August 29th, 1999 - Jenny Creek trail,
West of Nederland, Colorado
(in alphabetical order)
Lance Ackley & Bruce Parker
Colorado Springs, CO
Robert & Charlie Christensen
416 Doka Unimog
Ron DePugh & Cassidy
404.1 Unimog VLF
404.1 Unimog Swiss
404.1 Unimog hardtop with Swiss bed
Bob, Kitty & Dawn Ragain
404.1 Unimog Radio Truck
Mike & Donna Roark
Jon & Tracee Vickery
We all gathered in Rollinsville at the 1000 meeting time, and what a varied bunch we were. Unimogs included a 416 crew cab, 406 hardcab, 404 Swiss, 404 radio truck, 404 VLF, and many Pinzgauers. A Jeep also joined us.
The weather was nice as we headed up the Boulder Creek valley toward the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, but a quick rain shower with hard wind gusts hit us on the way up making us think the weather had really turned sour. Those with their tops down (on the vehicles!) had a decision to make but everyone continued on up the mountain. Luckily, as we got higher the sky cleared and we had a beautiful remainder of the day.
The old railroad grade was typically rough and non-maintained, with broken rocks sticking up in some sections, and potholes in others. There were several other vehicles on that section of road, requiring pulling over occasionally to allow them to pass. Once we turned off onto Jenny Creek Trail we were by ourselves except for the Jeep within our convoy, and a heavily modified Toyota pickup truck which came up behind us on the trail. The trail through the forest is narrower than ever. The trees continue to re-take the old road and required scraping and squeezing between the "walls" of trees. The radio boxed mog and the VLF suffered some additional damage from squeezing around tree trunks and heavy overhead limbs which are higher than the other vehicles. Everyone probably got lots of new streaks along their sides. Charlie and Robert's heavily fortified 416 easily cleared it's own path!
Our first driver test was a rather narrow bridge which requiring knowing where our tires were. No one fell off the bridge. It wasn't really as narrow as it looked.
A second bridge had been partially washed out and much of the far end of the bridge's wood was missing or broken through. Missing this bridge on either side would have serious consequencies. The Pinzgauers could keep both wheels on the bridge at about the same spacing as the beams underneath, but the larger Unimogs could only keep the inner parts of their tires on solid wood and that was at the ends of the old broken wooden planks. A heavy board was used to span the ends of some broken off planks. The end of the bridge was a dropoff into the creek bottom at the washed out end of the bridge. This bridge crossing always reminds me of the "Wages of Fear" movie (or "Sorcerer", the predecessor).
We stopped to look over the second obstacle, a bridge that is not quite all there any more. There was a bit of discussion about how best to cross it.
With some good spotting, I am on approach to the bridge.
I made a safe crossing. Falling off the left side of the bridge would have meant a roll-over into the creek.
Lance crossing the bridge. The narrower Pinzgauers had no trouble with the bridge.
Mark crossed the bridge and then he attacked the rock climb. The Pinzgauer made short work of it.
Jon's Jeep had no trouble getting across the bridge, but the steep rocks high-centered him. He had the largest rock stuck under a rear leaf spring, and that wheel a few inches off the ground. The Jeep only needed to roll forward a couple of inches so the tire would start climbing the large rock. We hooked a strap on to Mark's Pinzgauer, and he pulled Jon off the rock.
Mike crosses the bridge.
Kent crosses the bridge.
Kent climbs the rocks. The Unimog makes it look so easy!
Robert crosses the bridge. The 416 was close to slipping off the left side, so Charlie and another guy help position a loose board under the rear wheel.
Robert & Charlie have this 416 really well equipped. Chains, shovels, rear-mounted spare with a hoist (the spare weighs about 140 lbs), compressor, spare Diesel cans....
Richard crosses the bridge. This photo shows just how narrow the remains of this bridge are.
Richard brought a couple of friends along. This photo shows his rear-mounted winch, and the remains of the hoist the truck used to have on it.
Bob crosses the bridge with his radio box. Kristopher is just behind.
Just past the bridge was a steep climb through rather large rocks in a tight turn. One rock in particular stood about 15 inches above the smaller rocks, and there was no way to go around it. The Unimogs and Pinzgauers cleared the rock but the Jeep required a tug from a strap to get up the hill.
The Toyota truck which had caught up with us was not with our group but a few of us stayed behind to observe. After getting the front end over the rock by stacking smaller rocks, the truck hung up with the rear diff solidly up against the rock. They had a winch and were certain they could free the truck, so we left to catch up with our group. The Toyota caught up with us later and passed during lunch.
Part of the trail is in the creek bed. The road drops off abruptly into the water and required a steep climb back out. The climb was no problem but our attention was on keeping the trucks straight up the incline to avoid possible rollover. The creek was running fast with only about a foot of water through the boulders, so there was no water problem with the vehicles. Large tires kept us mostly on top of the rocks.
Bob enters one of the parts of the trail where the trail is the creek bed.
Kristopher exits the creek bed, with the built Toyota behind him. Kristopher has removed the bed of his Swiss Mog, and now runs with just a pickup tool box on the back.
After leaving the creek we had a steep climb up the side of the mountain. The road was rocky, and 4wd was certainly required. The trees were close again on this section so progress was slow as we preserved our truck boxes.
We had lunch at an old log building next to the trail and creek, a really nice, cool spot. Socializing during this extended lunch stop was a memorable part of the trip. It was great to chat with the old friends down from Wyoming, and to meet new people. Most every vehicle was examined during the process.
Here is a great view of the protection system and rack that Robert and Charlie fabricated for the 416.
The remainder of the trail was scenic, but mostly uneventful. We came back out on the railroad grade at Yankee Doodle Lake, and most of us proceeded on up the road toward Rollinsville Pass. This section was still rocky and we took our time. The view was impressive.
The first part of the lineup as we arrived at the top of the Jenny Creek trail, where it comes out onto the Rollins Pass road.
The rest of the lineup.
When we reached the road barricades we parked and hiked up to the Needles Eye Tunnel. Some folks had to head back down the mountain at that time. Gilpin County (or the Forest Service?) has done a superior job of sealing the tunnel and keeping out not only vehicles but hikers also. We were able to peek into the tunnel through the cracks in the concrete barriers. No US Embassy anywhere in the world is better protected. The story is that someone sued the county because a rock fell on them.
We hiked on up to the ridge over the tunnel for a better view from this perch at about 11,000 ft. When we got back to our trucks we headed back down the road. One trail we had spotted from up on top of the ridge was checked out but it, too, was barricaded. Seems like all the good high country roads are being systematically closed.
The remainder of the drive back to Rollinsville sure was a long, bumpy road without the diversion of the Jenny Creek bypass.
Text by Bob Ragain
Thanks to Donna Roark for the great photos!
Photo editing and commentary by Ron DePugh