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Slaughterhouse Gulch August 2002

The drive from Boulder was one and a half hours according to Yahoo! Maps, so I allowed two. That meant that I arrived at the giant hot dog in Aspen Park at 3:30 PM, way early for the run. I was surprised to see several vehicles already in the parking lot waiting.

Some of the Early birds were John McKenzie in his '77 FJ40 in a nicely primered state, Russ Leverman in his green '72 FJ40, Ige and Paul Gustavson in their tan '83 FJ60 and Dave Bayer in his gunmetal '98 TJ. Various other folks arrived in the next 45 minutes and most patronized the hot dog stand by buying food and drink and by using their restroom facilities.

Before we left the parking lot at about 4:20 PM, we had a total of 17 rigs! These included Mike Edwards in his silver '66 FJ40 with his son Tyler as navigator, Mark Kassahn in his brown/gold '76 FJ40 on his first run with Rising Sun, Dean Baranski in his white '80 Hilux, Brian Sandoval in his gray '86 xtracab mini, the author in his red '78 FJ40, Matt Farr (trail leader) in his green '81 FJ40, Tim Noreen in his gray '69 FJ40 with small passengers Gaby and Tori (aka Victoria, according to herself), Bill Davidson in a hugely built yellow '72 FJ40 with wife Diane and daughter Kimberly, Perry Loughridge in his gray '87 4Runner with some fresh body damage from Lefthand Canyon, Jeff Zepp in his green '71 FJ40, Tory Roesch in his blue '83 FJ60, Steph Wilson in her white '91 4Runner with shotgunner Amanda, and Al Smith in his gray '87 4Runner. We were met at the trail by Dave and Kim Brown in their red '74 and black '76 FJ40s respectively and Kevin Ehrlich in his silver '89 62.

Once at the trailhead we aired down, did some group introductions, and headed out. The first part of the trail is relatively easy with dips and bumps and rocks, but nothing a Honda CR-V couldn't handle. But soon enough we came to the bottom of Stump Hill. The lead members of the group radioed back that the hill looked a little more chewed up than before, but he thought we'd "probably" still be okay. Long wheelbase vehicles didn't have much trouble because the ruts had been made by Jeeps and such. 

The leaders with lockers, such as Kim and Dave Brown and Matt Farr, made short work of the hill.  Mark Kassahn got an education on driving without lockers on whoop-de-doos and after several attempts - each on sliding him closer to the edge of the trail - he accepted a tow from Red Fox. Steph had no trouble in her stock runner with her LWB (no lockers, even.) Tim Noreen attacked the hill with steadiness with his girls and their wide eyes, but he got a little hung up on the biggest hole. With two spotters standing on his front bumper he carefully backed down and made it up on his third attempt. The author took some instruction from Jeff Zepp about momentum and tried to take it faster. With a little wheelspin on the first small bump he backed down for a second try. After showing everyone he needs some practice with the brake/accelerator/clutch pedals (you're not supposed to roll back 20 feet!) He made it up using a slightly different go-right-then-left line. ("Made it look easy," said Tim.)

We all gathered at the top, talked about the lines and the beautiful day, let the newbies' adrenaline settle a bit, and proceeded down the trail. After the climb up Stump Hill there is a long downhill section that is a little loose with a turn or two. Minimal braking and descending in 1st gear is the key and we meandered down the turns and twists. There were a few larger rocky sections that slowed the bunch, but no one needed a spot and we all made it safely to the large meadow and the bottom of the other major hill climb. Experienced wheelers didn't mind the one tippy off-camber section (Matt Farr called it "uncomfortable") but this author still has a little section of his seat sticking to his rear from the terrifying 20° lean.

Matt Farr took the honors on the left side of the climb with the large moguls. With a wheel in the air once or twice he clawed up. Kim made it look easy, too, with just her rear lockers, and Bill Davidson made it look like a speed bump with his 39.5" tires. Less adventuresome and less experienced drivers took the easier right side, but Dean Baranski proved you can do the left side without lockers (he says thanks to Bill for the spotting on the CB) and, of course, Jeff Zepp made it look like his 40 was fully locked even though it is fully stock. (How much of your wheelin' success comes from experience? 50%? 70%?)

The rest of the trail was uneventful, but full of small little holes and rolls and rocks to play in, roll over, and have fun. Drivers uncomfortable with off-camber sections can get good training on the later section of this trail. It is a sustained downhill section with some turns and rocks and lots of aspen trees very tight to the side of the trail. Panic from the tippy sensation makes you want to drive to the left to level out your vehicle. In some cases if you get REALLY close to the trees it works - vehicle level and no trees nibbling at your top. But sometimes the panic makes you do dumb things and getting close to the side of the trail doesn't help the lean and puts you closer to the trees. Be brave and drive on the high side of the trail. 

By the time we got out to the yellow signs (yes, turn left there, everyone…) it was pretty dark. We had also separated into two or three groups. Matt Farr, in the front, sent the others ahead and waited for the rest. After we all arrived we motored to the pizza place in Pine Junction. We were more concerned about eating before they closed than airing up! A wonderful meal of buffalo wings (medium, not hot, was the warning from Kim), pizza (no veggie, please) and good company and conversation rounded off the evening.

All-in-all an awesome run: Great for novices, some challenges for the experienced, and plenty of nice scenery. Hope to see you on the next one!

Happy Wheelin'
Steve Bennet


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