||2 qts motor oil
||2 qt transmission oil
Background: Every Sept. for over a decade I have taken a long 4WD trip into the Colorado mountains. I used to do this in my Jeep Cherokee. Now I do it in my 1964 Unimog and my father comes along. For the last 4 years I've been relocating old airplane wrecks as the theme for my ramblings. This year I'd arranged a reunion of sorts with the Navigator who'd bailed out of a Navy A3D Skywarrior BuNo. 142252 near Silverthorne Colo. 29 years ago along with the pilot and two crewmen.
The navigator wanted to visit the site where he'd lost 8 teeth when he smashed his face into a rock cliff while descending in his parachute. Interestingly, lots and lots of other people found this reunion interesting as well so we had a large party to go visit this wreck site.
Dad and I also bagged a new B-17 wreck site and did some searching for an A-6 wreck site but were not successful with that one. (Need more info)
The Unimog in question is a 1964 404.113 hard cab truck with ambulance/radio/other box on the back. The box is basically a hollow shell after being stripped of heater (incompatible with hard cab), panelling, insulation and fittings. I have it rigged with 2 cots which fold up along the walls and scrap carpeting on the floor which makes it a sort of pickup truck and sort of camper. The transmission has 6 gears. 1 and 2 are extremely low for off-road use. 3 thru 6 are the road gears. When I refer to "4th gear road" it means that we are going 13 mph.
Day One: Tues Sept 7
We finished the loading of Mogbert with the final boxes and bags and tiedown straps and headed north thru town. First stop was to get Dad a fishing license at Longs Drugs.
After that brief stop, we rolled out of Ft. Collins and up CO 14 west to Cameron Pass. The Poudre Canyon is pleasant during Sept. weekdays with a 35 mph limit and the mog could usually hold that speed except when nearing the very summit where we usually stop for lunch.
At the lunch stop we discovered that I'd left the peanut butter on the kitchen table at home. Oh well, jelly sandwiches this time.
As we descended the west side and turned off I asked at a cabin camp whether they had peanut butter for sale. They didn't but referred us to the KOA further west. After restoring the lost PB we returned to the forest road (FR 740)and transited south past the NFS campground and on to the intersection with Silver Creek (FR 780) and the known camping spot on the creek.
1400 We parked the truck and rigged up to go fishing. The creek isn't very big but was enough to amuse us as we rigged up with Talkabout radios to keep in touch then went our separate ways fishing the pools and undercut banks of this small creek.
After fishing for a couple of hours we returned to camp and setup for dinner. After dinner we mosied along the road looking for animals and watched it get dark.
It was a cold night with hard frost on the grass in the morning and the water left in the coffeepot mostly froze. I'd needed to drape the 2nd sleeping bag over myself around 0400.
Day Two: Wed Sept 8
We usually wait until the sun hits the radio box before getting up and this was a normal morning. After pulling on clothes and jumping outside the morning air is usually somewhat warmer than that left inside our mobile refrigerator.
As we stood in the sun cooking our breakfast, the occupants of a large hunting camp just across the bridge, departed for home. A few minutes later, a fellow pulled into our campsite and and said "Same site as last year, huh?" He is a local from Walden who had seen the truck last year. Harold stayed and chatted awhile about hunting, snow-bound camps and other interesting topics. He informed us that the recently departed campers had bagged a bull Moose. He owns both a liquor store and a sporting goods store in Walden. Nice guy. We'll drop by his store if we're in the area.
By 0930 we were rolling toward Calamity Pass and Teller City (ghost town site) on FR 760 so as to take the turnoff to Baker Pass.
By 1130 we'd made it to Baker Pass trailhead after driving slowly up the rough dirt and rock shelf road into this representative section of the Never Summer Mountains. The trailhead is nearly at treeline and the views from here are fine.
After lunch we saddled up with hiking gear and headed up to the pass and the trail running north to the site of a 1969 F-100 crash site. The idea was to hike the somewhat level trail (TR 1141) at altitude for Dad's altitude conditioning prior to climbing to the A-3 wreck site on Saturday.
We parked the truck about 1.4 miles from the wrecksite (by GPS) but the trail ran perpendicular to the direct line for quite a ways as it went to an old mica mine which we investigated before going on.
At 1430 we were still 1.1 miles from the F-100 site and figured that was enough fun and training for the day so we headed back. Rather than following the trail, we bushwhacked our way across elk woods and meadows to cut the corner a bit. Strangely, we never saw elk in this part of Colo. this year. We did see quite a few bowhunters and muzzle-loader hunters.
After regaining the truck, we drove back down the hill to Teller City (ghost town site) and on further down to some wide open aspen meadows for the night.
We arrived there around 1830 and immediately setup for dinner as the sun faded out.
Once again, it was a 2 sleeping bag night.
Day Three: Transit Thursday Sept 9
0930 Once again rolling, this time downhill to pavement and Co. 125 which, after cresting Willow Creek Pass at 9621' (4th gear) descends to Granby.
We refueled in Granby and got some more groceries before heading west on US 40 past Hot Sulfur Springs to turn off just short of Parshall. The run thru Byers Canyon on US 40 is a 40 mph run and I found a farmer driving a tired Subaru to be going somewhat slower than a mog (yes, it happens sometimes!) thru the canyon.
We followed the sign to Williams Fork Reservoir where we stopped for lunch and to stretch. Afterwards, onward to the south on County Rd 3. This road is a hard-packed, smooth dirt road running thru a beautiful ranching valley and connecting to the area where the A-3 crashed in the Williams Fork mountains. We weren't going very fast as it tended to be uphill but there was no traffic and the scenery was fine. I did notice that when travelling at mogspeed a tailwind can match your speed and make engine cooling less efficient.
As we arrived in the wreck area, we checked out the entrance to Henderson Tunnel shown on the road map. The tunnel, which is an unbelievable numer of miles long,) apparently carries either spoil or ore for the AMAX / Henderson mine which is working the area.
After navigating our way to the proper forest road (FR 142), we came to the road end and the trailhead for the A-3 hike on Saturday. We levelled up the truck to camp for the night at trailhead.
After getting that done, we rigged up to go fishing again and had a very successful couple of hours fishing the great pocket water in the creek. Once again, we kept in touch with the Talkabout radios so we didn't have to be within sight of each other.
For the evening's walk we went downhill on the road and looked over the pickups and horse trailers parked further down. Apparently hunting nowadays not only includes the price of a new diesel crew-cab pickup but that of a 5th wheel horse trailer as well! We were surprised to find that the trucks were from Texas, Louisiana as well as Colorado.
It was another 2 bag night with morning light coming onto the truck quite late due to being down in a deep valley.
Day Four: Friday Sept 10
While it was a cold night, there was no ice on the puddles in the road. The sky was not the brilliant crystal-clear blue of previous but had a kind of hazy milky thin overcast to it.
After breaking camp we headed down valley. Dad noticed on the map that there might be a point on a ridge from which we might be able to see the wreck site so we diverted onto a wide graded road ( FR 141) that wound up into a side valley getting narrower all the time and eventually dead ended short of what the map showed. We rigged up to hike an ATV trail I'd spotted which might go to the ridge summit.
The ATV trail was HEAVILY used and ground deeply into the terrain but didn't seem to be based on a previous road of any kind. As we finally got to the top of the ridge, the ATV trail passed thru the gap of a Forest Service log fence and into a wide flat circle where logs had been loaded. The logging road on this side was not shown on the map but apparently the ATV route goes from logging road thru the fence, down the hill and onto the road we'd just come up.
Unfortunately, there was not a good view of the wreck site from here as it was 9.5 miles away (by GPS) and over the other side of a projecting sub ridge . Oh well. At least we had a nice morning walk.
On the drive back down the logging road, we stopped for a lunch break and a gear rearranging session before heading over Ute Pass and on to Co 9 south to Silverthorne.
It was around 1430 when we checked into the Day's Inn at Silverthorne. This was the hotel chosen by the Navigator (Larry Kaiser) to stay in the night before the big hike. We figured we'd need a shower by then so we reserved to stay in the same place for convenience' sake. Upon that idea, Jim Denly, a former A-3 crewman who had , believe it or not,flown his last flight in the Navy in the crashed bird also came up for the evening prior to the hike.
We bumped into Jim Denly getting off the elevator, introduced ourselves to Bob Newsome, who was walking his dog in the parking lot, and waited for Larry Kaiser to arrive.
|The hotel list was:
||Larry Kaiser (Navigator)
||Kristina Kaiser (daughter)
||Bob Newsome (childhood friend of Larry Kaiser)
We'd expected Thomas Gallegos and 2 others to be camping at trailhead overnite. (Thomas has hiked to many wrecks with me since he was 15 years old 4 years ago)
We went to the Dam Brewery in Silverthorne for dinner but regretted it because the high volume of the live music in the place made it very hard to talk. Larry had brought along official black & white photos from the crash investigation. The most interesting picture was the one that circled and identified the portions of the wreck. Or was the best picture the one of Larry on the stretcher being carried to the UH-1 Huey landed in the meadow? I don't know. Pick your favorite.
After dinner the others spread out thru town to buy food for the next day's hike.
That night was not a 2 bag night and it was quite a luxury to sleep in figure 4 position without the constriction of a sleeping bag.
Day Five: Saturday Sept 11
At 0630 the weather outside was very poor. Misty, cloudy, drizzly and above treeline there was a light dusting of snow. Occasionally, through breaks in the clouds, we could see the tops of the mountains. The Weather Channel was quite mistaken about this day.
But we ate the free continental breakfast in the lobby of the Day's Inn and pressed on.
Larry Rushing (friend of mine), Marty and Chuck (friends of Jim Denley's) showed up to complete the party. Rather than burdening everyone with the mog's slow speed to trailhead we carpooled and saved about 20 min on a 60 min trip.
On arrival at the 9,000' trailhead we were met by JD Bothun, a hunter who hunts the bowl near the wreck and whose abandoned camp I'd found 2 years before.
(He'd left a note with name and phone number stating that he was bailing out due to heavy overnite snowfall and would come back for his things in the Spring.)
JD was going to the site too and wound up leading the party up the hill with his best outdoorsman-guide manners.
0900 we are on the move. Thomas & friends weren't there so we left without them. I'm sure they would have had an uncomfortable night if they'd camped there. (Apparently they arrived at trailhead at 1030 and tried to find the wreck themselves unsuccessfully.)
< There is a video of this hike.>
We hiked down the mostly level trail for about a mile and then took off shoes and socks and waded the creek. Then a climb up a steep grassy slope, then a climbing traverse thru the woods, then a climbing traverse across another steep grassy slope then another bout thru the woods. The final effort to reach the 11,200 foot site was up a little gulley about level with the wreck but 200yds away. Our object was to reach the meadow where the helo carried out Larry and his pilot, Denny Bird. (The other two crewmembers survived the bailout but landed many, many miles away after descending thru icing conditions that could have collapsed their parachutes.)
Around 1130, on first encountering aircraft parts the group broke up into small groups admiring or identifying parts. Once up near the meadow the 1st parachute was found and Larry started telling us some of the story of being stranded there. After a story or 3 we eased over to the top of the gulley above the airplane where we could survey the entire crash site. Larry immediately worked his way over to the cliffs and tried to find where he'd come down and bashed his face into the cliff, losing 8 teeth in the process.
The others in the party descended on the wreckage like so many rummage sale shoppers and the sound of clanking chunks of metal being turned over seemed to fill the ravine as everywhere on the site guys were head-down examining pieces, turning them over and then discarding them for another.
I captured Jim Denly hefting the tailhook and contemplating taking it home but he decided better of it and left it there. He's probably scheming how to retrieve it even now.
1400 we'd pretty much gotten cold and seen what we wanted and it was time to start down.
1600 we were back at the cars and headed home after a gueling descent. A moose cow and calf bolted from the woods and ran in front of our car for perhaps 100 yds. The calf was the size of a horse. The cow was bigger.
Once at the hotel, Larry, weakened by a prior bout with the flu, crashed hard. He didn't feel well enough to go to dinner so we went without him. Kristina, Bob Newsome, Larry Rushing & wife Lorraine, Dad and I. We also picked up Ralph Poore, an A-3 driver (who also had time in that airplane) and friend of my father who was vacationing at Dillon starting that very day.
Bob Newsome wanted to see what the Unimog ws all about so he rode with me in the truck. Before parking, Kristina decided she had to try it too so I gave her a ride around the block as well. (Everyone smiles when they meet their first Unimog!)
We went back to the Dam Brewery because the previous night they said there wouldn't be music. What they meant was there wouldn't be LIVE music. It was loud, recorded music this time that again made conversation difficult.
Day Six: Sunday September 12
Larry had taken Kristina to the airport for a return flight to Atlanta in the early morning, Bob Newsome had gone home to Salt Lake and Jim Denly had gone home last night with Marty and Chuck so it was just Dad and I checking out this morning.
We were underway around 0900 heading west on I-70. The climb out of Silverthorne took awhile and some of the I is definitely 4th gear territory (Vail Pass) but it's the only way to go west from there. We went via Glenwood Canyon (limit 50 and downhill) via Colo. 82 then County 117 to Ski Sunlight near Glenwood Springs.
We followed the paved road to Forest Rd 300 which goes up to an area called Haystack Gate, named for Haystack Mountain, which is the main feature of the valley just beyond.
I had GPS coordinates (precise ones) for a B-17 wreck there. This was a 1948 crash of a Air/Sea Rescue airplane that had run out of gas. All 5 aboard bailed out safely.
When we got to Haystack Gate, we followed the coordinates to a little dirt road. According to GPS, the wreck was ON this road. No airplane parts though. After studying the the hiking instructions, we realized that the coordinates were dead-flat wrong. Couldn't be here.
It also dawned on us that the trail markers had changed colors, and that we'd come in on a different road: we'd come from the South, not the North. With these insights, we found the hiking/snowmobile trail to the wreck using the written instructions.
We parked the truck, geared up for a short hike and walked the trail.
At the tree with the orange dot with purple circle around it we "turned left" off the trail into the woods. We got lucky and stumbled across the crash site. Like most WWII crash sites, it too had been "cleaned up" by use of dynamite. But all 4 engines were there as was a section of wing with fuel tank bladders left. I recorded the GPS coordinates of both the wreck and the orange dot with purple circle so I could write some better instructions for my web page.
We returned to the truck and then eased off to the side of a meadow to setup camp not far from several other small hunters camps.
It was another 2 bag night and dawn came very pleasantly since we had great eastern exposure for the morning sun.
Day Seven: Monday Sept 13
We studied the Civil Air Patrol info I had and noted that a Navy A-6 Intruder had crashed not too far from here in 1979 and that the CAP info list had very precise coordinates (degrees, minutes, seconds). This suggested that it was a good location.
So we studied the map and set out to follow TR 2093 to a bigger forest road to carry us to the vicinity of the A-6 coordinates. About 4 miles and 1.5 hours) down the trail we found some great mudholes to crawl thru which needed 4WD and locking differentials set to avoid slippage (and videotaping to prove it). Then, after a big meadow we came to numerous trees blown down blocking the road. A gap had been recently chainsawed thru the trees but the gap was only ATV/snowmobile width.
I took a walk up the road to see if the trees were few enough that we could profitably just hitch up a tow strap to the trees and realign them along the road with the truck. No such luck. The blowdown was extensive and we were blocked.
So, back to Haystack Gate, past Ski Sunlight and into Glenwood Springs we went. We contacted a Forest Service employee along the road to ask him about land access to the sections the A-6 seem to be on. He suggested we see the BLM office in W. Glenwood for more info.
After refueling in Glenwood and getting the address from the phone book, we went to the BLM office and asked the lady at the desk about land access. She was extremely helpful and friendly and sold us a newer version of the White River NFS map as well as the current BLM usage map. She didn't know about any airplane wrecks though. While we were there, several of her colleagues looked out the window and admired the Unimog. The idea of a couple of guys out seeing the countryside in a funny old truck made them smile. (at least I think that's what they were grinning about....or maybe they were grinning at us!)
We left there with maps and headed for New Castle, sticking to the frontage road (US 6) when possible. We waved to 2 German Army cargo mogs, Mogbert's cousins, parked for sale in a guy's yard as we went by.
At New Castle we went south on County Rd 312 into the Garfield Creek State Wildlife area and started uphill. It was a long, long, warm climb at 30 kph on the narrow roads with coolant temperature around 88C.
As we reached the proper area to start looking for a side road upon which the A-6 coordinates lay we had a hard time finding the road. We drove up and down there several times until we finally figured to walk across the creek and look. Upon looking we found a disused trail following a creek uphill that seemed to turn into the remnants of a logging road. We parked and rigged up for a short hike with water, camera and hiking stick.
After an hour of slow careful walking we were on top of the coordinates (by GPS) with no sign of wreckage. (typical) But we DID see a bull elk in the trees, heard another bugling and so we froze in place in the middle of the meadow. After awhile, we'd seen 13 elk at ranges from about 50' to 100 yds from us including a cow with 2 calves who eyeballed us VERY carefully for a long time before deciding we weren't a problem. After about an hour of this, the wind shifted and they smelled us and ran away. Cool!
We circled the meadow finding no airplane parts and then returned to the truck, drove down the road to find a camp spot and settled in for the night.
After sunset the sky was extremely clear and with no moon the stars were exceptional.
It was a 1 bag night due to lower altitude.
Day Eight: Tuesday Sept 14
At 0830 we went back to hike up to the wreck coordinates again and then to seach the valley sides.
We enjoyed the cool sunny morning as we returned to the meadow and then spread out to see what we could find. I eased right and found a hunter's treestand (unoccupied) and then started working my way up the hillside thru the scrub oak. Dad eased left and found the remains of a very primitive road and climbed it. While we were out of sight we stayed in contact with the Talkabouts. I reached the ridge crest and started walking the ridgecrest following cow/deer/horse trails. Dad climbed more slowly but eventually gained the crest without finding any airplane parts. We stopped in the shade of a scrub oak for lunch and then descended back to the meadow.
At the meadow we found the small aspen that the bull elk had been scraping the night before.
So, having no success with this wreck, we returned to the truck and hit the road. We eased downhill to Silt then headed north on Colo 13 thru Rio Blanco to Meeker. The pull up the hill to the summit at Rio Blanco was quite a drag. It was 4th gear much of the way. Fortunately there wasn't much traffic to be held up by our slow speed.
At Meeker we stopped at a small hometown burger joint and had a meal and soft icecream cone then we headed east out of Meeker on County Rd 8 into the White River Nat'l Forest.
The White River is a very fine wide beautiful fishing river. Unfortunately most of the river front is private land and seems to have become hunting and fishing lodge country. The well tended hayfields also have elegant fisherman gates and sets of steps all posted with No Trespassing signs. The ranches also seem to have their hunting/fishing/guide shingles hung out.
Around 1900 we pulled into the only NFS campground along the river for the night. Besides the campground host we were the only ones there.
After a brief snack and a short walk it was dark and time for bed.
It was a 1 bag night.
Day Nine: Wednesday Sept 15
After a slow wakeup and leisurely breakfast we were underway at 0930 headed east then north up Ripple Creek pass.
Near the pass summit there are some great overlooks of the Flattops Wildness area. The views are unusual in that this seems to be tall rimrock country where getting up onto the ridges is not just a simple matter of hard climbing but also of finding a route past vertical cliffs. I've seen the trails on the maps so I know there are ways of getting in there on foot. Maybe someday.
We take our time driving the narrow dirt backroads and enjoy the sunny day and scenery. Eventually we find Hayden Gulch road and climb north out of the previous drainage.
At Hayden we join US 40 and head east a little ways then stop for lunch at a roadside historical point describing the local coal mining operations that have come and gone thru the years.
In due time(around 1530) we arrive at Steamboat Springs and muddle our way out of town on FR 60 climbing Buffalo Pass. The road near town is new pavement but soon changes to graded dirt and is quite rocky though it's still an automobile passable road. The mog is a slow climber in 4th gear at altitude but there's little traffic and we make our way to the summit and keep on.
Past the summit the county maintenance must have changed because the east side is hard-packed road base and has no ruts or washboard and is very enjoyable. We still go slow due to the narrowness and steepness but the ride is delightful until most of the way down the other side when we start picking up washboard and ruts.
We eventually came out onto County Rd 24 and head east using CR 26 thru Coalmont then , catch CO 14 south to CR 26 again and on east to CO 125 where we turn north for the Rand-Gould cutoff and head to Gould. At Gould we return to the original route to Silver Creek where we camped the first night out on this trip. Coalmont appears to have been the northern turnaround for an extinct railroad in North Park. There was grading for a turnaround and lots of collapsed buildings and cinder piles.
Unfortunately, "our" site was occupied so we chose the one that had been occupied by the moose hunters across the creek and bridge on the east side. By this time it was around 1700.
We quickly rigged up for a bit of fishing. Unfortunately, the branch I chose had few fish up to and including the beaver ponds. Dad stayed on the main branch which also went up to more beaver ponds but he also did poorly.
We returned to the truck and fixed dinner. After dinner we watched it get dark but any stargazing was foiled by a half moon looking like a huge lightbulb in the sky.
At 1 AM we were awakened by some incoherent shouting from the camp across the creek.
At 2 AM we were again awakened by 5 successive rapid pistol shots. There were no pings against the truck and I chose not to return fire.
It was a 2 bag night and this time so cold that the drinking tube to my Camelback which is hung up next to my cot froze solid in the night.
Day Ten: Thursday Sept 16
We stay huddled in our bags until around 0800 because there was not going to be any sun on the truck for quite awhile here on the east side of the valley. I summoned the courage to jump outside and found the air temperature outside warmer than inside the truck box. There was very heavy frost on the grass and the truck.
As I cranked up the stove for breakfast Dad emerged and we decided that the quickest way to make ready to leave would be to put the truck's windshield into the sun and let the solar defroster work. I also needed to dump some 90wt gear oil into the transmission before proceeding with the day. I filled a pan with water and put the gear oil bottle into it and started heating the water. The heavy oil wouldn't flow very well at its overnight temperature. With a notch of choke the engine started instantly and I backed it out to the shoulder of the road under Dad's spotting.
After breakfast was finished and cleaned up I moved the truck back for gear oil adding and luggage loading.
At 0930 we were underway again.
We returned to pavement and CO 14 to go back over Cameron Pass. The climb up the west side is short but steep. Funny thing about mog travel is that it demonstrates that if you simply keep moving, you'll get there quicker than you might think. We were up the west side, beyond the pass and heading down the other side surprisingly soon.
At 1030 we arrived at Poudre Falls and found a half-dozen emergency vehicles. Since we had time, we pulled to the shoulder, got out and inquired as to what was going on.
Our original intention had been to go downstream a ways and go fishing. But this thing would affect that. A kayaker was drowned in the river the day before. Neither the boat nor the body had come out of a deep pool and this activity was to recover the body after the water in the river stopped running. The water guy had closed the gates to two reservoirs upstream and expected that the river would drop suddenly in about 45 minutes. Since the fishing would be fouled up by water level changes and we'd never seen a river simply stop running, we stayed to watch.
After an hour and a half nothing had changed. Why hadn't the water stopped?
After 3 hrs the water was unchanged and the Dive Team started preparing to put an inflatable boat in the water and do their thing. I guess they anticipated that the water would stop shortly.
Around 1500 they manned up and did some probing but the water was unchanged.
At 1530 we overheard that the water people had forgotten about a 3rd tributary.
(The following week the water was stopped and a camera was used to find the body deep inside an underwater cave that was basically unprobable and required the river be stopped and divers put into the water to make the recovery.)
We left for home.
At the intersection with US 287 I filled it with gas for the record and we went home.
Safely arrived we had completed the trip without problems, incidents or trouble and had had a great time.
Ft. Collins, CO.