Trip Report: Swamp LakeTrail
By Jeff Ellis
- Robin & Michelle
- Jeff & Camille
- Dan Peck
- Johnny and Stephanie
- Mick Sweeney
- Tiffany Gaidos
- Ron and Sandy
Camping Location: Wishon Village RV and Campground
Camille and I left Capitola at 1:15 on Thursday, August 16th, with Tiffany following close behind. We met with Mick at the scenic outlook off of Highway 1 just before Watsonville at 1:30. Ron and Sandy had decided they just could not wait until 1:30 and so they left before us, somewhere around 10:00. So, off we went like we knew where we were going, but apparently Jeff was too engrossed in the dialog with Camille to notice that he and his caravan had missed the 129 exit in Watsonville. Thankfully, Mick called to wake Jeff up and the caravan turned around just before Moss Landing to resume the correct route!
The trip there was uneventful, with the exception of a “crazy” woman that decided to literally cut right in front of Camille and I, missing the turn completely and running up an embankment, launching herself into the woods in her Lincoln Towncar! This all occurred within about a 100 yards before our turn off of 168 onto Dinkey Creek road. Of course we all stopped and checked on the woman to make sure that she was alright. The firemen showed up and she appeared to be unhurt. If we had been three seconds faster, the woman would have ran head on into our motorhome. Actually, it happened so fast, that I only had time to lift my foot off the gas pedal and start to press the brakes, when it was all over.
So, with a few rattled nerves, we proceeded on to Wishon Village Campground. We arrived, at what seemed like a really long drive, at about 6:45 in the evening. The campground was very nice and the RV spaces were huge, well manicured gravel sites with full hookups. It took no time at all before we were leveled out and uncorking a bottle of wine (to sooth our nerves, of course).
Friday morning folks met at our camp and we decided what we would do for the day. After numerous trail considerations, we agreed to try the Spanish Camp trail, which was not far from where we were camped. The trail was mild to moderate, nothing too crazy to speak of. We stopped about a mile from the end and decided to have lunch and then turn around from there, so that we could be back in time for the big Luau that Michelle and Stephanie were busy preparing. And upon completion of lunch, we headed back for camp in time for folks to get cleaned up, and ready for the great food and drink. The Luau
turned out quite well, with lots of good food, and rum punch to keep spirits high. The festivities were to celebrate Michelle and Stephanie’s birthdays.
Saturday morning everyone met at the store at 9:00 with fully stocked coolers and ready to “rock”. It was a bit of a drive just to the turn-off from the main road, and then we spent quite some time looking for the right forest service road to take. The maps that we had did not give road numbers, and finally we were able to find the trailhead by the written directions in a book that Tiffany brought. So, our early departure from the trailhead turned out not to be so early after all.
The remainder of the morning went well, and was uneventful. We got down to the bottom of the canyon and through the stairsteps, where we stopped for lunch. Everyone munched out and after an hour or so, we packed up and headed back down the trail. Rooster Rock marked the beginning of the more challenging four wheeling. Of course, I went first and made it look very tricky and kept it entertaining for those innocent bystanders. My example only increased uncertainties in my followers, but as each made their own pass, everyone made it to the top, no worse for the wear. Right after Rooster Rock is a squeeze type rock formation with a 2 or 3 foot vertical step to get up. This is where the first POW was heard, as I attempted to conquer the obstacle only to have been humbled by the trail.
After some investigation, it was clear that I had blown a rear hub. And having been on the trail before, I knew that the better part of valor was to turn around and head back for camp, as the trail only got more difficult from there. Robin and Michelle volunteered to turn around with me, as my escort. We watched the rest of the folks proceed through the obstacle, after having done a bit of “paving” to ease their challenge.
Robin and I proceeded along without too much effort, when, about a 100 yards from the end of the challenging stuff, I was attempting to go up the last series of stairsteps that we had previously traversed down. And, of course, the dreaded “POW” happened yet again. This time it was found to be a front axle u-joint. And, as luck would have it, when it let go, the yolk on the inner axle got hosed. So, I proceeded to take things apart, while Robin went digging through his selection of various axle components. We found that the inner axle for his Bronco was almost perfect, about a half inch shorter, than the broken axle, but the outer shaft was significantly longer. So, we started trading parts around until we got what we needed. All that in just under 2 ½ hours!
Robin hooked a strap to me to ensure that I didn’t work things too hard for the last few spots, and once out of it, we disconnected and proceeded up the valley and back down into Dinkey Creek valley, where we had began the day. Of course, by now the sun had gone down and we were exiting to the illumination of our headlights. Just as we were arriving at Robin’s tow rig, my jeep gave me yet another jerk and then the brake pedal went to the floor. Fortunately, I coasted to a stop, flipped on my rock lights, and jumped out of my jeep to see what could have possibly been wrong. Not good – the final “POW” was the axle flange sheering off from the axle tube. The ol’ girl had made it back to the trailer, but was not going any further. So, Robin generously offered to load my jeep up on his trailer, and haul it back to camp for me. We arrived back at Wishon Village around 10:30, whooped, dirty and in need of a good shower! And, that is what we did!
The other folks that proceeded through the trail, made it through every obstacle and challenge without issue or carnage. They arrived back to Wishon Village around 9:00 or so and got a bite to eat with the agreement that if Robin and I weren’t back by 10:00, that they would form a rescue crew to go and find us. They were very nice and made sandwiches for all of us, knowing that we would be very tired and hungry. We met up with them about 5 miles from the campground. Everyone was glad to see us back, but little dialog could be mustered, as it was a very long day for all of us.
Sunday everyone got up and started packing and heading for home, except Ron and Sandy who spent an extra day there. Dan was first out, with Tiffany and Mitch not too far behind. Camille and I, along with Robin and Michelle, headed for home around 2:00. The trip home was uneventful, thankfully, and we arrived in Capitola at about 9:00 or so.
And, a special thanks to Robin and Michelle for their every effort and generosity that they provided. Camille and I commented numerous times, speculating what we would have done if they had not decided to turn around and follow us out. It is a testament to the rule “never fourwheel by yourself”! Robin and Michelle, you are both my hero! And, I have a new “respect” for Bronco parts!