2012 marks the 39th annual Labor Day Camp-out hosted by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers. Contrary to the crazy, hectic, and oftentimes stressful Easter Jeep Safari, with its 1600+ registered vehicles; the Labor Day Camp-out is a much smaller, family oriented, and easy going event. We typically have about 90 vehicles participating, and have a focus on the more mild trails in the Moab area.
As for the last three years, we’ve continued the “Stay Together, Play Together” idea with most participants staying/camping in the same campground. This year we moved to the Moab Rim Campground, a perfect spot for our event as it’s located just a few miles south of town, and is large enough to hold all of our participants. Last year’s location at the Gold Bar Campground, was beautiful, but located too far from town for most people’s liking. Aaron and James Graves, this year’s co-chairmen, arranged for the new location, and it was a great improvement over last year’s site.
Most people arrived Friday night, and it was great to see so many friends again. This year it seemed to be a year with lots of people who traveled a long way; we had participants from as far away as Alaska, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Washington, and even some from British Columbia, Alberta, and Québec Canada! Labor Day Camp-out also seems to attract a fairly large number of first-timers to Moab, this year I estimate about a quarter of the people had never been here before.
For the first time at a Labor Day Camp-out, Saturday and Sunday we offered a “first-timers package” which gave people either new to Moab, or new to the sport of 4 wheeling a chance to cut their teeth on some of the easier Moab trails. Misty was chosen as one of the officials for this package, and she led (her first time ever leaving a trail, she was excited) Secret Spire on Saturday. I didn’t have a trail of my own, so I rode with her, and she did a wonderful job! With a total of nine vehicles, the trail moved along at a good pace, and after a nice lunch at Dellenbaugh Tunnel, we made it to the Secret Spire by 1:30. Because of our early finish, Misty gave the participants a choice of going down Long Canyon, and about half joined us on this beautiful side trip.
On Sunday, Misty was the tail-gunner on 3D, and in her words this is how it went.
3D trail is a bit challenging for my mostly stock Grand Cherokee (WJ). As a matter of fact, even though the WJ has been on this trail before, it was the first time I had driven the trail and it’s changed a bit from the last time I was on it. As the tail gunner for the beginner’s package, I am supposed to know how to drive these trails, and while I can drive, I was nervous. Aaron, my trail leader, was aware that I had not driven this trail alone, I was essentially by myself in the vehicle (technically, my niece was with me but she decided to nap on my CB. That played a significant roll in the day), I was nervous about a long steep slope called Airport Hill, and I was in the smallest Jeep on the trail. He was there to help not only the beginners through this trail, but me get through this difficult for my jeep, and difficult for my nerves portions of the trail.
I made it through the easier beginning part of the trail with no issues at all. This eventually brought us to a beautiful overlook that we stopped at for lunch. While we were stopped for lunch, Aaron mentioned to me that the part of the trail I was going to struggle on and the part I was nervous for would be coming up shortly after lunch. Hearing this, a participant up from Texas decided to put his Jeep in front of me “In case you need a strap up.” A short drive across a beautiful slick rock moonscape, we came to a steep climb and the base of “Airport Hill”. Now, picture my 14 year old niece sleeping in the front seat with her head on my CB. As I approached the hill and started to climb, her face bounced off the CB changing the channel. At the same time the channel changed, my trail leader was telling me that when I got to the top and through the rough area there would be another climb full of ledges, and that my Grand would not make it through and that I should take the go around to the left. Of course, I did not hear this because I was on the wrong CB channel. So, as I approached this difficult second climb (one I did not remember from previous times on this trail) I had no idea there was another way through. The Jeep in front of me started up the hill, slid a little, backed up and finally after some time made it to the top. At this point Aaron realized I did not hear him, and was trying to get back to me to tell me to go around. Instead, just as he reached the top of the hill to his (and the guy from Texas) amazement, he watched as I not only made it up the section they were sure I wouldn’t make it up, but did it so perfectly that my tires never slipped once. His response: “Yes!!!! Oh how I wish David could have been here to see you drive that!!” My thought is that it just goes to show that if you don’t know you can’t do something, sometimes you can.
The rest of the trail went well and at the end of the day I received a very nice compliment from the guy who thought I would “need a strap up”. “Every time I looked back, you just kept coming. By the end of the day all I could say is… that girl can drive!” So although 3D is not a difficult trail, it IS a difficult trail for a stock WJ on 31’s running street pressure in the tires and, I ROCKED THAT TRAIL!
I am very proud of how well she did, and wished I could have seen it, but on Sunday I was busy leading my own trail, Metal Masher. I was quite nervous about how the CJ would perform, for as I said last week, it seemed to be running well, but only had a minimal amount of testing done. Gene Day, who I’ve worked with often, and really enjoy, was my tail-gunner in his beautiful red CJ-7. In addition to Gene and my CJs, we had three other CJs with us on the trail; five CJs out of 15 vehicles is pretty rare these days. The day started off well, but after not too long I was told over the CB that a large gap had developed in our group and that the last several Jeeps were nowhere to be seen. I stopped at the optional obstacle, Rock Chucker, to wait for everyone to catch up.
After waiting well over an hour, Gene finally caught up. His starter had gotten stuck on which necessitated the removal of the starter, this made it so that he had to be push started to get running again. Unfortunately, his steering wheel also became locked in position at this point, and they had to disassemble his steering column to remove the lock cylinder allowing his steering wheel to move freely again. By time those who wanted to made it up and over Rock Chucker, it was already after 12:30, much later than normal.
Next up was Mirror Gulch, a long series of slickrock ledges culminating in the last steep climb called, “Misty’s Thumb” (Named after my wife from when she injured her hand in a rollover a couple years ago on that obstacle.) Misty’s Thumb has been a difficult obstacle for me over the years, I’m really not sure why as it’s not all that difficult; but I’ve broken the output shaft on my transfer case, blew up a hub, and while riding with a friend was in a roll over there. Unfortunately, this year was to be no different; while coming up the last ledge my driver side tire got wedged under a rock and I ended up breaking my front driveshaft off at the axle side yoke. Yes, that would be the driveshaft I just had rebuilt; but looking at it closer, it had just split along the weld seam, no big deal. Luckily I have a twin stick transfer case, so I was able to disengage my front axle while leaving my rear axle in low range.
By time everyone made it up Mirror Gulch and Misty’s Thumb, it was approaching 2:30; and with both officials now broken and limping off the trail, we made the executive decision to cut the trail short and take the shortcut out before the Widowmaker turn off. Playing into our decision was the fact that that night we had a group dinner at the campground starting at 6, followed by a door prize raffle at 7. Even cutting off the last section of the trail, I barely made it back home by 5:30.
Even though I broke on the trail, I still consider the day a great success! After months of trying, and much frustration, I think my Jeep is finally running the way it’s supposed to, as it didn’t sputter, die or hesitate all day. Steve Nantz and his crew at the Moab 4×4 Outpost re-welded, and sleeved the end of my driveshaft, and it’s now stronger than ever!
With my Jeep broken, Misty and I decided not to do Fins & Things as we were scheduled to; we could’ve taken Misty’s Grand Cherokee, but decided not to put the extra wear and tear on her vehicle as that’s a pretty difficult trail for her mostly stock Jeep.
Misty and I have now been working on the Labor Day Committee for the last three years, during that time it’s gone through a lot of changes, and it really has become a great event, one which we really enjoyed being a part of. Hopefully, in the future it will only get bigger and better!
If you want to read a general overview of the Labor Day Campout, check out my blog from last year: http://wp.me/p1Pz5Q-10
And here’s the write up of last year’s Labor Day Campout: http://wp.me/p1Pz5Q-1c