We gathered at the familiar spot just off of the Table Mesa Road Exit. I pulled in shortly after Brent arrived. Up from Tucson, he was visiting his mother during the Christmas holidays and wanted to run a trail or two with us. We had met on the JU forum (www.jeepsunlimited.com) some time back and when he said he was going to be in town, we made sure to get him directions to Table Mesa Road.
Larry was present in his TJ, Dion and Paula in their YJ, YJ John in his YJ (duh), Trisha in her Sammy (woops….how did that get in there)….anyway, she rode shotgun with YJ John so let’s just say she showed up at the spot in her…..ahhhhhh…….ummmmmm….vehicle, yeah, vehicle, that’s it!. Brent in his well built TJ, and myself with Lady (my TJ). I had done some radio club work with my good friend Bob just a couple of days ago, and I was able to get him to ride shotgun (finally) on today’s run.
I had never ran Pipeline before, let along lead it. On the way to Table Mesa, Bob and I stopped by Roger’s house (another local Jeeper) and I downloaded his Garmin II+ track log into my laptop (you do carry a laptop when you go wheelin’, right?). Roger had ran the trail several times before and it just so happened that he ran it Friday. He was kind enough to record a track log of the trail. Once in my laptop, I uploaded it to my Garmin III+ and we were ready to go….I had Roger’s “bread crumbs” right there for me to use. What a deal!
We hopped back on the freeway and headed north to Black Canyon City. We exited the freeway and headed to the trail head to air down. Once all were ready, we headed south down the Pipeline trail, following the electronic bread crumbs on the Garmin. If all went well, we would be back at Table Mesa road in a few hours and ready to show Raw Deal to Brent.
We were about 10 minutes down the trail when YJ John called for us to hold up (he was running tail gunner). The dust shield on his bell housing (or something like that) was rubbing so he climbed under the vehicle to take a handful of bolts out and remove it. OK….back on the trail and ready to go.
About 5 minutes later, YJ John gives another call on the radio. We hold up and Dion goes back to check things out. The short version is a small bolt is needed to hold something in. Larry hits pay dirt in the bottom of his tool bag and saves the day (or at least John’s). OK….back on the trail and ready to go.
We arrived at our first fun spot on the trail…..a very steep down hill with exposed bed rock. Bob (my buddy riding shotgun) dug his fingers into my roll bar padding and down we went (remember, it was his first off-road trip in a Jeep built up for this stuff). After we got to the bottom of the hill, I thanked Bob for leaving most of the padding in place.
I scrambled back up the hill to catch a couple of the guys. I managed to snap this picture of Brent as he eased himself down over the off-camber bedrock. Brent’s MT/Rs held the rock pretty good and there was only a bit of tire skidding as he worked his TJ down the hill.
After all made it down, some decided it would be fun to climb the hill (naturally). The first up was YJ John. He worked his way up, keeping to the right where the rock was not quite so slick, working hard to get traction.
It was a struggle with just a bit of forward momentum being made in small steps. Just about the time we though he was going to make the top, we heard that sickening POP that any serious Jeeper has heard before….a u-joint had gone. Sure enough, a quick look under the rear end and we could see the u-joint at the pinion yoke at failed. John was going nowhere really fast!
It was decided that a repair in this spot was not possible. Although the Jeep was stable, the footing was pretty bad and it wouldn’t take much to start sliding down the hill, now that 4WD was not working. John decided to use my winch to get him up over the top. I took the bypass up to the top to position my TJ while Dion got around John’s YJ on the trail (don’t ask me, I was over on the bypass trail getting set up).
We thought it might be easier to strap John up to the top, assuming traction could be gotten by the tow Jeep. I grabbed the yellow tow strap from under the seat (I’ve learned to keep it in a spot that can be quickly gotten to without needing to unpack the Jeep.) We hooked it around John’s hooks and onto Dion’s receiver D-ring. A couple of attempts and Dion got John up and onto more suitable ground for a u-joint swap.
John grabbed his favorite blanket and a couple of wrenches and got to work on the u-joint. Larry again was the man of the hour when he produced a suitable replacement u-joint. John had one but something was wrong with it. In the photo above, John is removing the u-bolts from the pinion yoke. The end caps had cracked and caused the failure. John is getting pretty bad axle wrap and it is putting some bad angles on this u-joint when a lot of torque is applied.
This is the spot where I get to brag about my new u-joint press. I picked one up from Harbor Freight (on sale for $29.99) after seeing one used on the Charouleau Gap trip I made during Thanksgiving week. If you ever used the tried and true method of two appropriate sized sockets, a big hammer, and a suitable rock to sit everything on while to attempt to beat the end caps out of the yoke, you will appreciate a u-joint press. It took about 30 seconds to press the blown u-joint out of the yoke and the same amount of time to put it back in. I think it is safe to say that everyone was pretty happy with the results. I know I was..
Pipeline & Raw Deal Trails
With the u-joint repair behind us (and most of my ham & cheese sandwich), we headed down the hill one last time and on to Table Mesa Road.
Now one thing that became readily apparent was that our starting location was on the east side of the freeway while the spot on Table Mesa Road where we were suppose to finish at was on the opposite side of the freeway.
Not to worry….there was a rather large (about 10’x10′) cement culvert that ran under the lanes of the north bound freeway traffic. We cautiously entered the big dark tunnel, seeing light at the opposite end and hearing the rumbling of traffic overhead.
I was first into the tunnel and so I hopped out to see what we were up against when I got near the end. We had a 3 foot drop to the ground to contend with followed by a little boulder field just to make it interesting. Someone(s) before us had stacked a few rocks under the ledge which made it possible to get down without ripping off the rear bumper, tire carrier, etc.
U-joint John exits the tunnel (oh….did you notice that we no longer call him YJ John? Yep, after the u-joint failure on Appetizer, and today’s espisode, it was decided that he was much more suited to this name.)
Larry finishes up a line out of the pile of rocks that litter the trail where you exit the tunnel. There are quite a number of ways to pick your way through the various rubble.
Once Larry, Brent, and myself were through, Dion decided to find a more challenging route (doesn’t he always?). He found that some of these rocks, even though they are quite big, would roll around after getting a tire on top of them. This added to the challenge and provided more fun for the spectators, spotters, and general advice givers (we all traded these jobs on a moments notice, much to Dion’s dismay).
Brent manages to flex up his TJ pretty good as he climbs out of the tunnel and heads across the rocks. His 35″ MT/Rs, 4.5″ RE lift, and belly-up skid plate provided him with great clearance and he made it through with no problems at all.
Pipeline & Raw Deal Trails
Shortly after the tunnel, I picked up some friends of U-Joint John on the CB. They were running late and had called earlier on the cell phone for directions to the trail head. We held up the group for a few minutes while Michael, driving a built up Cherokee, and his friend driving a Toyota pickup, caught up with us.
We managed to sneak under the south bound freeway traffic by getting into broad wash that just happened to have a small bridge built over it. We opened the range grazing gate and got everyone through, including Michael and the Toyota. With a tight left hand up hill turn, we again headed due south, following the Pipeline markers to Table Mesa. Within 10 minutes of travel, we could see familiar land marks as we closed the gap.
U-joint John called for a halt at the trail head for Raw Deal. His right front hub didn’t seem to be engaging in 4WD. After everyone searched for an Allen wrench so the hub could be disassembled and checked, U-joint found one in the back of his YJ….apparently the tool box had dumped its contents along the way. Maybe now we’ll have to call him Hubless John……no….doesn’t have as good of a ring to it as U-joint John.
Raw Deal was pretty the much the same as the previous trips through it, with the exception of a couple of notable events. This was Brent’s first time through (open front diff and Trac-loc in the rear) and Michael with his Cherokee planned on taking the hard lines with us.
Here is Brent getting set up for entering the great divide. He had a little problem right in here in that he got all twisted up and his open front just wasn’t helping the LSD rear in doing its job. Dion got him on a new line just a bit to the right of where I had him and he climbed right out. (nice clearance on that belly up skid)
Michael decides to come down to where Brent just was via a slightly different route. He and Dion both took this line coming down “from the high ground”. U-joint John spotted both of the guys through this section with no carnage (yet).
Brent did a super job over the Great Divide, as we call it. The shadows don’t reveal just how bad you can get going through (actually over) this obstacle, but trust me, you can get yourself in such a way as to need a tow strap to get out (right U-joint?). Larry watches to make sure Brent’s left rear tire catches a narrow ledge (if you miss it, you’ll peal sheet metal off or perhaps the skin off of a Cherokee’s rear bumper….Michael?) while U-joint John directs the spotting action from the front.
I went through the air-hole and as usual, got pretty good air….almost too good! I didn’t think it was ever going to come back down. Michael seemed to think it was a pretty good idea so I spotted him through it. At the peak of his climb out of the hole, he stopped the Cherokee and leaned down and out of the door to inspect the undercarriage of his rig. (Actually, I think he was using himself as an outrigger to prevent himself from going over to the right.) Yes sir, he got great air for a LWB vehicle.
While all of the above with Michael was happening at the air-hole, U-joint John decides to run the Great Divide in a non-standard fashion. (I just don’t know about these people! Without adult supervision, look what kind of mess they get themselves into!) I got back to find U-joint in this predicament. He was stuck big time. A few rocks weren’t going to get him out of this one, regardless of how much those big fat tires of his wanted to grab for traction. Michael backed up his rig and Larry got a strap out of his TJ. The way I see things adding up, U-joint John owes Larry BIG time for all the assistance he got on this trip…..let’s see, there was the bolt way back at the beginning to hold something or the other together, a replacement u-joint on the failed hill climb attempt, and now this nice big yellow strap! What do you think?
We finished up this section of the trail and went and played on the big rock ledge. With time running out and several with an hours drive back to home, we decided to air up and call it a day. All in all, it was a pretty good trip. We again proved the GPS does have its place on the trail, taking us from start to finish even though I had no idea where we were going! We all were able to hone our trail repairs skills with the help of a little OJT (On the Job Training), courtesy of U-joint John.
I hope your trail runs are as great as this one was. Enjoy the outdoors and remember to TREAD Lightly!