This past Sunday I was off work and bored. So I decided to just take a drive out 285 and see what kind of trouble I could find. I drove around the Guanella Pass area for awhile, got bored and headed back out to 285. Then I remembered reading somewhere about an abandoned ghost town near the Black Hawk/Central City area. I wasn't really sure where it was. But I thought I'd just go over through Evergreen, down 70 and then 6 and just check out the area. I drove through Black Hawk and Central City and found some random dirt roads headed out of town towards the Northwest and just crawled along for awhile. It was about 6:45 by this time and I came to a four way intersection on the trail. Not really sure which way to go, but not wanting to go back the way I came in, I turned right on a total whim. I drove on for a short time and a lifted Subaru Outback with 33" BFG A-T's dropped in behind me from a trail merging in from my right. They followed me and we drove on for another 30 minutes or so. At some point we passed a couple walking with their dogs on the trail. The Subaru stopped to talk to them. I didn't really think anything of it and kept driving. About another 10 minutes down the trail I came to a large patch of ice with huge ruts. Considering the time of day, I felt it was not worth attempting to get through. It was now about 7:30ish and starting to get dark and colder. So I decided to turn around and head back. But at this point the guys in the Subaru had caught up with me. So after I got turned around they said that the folks they had just spoken to down the trail had said there was another couple in a Jeep Grand Cherokee stuck in the ice further up the trail. So, we decided to just go ahead and walk down the trail a little ways to see what was up. We didn't walk more than 600 feet down the trail before we found the Jeep. It was a bone stock Cherokee. No lift, no lockers, no winch. I will give him credit for having BFG A-T's though. But they were only 31's. He had tried to go up a hill covered in about a foot and a half of pure solid ice. The trail had two very deep ruts in the ice. And somehow he had managed to jump the ruts and his passenger side tires were hanging off the side of the trail, and his rear passenger tire was mashed up against a fur tree. All the while he was badly high centered on the ice.
To make all this even better, these two had no food, no water, no extra clothes, and no recovery gear WHATSOEVER!
The wife was in sandals. And by the time we got there, they were both soaked up to the waste from floundering around in the snow, not to mention the road was a raging river at this point with snow melt.
So, the two random guys in the Subaru and I decided we needed to give them a hand and get them out before it got dark and even colder. Then the guy who we passed on the road earlier showed back up with a pick axe and said he was willing to help.
So between the guys in the Subaru, myself, and the random guy on the trail, we had: 50ft of chain, 40ft of recovery strap, four hooks, three sky jacks, a hatchet, a bow saw, two shovels, two pick axes, two come-alongs, and my flashlight.
From 7:45 until 9:30 we used every tool at our disposal, including several Aspen trees he had to cut down for leverage poles. We dug, pulled, pushed, jacked up, hacked, smashed, and burned rubber. And FINALLY, just I was saying, "Ok, let's call it, and just take them into town for the night." Something grabbed and the jeep lurched back and almost ran over the guy manning the come-along. After we got the jeep back on solid ground, it was very dark and very cold. I handed out the extra water I had to all involved. After I made sure everyone was out and headed down the trail ok, I didn't get back to Central City until 10:30.
It was a wild evening. I regret not taking any pictures, but we were all pretty busy. His jeep came out of it still operational, but with a couple of damaged body pieces. We lost 20ft of chain somewhere in the ice and mud and darkness, and broke one of the pick axes. I'm just glad that no one got hurt, other than a few bruised fingers and shins.
It's just an all too real reminder that off-loading is not a stroll in the park, and should never be treated as such. I was shocked at their level of unpreparedness. They may have been able to make it through the night. But whose to say how long they would have been out there if that couple hadn't walked by and then told us. It's definitely something to think about.
Stay alert. Be prepared. Come out alive.