some of the group even thought this was their favorite trail all week. On Wednesday night we had reservations for 24 people at Moab Brewery for dinner. MB did a great job taking orders, getting our drinks and food served in a reasonable amount of time and to top it off, the food was very good. Thursday, April 4. Golden Spike & Where Eagles Dare Trails. Another very long trail and challenging. I’ve been on this trail enough times to know to allow extra time. Because of this we got an earlier start than normal; 8:00 am. This is my personal favorite trail in Moab with beautiful scenery and plenty of obstacles to keep the group awake. We did an offshoot from Golden Spike that I hadn’t done before called Where Eagles Dare. WED was amazing with many very steep climbs and descents. It still amazes me how much traction slick rock offers! We stopped at an overlook with a view to the West…beautiful. We then stopped for lunch at the Grand Valley overlook. I think we could see for 100 miles in all directions and it looked like 100 miles straight down too! We all proceeded without incident over the many, many obstacles like the Golden Crack, Double Wammy and the Golden Staircase. All went fantastic until our last real obstacle of the day where we encountered a steep short climb entering Gold Bar Rim trail. All made it fine, some winched and some drove it with the exception of Panamint Paul; he broke a front axle shaft u-joint. (I heard later that he actually broke both front axle u-joints). He didn’t have a spare shaft so we removed the inner shaft from the axle housing and stuck the stub shaft back into the hub and continued on without incident. This was the first time I ever completed Golden Spike Trail before dark. Everybody did fantastic to keep us moving and off the trail well before darkness arrived. Friday, April 5. Cliff Hanger Trail. Our last day of trail rides and no real problems. Could we make it through the week with no major incidents? No. This trail has become very challenging over the years. It gets its namesake from a section of the trail paralleling a cliff with a very long, long vertical drop. At times you are within only a few feet of dropping over the side. At least it feels that way. We all made it up to the top at the Potash Mine overlook for lunch. Then came the return trip… On the way down, at a portion of the trail that drops off to the abyss there as a nasty step up requiring careful positioning and spotting. While climbing, John L. wedged his front driving tire into the wall. When he attempted to back up just a bit while turning to get a better position, POP. He had broken the tie rod end ball joint where it attaches to the pitman arm. Damn! Now John’s Jeep is blocking the trail and nobody can get around it. I was leading, he was the second Jeep. Since he had an aftermarket drag link and tie rod assembly, no spare tie rod end was available. As always, we put our heads together and came up with a plan. Mike and Chris would high tail it down the mountain with the broken rod end to the Napa store to see if they could match up a replacement. All three auto parts stores in Moab close at 6:00! The rest of the OTR team proceeded to remove a drag link/ tie rod assembly from Mike Sullivan’s Jeeps, install it on John’s Jeep so he could move forward out of the way and off the trail until a permanent repair could be made. Then the good tie rod/ drag link combo was removed from John’s Jeep and returned to its rightful owner. Mike and Chris made it down the trail to Kane Creek Road in 35 minutes (it took us at least two hours to get everybody up the hill in the morning) and to the Napa store to try and match up a replacement tie rod end. When the (as we thought) suitable part number was found, they didn’t have it in stock (the two other auto parts stores didn’t have it either…we called). The new tie rod end would be at the Napa store the next morning at 9:00. We did grab one that they had in stock that might work with one of the pitman arms that was carried as a spare by Bob Boltner and Jerome Blunck. Chris and Mike proceeded back up the hill with the part. When we got back, the group had just moved John’s broken Jeep off the trail, reinstalled Mike S’s tie rod and drag link and moved everyone else over and past the abyss. Of course the new tie rod end didn’t work. It was now 6:00 pm. Dark in an hour and a half. We needed to get moving. John’s Jeep was left on the side of the trail and we all proceeded down the hill. We arrived at an off-camber slick rock obstacle. In the morning we had all gone up the hill by climbing on a ledge with the passenger tire and the driver’s tire on another ledge. This worked fine going uphill. Coming down was a bit different. The first 3 Jeeps had no issues but when the next Jeep came down off the passenger’s side ledge sooner than the driver’s side, it upset the balance of the Jeep resulting in a ¾ roll landing on the driver’s side down. The only thing stopping it from continuing to roll down a 20’ rocky embankment was a lone cedar tree. Thankfully nobody was hurt. We used four different Jeeps winches working together from the back, downhill side and front to get it righted again. The damage was bad but it could have been a lot worse. After allowing time for the cylinders to clean out, the damaged Jeep was re-started and we continued on down the hill. Thankfully it didn’t get dark until after the recovery was completed. We did however finish the trail well after dark. Saturday, April 6. Most of the group left for home on Saturday morning. We still needed to recover John L.’s LJ on Cliff Hanger Trail. Bob B., Rich, John L. and Mike W. headed for Napa with the broken tie rod end, pitman arm and tie rod end purchased the day before. Napa received the new part and we laid it on the counter next to the broken part. Left hand SAE thread…check. Thread pitch…check. Ball joint diameter… Wrong. The pitman arm hole was ½”; the ball joint shaft diameter: 5/8”. Now what? With all parts in hand we went through the book for the correct tie rod end. There it is… and it won’t be in until next Tuesday. We are supposed to leave today! We called Dixie Four Wheel Drive (the same folks that have a store in Saint George) and talked to Bryce…he thought they could help. We headed to Dixie. Milt (Bryce’s dad and owner) drilled out the pitman arm and installed a tapered insert. Now we had a solution in hand. Just to be sure, Bryce let us borrow a stock tie rod and drag link assembly from a TJ. After a quick McDonald’s lunch (thanks John), we headed up Cliff Hanger at 1:00 in the afternoon. John’s Jeep had the new tie rod end and pitman arm installed in no time and we headed back down Cliff Hanger for the last time without further incident. In hindsight, it was actually a fun day. We solved a problem, got to go wheeling again and we fixed John’s Jeep. Bob B., Rich and Mike W. pulled out of town at 4:00 pm to begin the drive home. John L. decided to stay an additional night in Moab. We all made it home without incident. All in all, with the exception of Friday, we all had a great trip with beautiful weather throughout the week, cool nights with plenty of drinks, snacks and great conversation. Thanks to all for making the trip so enjoyable. Mike W.