Friday:Navi and I left the house at around 10:30 Friday morning after packing up. I had to do some fluid checks and stuff on the Jeep in the morning as well, so it worked out. Driving up on 4, I saw Darell’s truck around Farmington, I guess he and Kathy were having lunch. Didn’t see them in the truck, so we kept on driving. After driving the ZJ, and really since my wife took “ownership” of the TJ, I hadn’t really been driving it, so it took some getting used to again. Our original plan was to stop off in Big Trees Park and do some hiking, but I was tired and feeling lazy, so that didn’t transpire. We got to the Tamarack lodge at around 1:30, saw that Ed & Spike(his dog) were already there. Caught up with Ed, apparently he had just gotten there about 15 minutes before us. The lodge was ready for us, Vicki & Tim (the inn keepers) left the keys out on the front desk ready for us. Tom & Pat, Darell & Kathy arrived a short time after. As stated at the meeting, we started the vehicle inspections that Friday. Darell even made some small stickers to those who passed vehicle inspection - had the Esprit de Four logo with “Oktoberfest 2006″ - surely to become a collectors item. Ole & Sherry rolled in a short time later. Around 5 o’clock, we started cooking dinner. Ellen & Stephen arrived around this time. Some of us used the gas grill that the Tamarack Lodge has to grill up some steaks & hamburgers. Some of us were then watching Nascar on TV. We were joking about how I needed a Dana 44, so that I can run bigger tires. There was a donator vehicle just outside (Thanks Steve), and since Ole was going to be up at 2 am, perhaps he could lend a hand in the operation - doh, it didn’t happen.
At this point, I believe Dennis and Ava had arrived. We were a little concerned, because Darell mentioned that he had seen them past them up as well back at Farmington around lunch. But as it turned out, Dennis and Ava took a little hike at the Big Trees Park. After Nascar ended, we did a “cold” inspection of the vehicles that came late.
I think I ended up turning in at around 9:30, as it was going to be an early following day. From what I understood, Ira & Lorrie came in after that.
Saturday: I was up at 6:30 and got ready. Ole & Ed were already and sitting in the common area. Breakfast was there waiting for us at around 7:15. Breakfast consisted of choice of waffles, hardboiled eggs, cereal, hot oatmeal, etc. By 7:45, most everyone was ready and started to line their vehicles outside for the departure to the trailhead. A quick inspection of the last vehicles, Ira, Richard, & Brian, and we were ready to go. Darell lead the group to the trailhead at Hermit Valley, getting us there around 8:30. As we were airing down, Kelly, Christine, Matthew, & David arrived just as we were getting ready. The vehicles we had were: CJ7 - Ira & Lorrie CJ7 - Tom & Pat 83(?) Toyota - Ed & Lonnie 87 4 Runner - Dennis & Ava X Terra - Richard & Caroline TJ - Mike TJ - Steve, Claudia TJ - Brian & Ted YJ - Ellen CJ5 - Kelly & Christine
The first obstacle was tough as usual, but with Darell & some others helping point the way, it made it for a much more easier time. Having trust in your spotter goes a long way. I think the only “funny” part was I chose the high line on the left side, and when my Jeep angled up, I could barely see the tips of Darell’s fingers telling me direction I should go. I don’t think any one suffered any major damage going over this. There was slight sheet metal damage on Dennis’ stock 4Runner on the lower air dam.
The rest of the trail went as ususal. I didn’t have a passenger this time around though, this made it a little more interesting as I didn’t have anyone to tell me how close I wasn’t getting to a rock on the right side of the Jeep. This was Dennis’ first time out on trail and he sure picked things up quickly. There were occasions where spotting was needed - thanks to Ed, who probably got more exercise that day than he probably anticipated. However the further we got down trail, I noticed that Dennis was choosing some great lines - kudos for that. There were a few sections where a by-pass was taken because it would have nearly been impossible with the stock rig to go through it.
We made the first river crossing around 11:45~12:00. Keeping a steady pace through all of the rock gardens, we made it to the second river crossing and our lunch area at 1pm. With a group of only 10 vehicles we were able to have somewhat of a lunch together. The next discussion came by way of those who wanted to continue to the Blue Lakes and then on to the paved road to drive back around and those that would turn back around and go back on trail. It was decided that we would split into two groups of 5 with those two options.
Tom, Dennis, Steve, Kelly, & Richard went to Blue Lakes and would continue around on the pavement. Ed with no swaybars and aired down, along with myself, Brian, Ira, & Ellen would turn around and head back out on trail. Ira, having discovered that his left rear leaf was slightly bent was not sure he’d do well on the trail, but decided to forego it anways - what a trooper. We each departed the lunch area at 1:30. The big motivation for getting off the trail quickly was to be back in time for the Kroeker hosted, Oktoberfest meal waiting for us back at the lodge.
Ed led the group that would turn around back the way we came in. With all well built rigs, we kept it moving. The gap between the vehicles were just about right. I didn’t feel rushed, or felt like I had to speed up to keep pace with Ed. There was only one section where I tried to take a high side left and ended up slipping off into the right. I just drove through it and it was fine - hehe, what a description eh? We only stopped a couple of times, just to water the foliage, but we were moving again. There was only one are of concern, that being Ed mentioned on the radio, “Did we come this way”, to my response, “I’m guessing we did”. As it turned out, we didn’t, it was slightly more difficult, but nothing our rigs couldn’t handle.
Before you knew it, we were at the “first obstacle”. For good measure it seems, Ed decided that his toyota needed to kiss a rock on the right side as he approached the obstacle. Ed made it through, with Lonnie helping me spot, I made it through on the low side going out. We were done! 1 hour and 45 minutes back to trail head, it was only 3:15 approximately.
Those who had onboard air began to air up. I didn’t so I just re-attached my swaybars and drove to Bear Valley Lodge to air back up. We called out on the radio to see if the others were back in the vicinity, but no one responded. As I was airing up, I saw Richard’s X terra drive by - I was like wow, we actually all finished around the same amount of time apparently.
Done airing up, I drove back down to the lodge, and I was getting out of the vehicle, Steve just happened to pull up as well. This was great! The first time in two years that I got back to the lodge and there was still sun out. Washed up and then cracked open my beer.
Kathy, Darell, & the crew who stayed behind at the lodge were preparing dinner as the rest of us were cleaning up and putting some snacks out on the table. We had chips and salsa as well as chips and bean dip (wow, these were awesome). Darell, Sherry, & Ole were pointing out the show, “Man & his Jeep”, how convenient.
Dinner was served at approximately 6:30. It was great! I was so stuffed that I could hardly move. Dinner was a conucopia of German/Polish Sausage, various pasta, salad, & drinks. I forgot what dessert was, yes I was that stuffed that I didn’t have room for dessert. It smelled terrfic though. As we were wrapping up dinner, the raffle prizes were being called out. Pat & Tom each one 1st & 2nd prizes. Darell then went to raffling off the beer mugs - Yay, my wife won a beer mug!
There was a lot of alcohol flowing at this point so excuse me if I don’t remember the details quite so good. We started the traditional casino night. Ira, Lorrie, & myself began giving some lessons on craps as well some craps etiquette (courtesy of the very anal Mike - how much space should you have between your pass line bet and your odds?). That went good for a while, Darell proved the point that when luck is on your side and you still decide to bet on the field, you’re not going to end up with a lot of money. As we were now totally emersed in Craps and gambling with play money (and mostly because the house started to clean up everybody), we decided to turn to some Texas Hold’em - with 9 people - wow, how did that happen?
Still scarred from last years tournament, where I lost my seat (a couple of times) even with 3 of a kind to Darell’s straights and flushes, I played a little more conservative. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but Tom was trying to knock me out of play :-P. After being losing his seat, Tom made himself useful by dealing the cards (some controversy to follow). The final 4 at the table was myself, Navi, Pat, & Ed. I changed some color for Pat and she was then on a roll of making some good hands. In the end it was me and my wife trying to make each other go bankrupt (nothing new here it seems). Within 4 hands, I took home the pot - she proceeded to hit me with one (just kidding). As we were cleaning up the chips and putting away the felt, there was an Ace that was found close to Tom - thank you Tom, hehe. 11:30, we all decided to call it a night after a long day.
Sunday: For Sunday, Ed & Lonnie, led Brian & Richard who wanted to do the slick rock trail. They left as soon as Brian had arrived. We were finishing up saying our good-byes, Stephen was parked close by, and my wife noticed his Jeep was rebuilt. Thanks to Stephen, I now have been “authorized” by my CFO to purchase some slider bars. Blue lakes is always a good trip for me, because every year I go on this trip, I get authorized for more and more stuff, hehe.
Finally thanks again to everyone who came!