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Chinaman's Gulch 2002

Chinaman's Gulch Run on Sat. July 27, 2002 consisted of the following:

Scott Yoder - 2000 4Runner
Mike Brown - 2001 4Runner
Steve Crase - FJ62
Matt Hinkley - Mini P\Up
Greg Luer - 85' 4Runner
We all had lifts and at least lockers in the rear. 

We met at the Gunsmoke Truck Stop in Johnson Village. Unfortunately, we were late in leaving when Greg showed up. We were glad we caught him. None of us had run this trail before, so we didn't know exactly how to get to the trailhead. I had several sets of directions and a map from Internet write-ups. However, none of them seemed to match the roads and terrain very well. There were quite a few side roads and very few signs, so finding Chinaman's Gulch was very difficult. We saw one other vehicle, a Pinzgauer. We followed it for a while to get us close to the trailhead. The road gave us several moderate obstacles - nothing too difficult for lockers and the proper line. The terrain was very different from most Colorado runs- it was dry, sandy, firm rocks in a desert environment. Mike commented it reminded him of several run's he had completed in California. We stopped for lunch at 1pm without really knowing where our trailhead was. We eventually found ourselves coming back down toward hwy285 and near a pond. The road made a left hand turn and back up a Gulch. We figured we had finally found Chinaman's Gulch.
The trail soon started to get exciting. We all made it over one difficult obstacle after another. Eventually, we came to a bit of an open area with a large rock garden on the right. I first looked at it and said "no way", but I figured we could watch Greg (Cheesman) go through it. He crawled trough the garden with ease. Next, Steve gave it a go with his FJ62 locked front and rear. He scrapped and clawed his way through - only to get hung up against a large rock. His custom sliders were holding the weight of his vehicle and keeping him out of danger for the moment. He managed to back up just enough to reposition the truck and then popped up and over the obstacle. He finally made it! As he stated, he was "hangin' and bangin'". Mike Brown boldly decided he would try it with his "traction controlled" 4Runner. Mike bumped and grinded his way up and over- being careful to stay to the right of the large rock that gave Steve trouble. With peer pressure from my fellow 4Runner friend Mike, I just had to try as well. My spare tire hung me up. I needed the guys to push me back and off of it. I then gave it a little more power and popped up and over this very difficult obstacle. I was very pleased. This was the most difficult obstacle I had ever tried. No rocker panel damage either.
Later we came upon the largest obstacle in the trail. I saw this in the pictures. It had been described as an old waterfall with three main lines. The far right was difficult, the middle was more difficult, and the left was the "you must be crazy" line. I didn't even think it was an option, due to the fact that it was a rock wall, one story tall. Much to my surprise, Greg had been eyeing it and was planning an attempt. I couldn't believe he was going to try this! I got out of the way and got my camera out. It required a vehicle that could tackle an incredible approach angle to get his front tires on the rock. He then started to climb up until his rear wheels slipped in the large crack in the middle. He backed down several times until he got just the right line to give his rear tires grip. With his Runner in it's lowest gear possible, he crawled right up the rock. We all cheered him on! I had never seen this type of thing accomplished before. Of course, I haven't been to Moab either. 
Several other difficult obstacles still had to be negotiated. One obstacle in particular gave Mike and I rocker panel damage. Of course, we could have taken the easier line to the left, but, with our recent accomplishments and confidence in our 4Runners, we took the more difficult line. This particular line required a left hand turn around a rock. Crunch! The rock hit my rocker panel and fender flare in front of my rear wheel. I figured "driver error". So what do I do? I try it again with the same result. This time my fender flare fell to the ground! Mike tried a different line over the rock, which crunched his rocker panel a little. He then slid down and over his right rear lower control arm. Fortunately, his control arm didn't appear to be bent. 
To tally the day's damage total: Steve had broken a rear sway bar link when he popped his rear wheel way up into the air on one of our first descents, mostly superficial damage to the 4Runners with no sliders, and nothing serious to the other rigs. No major mechanical problems that would hinder our 100-mile trip back to Denver.
I loved the fact that this trail offered so many difficult obstacles with different lines with varying amounts of difficulty. If you were to take all of the easiest lines and bypasses, the trail would have been easier. Thus, the "7" rating. We will definitely be back!

Scott Yoder


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