Last weekend I went on a really fun but challenging offroad trip to an area called Holy Cross City Trail, and camped and wheeled for several rainy days. There are several web sites about this trail, see below.
I was invited to accompany a couple of Jeepers including two guys from Castle Rock, CO, (Mike Disney, Dave) and a friend and his dad (Lee and Fred LaPerriere) from near Sedalia, CO.
I was driving MogLite, my 57 flatbed. The bed had just been sandblasted and painted that week. The bed and accessory reinstallation was just completed the morning before the trip started, so I was proud of the way it was looking, and cussing the way I had mutilated my new paint by loading paraphernalia on the bed!
Mike's new-ish Wrangler was fixed up nicely with lift kit, ARB's in both ends, and maybe an axle upgrade. Lee's Jeep trail thing is a home made trail machine with Jeep body, Isuzu diesel power, manual tranny, and dual transfers for a really great crawl ratio. Impressive to look at, it is high enough to clear most anything, with the exception of the diffs (being heavy Chev 14 bolt corporates) sticking down quite low. Lee will be upgrading to Unimog axles in the near future.
We camped Thursday night in the area south of Minturn, CO, then went up to Mt. Holy Cross Friday morning. The trail up to Holy Cross City ghost town has lots of tough obstacles, then the road beyond the city, going up to several lakes, is a real challenge.
The first challenging obstacle was the French Creek crossing. The far side of this crossing is full of boulders that were big enough to catch the Jeep's frames and diffs, but not the 'mog's. The best track also requires a right turn as the creek is crossed so it's difficult to place the wheels where they have to be. We all got through it easily with some backing up to achieve the right tracks.
On the way up to the city I easily climbed up one slick rock ledge, but then the front end slid sideways into a rock, tweeking my right front fender. One Jeep also got the same treatment but the tweek extended to his hood, too. I later gave the left front fender an almost identical dent, under similar circumstances.
If the ground and rocks hadn't been wet and muddy we'd have had no trouble at all getting up to the Holy Cross City ghost town.
The ghost town is difficult enough to get to that there is still a lot of old mining stuff around, like two big boilers, a rock crusher, ore carts, rails, and tons of other iron. The main buildings burned many years ago but two log cabins are still standing in the mine area, and others are scattered in the nearby forest. The mine consists of many digs along a fault zone running mostly up the slope of the mountain, so there's a lot to see scattered over a large area.
Beyond the town the trail gets worse, and is considered by some to be one of the toughest well known trails in Colorado, and rated 9 out of 10.
One obstacle is crossing a sloping rock face, hopefully without tipping over and rolling down the slope. We had no real trouble here, just took it slow and tried to avoid either sliding downhill or high centering. I did high center on the Mog's tranny coming back down the trail, but managed to back off the rock. The only damage was to the Zerk fitting for the rear torque tube.
Another 9 rated obstacle required a steep climb up two uneven ledges, for a total climb of perhaps 7-8 feet. If this had been Moab we'd have just dirven up it, but with the mud and rain the rock was slick and this became the most challenging obstacle for us. Lee went first and after a dozen attempts, broke his front axle (which he replaced in less than 30 minutes). He had moved to the side and I went up with the mog. I also had several failed attempts due to lack of traction, mostly due to worn out front tires (I should have put on my good tires!). It wasn't until I decided to try one more time, and then to winch, that Mog went right up it. Must have been the threat of embarrassment of "the cable" that made the difference. Mike's Jeep had the least trouble on this ledge. Mike did a superb job of picking the route he took, and his automatic trannied Jeep and new tires performed well in the slick stuff. Success on this obstacle may also have been a wheelbase thing. Lee's longer than normal trail machine,
and the even longer mog had the most trouble, seeming to hit both ledges at the same time. Several other 8 or 9 rated obstacles gave us no real trouble.
After we arrived at the top, at the Forest Service gates, we took a couple of hikes to lakes well beyond where the road ends. At this point we were well above tree line, the visibility had improved, and the view was wonderful.
By sitting on a rock ledge at one lake, we could look down into the water and see nice trout swimming below us. Lee said he had fished there last year and all he had to do was lower anything into the water and the fish would hit it.
We camped both nights in rain and cold, near freezing at 10,000 ft. I wished for my radio truck! The last night it rained so hard that it put out the fire before our steaks could cook. We had several periods of rain and hail while we were on the trail, which wasn't so bad, but having the rain in camp was a bummer.
In spite of that nasty stuff I wasn't ready to return to the drag of normal life, so when the others headed back home, I split, and drove through Red Cliff, over Shrine Pass, then over Vail pass on an old single track road that I had not been on before. Next detour was over Squaw Pass out of Idaho Springs. Would have driven up to Mt. Evans (surprizingly, was open past Labor Day) but I could see there were too many people/cars on the road. Took a few detours up jeep roads to Warrior Mt, then Squaw Mt and Chief Mt., had a picnic looking out over the Idaho Springs mining area, and then came on home.