Trail Report: Grand Rapids Labor Day Weekend 2003 

Author: Dave Jacobs 

The GR bug hit and ranger dog and I tooled on up 169 early saturday morning. Hwy 2 might be bit a bit longer to drive, but a whole lot easier. Traffic wasn't too bad till mille lacs, and no troopers were around the entire trip. We arrived straight to seven cities around noon, unloaded the rock mobile and covered the ford windshield with a nice carpet to keep ranger cool! Headed towards the 200 hundred dollar labor day only hill, and saw some jeeps on that 2 level hill farther away. Went over there whomped on the engine and easily climbed both hills. Then saw the group parked over at the moguls. After the required derogatory introductions, sat around and jawjacked for awhile with some of the usual suspects.

The group then broke into two, and some of us headed over to the gate keeper. Down into the bowl like lemmings we went. The really, incredibly small trees (take note you tree hugging hippys!) were gone and a nice trail had been born. The gate keeper had changed since we first drove over it. The big--ass boulders on the left side hadn't changed, but the bypass had been dug in some, but still an obstacle to top heavy vehicles. The off-camber hill side was a bit un-nerving since those rocks on the left were there to greet you if you tipped. John went first, and stepped easily over the rocks on the left, and exited the other side. Next up in no particular order, a toyoater flat bed thing had 'tiny' engine problems but once running he hammered it up and over. The IFS took a hit on the driver side A-frame but nothing ploded. The real excitement was Don Ryman's dad and his sami. The pizza cutter tires looked too full, and he bounced around, almost tipping a few times. He got stuck on a rock, and was 3-wheeling it, and the tree monkeys descended to help push him forward and back on all 4's. Jim Feesl and his buddy in the Grand Cherokee were the top-heavy duo making it look interesting. THe GC liked speed and didn't take too much time on the bypass. He sorta ended up going to the right up the hill but corrected enough and in time to keep the charmin in the storage box. Jim crawled first in 4x4 high, and then after some heckling dropped it into 4x4 low. Much better he thought. The Explorer made it through, but the top heavy nature of the truck didn't make it look easy. Prior to all that Rob Ramjet Marble, or as he was known this weekend, Sponge Rob (kind of a cartoon thing) took the CJ7 into the rocks, and the tie-rod lost. After a large crowd had gathered and after much heckling, the tie rod was pulled straight enough for the cj7 to move forward, and out of the way! Applicant Mark Anderson, his wife and two kids, were up at one point. They have the shiny black rubicon, and it is no longer that shiny! Mark had some clearance problems, and the tires spun much, and the jeep wanted to slide back and sideways down the hill into the rocks. A few attempts later, Mark wheeled it out and then my turn. The jeep climbed the rocks on the left, the 38's made their presence known, and the jeep easily climbed up and then out of the obstacle. That was the last easy run of the day however.

After somebody checked on the dog for me, he did fine in the blue dog house, we headed over to the rock garden. Climbing the access hill was fun, the smaller tires sent shale flying down the hill, and Paul even attempted it with the pretty stock XJ. John and I took a turn thru the rock garden, and the jeeps stretched, the springs barked, and it was fun. John took a more challenging turn thru a bigger field as we exited to the access road. I didn't want a punctured tire this soon, wanted to wait at least, oh, till sunday morning before that!

The other side of the access road encompassed many more rocks, but on a larger scale. John and I had toured the area a year and a half ago and actually walked a possible route. John laid down stone cairns to mark the route, and the stones were still stacked where he had left them! Too funny. After some cajoling, I went in first, and took Don R. along for the ride. Ugh, the sun was hot, the tranny pushed 220 degrees, and my nerves were unnerving. The job to get thru, mainly required getting up and over larger stones and moguls, the drop offs were chest high. The jeep hung up on three wheels most of the time, Howard and Paul did the guessing on where to place a wheel or two. The rocks were bigger, but some splintered as you drove over them. It sounded like someone dropped and shattered a glass. The automatics in our jeeps performed admirably, don't think a manual would have been too desirable there. A lot of the pinpointing required small throttle with the brakes on, too much throttle and the jeep would fall into one of the big holes. And then Don would have had to grab the charmin! Well, after moving thru the garden, had to take a left turn and then out into the woods. The turn was ok, but the exit had a gate keeper big butt stone on the left. Before that were a couple of stepping stones, and a big hole before the gate keeper. All this with the right side sporting a hill. So, to keep the jeep from hitting too low at first, and subsequent drowning in the hole, had to climb to the right to get the left front tire away from the hole. Ack, not much fun nor level enjoyment! Finally got the jeep around and pointed to the exit, and dropped the front tire onto the gate keeper, and down. The rocker panels did their job and sorta pivoted me to the left a little, and we drove out. All this time john was behind me following along doing his best Dave Stauffer impression and making it look easy! After a couple of high fives, we took off for the 200 dollar hill. Paul wanted to try it in the XJ. AFter a couple of attempts, and neither sporting a straight descent, Paul had had enough! We went back to the trailers and loaded up for the campground. Lots of fun around the fire all night, crowds gathered around the various camcorders to laugh at the days events. Took off for the tent around midnight and was way tired.

Sunday morning took ranger for an hour walk to give him a reason for being there. Beautiful weather of course. Steve Gurney and I took our trucks and trailers to seven cities to unload while the others waited for the others. We went on the usual stuff, moguls, hill climbs, blah, blah, blah. THen Owen from the grizzlies tracked us down to go to the Heaven area for some more mogul rock stuff. Got there in time to see everyone leaving. Steve and I went in anyway as the others watched from the hill above. No problems with either the rocks or the jeep. However, things turned from bad to worse for me. I wasn't paying attention to the terrain and where I was going. Steve had turned back towards the access road, but I kept going out further. Before I knew it, the moguls became more viscious, narrow, and generally, not jeep friendly. Grrrrrr, I couldn't find a line to turn right and back to the road. Had to keep going around the perimeter and into worse crap. These were not fun too narrow and deep. So the inevitable happened, heard the dreaded pffffffft of air coming out of the left front sidewall. Aghghghghghghg! Had four moguls to go before a steep descent out of the heaven as hell 'play' area. Most had left, had to turn off the cb due to inappropriate heckling from the hill dwellers. But Steve and Owen returned to inquire if I needed assistence. Uh, I think so. The tire was flat. The crap moguls were getting worse, and the line out of the crap was steep. Had to keep reversing to get the jeep in line for the descent. Then on one reversing job, bang, the left front ujoint ploded, even one of the trunnions was missing. This was a brand new spicer joint. Was on the steep descent at this point, so couldn't really repair anything. Steve had his jeep 30 degrees or so off to the right holding the jeep down with his winch, and pulled me to the right to point the jeep down correctly. Then finally after about 30 minutes or so, got the jeep down. We pulled the tire off, put the waggy 235 spare on with the fancy spoke rim, and drove to the truck. The tiny tire didn't make the jeep handle funny, I do that plenty, and the jeep didn't drop down like I thought it would. I had a spare shaft, but no big tire, so loaded up and headed back to the camp.

Jim was almost done loading his explorer, he had earlier toasted a tranny diaphram and couldn't shift out of first gear. Even the new ones require vacuum to advance the gears. We sat around and jaw jacked for a couple of hours and I quaffed a few beers to get over the 300 dollar future expense awaiting me. We went to his hotel, and not for that reason, took a shower and went to burger world, and then home. Highway 2 put us to sleep, but no cops, and stopped off at the citgo before heading down 33. Of course, as usual, a hillbilly came by to ask if went we muddin'. Then had to bore us to death with stories of his muddin' days, ugh. He had a sweet 49 Ford though, beefed up 289. Told us you could go as fast a your balls allowed you to. Ok, so that was funny. He had to prove that theory too, as jim and I were traveling south on 33, he came whupping by going probably a 100. Not sure if I'd drive a 54 year old truck that fast on old suspension parts, narrow axles, etc. Oh well, didn't see any hillbilly parts in the ditch anywhere!

Had a great time as usual in GR, even with the carnage. Thanks to the Grizzlies for hosting the event, and look forward to going up there agin! To go muddin' that is!!! yeehaw!