Deer Valley

Deer Valley Trail to Blue Lakes, October 16, 2004 Ellen I headed up to the mountains Friday to find them hidden by the smoke from the Sierra fires. The first patch of blue sky was over the Forest Service office just before Arnold. Got my fire permit, and got the news that where we were wheeling was actually a “Low” danger area for fires. The restrictions were still, stove with a permit only, and no open flames or BBQ’s. After dinner & a pint at Snowshoe, I loaded up the coolers and got to the hotel only to find that there was a wine tasting party going on.

Saturday was beautiful - sunny enough to keep off the chill, but not hot. I was following Carlos and family in the black Cherokee and followed by the O’Learys and Lee. No one seemed to have much trouble although I did throw a couple of rocks. We heard that Darell had to stop to fix a fuel line, but they got to the lunch stop (just past the 2nd creek crossing) about 30 minutes after I did.

Turning around and heading out, I ended up at the end of the pack, in front of the Pieraldis, Carlos, and the Tail Gunners Mike Phorn and John Cameron. Again, I had to stop and throw a couple of rocks - Carlos’ Cherokee and Stephen’s TinCan don’t have a lot of clearance. When I stopped, I found that I couldn’t put the parking brake on. And, I was suddenly hearing the familiar sound of tires on fender flares, except that I wasn’t at that extreme an angle. Well, I found a nice flat wide place in the trail and looked. The brake cable was stretched out across the bump stop and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until Stephen pointed out that the back tire was way back in the wheel well. By this time, John and Mike had caught up and we all looked at each other and said “centering pin”.

We tried to radio out to the rest that we needed a pin, but it wasn’t happening. Eric Nelson heard us and came back - he was familiar with the process having been one of those that helped with Sherry’s Jeep on the last run. We sent Carlos and Stephen onward - they had small children and it was getting late. John took off after them to try to make radio contact and get a pin. In the meantime, I got the Jeep off the trail in a nice level patch, and we got it jacked up, the tire off and the U-bolts unbolted without much fuss. Well, the springs were shoved back and forth, but the “keepers” had kept them in line. With Mike working with a pointy pry bar type of thing (I know it probably has a name and function) and Eric hammering on the end of the leaves, they soon had the holes lined up. With no word from John, I dug a bolt out of the bottom of my tool box and it fit!. Hey, I always pick up stray nuts and bolts and put them in the box. You never know when one is going to come in handy - if only as a fishing weight.

The next tricky part was getting the hole in the axle perch onto the top of the bolt. The perch looked bent (it was) and didn’t want to sit quite right. The guys were talking about using a winch to move the axle back forward, and I suggested some ratchet tie downs that I had. I use them to hold stuff down in the back of the Jeep, but they’re rated for 300 pounds. A come-along would have been better, but no one had one. So, they wrapped one end around the axle, and hooked the other to the tow holes in the frame. Some clicks, and the axle came forward to exactly the right place without any trouble.

That was the last easy part. We could NOT get the perch to seat on the bolt. The perch was bent up at the front, probably when the pin broke and the axle slipped back on the springs. It was getting dark and was already cold, so Mike & Eric just torqued the U-bolts down as tightly as they could using a pipe over the handle of the wrench. We traveled gently out the rest of the trail - really didn’t have any trouble even at the end rocks. We took some time to air up and drove back towards Tamarack.

Halfway up the twisty part of Highway 4 we met Jason and John coming down. In a pickup with a trailer. I don’t know where or how they turned around, but we all got back in one piece. Eric was having some electrical problems and his dashboard and tail lights would randomly go out.

Oh yes; there was a phenomenal crescent moon heading toward the west! Bright gold and huge, just a couple of days past new.

Sunday, John loaded my Jeep on his trailer and I was back piloting my favorite substitute Jeep. We drove up Highway 49 through the rain and a number of small towns to Shingle Springs and dropped off my Jeep, put his on the trailer and headed back to the bay area. Thank you John! It rained continuously from 10am to 3pm. The upside was that we passed at least 15 green fire trucks parked along 49 full of wet and happy fire fighters. The rain washed the smoke from the sky.

Report back from the mechanic: the passenger side U-bolts were at the correct torque and the centering pin was almost completely sheared through. And, it was rusty where the metal had torn so it happened awhile ago. Since the perch was bent, he cut both perches off and rotated the axle to remount them eliminating the need for the shims. The ride is now even smoother. He also replaced the brake line - it was kinda stretched out and tweaked where it screws in. Leaking just a touch. I hadn’t noticed. The parking brake is still a little stiff - I think the mounting bracket got bent. And, I checked the u-bolt torque when I got home and tightened them all up just a touch.

Anyone need some spare centering pins?