Clear Creek Trip Report - November '94

Dates: November 11-13, 1994.

Cast of Characters:

There are two reports here: one by Larry and one by myself, for the same trip. Larry's is the first one, and mine continues from where he left off.


Author: Larry Soo

I didn't want to write this trip report. The day after returning from this trip, I looked at my Jeep with the same guilt I used to feel when looking at my wallet the day after an evening of nightclubbing. But then I figured that good or bad, there's always something to learn from a weekend of off-roading. Besides, it might be therapeutic for me.

The basic idea for this long weekend was to go off-roading up to Clear Creek Hotsprings. Getting to the cabin & hotsprings requires 1 to 2 kilometers of rock-crawling along a rock/creek. During the summer we were able to make it all the way up in my YJ. But now, with the heavy rain, the road had changed considerably for the worse.

Our primary concern was claiming the cabin before anyone else got there. So Bill and I headed up there early Friday morning with his Ford Ranger and my YJ. In the back of the Ranger was a Suzuki Quad 4x4. The plan was to drive Bill's truck as close as possible and then use the Quad to shuttle equipment up to the cabin. While he was doing this, I would head back to the nearest town, Harrison Hotsprings, where I would meet the rest of our party and lead them to the trailhead.

The route to the cabin was kinda like this:

CABIN &
SPRINGS  EASY       ROCKS                  EASY         ROCKS  EASY
||||||||-------xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx----------------------xx---------
Now, the first rock section (far right) looked worse than it did during the summer so I wasn't sure if the stock Jimmy and Blazer would make it through. Because of that, it was important to get Bill's Ranger or Rob's Comanche through it because they could carry everyone's camping gear and save a lot of time. Not getting a pickup past the first section meant that my little Jeep and the ATV would have to make a couple of trips to haul the gear and people to the second rock section.

Unfortunately, the Ranger couldn't get over a particularly tall rock step so we tried to winch it using a Warn M8000 which was mounted on Bill's home-made receiver-hitch mount. We've used the winch before but this was the first real heavy pull and it was too much for the winch mount. The plate buckled, allowing the winch mounting bolts to slip out of their holes. One end of the winch came loose, twisting it with a sickening crack. This left us in an awkward situation. There was still a lot of tension on the cable, pulling the Ranger tight against the rock step. Reversing the winch motor did nothing; I assume the gears lost contact due to the twist and separation. So, with a lot of trepidation, I kicked the release lever and the Ranger lurched back a foot. This was the first of many bad things. The fact that it was cold and raining/snowing did not make things better.

By this time, Bill had lost any interest in driving his Ford up the rocks so we loaded my Jeep and the ATV with essentials and drove up to the second rock section. We made it without incident. While turning around, I managed to drive along a long, thick branch which kicked up and wedged itself between my rear tire and fender. I was able to pull it out but the damage was done; it had put a slight dent in my sheet metal. Argh! (Just so you know, my Jeep is not a dirt-only vehicle. It's my daily transportation and commuter [unless I'm using my motorcycle]. So this dent really pissed me off.)

I had to get back to Harrison to meet the rest of the gang so I left Bill to claim the cabin and shuttle some of the gear.

Two hours later, I met Robert and his friends from university, Johannes, Greg, Erin, Evelyn, and Lisa. Oh yeah, I also met my girlfriend, Sue, to whom Rob had given a ride (thanks again). A few minutes later, Gord and Sue McKenzie had shown up. This was the first time I had met him in the flesh. Previously, we had talked via email and the offroad list.

After buying some last minute supplies we headed to the trailhead.


Author: Robert Bryce

This was the second trip for me with Larry and Bill Soo, and crew. The first one was the Whipsaw run, which was reported here by Larry. Anyway, Larry and I started planning for this shortly afterwards, and it sounded more challenging, and more fun in general, so was really looking forward to it. I wasn't disappointed. This trip ran from Nov. 11 'til the 13th.

Since about half of the group was coming over from the island (my half), we decided to meet in Harrison, a town a couple hours east of Vancouver, B.C. Timing for this was perfect; everyone arrived within a half-hour of each other. One fellow, Johannes, was going offroading for the first time, so he loaded all his stuff into the back of my Comanche to save time, since he didn't want to drive as far as the rest of the group, to avoid any damage.

Bill stayed up at the cabin, at the Clear Creek hotsprings, to move stuff up, etc. Larry bought an extra hamburger for him, and put it in his engine bay to keep it warm for Bill. At this point, Larry warned us we'd be doing some hiking, since the trail had *really* deteriorated since the last time we were up there. And it had. Rocks 2 feet across were not an exception. Big change for a prairie boy like me!

The drive up the trailhead was relatively uneventful - just back-roads, with really nice scenery. But it was steadily getting little by little harder and narrower. And every so often we'd drive by a parked vehicle where the people had decided to walk from. It was here that Gord learned the difference between a towing vehicle and an off-road vehicle as he had to stop and remove his hitch in the rain. We had to run through a small stream, and as Gord was in the back, he didn't see the proper route, went a little deeper and got to hear a great scraping noise. Small panic, back up and head out the right way with no real problems.

Well, we pulled up to Bill's truck, where he had left it after breaking the receiver winch mount trying to climb a hill. At this point Gord and Johannes decided to park. That left Larry's and my Jeeps to continue the trek. The next hill proved to be quite tricky. It required a decent-sized tire (we were running 31's - about the minimum there I'd say) and lots of suspension travel. There were a few ledges we had to climb, which made sure you had lots of clearance. An inch less clearance, and I would have had body damage on my Comanche! Spotters really helped!

After this point, the trail was a bit easier, though rougher. Lots of small rocks which kept on throwing the passengers around in the cab. I didn't mind tho! Had two college girls in my cab! One, Lisa, liked playing with the CB too, and whenever possible would reply with "10-4, little buddy!". Well, Larry quickly got out of sight, as I took my time, not wanting to shake up my load consisting of most of the gear.

Along this stretch there were two other parts where it really payed to have a short wheelbase. My Comanche long-box couldn't turn quite sharp enough, which ended up in a sick, hollow crunching sound which turned out to be a small dent in the passenger's rocker panel. Looks like I *almost* avoided the crunch. But I guess that doesn't count.

At this point, I radio'd ahead to ask Larry where he was, what the trail was like, etc. but no reply. I don't know if it was because he was out of the truck at the time, or my mike wasn't working (it's been acting up lately...).

Well, it didn't take much longer and I saw a set of taillights not moving, and a bunch of people standing around. Something had happened. With Gord's help as a spotter, Larry managed to get sideways on a good sized rock. It somehow how ended up against the back tire of Larry's YJ, and wedged up underneath the plastic step, which was completely bent up.

Well, after about an hour (it seemed), in the rain, we finally pulled that rock off his tire. It took a jack-all and 5 guys. So while we held the rock out of the way, we waited for Larry to pull forward so we could let it fall back into place. Well, he didn't move! Turns out his rear differential was hung up on another rock. Well, Larry was the lucky guy who got to strip down and climb underneath to dig it out, in an ice-cold stream about 4 inches deep! But since there's no pictures of this event, Larry claims it didn't happen!

After unsticking the YJ, it was completely dark, and about 8pm, so we decided that was enough driving for one night. We were all completely drenched, cold, and not in the best of spirits. Larry fired off a couple shots to signal to Bill to come down with the Quad to bring up supplies, etc., but he didn't show.

This meant an about 2 mile hike up to the hotsprings. We were wondering where Bill was, but we found out soon enough. It looked like the Quad had been rolled and temporarily abandoned. So later that night Larry and I went back and righted it, and used it to haul up some of the stuff we'd need for the weekend.

We had some help righting the Quad - some guys had hiked in, from where their Toyota had become immobile. Not stuck or broken down - they had just had a front end alignment done, and the mechanic had forgotten to tighten a tie-rod! Well, not wanting to drive or walk back an unknown number of miles, Larry lent them his tools, and told them to hide them at a known spot, for pickup when we pulled out. Well, the tools were never to be seen again. I guess there's a lesson to be learned here.

Anyway, that night was quite relaxing, in the hot-tubs. People weren't in the best of moods, but considering how wet and cold everyone was, spirits were pretty good.

The next day we decided enough was enough, and anything else brought up would have to be hiked up. Enough abuse on the quad for one weekend.

While sorting through all the stuff we wanted to take up, a Toyota P/U drove by us. It had 33's and nerf bars, 4-inch Trailmaster lift kit. We didn't think much of it - didn't think they'd get too far, so continued doing our thing. Well, on the hike back up this hill, we kept going...and going...and going...but no Toyota in sight! He had made it past what we thought were absolutely terrible spots, and was parked at the washout, which was about the length of a pickup, 8 feet deep, and straight up and down. He had his passengers working on the road to make it passible. Talking to him, he claimed no lockers and nothing rubbed on the way up, which made me quite envious. Larry, too, I think. He had no winch or tools, which led me to question his sanity, though.

We met him up at the hotsprings later. Turns out he didn't bother crossing the washout since his was the only truck that far, and didn't want to get stuck. He took some of our stuff back down on his way out, which was a help, though, on the way out. Larry rode with him down, and it turns out he was banging and rubbing all the time. He just didn't care about the truck, I guess.

By this time I'm debating about trying to climb it myself, but the thought of more body damage kept me at bay...

Well, later that night, we heard engines up at the hotsprings. Shortly after, 2 Landcruizers and one YJ drove right up! They didn't consider the trail or the washout that hard, but the trucks were heavily modified. One Landcrab had 31's, the other 2 trucks had 33's. Winches, etc. And the Landcrab with 31's admitted to hitting home lots of times on the way up.

That day and evening, lots of other people hiked up and down, too, and all had parked further back than Larry and I did. Made me feel a bit better. But it was still hard for me (and I think Larry) to accept leaving our trucks while others drove up.

The next day, on the hike down, we were able to clearly see where the other trucks that made it drove up. Once we saw their route, a lot of it did, in fact, look easier than we had thought. A couple tough spots, but all in all, it actually looked drivable for our rigs. But due to schedules of others in the group, we passed on the temptation one last time and started to head out.

The drive out gave us far better weather, and daylight, which gave us some great opportunities for pictures, both of the awesome scenery, and of the trucks getting twisted up on the trails. Gord and Larry are going to try scanning some when they are developed and post them for all to see.

The drive itself was fun, too. We had a great opportunity to see just exactly what tires do for you. Gord's S-10 Jimmie had 215's, and Jon's had 235's, and otherwise were basicly the same truck. I was quite surprised at the difference.

Another point of interest on the way out: on the way in, we crowded the bush to avoid going into the stream of unknown depth, though it looked about a foot deep. Well, on the way out, everybody decided to do the same. Well, I had to be different, and drove slowly into the water. It got deeper, and deeper, and deeper, then a couple blurbs came over the CB saying to the effect "what's that crazy guy doing?...I dunno, but I sure as hell ain't pullin' him out!" Great. Thanks guys! Well, the water didn't get much deeper than 27 or 28 inches, so no problems, and I continued to drive.

Chickens!

From then on, it was a good drive out, and an end to a great weekend! When we arrived in Harrison to decide what stuff belonged in what vehicle, Larry finally remembered Bill's hamburger in the engine bay. But for some reason, Bill just wasn't that interested in it any more...

Looking forward to the next trip!

Some lessons learned Larry:

--Rob

Robert Bryce ([email protected])