Located about a half hours drive north of Phoenix, AZ, Lower Terminator was one of the first extreme Arizona 4WD trails that became well known in off-road circles (so I have been told). Of the two Terminator tails, Upper and Lower, Lower provides the driver (and photographer) with a number of obstacles that will certainly get your attention and hold it for a while. Both Terminators have lost some of their teeth, so to speak, as the years have taken their toll in the form of rock stacking and breaking (the latter being that some of the ledges have broken up and become a bit easier). None the less, the Terminators, especially lower, is not one I would want to drag a stock Jeep through. Most folks recommend 33″ tires and a locked vehicle, although it can (and has) been done with less. Several years ago, when I first was introduced to Lower Terminator (I walked about 300 yards of it), I noticed a good amount of gear lube drips on the rocks. Obviously, axles and differentials were and still are the main diet for this trail.
This run was suppose to be one of several that my Southern CA buddy, Robert Yates, was going to run with me during his 2001 Thanksgiving visit. The previous year, he came down during Thanksgiving and we slipped down to the Tucson area and ran Charouleau Gap Trail. Unfortunately, Robert ran into a slight problem during his early November run in Johnson Valley. Although I’ve only heard bits and pieces (ie., no pics or videos), I heard he got spanked on one of the Hammer trails which resulted in his absence on Turkey Day. (I’m sure I’ll hear something about that when he reads this trail report! [insert VERY BIG grin here]
Not being one to let a good plan go south without a fight, I called a couple of friends and asked them if they wanted to make the run. Jeepers being like they are, my friend called a friend who in turn called a friend….well, you get the idea. On top of that, we ran into a few other friends at the Table Mesa Road staging area…well, you know, Jeepers being Jeepers…so, with a bunch of TJs, YJs, and XJs now making up the group, we all finished our airing down and headed off to start Lower Terminator. If all went well, we would proceed onto Upper Terminator before calling it a day.
The entrance to Lower Terminator has a couple of large rocks placed in such a manner as to filter out the SUVs and stock folks who still have some semblance of sanity remaining. For anyone with a built rig, those rocks are akin to hanging a neon sign at the trail head that says “Fun this way….more rocks ahead!”. You could see each Jeeper’s rig slow to a crawl for a second while the t-case was switched into low range. With that, the next four hours would prove to be a prefect prescription for anyone wanting to catch a little outdoor time with their friends and climb a few rocks while doing so.
Before I start posting pics, let me first apologize for the ones that came from my camera. Today’s run was shot with my digital camcorder. The resolution and clarity of the digital camcorder, while great for TV video viewing, lacks somewhat for doing digital stills. None the less, that is where many of the pics came from (freeze frame pics extract from the digital video). Sorry that they are not up to the normal quality that my regular Sony digital still camera produces. But, trying to sling two cameras is a bit to much for anybody. A big thank you goes to my buddy Terry, who walked most of the trail with my camcorder around his neck. The other pics in the collection, the ones that obviously look as though they were taken with a real camera, were just that….pics that I got from some of the other folks that were also taking shots during the day.
So, we are about 5 minutes into the trail and Scott decides he has found an interesting line over an obstacle. What you don’t see here was the climb it took to get up on top of this bedrock ledge. The trail goes around the back side of his vehicle, although the sprinkling of various plastic lens assemblies quickly indicated that the more die-hard guys liked this route over the rock. With my buddy Terry manning the camera, I spotted Scott over the rocks. Hey, it was his idea to grab some air, and who was I to say no?
One thing I quickly found was that Lower was very much off-camber most of the time. This little rock ledge was but an appetizer for what was to come. Little did I know that this would end up being one of the more wheel lifting, off-camber trails I had ran (and that includes all of those up in Moab too!)
One of the more noted obstacles on Lower is called White Line. There is a bypass, if you can call it that, around White Line. There was some serious discussion today concerning which was actually the harder, the obstacle or the bypass around it. Several of us opted to try the bypass. Here is Mike taking a shot at the up and around alternate path. In a few more feet, he will find that his new Ford 9″ rear axle has a bit of a lip on it and there is a rock just ahead that has his name on it [insert grin here]. He took it in stride and quickly made it to the top, and then back down again using a different route, making White Line a memory.
Scott decided to take White Line and see how it was. It is named as such for the white quartz seam that runs through the bedrock. You can see the seam just to the front of Scott’s Jeep in the above picture. Scott did a great job going over the obstacle. Although not viewable in this picture, a big drop off lies to the passenger side of the vehicle. A poorly misplaced rear tire will suck you down into it. Today, it was not bad since the water that often times accumulates from a recent rain was not present. As such, today’s roll over would have left Scott with nasty sheet metal and such, but he would not have gotten wet. From the water marks on the bedrock, there has been upwards of 3’+ of water in “the hole” and more than one Jeeper has unknowingly dropped a tire over the edge and rolled his ride.
Meanwhile, back at the bypass, I am proving that there is a bit of off-camber roll to this route as well. If I remember correctly, I think Scott spotted me into this spot. By now, everyone was getting a little “air happy” as all continued to find various spots on the trail that allowed you to defy both gravity and common sense (in some cases).
Another Jeeper named Scott, who drives a YJ, is doing White Line here. I’m not sure if its tire placement or suspension that is giving him trouble. But whatever it is, you can see his driver’s side front tire is making its way into the air while Rick jumps onto his rocker protector for ballast. It took two other guys on the up hill side of Scott’s YJ to keep him down on the bedrock. He slowly worked his way backwards and opted to take the bypass once he got turned around. By this point, we were beginning to think the bypass was a bit easier, but not by much.
Somewhere down the trail from White Line is a nasty little gouge in the bedrock that the guys call the Z-Turn. Now, anyone that has been to Moab and ran the Moab Rim Trail should be familiar with its Z-Turn obstacle. I am happy to report that our version of the Z-Turn is harder than the one at Moab. I did Moab’s version a couple of years ago when I was still running 32″ tires and a 2″ suspension lift. Comparing that with our local Z-Turn where I had 35″ tires and a 6″ lift….I believe I worked harder for today’s yardage than I did in Moab.
One of the XJs with us was driven by a fella named Joe. Actually, he goes by FlexyXJ on the local e-mail reflector. Once you see his brand new and fire engine red XJ on the rocks, you’ll know he got his nickname. Anyway, since we had such a mix of Jeeps, you know there had to be some bantering going back and forth between the TJs and the XJs and the YJs. All during the trip, you would hear something like “It’s a TJ thing and you wouldn’t understand”. “It’s a YJ with open diffs thing and you could never understand” was heard after Joey climbed an obstacle near the end of the trail.
Well, I can’t let such an opportunity pass me by, so I’ll have to say, in regards to the above picture of FlexyXJ, “It’s an XJ thing and at least 4 of us understood completely!” Joe being Joe, he had to take the more (most?) difficult exit line out of the Z-Turn. This was NOT a long wheel base favored line. But as the song goes “I get by with a little help from my friends, oh, I get by with a little help from my friends”.
With FexyXJ clear of the Z-Turn, it was my turn to give it a try. Joey asked if he could ride shotgun. Although I didn’t say anything to him at the time (I thought better of scaring him off), I realized my driving skills, after all these trails, must be getting a bit better. Heck, no one has ever asked to ride an obstacle with me driving! So, we got strapped in tight and dropped off of the first ledge and into the obstacle. I should comment here that FlexyXJ, being a bit longer in the wheel base department, gave all of us an impressive display of the “XJ teeter-totter” technique of getting down this ledge. You can see where my passenger rear tire is in the above photo. Well, FlexyXJ’s rear was about there and his front left tire was further up on the bedrock. The result was a pretty cool balancing act, bobbing back and forth between his passenger front and driver rear tires touching the ground. With his front and rear lockers, it was not a problem for him to have a lifted wheel on each axle. Lockers, ya gotta love them!
Russell caught me in the middle of the Z-Turn with this photo. He was sitting up on the bank (I said this obstacle was pretty much a gouge in the bedrock) behind me. We all know that photos never capture the true intensity of the moment….but I hope you can appreciate this one for what it was. (No, he didn’t hold the camera sideway either. You can see Scott spotting me in the photo and he is vertical to the world.) I would love to see this trail with a gully-washer type monsoon rain storm poor some water down through here. Note that I did not say I wanted to be down in it, but I sure would like to see it from the top of the bank.
I’m almost out….the last ledge is in sight. (And you can see Russell, in a white T-shirt, sitting up on the bank.) Several of the guys commented about the exit chute being easier than it use to be. I’m sure it is possible, but I was satisfied with the challenge presented me here. That rock that is just off of my rocker panel protector….my rear tire tracked half way up that as I made the turn and kept my front right fender out of the rocks. FlexyXJ commented that this part of the obstacle has been the starting point for a number of flat-fender conversion projects!
Scott did a nice job of spotting me through this obstacle. I’m just climbing through the last few yards of it. What I learned from driving it, and his direction, I applied to getting Mike through, pretty much unscathed. Oops, did I unscathed? Well, maybe we need to modify that statement just a bit. Maybe you should take a look at this?
All I can say is that I was running the video camera when Mike started the Z-Turn. After we realized that he had not rolled a bead, but rather put a 2″ long rip in the sidewall, we got down to the business of stabilizing the vehicle and changing the tire. A HI-Lift jack under the rock panel protector gave us some working room while a bottle jack put under the driver’s end of the axle gave us the clearance we needed. Some of the guys caught lunch while Mike and I got the spare mounted. After the fresh spare was on, I spotted Mike through the remainder of the obstacle. As he rolled over the rocks, we kept hearing some air leaking, as though a bead were separating for a brief moment (not uncommon for this trail). After Mike cleared the last ledge, we checked his driver’s side rear tire and discovered a less serious hole in that sidewall too. By less serious, I mean it was a slow leak until you compressed the sidewall just right and then the air leaked pretty fast. We fired up my QA2 and put some more air in it (he was down about 4 psi from when he had aired down. On a happy note, he was able to finish the trail with no apparent loss of pressure.
Update 11/27/01: I got e-mail from Mike today. He gave me an update on the tire situation. When he went outside the following morning, after the trail run, and discovered that his right front tire was flat too. He applied some soap and water and found the sidewall on it was bubbling (slowly, but still bubbling). So, he took out 3 BFG ATs on one run, all sidewall damage. He was happy to tell me that he is now the owner of 5 brand new Goodyear MT/R tires.
We were nearing the end of the trail and most of the difficult obstacles as well. FlexyXJ mentioned that we had one more obstacle to climb through before calling seeing the end of the trail.
I let Scott spot me through this one too. I think I took “Best Air” on this one. Although not clearly seen here, the driver’s side rear tire has to climb a 3’+ near vertical ledge in order to get out of this hole (given the line I was on). I watched the movie footage of this one and was very impressed with how well Lady climbed out of this spot. I feathered the brake pedal a bit and the front Truetrac did a great job of keeping power to the front tire that still had something that resembled traction (although not much since most of the weight was sitting back on the rear axle).
We wrapped up the trail with the rest of the guys coming through here and of course, exchanging “It’s an XJ thing…do you need help?” with the long wheel base drivers. It is nice to share the trail with folks that simply enjoy getting out and wheelin’ their rigs. No one had an attitude (at least not that I saw) and that sure does make for a nice run. Thanks to all that participated. With the exception of Mike’s tires and a couple of new sheet metal dings on FlexyXJ, I think everyone else made it through with nothing but good memories. (I’ll have to get with Mike soon and see what he decided to do with those tires….stick with 33″ tires (I think he will be getting some MT/Rs if I know Mike) or moving up to the 35″ size. He was asking me what he needed to do in order to clear some more rubber! Way to go Mike!