Jack’s Rock

We met at the local Perkin’s restaurant at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning.  I had remembered to gas up the TJ the previous afternoon, and my wife had fixed our lunch the previous night.  We had kept this run a pretty good secret and only 3 vehicles transporting 5 people were aware of the day’s adventure.  Over a Jeeper’s breakfast of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and LOTS of coffee, I was briefed about the trails we would be on later in the day.

Forty minutes out of town, we pulled off the main road and aired down.  Our trail leader and his wife (OK, so Joe was the trail leader of two more vehicles, but hey, someone has to know where they are going and that is the trial leader, right?) struck out down the gravel road to find the trail head.  My buddy, also named Joe, was the waste gunner, and my wife and I took up the tail gunner slot (and the most dust I might add!).   After overshooting the trailhead a time or two, (you ever notice how much the brush grows in a couple of years?) we took off down kind of  a cork-screw like dry wash.   You would have to really know Joe’s daily routine (he gets up way before the butt-crack of dawn and goes hiking) to appreciate the fact that his immediate intentions were to limber up the suspension on the vehicles…..I guess kind of like when he loosens up his muscles before a hike.  We did a few small hills along with some entries and exits from several washes just to get the tires warmed up.

Our first stop was at the top of Wishbone hill.  Joe and I (I’m the good looking one in the red plaid shirt) checked out the trail going down Wishbone while the others waited up on top.

Wishbone is about a 20° slope, with a steeper ledge about 5′ from the top.  There was a lot of loose overburden, which added to the challenge.  Although I went down without a problem, I would not have been able to climb this one with the TJ’s current setup.  I would have to take the bypass if I were coming up.

Here is Joe just launching off the top of Wishbone. 

I followed Joe down the hill.  This was the first 4-wheelin trip that my wife had been able to go on in quite some time.  I’ve been working on my driving skills and Joe (the good looking guy in the blue plaid shirt in the gold Jeep) has been leading me on trails with “more character”, as he calls it.  I was impressed that my wife remained cool and calm as we descended the hill.  You could feel the TJ slide around on the rubble, kind of like walking on marbles.  I let the engine compression work as the brake but found the need to accelerate here and there just a bit to maintain steering due to the loose surface.  About 45 seconds later, we arrived at the bottom of the hill.

Joe’s Suzuki was not setup to go down Wishbone (gearing is not low enough), so he continued down the other side of Wishbone to meet up with us after taking a roundabout bypass.  Unfortunately, Joe missed the bypass turnoff and ended up on the opposite side of the ridge and unable to get back up the hill to backtrack his trail.  Here is a 500KB movie of Joe getting his Suzuki strapped back up the hill.  With only a 30:1 crawl ratio and about 1600cc of engine, we have to help him out every now and again.  But hey, don’t get me wrong, he drives that Suzuki through places I would not think of taking it!

We regrouped at the bottom of Wishbone and plotted the next leg of our course.   Joe kept mentioning that we were working our way back to Jack’s Rock.  When asked what was so special about Jack’s Rock, Joe would reply that we would understand when we got there.  Obviously, Joe was keeping the details of  Jack’s Rock a secret for now.  Maybe we could pry it out of him by the time we stopped for lunch.

Our trail leader took us through a few washes and gullies and got us lined up on the next hill.  Here is a picture of Joe in his Suzuki going up this hill that didn’t have a name.

Once on top of the hill, we headed off through the maze of criss-crossing washes and found ourselves at a most interesting obstacle.  Both Joe and myself decided to wait this one out.  Joe’s 5-speed CJ-7 has a 75:1 crawl ratio with lockers front and rear.   He took me up a 4 rated trail (see the Indian Ruins pages) and when his CJ stops making headway, there is a definite reason for it.  Here is a picture of Joe going up the hill.  It doesn’t look too extreme from this viewpoint.  (Remember what I said about the pictures making things appear a bit more flat than they really are?)

Here is a shot of Joe and his wife as they are ready to come down the hill, the same hill in the picture just above.  This time, I moved right down to the base of the hill and snapped this shot.

Oh yeah, looks just a bit different in this one.  You still can’t appreciate just how steep it was, but when you can see this much of the under carriage of the CJ-7, you know it is fairly steep.  As I said, Joe and I waited this one out and watched and learned!  By the way, the CJ did crawl to a stop part way up.  The line Joe was on took him up to a ledge that just wouldn’t let him get his front tire over, so he backed it down and finished it on the 2nd attempt.

Off we went, heading towards Jack’s Rock.  I couldn’t even get Joe to divulge the origin of this landmark’s name.  All he told me was that Tom’s Hill was named that because a good friend of his named Jim rolled his Jeep down the hill, rolled it over 5 times on the way down.  (I still can’t figure out what that has to do with Jack’s Rock, unless this was some kind of hint of things to come.)  We got into a series of what I call whoop-dee-doos, that part of the trail were you are going up and down, almost like a roller-coaster.  My TJ’s gas tank skid plate reminded me on many of these whoop-dee-doos as to why it was back there!  It was getting close to lunch and Joe’s wife suggested that we stop for lunch (or else she was going to kill him!)  We found some nice shade in a dry wash and served up lunch.

With lunch behind us, we took off again in search of Jack’s Rock.  Now, I’m beginning to thing that maybe Jack had come back some time ago and got his Rock and took it home with him on account of Joe was having a heck of a time trying to find it.   (It obviously was not close to Tom’s Hill, or else we probably would have been there by now.)

Well, in defense of Joe (remember, he is the trail leader), he said he was coming in the back way and that he usually doesn’t get there from here (gosh, I’m sure glad I had my GPS track log in the making so I could at least lead us out of here if Joe lost his bearings).

As we rounded a bend in what had been a very brushy wash, we saw Jack’s Rock.   Without very much fanfare, Joe pointed his CJ-7 in the UP direction and went to the top. (of course, he’s been here before!)

Do you see that fluid trail going up the rock?  It’s not from Joe’s CJ.  I found it further back in the wash and further down the trail past this point too.  Someone must have done an oilpan or a tranny (they were a long way from the road at this point). 

More of Jack’s Rock

After Joe made it to the top, the rest of us had to check out the rock.   You don’t go zipping up a 30°+ rock face without seeing what is there, right?   I caught my best Jeepin’ buddy seeing just how comfortable it was….well, it was about the right angle for a recliner, right?

After relaxing there for a bit, she said it was a bit too hard.  With the camera out of my hands, I was caught giving the international “Piece of Cake” symbol, otherwise known as “Okey-Dokey”.  You can get an idea of how steep this puppy is….I could get just enough traction in my shoes to walk up the rock face.  (assuming I didn’t get into that oily stuff, eah?)

So, with the analysis out of the way and everyone having had a chance to check out the “lay of the land”, it was time to give it a shot.

Joe fired up the Suzuki and gave it a try.  He didn’t expect to make it, (that gearing problem again), but wanted to see just how far up he could get.  He made it about half way up before the engine would lug down.

Next it was my turn.  I gave the digital camera to my wife and told her to just keep shooting.  I was going to try a couple of short climbs up the rock just to see what it felt like.  Our trail leader encourages this kind of approach (when it is practical) to help you get the feel of the obstacle.  Joe showed me the line I should take to avoid the sheet metal eating rocks on the right had side.   If you slip a tire, the slope to the right will put you up against the rocks and there goes your body work.

I’m part way up on my first attempt and things feel great.  RPMs are at about 1100, the engine is not bogging down, traction feels good, and the tires haven’t chirped yet.  Hey, why not go for it, right? 

Just before the top, your front left tire breaks over a small ledge and you need to start bringing everything to the right to catch the exit off the rock and continue on the trail.  Oh yeah, we are there on the first shot and it feels good!

Here I am at the top.  This shot gives you a better feeling for the right hand slope into the rocks and the angle of the ledge that cuts across the top of the rock face.  Would I do it again, IN A HEART BEAT!

After I got to the top, Joe decided he needed to practice just one more time (grin).  So, he brought his CJ up to the edge where I got him to hold it for a second while I snapped this shot (check out the shiny rims this guy has!).

Joe made it down just fine and then came back up a 2nd time just to prove the first one was not just a freak trail-thing occurrence (really Joe, I believed you when you said you could do it again!)

From here, we headed back for the main road, only to find that our trail through the wash had been closed by a rock avalanche.  Several boulders, one the size of my TJ, had fallen down into the wash.  Now, we all know that if it had been the size of the Suzuki, we could have gotten over it, but such was not the case.  We back tracked a bit and took off on an alternate route.  We enjoyed a series of hill climbs and enough whoop-dee-doos to last me until the next trip.  Joe piloted his Suzuki towards a hill that I knew he could not make.  By golly, he made it, with room to spare.  A few rocks got dislodged along the way but new gearing will help in the that department. 

We got back out to the gravel road and stopped to air up.  While the QuickAir2 was pumping up the tires, we looked at the pictures on the digital camera, joking and laughing about the various shots and what had occurred during the day.   So, you are probably wondering how Jack’s Rock got it’s name, right?  Well, I am hear to tell you that I still don’t know…..and I still don’t think it has anything to do with Tom’s Hill either!

It was the perfect wrap up for a great Thanksgiving Holiday.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend time with my very good friends.  I hope your rides are as enjoyable as mine have been.  And remember, pack it in, pack it out, and always TREAD lightly!