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Barrett Lake
Sept 11-15

Trip Reports: Fordyce Creek Trail

Aug 03-05, 2002
Trip report by Robin Down...


9am -
We meet up at Mollie's in Scotts Valley for breakfast. It's my first chance to meet Santa Cruz 4x4 Club group leader James Anthony and his wife Lori, sons Josh and Adam and friends Jessica and Uriel. Also meeting up with us is Steve and Joyce and their happy doggie Shana. We proceed to eat a big breakfast and drink way too many cups of coffee before hitting the highway.

1pm -
We fill up the gas tanks in Truckee, just a few miles from the trailhead. I am averaging about 10 miles to the gallon in the bronco, which is pretty good considering we are driving at about 65 all the way up the mountain (about 7,000 foot elev.). We eat some hot dogs and take a group photo of the 5 rigs.


3pm -
We spent some time actually finding the trailhead - seems that recent paving has changed the way it looked. We get started and make our way toward the first river crossing. It takes about 3 hours to get to the river, including a long steep downhill section that looks like someone just dumped a hundred tons of broken boulders in the middle of the mountain and called it a 'road'. It's at the first river crossing that we all get to see how well our door seals worked (those who have doors). Adam gets stalled in the middle (no doors), as do I in my yellow bronco. Did I mention door seals? Well I guess I don't have any… After being pulled out, I am nick-named "Sponge Rob" as I attempt to bail out the water in the new aquarium that has formed under the passenger seat... maybe I should just throw some fish in there??

9pm -
We make camp just past the river crossing and start dinner. You know what wet sheepskin seat covers smell like? They smell like WET SHEEP!!! Adam and Uriel hope they will be dry for tomorrow's ride...


10am -
Breakfast is done, rigs are packed and we start out on the trail. Confidence is HIGH!!! Adam and Uriel's Sheepskin covers are still WET!! The rest of the trip should be a breeze... (yeah right!)

Fordyce Creek

12pm -
We reach Winch Hill #1. There are some people ahead that are having some difficulties so we take the bypass. It is fairly difficult without lockers and requires a little pull over the top for the bronco. Actually several spots so far have required a 'little pull' from Steve and Joyce for the open-diff bronco, but it has been making good progress and is keeping up with the group so far.

2pm -
Winch Hill #2 - More hills, more rocks, more 'little pulls' for the bronco. A couple of nice spots along the river which we stop at and eat lunch. Sure is beautiful country. A stranded new F150 and an early bronco without front wheels are seen along the trail and make an ominous warning about what can happen if you're stuck out here alone... (I am guessing that this unlucky driver probably broke one of his front axle shafts or u-joints).

5pm -
Winch Hill #3 - By now it's apparent that without lockers and lots of clearance, it is nearly impossible to make this trip without being pulled at every major obstacle. The bronco tries valiantly to make it over, but just doesn't have the low gears and the traction it needs to do it by itself. Also - the front end is so bouncy that it literally bucks up and down over the rocks, which has started to cause some damage to the rocker panels and makes the stock 2 bbl carburator flood and starve intermittently. Spirits are still high - but without Steve's help and frequent pulls the little bronco would end up along the side of the trail like those other poor souls we passed...

Tight Squeeze

8pm -
Winch Hill #4 - I think we have spent more time on this one hill than we did driving to Truckee. First Adam needed a tow up, then Josh and Jessica found themselves stuck in about the same place. Steve and Joyce managed to get through with just a little trouble, and now I am stuck literally between a rock and a hard place. I already sacrificed my passenger rocker panel on the last hill with a football sized dent, and nearly ripped off the rear fender moulding. Did I mention that the rear bumper is halfway torn off? Yes - that was fun. Who would have known that the extra 2 inches it sticks out to the side would be a rock-catcher??

11pm -
Winch Hill #5 - I am sitting on the side of the trail alone and in the dark. I take my video camera and point it at my face and record my thoughts. It ends up looking like the scene from the Blair Witch Project!! The rest of the group is up around the bend and out of sight, although I can hear bits and pieces of conversation over the CB. After I got stuck on the last hill around 7pm, it took us about 2 hours to get me up and out of there, only to get stalled here, about a half mile from the end of the trail. To make matters worse, there were two more groups behind us waiting for me to get out of the way.
I have just scoped out a camping spot in case I have to stay here all night, though the group has promised not to leave me behind. Everyone has been so supportive of me and the bronco on this trip, but I feel really bad for causing so much delay.

1am -
We have finally cleared the last hill, and are proceeding to Meadow Lake to set up camp for the night. On the approach to the last hill I broke the lip off my front passenger wheel and lost all the air from the tire. Thanks to James and his QuickAir compressor we reset the bead on the tire and pumped it up. During all this, One very cross old jeeper from the group behind us came up to me and said, "What the hell are you doing up here with open diffs?? - Don't you know you need a locker??"
Well, yes I do - thanks very much for that KEEN observation you old so-an-so... sheesh he made me soo mad - but he was exactly right of course which made it even more painful.
So we make camp and eat some dinner and polish of a bottle (or two) of wine and head for bed. I am pretty sure I broke something up front but it's too dark and I'm too tired to care right now so I'll just wait until tomorrow to look at it.


9am -
In the morning light I take a walk around the bronco and assess the damage. Rear bumper is nearly gone, front bumper is bent severely, both rocker panels are dented, front wheel lip has a 3 inch section missing, left front tire has a huge gash in the sidewall (was a new tire), and the front tie rod and linkage is bent all to hell. It's making a strange clicking/grinding noise up front and I don't find out until later down the road that I have broken the front drivers side axle u-joint and mashed up the axle and yoke assembly. Amazingly I can still drive in a straight line at highway speed and though it pulls a bit to the side I am pretty sure I can limp home with it. It's pretty much a white-knuckle ride all the way, which is good because otherwise I would probably zone out and fall asleep. The rest of the body is pretty good, except for some scrapes and scratches which I was prepared for and a thick coating of dirt which covers every inch inside and out.

Rocky Road

12:30pm -
We are out of the woods, back at HWY 80 and filling up for the long ride home. It has been quite a trip. The only other rig that suffered any damage that I know of was Josh and Jessica's Ford Ranger. He managed a few scrapes and a dent to his passenger side while trying to pass through one of the V-shaped rock formations on one of the winch hills we went through.

6:30pm -
Finally home!! During the way, I thought about the past few days and what repairs I will need to make. I have also learned some valuable lessons on this trip, and I have a much greater appreciation for the technology that allows a rig to make it through a trip like that without any damage or problems. Yes, I definately need lockers. And I need lower gears, more clearance, and better throttle control if I want to attempt this or a similar trip in the future. And it looks like I need some new bumpers - those chrome ones look great but they did more harm than good on this kind of trip, catching all the outcroppings of rocks along the way!!

But, overall I am happy with what I was able to accomplish, and grateful to everyone in the group that helped me get in and out again in (basically) one piece. I have some serious reparis to make, so I won't be going on another ride for a while, but sure I had a great time, met some great people and got most of it on video so someday I can show my grand kids why you NEVER, NEVER try to run Fordyce Creek Trail WITHOUT lockers!!!   ;)


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