This was a solid weekend, a lot of us didn’t come back unscathed but we all made it home.
I couldn’t sleep Friday, so I ended up leaving home about 4:30am to get to the camp ground right when the sun was coming up at around 6:40. Mineral Mountain Road was rough, I don’t think the “road” has been graded in years, and it shows. Luckily Curtis picked a great camping spot, about a mile closer down the road, and although a bit smaller than the camping spot we usually would stay at, it was plenty big to fit all of us, and cut the rough dirt road commute by almost half, plenty worth it!
We ran Flat Tire Canyon, and I think after Brian’s experience we need to rename it to Broken Tie Rod Canyon. When we took off from camp Bobby kept hearing a strange clunk, and Gilbert’s samurai was driving pretty rough down the road, so we pulled over to find the source of Bobby’s clunk, turned out his front right shock bolt went missing, and while we had the tools out, we took off the 3rd and 4th shock off of Gilbert’s rear axle and aired him down some more.
We made it to the trailhead of Flat Tire Canyon in about 2 hours, the road through Ajax Mine was about as rough as it gets, and the road up the hill above Ajax Mine was washed out worse than I’ve ever seen it. We ran Flat Tire Canyon counter clockwise in an effort to avoid having to climb up the “big” hill, and it sort of worked. From the description I read on JeepTheUSA.com it said there was one big scary rutted out hill, turned out there were a number of pretty rough climbs, but it just made the day that much more interesting.
The first hill we approached, I picked every wrong line possible, and it took 10-15 minutes to get me into the right line and out of the off camber/I-feel-like-I’m-going-to-roll-backwards situation, everyone else made it thought just fine, including Curtis, who proceeded to drive up it, back down it, and then back up it just to show me, that it wasn’t all that hard. We then proceeded climbing the ridge line to get some spectacular views of Martinez Mine Canyon in the distance.
After we got past the pretty vistas it was time to drive down the scary hill. I went first and it was steep enough for low range in my Grand Vitara to be essentially useless in slowing me down because of the lack of traction on the ground, so I slipped and slid towards the bottom to head for the off camber shelf road which was equally as scary. We then had Brian follow, Gilbert follow, Bobby and again Curtis who made it seem like we’re a bunch of whimps that can’t drive. Once Curtis made it down the hill, he turned around, and drove right up, just to follow it up with driving down it backwards, with his eyes covered and hands tied behind his back. Okay, maybe some of that was a lie.
Once we got down hill that’s where we could see the Arizona Trail in the distance with more incredible views to follow. We made it top of the next hill where a water tank was put in recently to catch rain, and provide water to the hikers on the trail, it looked brand new, it hasn’t even rusted yet.
We proceed down hill and just when I thought we were done with the rough stuff and we were going to cruise on back to the camp ground to hang out by the campfire, I noticed Brian wasn’t in my rear view mirror any longer, and he came on the radio to tell us that he lost the ability to steer. The tie rod had broken.
I was sure we’d be cruising back to civilization to see if we could get a spare and then coming back at midnight to replace it but luckily Curtis had a portable welding kit and I brought my battery powered tools, which included a grinder. We took a piece of Curtis’ wrench extension that he made himself, cut off an inch and a half of that, then cut it in half again, which Curtis started welding to sleeve the tie rod. We needed 3 batteries to produce enough amps to melt the steel, an hour later we were moving again.
I was hoping in the back of mind we were scot-free and the rest of the trail would be a piece of cake, but mother nature prevailed and gave us another challenge. As I was coming down hill, I noticed the next big hill we were going to climb, looking from the distance it looked scary, but I figured it just looks scary from far away and then as soon as I get up to it, it’ll be fine.
Nope, came up to it, just to find a big ‘ol washed out shelf dead center of the climb. So I put the grand vitara in park and got to building a road with Gilbert. The rest of the guys joined us, and ten minutes later we were done building ourselves a road, and it was my turn to try it. Somehow I picked the right line, stayed in the throttle just the right amount and made it up. Then it was Gilbert’s turn, who made it up after a few corrections and some tips. It was his first time doing this tough of a trail and considering no lockers he did good, and got better with each obstacle through out the day. Brian, Bobby and Curtis cruised through like it wasn’t even a challenge, go figure.
The rest of the trail was all smooth sailing, the views all around were great and we got done with it right at sunset at 5:30-ish. It took us almost two hours to get back to camp, but the long day in the desert made the cheeseburgers taste that much better. Once we got back we had a bunch more people show up, starting with Geno and Brenda who were waiting for us there, Matt and his buddy Bud, and lastly Kyle.
The following morning we had a number more people show up, starting with Jim Kawa, Daniel, James and Erin, Justin (Erin’s brother) and last but not least Greg. We made it to the Woodpecker trailhead fairly quickly, the first obstacle that usually at least some people would try, was skipped by all, it’s gotten way deeper than I remember it being.
We all putted along to the main event of the day, the firehole. Jimmy can fill in with more details for me here, but he wanted to try it, but couldn’t find a spotter until we volunteered Bobby. I didn’t want to guide him again just to lead him right in the firehole to bend his door(again), so I stood back and took pictures.
Jimmy made it through just fine thanks to Bobby leading him through, then Daniel wanted to give it a shot, not completely sure what happened, but after it got pretty tippy for him I asked him to pose for a shot and he took the bypass with the rest of us, and lastly Greg took on the firehole in his 4 door JK and made it through without a problem. We then putted along the rest of the trail, the mining operation halfway through is in full swing, the road that slaloms the trail looks like it’s actively maintained. Shortly before the mining operation we stopped to watch some try the harder sections of the trail, and while trying to get different angles of James climbing the off camber notch, I managed to sit right in a cholla cactus balls. It sucked to say the least, I got an assload of needles in my leg, thigh, and right in the middle of the butt. That was fun. Thanks Bobby for getting them out with the letherman.
After the midrun show was over, we proceeded down the trail, some of us faster, some of us slower and taking our time. I got to the end of Woodpecker trail, right next to the start of Highway to Hell trail, and with time to burn while everyone caught up I took the drone up, to see where we were all at, and about a quarter of a mile behind me, I noticed that Bobby, Greg were stopped next to Matt with his hood up.
We got on the radio and found out his return fuel line burst, luckily I had a bunch of spare fuel line in the Grand Vitara so I ran that down with some hose clamps and we got Matt rolling again. We were done with Woodpecker and eating lunch at Ajax Mine by 1pm. With time to burn we took a back way out of Ajax Mine, which turned out to be the right choice, because that road was a smooth as butter along with great views all around, we then proceeded to Reymert mine since we were doing great on time.
First we stopped at the mining shack about halfway to Reymert mine, and then once we got all the exploring of the area out of the way, we proceeded northeast to the Reyment Mine ovens. Once we were done with Reymert Mine we proceeded back to camp, and were sitting around Bobby’s tiny trailer by 4:30.
All in all it was a great weekend, can’t wait to come back there and camp again.
All the pictures can be found here: https://www.turndriver.com/Off-Roading/Oscars-Excellent-Adventure-2019/