Weather: Sunny all day, temperature in the 60’s low in the shade, high in the sunConditions: Excellent just enough moisture in the ground to eliminate any dust. There is a lot of sand in the dirt, and the sun dried the trails out pretty quickly. With one exception (see details below), if you wanted mud, you had to find an established mud pit. Problem with the mud pits they had so much water content that they washed off more dirt from your vehicle than they added to it. I took my mud seeking dogs they can find mud anywhere and even they could only find an occasional puddle here and there. There are a number of additional ruts (some challenging) from rain runoff. The traction was so good that even the diamond rated Hill climb return trail could have been green rated. There was a small mud trough at the base of the stair stepper that made your tires good and slippery prior to the ascent this added some extra challenge, but it should be dry by the date of the clinic. Conclusion: Probably the best conditions you will find at Hollister the whole year long. Details: Arrived at the school house shortly after 9:00 no other members present. Scanned all CB channels for a while no joy. Went up to the obstacle course scanned all CB channels again no joy. Decided to try out some of my new upgrades (31″ BFG AT KO’s vs. 29 street tires and ARB lockers , front and rear) on the stair stepper. First attempt street tire pressure, no lockers no good. Second attempt street tire pressure and lockers no good. Third attempt aired down to 13 pounds, no lockers no good. Fourth attempt aired down and lockers no good. Fifth attempt used momentum technique taught in safety clinic success. Of course the small mud trough at the base of the stair stepper may have had something to do with this test. Conclusion bigger tires, more aggressive tread, and lockers don’t always overcome all obstacles, even some relatively small ones but they do have their advantages I found that out later.
In the absence of any ED4 club members, I hooked up with three guys (Travis lifted Ford truck with 33″ street tires, Pete slightly lifted Durango with street tires, Mitch stock Cherokee with all terrain tires) from the Walnut Creek area they came down on Friday, did the O-course in the rain, and camped overnight (in the rain). We covered the park from one end to the other. I kept an eye out for ED4 members no luck.
The excitement we almost lost two vehicles newbie to the rescue: We had just started out on the upper leg of the Big Garner Springs Loop-the only real mud we found in the park (the road was tree covered and hadn’t dried out at all it didn’t look that bad - just wetter stuff than what we had been on all day it turned out to be more like glare ice than mud). The lead vehicle was the Ford truck, then the Cherokee, then the Durango, then me (Jeep ZJ). The road is almost flat no incline 2 to 3 degree off camber- very steep drop off to the left (200 to 300 feet unless you count the occasional tree), very steep rise to the right. The Ford radioed he was in trouble. The rest of us got out of our vehicles and walked forward to see what the problem was. His front left wheel was perched precariously close to the drop off. The slightest movement by him in the truck caused the truck to slip closer to the edge of the road. He managed to get out of the truck without further movement, and we discussed the problem. He had a trailer hitch with a ball, and suggested that the Cherokee could pull him back by attaching a strap to the hitch ball. I knew this was a bad idea, and offered my loaner receiver hitch shackle, which we used. When the Cherokee tried to pull the Ford, he also slipped to the left and came to rest close to the edge of the drop off. The Cherokee detached himself from the Ford and attempted to back out of the situation. Even the slightest rotation of his tires caused him to slip closer to the edge. We now had two vehicles stuck and in danger of going over the edge of a very steep drop off.
Since I was the only one with a winch, and I was still on safe ground, we decided the Durango and I would back up, switch places, and I would winch the Cherokee out, then the Ford something about the best laid plans. We used my loaner receiver shackle on the Cherokee and started to winch. We had to use almost the full length of the 100 foot cable on my previously unused winch so that I could stay on solid ground. As I started to winch the line, the Cherokee did come back, but it also slid closer to the edge. It was obvious that it would slip over the edge long before it reached safe ground. Definitely a straight line pull was not going to work. There were numerous trees on the high side of the road so we decided to use a tree saver and a snatch block to pull the Cherokee back and up toward the high side of the road. It took setting up on three different trees to get the Cherokee to safe ground.
The Ford was a little harder since it was in very imminent danger of going over the edge. We used the tree saver/snatch block technique, with the winch cable attached to his front bumper (a real one attached to the frame not a facia) to pull the front of the Ford closer to the high side of the road. Once the vehicle was somewhat stabilized, we used the same technique as on the Cherokee to get it to safe ground we pulled it back tree-by-tree.
Thanks to Travis and Mitch for the opportunity to prove that all that money I spent on recovery gear was not wasted.
We spent the rest of the day avoiding high tree covered wet roads. All of us drove a little more cautiously after that episode.
After lunch we conquered some obstacles that another group with much better equipped vehicles were afraid to tackle we could tell they were embarrassed.
We ended up back at the obstacle course and watched a couple of trucks tackle the rock pile at the base, and just to the left, of the stair stepper you’ve got to have a serious truck and/or be crazy to do that. I tried the stair stepper a few more times it gets easier with practice the ED4 safety clinic advice was what worked the best.
All in all it was a great day of wheeling with new friends, great weather, and perfect park conditions.
P.S. The dogs seem to be adjusting to off-roading pretty well. I think they are starting to get their sea (off-road) legs G�� they sure are pooped tonight, but I know they are looking forward to our next adventure.