Friday afternoon I drove down to Wilderness Adventure to set up camp. On the Wilderness Adventure website, they specifically say not to follow Google to get to their place as the directions take you through a water crossing that is too deep for most cars. I know I followed Google last year and didn’t have any water crossings, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. It turns out that actually, there IS a pretty good size stream crossing just up the street from the campsite, and Google did take me through it. It’s a state road, and a constructed river ford, but depending on what path you take, there’s actually a pretty deep hole about 2/3rds of the way across. I think the water got up to my headlights for a moment as the nose went into the hole. It turns out that if you stay to one side, the hole isn’t there and the crossing is easier. The stream wasn’t running very high, I think the water was around 20-24″ except for the hole.
Zack and James showed up a bit later. We were all camping in spots 3 and 4 of the Meadows campground. Zack and his family went for one of the cabins.
Wilderness Adventure has a new wood fired pizza oven they were using, so we bought some pizza for dinner. It was pretty good, the folks who run Wilderness Adventure really run a nice place.
Saturday we got moving just a tad later than planned and headed over to the trail head to air down. It turns out that none of us had cell service at the campsite or at the trail head, it wasn’t until we got up on the ridge line on the trail that we picked up service.
For the first part of the trail, we only encountered one other truck. A jeep was heading out of the trail. They said they got to the rock garden area and turned around. I suggested they could come with us if they didn’t want to do it alone, but they said they really had to get going anyway and didn’t think they would have time. We also had to cut through a couple of fallen branches and a small tree that was across the trail, the tree was high enough for me to barely work under, but Zack’s truck is a lot taller, so we broke out the hand saw and took care of it.
On the way up, there are a couple of optional mud holes. Most of us skipped them, but Zack decided to try going through. It turned out that the water wasn’t nearly as deep as I expected it to be, less deep than the stream crossing the day before.
We got to the rock garden section. The trail has gotten a bit harder compared to last year, the entry to the rock garden has bigger steps down, and exit to the rock garden has become very dug out, so the rocks are taller and the holes deeper, making it really difficult to get out. I felt like I was getting close, but I backed up a bit too far while on top of a rock and wound up sitting on the differential skid and had to winch my way out. Even if I hadn’t backed off the rock, I’m not entirely sure I would have gotten through anyway. I know 2 of the other guys also had to winch out of the same spot, but I think Kevin made it through?
While we were working through the rock garden, and really doing it pretty slowly, a pair of motorcycles came up behind us, and we let them go. Then a group of 4 very heavily modified Toyota Tacomas came up behind us. They were all on 35″ tires and several of them had locking front diffs installed.
Somewhere after the rock garden, I kind of forget where, I managed to run into a rock with my front skid plate and put a pretty good size dent in the plate and deformed it a little bit. I need to get the plate off the truck and see if I can take out the dent and clean things up a bit.
We stopped for lunch in the big meadow at the top, and let the Tacos head off ahead of us after both groups finished lunch. The Taco group was from the Virginia Beach area.
Later on, when we got to the climb up to the view point, the Tacos were taking the optional difficult way up. At the same time we had to wait for a group of 13 jeeps coming down the trail in the other direction, so we found spots to get out of the way. It did take a while to let them go by. Meanwhile, one of the Tacos broke a CV joint. They winched the truck up to the top near the overlook and proceeded to change the CV joint. These guys came prepared. They pulled out a spare CV, 2 floor jacks, and the tools, and had the CV changed in under 30min and with basically no mess on the trail, I didn’t see any oil spilled at all. I was seriously impressed and need to look into how they do it so efficiently. (other than lots of practice and broken CV joints, I don’t really want to learn that way)
As for the trail, the climb up to the viewpoint has also become harder and the rocks bigger. The dirt in that area is very sandy, so tires dig in and kick out rocks, and the sand makes the bigger rocks slippery.
From there, we skipped the other optional obstacles, including the rock we went over last trip. It was getting late, and I was tired, and I think some other folks were as well.
The trip out was uneventful. There were a couple of bigger puddles on the way out that kind of smelled though, just the normal nasty biological smell. So when we got back to the campsite, a couple of us drove past the camping area and back through the river to do the crossing again and let the river rinse off at least some of the mud.
Trail Report written by Kirk Adams