Another fine day in Colorado for a Unimog trail ride! This time, however, the Unimogs were outnumbered by the Pinzgauers, 3 to 1. Pinzgauers are making a name for themselves with their much better on-road performance here in the high country.
Today's participants were: Per Eliasen in his Pinzgauer (with visitors), Jim Walters in his Pinzgauer, Patrick Robb in a Pinzgauer, and the Ragains (Kitty, Colleen and Bob) in their '65 404 Radio-boxed Unimog. The radio truck looked like a lazy momma bear with all the little Pinzgauer cubs zipping around!
We entered the Rampart Range area through Jackson Creek, taking the creek crossing trail instead of continuing up Jackson Creek Road. The creek was low, and the bottom firm, and no Pathfinders were buried there like once before. The crossing was uneventful.
The first real challenge, just past the creek, was where the trail had washed out before our last trip, and it still presents a challenge. The hill is a steep climb on dirt with deep washed-out channels to straddle, or to contend with if one happens to slip into them. The only other vehicle we've seen on this trail was on the September 19th trip, a "built" Toyota truck, and it turned back after the driver looked at this washed out trail. On another previous trip one Unimog did slip into a ditch and, even with the articulation of a 404, had a left front tire 3 feet off the ground, giving the occupants a nice view of the sky.
No such fun this trip. Everyone stayed on the high spots and all 4 vehicles made it to the top, stopping only for some photos.
Lunch break was enjoyed at a large rock outcropping overlooking Perry Park, Dawson's Butte, and Castle Rock.
We made it all the way down to the quartz quarry this time, past "Tyson Corner" (where our unfortunate friend rolled his Swiss 404 last trip!). We had to clear one large dead tree from across the trail. An axe made rather short work of the 10" dia tree top, leaving room to pass. At the old quartz quarry, everyone enjoyed looking through the piles of quartz and other neat rocks left over from the quarrying operation.
Next stop was Watson Park. On the last trip (due to the rollover) we only had time to get to the north end of the area, have supper, and drive out in the dark. This time we arrived early enough to drive to the south end. The creek was higher than before, with about 2 feet of water at the deepest spot. None of us had any trouble.
During our second "lunch", we had time to test a new winch put together from a military surplus "paratainer actuator" (original purpose unknown, but possibly related to launching, from a plane, of large parachutable containers). This device is basically a 10" dia winch, driven by an internal planetary gear reduction, and powered by an 11 HP, 24 volt, electric motor. It has been mounted on a frame which can be connected to the front bumper tow pin, or dropped into the rear pintle hitch.
Winch power comes from the radio truck's 24 volt power connector below the driver's seat, and power is run to the winch through a NATO jumper cable. We discovered that it pulls well. Patrick's Pinzgauer was dragged around sideways with the first single-line pull. This thing is fast! Even double-lined through a block to reduce the speed by half, cable speed is still estimated at a foot or more per second. Next test was to connect to a convenient post and let the winch drag the radio boxed 404 with brakes on. It still worked, and nothing broke. Next requirement for the winch is a remote control to allow the operator to stand back(!).
On our way out of Watson Park we were flagged down by a guy in a pickup who was having trouble getting his truck started. Understatement. After a few questions we found out he had tried to make the water crossing, at speed, with engine wound up, and it had stopped abruptly. After he and some friends pulled it out of the water, they tried to start it with no success whatsoever, and ran the battery down without ever getting the engine to crank. They had no idea what to do next.
They mentioned that they had already emptied some water out of the air cleaner on top of the engine. Bad news! The engine would not turn over and we all came to the conclusion that the engine was hydro-locked.
We recharged their battery with the little Eisman generator (from the radio truck), and the plugs were pulled. After the plugs were pulled, a quick hit on the starter forced considerable water out of several cylinders. Really bad news: even with the plugs out, the little V-6 only turned over a few degrees, and then locked up again. Even rocking the truck in 5th gear only resulted in sliding the rear wheels. The engine just would not turn over even with the plugs out, a hard lesson in how not to cross through deep water.
Time for a new plan. We were in the bottom of a canyon with a steep, rutted, and somewhat rocky 4x4 climb out, then maybe 15 more miles of bad road back to civilization. It was getting dark and the truck owner was very reluctant to leave his disabled truck behind. None of us wanted to leave it behind either, so there was only one thing to do, tow him out.
The Unimog was recruited for the job, and a secure connection was made with tow strap and clevises. The trip out was slow, but, surprisingly not much slower than normal with the Unimog. The pickup was only detectable back there on steeper pulls, and when he "boinged" on the end of the tow strap. We hardly spun a wheel on the 3 to 4 hour trip out. The weight of the radio box kept the tires firmly planted in spite of the extra 3500 lbs (estimated) of towed load.
The only problem we had was when the pickup drove over the tow strap (it was dark), causing it to wear completely in two, twice. The strap kept getting shorter, but we made it out to civilization with no further complications.
As we came out to the edge of the mountains, we could see the lights of Denver on the horizon. This was one really pretty nighttime view we hadn't expected to see on this trip. We always find some excitement to keep us in the mountains longer than expected. Last trip it was the rolled 'mog. The trip before that, the bottomless mud. What will we discover next time? Join us and find out!