2012 Fall Crawl
With my new job, my time commitments are tight. So, I made a last minute decision to attend the XJ list Fall Crawl. That meant I did not have time to prep my trailer and my Jeep. I decided to borrow Jennifer’s XJ which had until recently been her daily driver.
I made the assumption it was ready to drive and just spent the time unpacking her stuff and packing in my camping gear. Having grown accustomed to packing a Suburban, I had to rethink some choices when packing the smaller XJ. The 33 inch spare took up a lot of room even wit he seat folded down. Since I was traveling alone, I used the front seat space for a few soft items like my sleeping bag and backpack.
I left early Friday morning. I made it to the camp in Harlan just as the guys who arrived Thursday night were waking up. I aired down and disconnected the sway bar. I then unloaded the camping gear and set up the tent. I then took my chair to the camp fire and caught up with everyone I had not seen in a while.
After lunch, we lined up and headed up the mountain. I was surprised to see that part of trail 45 is now closed and we were forced to use the trail 48 bypass. Even with the bypass, getting up the hill is still a bit spooky in a couple of places.
At middle fork, we took a look at Tailgate. There was a huge buck deer looking back at us. It just stood there staring at us as we investigated the climb. Only after Josh restarted his XJ and turned p the hill did the big deer slowly wander away. The wet leaves proved too slippery to get on onto the bottom of the trail which looked pretty unforgiving further up. So, we turned and headed up trail 15 to the left toward the helicopter pad. After exploring the remains of an abandoned earth mover, we ventured further east to the huge plateau that we found a few years ago. There was still snow in several places and I chucked a couple of snowballs.
A couple of XJs were low on fuel so we split in to two groups. While one group headed to Evart for fuel, I led the others on a round about way to Lower Rock garden. We took trail 15 back to middle fork and then took the other side of 15 up slip and slide and then up the next big hill. Slip and slide was pretty dry but the second longer hill was pretty slick. I was very happy with how well Jenny’s XJ climbed in the slippery mud. Also her new Procomp shocks did very well at controlling the front axle over the rock outcrops.
Some of the newer participants had some trouble at first as they did not realize how aggressive they need to hit the bottom of the climb to be able to carry speed to the steep part. After a couple of tries every one made it up.
We then made our way to the lower rock garden. We played around there for a while until the others caught up. It was pretty dark by the time we headed back to camp. We went back along the easier trial 12 and 20 back to camp. Going down 45 was pretty exciting as the switchbacks took a careful line to drop into without feeling tippy.
Back at camp we made our individual meals and swapped stories. As usual, the stars were extremely bright on top of the mountain far away from light pollution.
After a chilly night we headed up the mountain again. We decided to try the far west side of the part as one of the county officials had suggested. He told us that some of the ATV trails were OK for our size Jeeps. We navigated our way across the park making only one wrong turn before we got to a confusing spot and took time out for lunch. I used the manifold to warm some hot pockets which were very tasty on the cool clear day.
We made our best guess at which trail to take and ventured on. Not far in we found a spot a bit too narrow for an XJ. A fallen tree was blocking one side of the trial. Josh used his XJ like a bull dozer and moved the log aside. However he got hung up backing out and Dean had to give him a tug to get free.
After a long while of continuously going down we decided this was not taking us where we wanted to go. We could see the Harlan High School below us. Eventually we found a place to turn all the rigs around and made the long climb back out. We took another narrow trial toward the southern part of the park. Again we encountered a tree blocking the road and Josh again pushed it out of the way.
There was one particularly challenging rock that took some maneuvering to get around but generally the trail was uneventful. We were all glad to be of the narrow trail by the end. We stopped at 4 poles overlook and enjoyed the view.
Next we decided to try some trials we had not been on before. We turned up Fuqarwe and then onto Fly Trap. Neither proved to be much of a challenge. We then made our way along 12 to the unnamed rock garden.
We gain split into two groups with one group taking Frankenstein and the others going to Little Stadium. The group on Frankenstein had some excitement as Dean broke a hub and Frosty took a tumble. We all met back up on trail 12 and headed back down. We made it to camp just about dark.
Frosty fired up his grill and tossed on some juicy rib eye steaks. Potato boats surrounded the cooking surface as well. Once it was all cooked, the conversation died down and was replaced with grunts, oohs and compliments to the chef.
After a nice dinner and some story telling I retired to the tent and slept very well. I woke early the next morning and packed my gear. At the bottom of the hill, I aired up using the camp compressor. After hooking back up the sway bar, I pointed the red Jeep south basking in the memory of a nice relaxing weekend.