Labor Day Campout 2013 definitely will go down as a huge success! While a little bit on the hot side, for the most part the weather was quite nice, the vast majority of the Jeeps ran well, and great company was enjoyed!
My weekend started a day early with several out of town friends wanting to go do a warm-up run on Porcupine Rim trail. One of the things that I love so much about the Red Rock 4 Wheelers events, is the huge following they have from all over. Just on our impromptu trail ride Friday, we had Dave who drives out annually from Pennsylvania, Dan who comes out several times a year from Nebraska, and Mike who typically makes at least one trip down here each year from Alberta, Canada, plus our live-in college student Tyler (who just got back from being home for the summer).
Porcupine Rim often gets a bad rap as a boring, and very bumpy trail, so many people avoid it. Personally I’ve only done the trail a few times, but each time I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it. Yes, it’s pretty bumpy and bouncy, but the views along the way, and especially the views at the end overlooking Castle Valley are without a doubt worth the trip. The 5 of us took our time, and enjoyed the day, even taking the time to pose for some poser shots out on the cliff edge overlooking Castle Valley. One surprise of the day was to find out that the County Road Department had come in and done a lot of work on the really tippy ledge right there below the water tanks, making that obstacle much easier, and way less sketchy feeling.
The actual Labor Day Campout kicked off Saturday morning. I had chosen to lead Metal Masher and was looking forward to the day. It is weird to think that Misty’s accident on Metal Masher was 4 years ago this Labor Day (if you don’t know what happened, feel free to check out the story about her scary accident here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/misty-adams/what-happened-some-thank-yous-and-some-pics-if-youre-brave/134438983455). Thankfully Misty is doing wonderful today, with almost full use of her hand, and without looking closely, most people would never notice her injury.
I started the trail with only a small group, I believe there were 12 vehicles, and things went very smoothly. We quickly got through the first part of the trail and arrived at Rock Chucker not too long after 11:00. Of the 12 vehicles with us, 10 of them went up Rock Chucker; this is by far the highest percentages of vehicles I’ve had go up this intimidating looking obstacle. Most made it up pretty smooth, a couple needed to have a few guys pulling on a tow strap to get them up, but ultimately, everyone made it under their own power. Next up was Mirror Gulch, which has a series of ledges to drive up, culminating in the last one which we call Misty’s Thumb, as this was the site of the roll over incident where Misty’s thumb was almost amputated. Thankfully there were no rollovers, or injuries today. This was the site of the only breakdown of the day however; we had a full size Cherokee Chief with us, while coming up the top section of Mirror Gulch he managed to break both of his driveshafts. Definitely not a good situation to be in, from that point on he would have to be towed the rest of the way off the trail.
We stopped for lunch at the overlook, which happens to be one of my favorite spots in the entire area. While stopped, one of the group, who had an onboard welder, attempted to fix the front driveshaft of the broken vehicle, but unfortunately it re-broke on the first obstacle after the lunch stop. By time we arrived at the spot where you can take the shortcut back to be Gemini Ridges Road, it was approaching 3:00, and a decision had to be made whether or not we wanted to finish the rest of the trail, including trying the extremely difficult Widow Maker obstacle, or if we wanted to call it a day and head back to town to be sure that we were not late for the provided dinner back at the campground, which started at 6:00. The group decided that they had had enough fun for one day, so we headed back to town, with the broken down Cherokee Chief in tow.
Dinner was provided to all of the participants by one of our sponsors for the weekend. It was very tasty, and we were glad to have it. Following dinner was the raffle, and I am happy to say that everybody who attended the raffle won some type of prize. We really had some cool prizes this year, including one free skydiving trip, a one hour scenic flight over Canyonlands National Park, a 20 minute helicopter tour for 3 people, a 2 night stay at the Red Cliffs Lodge resort, some free labor from a couple of the local repair shops, numerous gift certificates for local restaurants, as well as numerous hats, T-shirts, and even some very nicely made local jewelry. I believe everybody was happy with the prizes which were given out.
Sunday morning we were given a breakfast provided by Malt-o-Meal. I was scheduled to lead Hells Revenge, and again ended up with a fairly small group of 13 vehicles. Because of our small group size, we made excellent time, and ended up getting to the Colorado River overlook, our traditional lunch spot, at 10:45. Instead of eating at such an early hour, I decided that I would give everybody who was interested in a chance to run the infamous Hells Gate obstacle a chance to do that. Besides myself, I had 6 other vehicles who decided to try the obstacle. After I went up Hells Gate, I had Tyler come up next, when he got up, I had him come over and piggyback me over to a place where I could spot the rest of the people coming up. In the last 2 years, there have been 2 rollovers on Hells Gate while I have been on the trail, however, neither time with I spotting. As the vehicles came up, a few of them lifted a tire, and had to back down to reposition, but eventually everybody made it up under their own power, and unscathed. At this point it was still only 11:30, so the decision was made to continue on and have lunch later.
I decided that we would stop for lunch after we got everybody through the Car Wash, the easiest of the 3 hot tubs to drive through. It ended up being a great place to eat, as we were rewarded with a 360° view of the surrounding area and the trail, both what we already traversed, and what was still ahead of us. After lunch we headed on down the hill towards Mickey’s Hot Tub. Tyler and I were the only ones who tried it; which might be due to the remarkable wheel stand up which Tyler did, where he only prevented himself from rolling over backwards with extremely quick acting by getting his Jeep in reverse, and quickly backing down out of the wheel stand. On his next try, Tyler made it out of the Hot Tub, but we found that his motor now had a weird ticking sound coming out of it. It was suggested that maybe he had starved the motor for oil, and had messed up one of his lifters. Whatever was wrong, the Jeep was still drivable, and couldn’t be fixed on the trail anyway, so Tyler drove the rest of the way, without any additional problems.
As there were no takers to try The Escalator, we continued on to Tip over Challenge, which the majority of the vehicles took, only a few going around on the bypass. From there we headed on to do Rubble Trouble, which due to some confusion had been closed during Jeep Safari. We reached the pavement right about 3:00, with no breakdowns, and no real issues. After getting home and looking over Tyler’s Jeep more closely, it was determined that when he hit reverse and backed down out of his wheel stand, he had come down so hard that he had completely bottomed out his bump stops and the truss on his front axle had hit his oil pan, making it so that his crankshaft was hitting his newly dented oil pan. Thankfully a fairly quick and easy fix.
Monday I decided to go along on the Moab Rim trail. I’ve always enjoyed this trail, and hadn’t done it for a while, plus it was Johnny’s first time on the trail, and I was happy to be there with him. This trail has a pretty unwarranted bad rap, in my opinion, so many people hate it because of a very few off camber spots. Many times I’ve heard, “You’re going to roll off the cliff and die!” Whereas realistically, except right at the very beginning, you are never very close to the cliff edge, and you could never conceivably roll off the cliff unless you intentionally tried. Moab Rim really is only 2 major obstacles, The Devil’s Crack, and the Z-Turn. Neither of these obstacles it’s particularly difficult, but rather it is just very important that you take the right line. I have seen rollovers on both of the obstacles, but that is because the driver was not on the right line. For our group, everybody went up correctly, thanks to good spotting a by our officials, Rick and Glen.
Once reaching the top of the Rim, many people choose to turn around and go back down, missing the whole top section of the trail. I believe this is a mistake, while granted there are no real difficult obstacles on the top portion, the views and terrain are most definitely worth the trip. My personal favorite spot is at the lunch overlook, from which I can literally see my house. Another fun part of the top section is getting the opportunity to play on the sand hill. That is always an interesting experience, because depending upon the amount of recent moisture we’ve received, the sand hill can either be easily driven up, if it is a little bit wet, and therefore stickier, or it is virtually impossible if it has been really dry. I gave it a full throttled try, and even with my V8, low gearing, and 42” tires, I only made it up about half way, completely covering Tyler, my passenger for the day, and myself in sand in the attempt. I felt better than nobody else made it up either, although I was cursed by a couple other people who tried because of the deep trenches I dug in the sand.
The rest of the trail went great, and by not long after 2:30 we were again on the pavement. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we really had a great weekend, the weather was a little hot, with highs in the upper 90s, but most days there was enough of a breeze to help make it feel cooler. Misty and I have now been on the Labor Day Committee for 4 years now, and we have really grown to love this event. With its smaller trail sizes, you feel like you get to know the people you are out with better, which in turn creates a tighter knit group. If you’ve tried Jeep Safari, and are turned off by the large numbers of participants, I would definitely recommend that you give the Labor Day Campout a try.
In the comments feel free to tell me if you have been to the Labor Day Campout before, and what your experience was. If you haven’t been, what‘s keeping you?