On Saturday, Clark and I joined up with the 4-Players off-roading group at a grocery store in Idaho Springs. We headed up Rt 103 (Chicago Creek Road) before finding our turnoff for the USDA Forest Service road. The trail starts angling upwards as the road conditions degrade from a simple dirt road to having larger and larger rocks. It seems all the rain we’ve had this year has taken it’s toll; what we thought was a beginner-level trail was more moderate/intermediate.
We wound our way up the hillside, hidden by the shade of the surrounding pine trees and occasionally catching spectacular glimpses of the valleys below. Since I’m still figuring out the limits of “the Cherokee,” I was a little slower than the four other trucks. One of the members with a CB brought up the rear so I wouldn’t get left in the dust. I carefully chose my path, cautiously avoiding large rocks in the road by driving right up over them. I was still unsure of my clearance, so I didn’t want to risk creating new holes in the bottom of my Jeep.
The original reason for the trip was to perform a memorial for a club member who had recently passed at Kenny’s Cabin, which is the remnants of a small log cabin on a hillside meadow found by a former club member. Kenny enjoyed the location so much that he had his ashes spread around the area after he died. Since then, many other former club members have followed suit. The cabin was presumably a mining-era relic, as there were dozens of old mines in the area as denoted on our maps.
We awkwardly parked the rigs, walked up the hill, and found the cabin. It was perched near the side of another rocky Forest Service road overlooking a sloped meadow of wildflowers with a beautiful view of Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt in the background. After some wandering around, a few group photos, and a toast, we saddled back up and descended from the hills as the sun began to set.
About 2/3 of the way down, I started smelling my brakes. Though I was in 4-High and 2nd gear, I was still riding them most of the time. Eventually I pulled over to let them cool off and found that they were smoking; a couple other rigs waited with me. Someone was kind enough to educate me on the benefits of using 4-Low and to use the engine to brake. Much better!
When we reached Rt. 103, it was dark. We pulled over, said our goodbyes and parted ways for the day. I had a great time bouncing over the rocks, figuring out the best approach to various rocky scenarios and getting to know everyone better. I definitely heard some squeaks I hadn’t heard before, but despite a chipped windshield and some smokey brakes (which are fine), the Jeep survived mostly-unscathed. I’m definitely ready to start making some minor modifications in order to better traverse the rougher trails and I’m looking forward to the next run.
The trace needs to be cleaned up still. You can see the jumbled parts where I tried to park my car and where we walked around in the valley.