Don't know if I want to go wheeling again...


... at least that was my thought when we came back home last night.


We headed out to Los Coyotes with my brother Nick - me in my 79, he in his 80 (both widetrack Cherokees), with hopes that the snow hasn't completely melted down after the last storm. Come in, part with $30 at the gate, and head into the reservation.

To our great surprise, not only the snow has not melted, it covered nearly the most of the reservation. What does it translate into - Los Coyotes is big in rock crawling when it's dry... with snow on it, it is a no-man's land. In three snow trips to 'Coyotes, I've lost the bead twice, and once - blew a chain through the side of my Quadratrac case.


I should have known better.


It took four-low-lock to get to Four Corners - normally a quick run along a graded dirt road. A few people before us turned the little grade towards it into a gooey mess.

Then - I turned my head to the left, and saw that Dangerous Road has pristine snow on it! No one ventured into it in four days since the storm! Sure, we can plow it.

As much as local geography goes, the Dangerous Rd. climbs more than a quarter of a mile in less than a mile. Nothing really dangerous there (although I've lost two tires there already), besides a pile of rocks in the middle, and a steep sweeping arch towards the top end of the road - that has a six-foot drop on one side, and gets very slippery under snow and ice.

We didn't make it even to the little pile of rocks. Close to the bottom of this pile, the snow cover grew to about 18-20 in. deep, and that was heavy, half-settled, wet snow.

We figured that we'd run out of gas trying to cover the remaining distance, turned around, and stopped near Four Corners area to chew on sandwiches and water them down with some beer.

Two guys went in after us, one in a built TJ, another - in a very mild XJ. They came back before we finished our first beer - obviously didn’t make it very far.

However, they were smart enough not to take up our proposition to take the Creek Rd. Why is it so no fun with smart people



Creek Road - yet another normally tame trail, with a few comments: the road surface is always off-camber, and it possesses some funky geometry. Here's three photos taken within 10 ft from each other:

a LR Discovery during a club run

me doing the same dance

gotta love them Land Rovers - although, give this a credit: it was a beginners' run.

Here's Nick following me about two years ago, in a very heavy snowstorm:

Nick slamming it up the hill

Full size jeeps definitely have an upper hand on this trail. Now, let me get back to the story.


I saw fresh tracks headed into the Creek Rd., so I figured we couldn't wuss it out.

However... just before the big drop (that happens before the cross-axle spot), the tracks ended - with a clear indication that the driver nailed the brakes wide-eyed, and opted to carefully back out. What a weenie.... I plunged forward, down the waterfall and through the cross-axle spot (that my Chero doesn't even lift a tire off the ground in), and...


This is where the disaster struck.


Just past that cross-axle spot, there's a two-foot drop. Not a two-foot step, but a steep drop, nevertheless. Immediately after it, there's a very much off-camber spot, sloped towards the manzanita bushes growing near the creek. The little momentum that I gained going down the drop cost me traction - and the jeep slid sideways into thick manzanitas.


In my humble opinion, manzanita has the hardest and toughest wood (it doesn't float in the water, either!). My jeep became lodged between a number of 2-4" thick branches, some of which found their way between the bumpers and the body, grille and brushguard, some bent down and sprang up under the body, etc. Any attempt to spin the wheels in any direction led to the jeep sliding farther into the creek.

OK, the sun's high up, it's only one in the afternoon. Time to break out whatever recovery gear we had. Did I mention neither of us had a winch? Not that it would matter a whole lot...


My first take was to pull the front out, using a big oak as an anchor, and hi-lift jack as a hand winch. Not that I ever believed in claims that one could be used as such, but I thought that if I put some strain on it, and spin the tires a little, I could get the front end up on the road. Guess what... The front didn't move, but the rear slid down another foot. A few tries, and the front finally yielded... to gravity!

And slid another foot into the creek.


Time to assess the situation... Now it looked like Nick had a chance to carefully drive by me (provided with me clearing ALL snow and ice from the dirt and rocks), and if he did, he could pull me forward. We set about guiding him through, and there he was, hooked up to my brush guard (a factory full size jeep brush guard that I - so far - deemed to be strong enough to serve as a recovery point, provided the line is hooked to the frame outriggers), and ready to nail the thin pedal.


I suspect my brother experiences something like an orgasm when he opens up the throttle on his rebuilt and punched-out 401. Or, maybe it's the road of the engine... Maybe it's a combination of dead battery in one of the handhelds, broken CB antenna on his jeep, and broken horn button on mine. Regardless, in three yanks, the brushguard folded into a neat shape that I could pass on as a pre-runners' Vee. At the same time, my jeep moved another foot into the creek, its front square against a whole bunch of thick manzanitas, front bumper dug into the ground, and rear about to do the same. Quite some success…


A little scouting on foot revealed that – if we ever made it out of this hole – proceeding forward would certainly lead to repeating the performance (but farther into the trail!). So, a decision was made to rig the line from my front - okay, no brushguard anymore, be it the frame outrigger – towards that big pine tree (through the rigged-up tree-saver strap, with combined benefits of questionable tree saving with really crappy ability to serve as a block), and from there – to Nick’s hitch receiver. The plan was to get the jeep turned about 120 degrees around, so it could get back on the road and head out.

Wonder how many yanks would it take…


Well… Let’s say the technique worked. In less than forty minutes, we were able to see the right rear wheel – which we couldn’t see before. The right rear tire was punched out with the manzanita branches, completely off the bead, and took a mangled shape wedged in the wheelwell. It cleared all the doubts we had about whether the four wheel drive worked or not; both front wheels were spinning in mud, and the rear TracLoc wasn’t able to send a whole lot of torque to the only wheel that had traction. Well, what can we do Go ahead, lift the wheels one after another with hi-lift, chop the ledge with the shovel, stuff rocks and tree branches under, lift another, dig more, stuff more stuff, get back in the car, start, move an inch sideways, stop, get out, repeat.

At 3:30, Nick’s jeep ran out of gas. He had seven gallons in spare cans – which we put in, but it raised question about whether we’d actually have enough gas to get out!!! Half an hour later, my jeep ran out of gas. I had a 20-liter can, too, which I emptied in mine. At this time, the sun was already below the tree line – and it started getting cold.


Soon, we discovered that it wasn’t worth the effort to save that pine tree – it was completely dry already. Of course, it only became obvious when it fell across the road! I thought I’d die when we pulled it out of the way and tossed in the show drifts.

At quarter past four, my jeep was free from The Manzanita Bear Hug. I suggested Nick to run to Warner Springs for gas (10mi away, half of them in mud and snow), and me to try replace the right rear wheel.


Tell you what, it’s a helluva lot of fun, to replace a tire on a vehicle that sits on a 20-degree slope covered with mud, snow, and ice. To be safe, I tried to use the hi-lift at the rear bumper, but cut it short when I found that the whole axle is already dangling on the brake line, and I still can’t get the mushy mess of the tire off the ground. Down under I went, with a shop trolley jack and two pieces of plywood. It did the trick, although I still had to jack up the bumper to free the mangled tire, jammed between the framerail and the spring. I’d say, the hardest part (after forcing myself to put away all tools and stuff) was to put the destroyed tire and wheel up on the roof rack, with all the mud trapped in the tire. Wrapped around the broken brush guard was my recovery rope (that I was very proud of for years!) – ripped into three pieces. The other recovery strap – used as the tree-saver – was sawed through by the rope unto a number of 10-foot chunks.


When the jeep has its four wheels in the right places, it is amazing what it can do! I had no problems climbing out of this gooey mess, and getting on the road. We met with Nick half-way out of reservation – the gas station in Warner Springs was closed, so he had to drive another few miles out to fill up his tank and the cans. He seemed to be a bit surprised that it took me so long to change a tire…


The way home was uneventful. I parked the jeep on the street – still waiting for an angry message from condo management – with the wreck of the brush guard sticking forward, tentacles of shredded rope dangling on it, and jeep thoroughly covered with mud.

Walked home, and that’s when the thought hit me – the one that makes the title of this blabbering…


P.S. On 4/21/01, Nick also got stuck there. But he managed to make it out by himself, with 31” all-terrains, open diffs, and plenty of go under the hood. On the same day, just fifteen minutes later, Peter Colacino from IE4W club, lost a bead, and changed the tire at the same spot. Good for him, he didn’t have 35s!


P.P.S. In the retrospect – I think the way we got me out was the only way to get me out. Would I have driven there in the same situation again? You bet. What went wrong? Nothing – it’s part of the deal!


P.P.P.S. If I personally hear somebody saying that hi-lift jack can be used as a hand winch, I’ll hold him up to his words, or beat him with the jack. I’ve seen several attempts to use a hi-lift as a come-along, all futile.