Posts Tagged ‘Labor Day Campout’

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!

Mike, Dave, and Tyler at the overlook on Porcupine Rim, with Castle Valley in the background

Mike, Dave, and Tyler at the overlook on Porcupine Rim, with Castle Valley in the background

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).

Me at the overlook on Porcupine Rim, with the La Sal's in the background

Me at the overlook on Porcupine Rim, with the La Sal’s in the background

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 aftermath following the rollover in which Misty's hand was injured. Huge thanks to everyone involved for all of their help!

The aftermath following the rollover in which Misty’s hand was injured. Huge thanks to everyone involved for all of their help!

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: Thankfully Misty is doing wonderful today, with almost full use of her hand, and without looking closely, most people would never notice her injury.

Going up Rock Chucker

Going up Rock Chucker

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.

Finishing dinner, and waiting for the raffle to start

Finishing dinner, and waiting for the raffle to start

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.

Coming up Hells Gate with the rest of the group behind me

Coming up Hells Gate with the rest of the group behind me

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.

Tyler coming out of Mickey's Hot Tub (unfortunately we don't have any pictures of his tremendous wheel stand)

Tyler coming out of Mickey’s Hot Tub (unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of his tremendous wheel stand)

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.

Jonny getting a little bit of air under his front tires at the last obstacle before the cliff on Moab Rim

Jonny getting a little bit of air under his front tires at the last obstacle before the cliff on Moab Rim

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.

Me, Tyler, and Jonny at the overlook at the end of the Moab Rim trail. Downtown Moab is directly behind us

Me, Tyler, and Jonny at the overlook at the end of the Moab Rim trail. Downtown Moab is directly behind us

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?

Gene Day on this year’s dash plaque

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.

Renewing friendships over Saturday morning breakfast

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.

Secret Spire

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.

Jeeps coming up Airport Hill

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.

Driveshaft, all fixed up and good to go!

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.

Finishing dinner, and waiting for the raffle to start

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:

And here’s the write up of last year’s Labor Day Campout:

Sunset at the campground

The 2011 Labor Day Safari and Campout is now history, so it’s time to look back at our successes and failures for this year in order to try to improve upon next year’s event.  In terms of numbers, we had about 85 registered vehicles, between participants and officials.  With that number of paid participants, it should give us just enough money to make the event profitable.

In our second year with our new format, the event seemed to be as successful and enjoyable as last year.  I think people are really starting to enjoy the “Stay Together – Play Together” concept; with lots of people renewing friendships from last year, and many new friends being made this year.  We definitely had lots of families participating this year, and there seemed to be a strong interest in the more scenic “family friendly” trails.  I led

Lunch break spot on Fins & Things

Cliffhanger, rated a 7 and therefore the hardest trail of the weekend, and we only had three participants, whereas Gold Bar Rim, rated a 5, had 20 vehicles.  For the most part, the rigs seemed to be much more mild this year, with 33″ and 35″ tires being the normal.  I’m not sure what this pattern means for the future, but it was at least interesting to observe.

Our “Beat the Heat” trail of going up La Sal Pass and down Geyser Pass in the nearby mountains was a huge success, and everybody who participated in it seemed to greatly enjoy the day.  This was the first time this trail is been run during Labor Day, but definitely will be added to next year’s schedule.  Our campground and weekend’s headquarters, Gold Bar Campground, had mixed reviews.  It is undeniably beautiful and easily accommodated our

“Beat the Heat” trail heading up into the La Sal mountains

participants, but being almost 15 miles out of town it wasn’t exactly the most convenient for those people who decided to stay in town.  This is something we will have to address next year; what other options do we have that can hold a hundred plus people, but is close to town?

The scary moment for the weekend happened on my Hell’s Revenge trail on Sunday, with a Jeep rolling onto its side at the top of the Hell’s Gate obstacle.  A simple flop on your side on this obstacle can easily turn into a multiple roll scenario very quickly, luckily for us that

Scary roll at the top of Hell’s Gate

wasn’t the case and the driver and passenger were okay, and only minimal damage was done to the Jeep.  The effectiveness in recovering the Jeep, and cleaning up the mess was truly an inspiration to jeepers, and the brotherhood that exists among us.  Friends as well and strangers jumped in without hesitation to do what needed to be done and ensure the safety of everybody involved.

Pulling spark plugs, and checking fluids after the roll-over

On a personally frustrating note, my Jeep was unfortunately undrivable for the weekend.  She (My Jeep is definitely a girl!) had been sitting on the trailer since the Old-School Rock Crawl awaiting a new transmission mount and a re-sealing of my transmission pan.  This was all completed Friday afternoon, and when we pulled her off the trailer I had no power steering.  After doing everything in my power, and within my knowledge, I unfortunately gave up and was forced to lead my two trails from the passenger seat: and as much as I hate to admit it, this was not the first time doing so.  Later, I found my power steering pump had gone out, luckily a cheap and fairly easy fix.

All in all, I think the weekend was great and have heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone I’ve talked to.  If you participated, thank you for coming!  If not, well, there’s always next year.

Morning trail lineup

This weekend, as millions of Americans will celebrate a day off from the daily grind of work, the Red Rock 4-Wheelers are taking advantage of the last holiday weekend of the summer season and are once again hosting their annual Labor Day Campout and Safari.  In our 37th year, we are offering a much smaller and more intimate event than the large, sometimes overpowering, Easter Jeep Safari.

Starting last year, we changed the event significantly.  It went from basically a miniature Jeep Safari, to an entity entirely unique.  With the majority of the work coming from Curtis and Deb King, as well as my wife Misty and I, we have changed the face of the Labor Day Campout.  I think Misty nailed it when she described it as, “Stay Together – Play Together.”  Unlike before, the weekend is offered as a package deal where your $150 registration

Door prizes

fee includes: a campsite available from Friday through Monday, up to three registered trails, one dinner, one breakfast, and annual Labor Day dash plaque, as well as numerous other perks (like the door prize giveaway).

It’s probably no surprise that I am leading the two most difficult trails we are offering for the weekend, Cliffhanger and Hell’s Revenge.  These are two of my favorite trails, and I look forward to taking people on

Curtis at the grill

them.  Hell’s revenge especially is an amazing trail, as you can take almost bone stock jeeps, as well as heavily modified rigs, and both can have fun due to the large number of optional obstacles which can add severe difficulties to the trail.

With our new format, last year’s event was the first Labor Day Campout in many years to be profitable, and we hope to continue that this year.  By making the event a more family friendly, beginner oriented weekend, we hope to draw a new audience to Moab.  We have put a cap on our trail sizes at 25 vehicles, compared to Jeep Safari which can have over 50.  We also are focusing more on the easier trails, to try to solicit more introductory jeepers.  So far the combination seems to be working well, and hopefully it continues.