December 6th, sort of an RMM trip by invitation, with two RMM participants and only one Unimog. Here is a report anyway;
Warren Gretz (Blazer)
Ron Miller and friend Frazier (Cherokee; too far to drive the 'mog)
Bob Ragain (HamMog: 1965 radio boxed 404)
This was a trip with a goal other than Unimogging. The goal was to follow a lead to locate a World War II crashed airplane, reported to be a B-25.
The location had been guestimated by a horseman who had seen the crash site while out riding. He marked the estimated location of the plane on a topographic map and we decided to hike to it. The location is supposed to be within a mile of the Rampart Range Road (RRR) in Douglas County. This would be our second hike into the area because the first trip had been a wild goose chase.
Two events complicated our plan. First, the weather turned nasty and snow came. Snow and poor visibility were predicted for the mountains. Secondly, the National Forest Service closed "their" road for the season, meaning we would have to hike at least twice as far just to get there.
Looking at the map of the area indicated that driving around to the south and coming north on RRR was the best approach. Those of us foolish enough to venture out in the bad weather decided that we'd go even if we got to the area and had to turn around and return. The drive would be a nice one, and we could use the exercise.
The best route was south on Hwy 105 out of Sedalia, down to Palmer Lake, west up the mountain on Mt Herman Road to the southern part of RRR, then north until a gate stopped us.
The roads were good along Hwy 105 but turned to snow on Mt Herman Road. None of us had any trouble with traction, but the bumps were terrible. Airing down the Unimog's tires helped considerably. Visibility was poor while going up Mt. Herman Road but we were busy watching the road anyway.
When we finally reached the top of the ridges the sky cleared and it was a bright blue day. Really nice! Of course before we got to the hiking area the sky turned black and overcast and snow started again. Luckily, the snow was light.
We found the gate only a mile south of our search area, parked, packed, and started walking. We spent maybe 4 hours hiking in, then wandering around following GPS tracks in the expected crash area. The witness's verbal description of the terrain was nothing like the location he marked. Shucks, another wild goose chase.
The hike back out was all uphill (well, it felt like it!) and one of us was waited on by the others (thanks guys!!!!). But we got back to the vehicles just before dark.
The trip back down was really fun. The roads were steep, rough, slick and snow packed, but the visibility opened up a few times so we could look down on the lights of Palmer Lake and Monument.
Heavy snow started when we were almost back to paved roads, and the roads turned treacherous. I took the backroads in the Unimog and fought 100 ft visibility and near whiteout conditions until I crossed over Palmer Divide. Ron and Warren chose the Interstate and got to poke along at 35 mph with the traffic. We kept in touch directly by radio until we were too far apart, then we switched to a mountaintop repeater for the remainder of the trip. Even though we were up miles apart, we could still keep track of each other in case of problems. By the time we got back to the Castle Rock area the roads were in good shape.
All of us were Ham operators and coordination on 2 meters really made this trip possible. Coordination of the search in the mountainous terrain was difficult enough with radio contact and GPS. With the storm moving in, this trip could have been too dangerous without radio communications.
This was hardly a Unimog challenging trip, but 4 wheel drive and slow speeds were certainly necessary.
All in all, this was a fun and rather unusual mountain outing for December in Colorado.
Now waitin' for spring,