That reminds me of a good story (or two)...................

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 13:13:43 12/21/16

In Reply to: some of those jeep trails posted by Hoot


Reading what happened to you on Lower Engineer Pass brings back many memories of 4-wheeling incidents.

In the early 1980s, we bought a brand new Jeep Cherokee wide-wheel version in the fall. I was desperate to take that thing off-road, but winter was already closing off the very highest elevation opportunities. I finally decided to drive the forest road that connects Beaver Reservoir to the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary. I had hiked and skied it before, so I was well familiar with the geography. I had the whole family and a family friend along. Toward the end of the road, just before the boundary, the road crosses a small river, possibly one of the forks of the South St. Vrain River. The floor of the river was yellow with deposited aspen leaves. I decided to drive across, in spite of my wife's expressed anxiety. I made the crossing just fine, but on the way back, I took a slightly different route, and had a problem. I was mid-river, and the current was starting to swing the back end downstream. I panicked, and threw the thing into reverse. I backed up onto a submerged log. Thankfully, I made it out of there, a bit chastened by the experience. A few days later, I noticed dust entering the passenger compartment, and took the vehicle back to the dealer. (They owed me one, because one of the wheels had come off as I was driving it off the lot when I bought it.) They discovered a puncture in the driver's side rear wheel well, and scratched their heads on what might have caused that. Thankfully, that was the exact wheel that had come off in front of the dealership, so they fixed it on their dime, thinking that incident was the root cause.

The other story goes back even farther, to early autumn of 1978. I was living in the Seattle suburbs, and had bought a used Jeep Wagoneer with 72,000 miles on it. One fateful day, I drove out into the national forest south of Mt. Rainier, north of Mt. St. Helens. There is one particular road that goes for a very long ways, maybe 40, 50 miles or more. It starts out 2 large lanes wide, but eventually tapers to something much narrower. I was headed for McCoy Creek, to look for gold. On the entire weekday drive, I only encountered two humans. It was a gyp-o logging contractor working a tract way down south. After not finding any gold, I started driving back north, but decided to go up a very rustic, narrow side road. It climbed gradually up the side of a mountain. The road eventually turned into something more resembling a cow path. I reached a place where a landslide had tore out 2/3 of the road, and there was no way to keep going. You could see the end of the road from there. As I was contemplating how I was going to get turned around on this narrow passageway, my radiator overheated, and I had steam coming out from under the hood. I got out, opened the hood, and carefully removed the cap. While doing that, I noticed one of my headlights was out (always on while driving logging roads up there). Then I saw the outer cap on my driver's side wheel's selectric drive hub had fallen off somewhere. In frustration with how my new toy was falling apart right in front of my eyes, I banged my fist down on the fender and screamed. Immediately, the horn started honking nonstop. That eventually had me laughing. I disconnected the horn, realized the headlight would be easily replaced, and found the cap to the hub just a ways down the road behind me. I put that back where it belonged, and concentrated on the radiator situation. Thankfully, I had not blown a hose, which would have been way problematic. I had to get more liquid into that system. I accomplished that by taking some water bottle I had with me down the steep hillside to a nearby creek, and ferrying water up the hill several times. The fix worked! I had to do what was probably a 20 point version of a 3 point turn to back the vehicle around. I remember only being able to go mere inches at a time before getting out of the Jeep, checking the proximity of the edge of the precipice, and getting back in the vehicle to take another swipe. I had to do the same thing in the rear, naturally. I was so glad when I finally got down that road and rejoined the main forest road. It was late enough that the loggers might have already left the area, and I was looking at a 30 or 40 mile walk to any place where I could summon help. Ironically, that area was likely covered in many feet of volcanic ash a year and a half later, when Mt. St. Helens erupted in that exact direction (northeast).


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