Dunrovan Ranch Trip Report

Author: Robert Bryce

Location: Southern mainland B.C., Canada north of Lillooet up the Fraser Valley on the Dunrovan Ranch
Dates: April 5-7, 1996

Day 0: (Thursday)

I left a meeting at the university early to catch the 1pm ferry. I had to return Larry Soo's GPS, and I wanted to go around to North Shore Offroad to price a few things before going to the Hansens. Relatively uneventful. Had a nice visit with Pam and Dave that evening, got all packed up and ready to go. I'm feeling a bit burned from end-of-term work, so I am really, REALLY looking forward to getting back out into the bush to get away from it all. First major trip in 6 months. (We get winter up here!) Dave isn't taking his Grand Cherokee, so we load a bit of their camping stuff into my Comanche, which always seems to have room for a *bit* more.

Day 1: (Friday)

6:00am I'm still half asleep when I'm told to get moving, since we have to be at the meeting place in less than an hour. Have a tough time rolling out - rough night - only about 4 hours sleep.
Pam adds: Rob neglected to mention that we had a "uninvited visitor" in the middle of the night. While Rob stayed in bed, the rest of us were up for over an hour in the middle of the night.
This led to early nights for me [and Dave and Pam] throughout the weekend.

After meeting with about half the group, we head out. On the way to Lillooet, we hook up with the rest of the group, and do the convoy thing. We come across some hills, and for some reason, the diesel Toyotas manage to move from the front to the back of the pack. Lucy's Toyota quits running, which means a tow into Lillooet to a shop. The problem turns out to be that the electrical feed to the in-tank fuel pump had grounded out on the chassis. But in the mean time, we had distributed their camping gear to other vehicles in case it had to be parked and retrieved after the weekend.

Pam adds: This stop was about an hour. The mechanic at the Mohawk in Lillooet was great and reasonable too. Remember this is Good Friday!

The next stop after Lillooet was an old native cemetary just out of town. It was a quick stop to let the group get reassembled. We would have waited a little longer, 'cept a local came up and politely told us to get off their land.

Pam adds: Rob neglected to mention the guy kept eying Phil's scalp!, this according to Phil.

Guess they've had problems with vandals up there.

The road north was a bit dusty, but we had great scenery, and saw lots of wildlife. Looks like the weatherman will be wrong, and we won't have to worry 'bout rain after all.

After about 43 km north of Lillooet, we came across some people walking along the road. Turns out they got their brand new Ford F250 4x4 extended cab stuck. After a quick yank, the guy was thanking John. After airing down, we continued along the trail.

Shortly, we drove up to an old church, and a couple buildings from an old ghost town. The trail we were on was part of the old gold-rush trail to Alaska! This was one of the stops for people travelling north. We played around and investigated the area. Real interesting! After this, there was a shallow creek crossing. We pulled into our campsite in the late afternoon.

Our campsite overlooked the Fraser River, and afforded us a fantasic view. Definitely a nice spot. Set up tents, pulled out a few cool ones, and sat back in the lawn chairs and want "ahhh". Shortly, Rollover came down and pointed out to us that the woodticks were already out. Everybody goes through a phase thinking they've a tick here...no there...no there.

After a nice meal (thanks, Pam), a few more cool ones, and a piece of chocolate cake freshly cooked on the fire (!), I turned in rather early. I learned that a few others were up into the wee hours drinking rusty nails. Oddly, they didn't pay for it the next day, other than needing a few Tylenols.

Day 2: (Saturday)

Most of us were up and moving by 7:30am. I started loading my truck right away since I always seem to be the last one finished, so it was a pleasant change to stand around and watch others pack. Nice breakfast (thanks, again, Pam!) We were moving sometime in the morning, though I can't remember just when. Anyway, this proved to be an eventful day. BTW, did I mention I don't like sidehills?

The trail changed almost immediately after camp. It went from something which could be handled mostly in 2wd to something where you actually had a reason to pull that little lever next to the stick shift. Did I mention I didn't like side slopes? A few spots up to 20 degrees sideslope. Not too bad. I've had my truck on a 35 degrees sideslope (thanks, Mr. Barron!), but 20 degrees still gives me the willies. Then we came to the one major obstacle on our way to the next campsite.

Did I mention I don't like sideslopes? This prairie bumpkin likes to stay on the flat!

Pam adds: Rob won't look at his tilt meter once it reaches 20 degrees. Dave and I noticed that he wouldn't tell us when we were past 20 degrees.

The road follows along the side of a hill/mountain. Lots of sand and gravel. But in one spot the bank uphill from the road had given out, producing a spot where you had to enter into a side-slope (20 degrees), turn uphill, then over a mound, then back down. It looked a lot worse than it was. But if a vehicle had gone over for whatever reason (rolling, loss of traction to slide off the trail), the vehicle would have been a write-off, since it was about 100 yards down STEEP into the Fraser River.

Thankfully, we all made it across without a hitch. John spotted us through to try and pack down a trail rather than each of us picking our own line and just digging it up, making it harder for the next guy.

A few other sideslopes ranging up to ~25 degrees (did I mention I don't like them?), and the trail smoothed out. Except for a few stops for pictures of the scenery, the next major stop was at an abandoned ranch house. From there, we drove into camp at about 2pm.

Well, this just wouldn't do! After picking out a campsite, we went playing some more. We followed the river through a ranchyard, to try to follow the goldrush trail some more. After going through a gate, you had two choices, either go down to the river and back up, or stay high and traverse a serious sidehill. Tough call for me, but I never had to make the choice.

John Edgar had troubles climbing back up from the river, and actually got a wheel in the air! Dave Hansen (driving Pam's YJ) decided to take matters into his own hands. And sure enough, that little Jeep, with open diffs once again went where it wasn't supposed to and made it up and over to the next obstacle. Once Rollover saw how it was done, he made it too. John, in a newer Toyota Landcruiser, took the high route, and came close to rolling. A quick turn downhill and planting the gas (diesel?) pedal saved the day for him.

The big event of the day was just about to happen. The Major Break.

Dave was trying to climb the next hill when he got turned so that it was a bit awkward to back down. I turn and walk away, and almost immediately I'm told something broke on the YJ! 2 pops. Well, to make a long story a bit shorter, the driver's rear axle shaft broke at the splines, and the spider gears in the rear limited slip were sheared. We ended up disassembling the rear axle, limited slip and all, and stood around debating if this is a trail fix, or if new parts should be found before getting the Jeep out. That would mean returning the following weekend...not a nice prospect. Well, John, to the rescue, figures he can weld it.

We call it a day and return to camp. Any fixing will be done in the morning, in the light. Oddly, Pam didn't want to get drunk that night, considering this was her first major break and all!

Pam adds: I would have felt really lousy in the morning if I had done that!
I figured somebody should, considering the event, so I dug into my rye. (Gotta live up to my CB handle!)

Day 3: (Sunday)

Next morning, we loaded all of Hansen's camping gear in the back of my truck in case the YJ had to be left for the following weekend. Had breakfast (thanks, again, Pam!), and drove into the ranch to do the welding thing.

But John was able to fix the axle good enough to do the trick.

Pam adds: Rob neglected to mention that the ranch we drove through had a shop (with a welder) and great host and hostess. Kris and Rita and their three sons, Ben, Danny and Jim were wonderful. The boys took several of us horseback riding while the John and Dave worked on the axle. Steve and Sue, Lucy and Kari and several of the kids went off to pan for gold and Rita served coffee and hot cross buns.

We reassembled the limited slip and used the side gears, which were in fair condition, to hold the C-clips in. We didn't put the busted spider gears in, and we removed the rear driveshaft. Good thing that JB Conversion kit (similar to but not the same as a MIT kit) went in the previous weekend, eh!. We got away from the ranch at about 5:45 pm.

Most of the other vehicles had left at other times in the day, for different reasons. I convoyed out with Dave and Pam in case the weld didn't hold. (John said he'd warrantee it for the first 10 minutes or 50 feet, which ever came first. ). We stopped for supper in Lillooet and arrived in Vancouver at 12:30, just after midnight. During the fix and the drive back, Pam and Dave basically decided a Dana 44 would be finding a home in place of the busted 35.

All in all, it was a nice, relaxing weekend. The trail itself wasn't terribly difficult or challenging. Scenery and company was great. No rain, just dust. And I learned how to disassemble and reassemble a limited slip. And partake in my first major trail fix! Definitely a worth-while trip!

Robert Bryce ([email protected])