November 6, 1999
Only something as demented as the Dumont Poker Run could
compel 26 4x4 drivers and their passengers to meet at the
end of a paved road on a grey, wet Sunday morning.
Sponsored and organized by Jason Dumont, owner/operator of
Dumont Tire in Sooke, this event has a dedicated group of
competitors willing to test themselves and their machines on
whatever freakish route Jason devises for that year.
This year, the course was based on the original Dumicon
trail (named after Jason, who discovered it and groomed it
for the IRC Rock Crawl). It used to be a short but very
difficult climb up a rocky, off-camber, severely eroded road
bed. Once you reached the top, you had to turn around and
head back down the same way you came up. The challenge was
attractive enough to make the trail a popular one for the
well-built 4x4s but everyone always made the same comment,
"too bad it didn't keep going." Well, for Poker Run '99,
the trail was finally explored to its conclusion and a track
was found that twists and winds its way to the Gollege Creek
Jason Dumont (left) and Tony Hodgeson.
The bottom of the Dumicon.
Kent has some trouble near the top of the Dumicon.
Up till the day of the event, the only people who had
traversed the complete trail were a handful of course
planners. The competitors, many of whom were familiar with
the Sooke area, were eager to see the new trail. Many of
the vehicles in the staging area were also in the Morningside Tough Truck
Challenge the month before. Some were repaired and
others upgraded since then. The vehicle that garnered the
most attention, shock and disbelief (in no particular order)
was James' 1942 6x6. It had been sitting for 20 years when,
two days before the event, James and his friends put in some
new plugs and fresh oil, cleaned the carb and started it.
Amazed that it would actually run, they opened up the rear
axles and welded the differentials and entered it into the
Dumont Poker Run. No one really thought it would get very
far into the course due to its enormous size but we all
wanted to watch it reach the first serious obstacle, the
Dumicon (original). It would be like a car crash: ugly to
watch but nonetheless, very captivating.
Once all the contestants had arrived and registered, Jason
held a brief drivers' meeting. Due to the trail's narrow
width and difficulty, the smaller, fully locked trucks would
go first in groups of 6-8 vehicles. Full-size truck groups
would go next. For painfully obvious reasons, James'
resurrected from the dead 6x6 would go last.
The route started with the original Dumicon trail, about 15
minutes from Sooke. I was in the second group, riding with
Rob Bryce in his ultra-capable Jeep Comanche. We were ten
minutes behind the first group, and as expected, we caught
up with them at the base of the Dumicon. I had first
encountered this trail at Rock Crawl '99 and was
surprised at how much it had changed. Extensive use,
rockpiling and some emergency trail modifications had turned
the bottom half into a much less scary experience.
Fortunately, the upper half was still difficult, mostly due
to the constant rain. We parked at the bottom and watched
the first group make their ascent. Some of the vehicles
needed a tug or some rock stacking to avoid destroying their
rear diff pinions on one particular rock. Even so, they got
through without taking too much time. Our group made it
through in a similar fashion. Just after we completed the
climb, we were stopped by our group's first breakdown.
Andy James' GM-powered, solid axle Nissan pickup had snapped
a Birfield. Since the groups behind us were having a lot of
difficulty climbing up the Dumicon, we decided we could
afford the time to wait for Andy to replace the Birfield.
After about ten minutes, we heard over the CB that Rob
Brooks had also toasted a Birfield on his Toyota. A few
minutes after that, we heard another breakdown report: Neil
Rimek broke his Toy's tie rod. He didn't have a spare and
Rob Bryce's was the only truck in the event which had an
onboard welder. Neil was ahead of us so we made sure that
Andy had enough tools to complete the job and the rest of
our group proceeded along the course to help out Neil. We
later learned that Andy had repaired the Birfield, started
moving and immediately broke the OTHER Birfield at the exact
same obstacle that killed the first one. Three blown
Birfields within 100M of each other.
Vern uses a healthy dose of throttle to get past the stump obstacle on Dumicon.
Rob's cargo rack saved him a lot of roof damage when the trail leaned
his Comanche into the trees.
Envelopes containing each entrant's poker cards were placed at various
places along the route.
Andy broke a Birfield when he got hung up on this stump.
A makeshift operating room was setup while Andy began removing the hub.
The trail featured a lot of "interesting" slopes.
The trail was tight, featuring many wet, off-camber sections
so our progress was slow. After over half an hour of
driving, we finally reached Neil and his co-pilot. They
were soaking wet and filthy but they were also almost
finished installing a new tie rod. Apparently, Rob Brooks
(who had a broken Birfield) had a spare tie rod with him
which he gave to Neil. Rob and I waited for Neil to
complete his repairs and sent the rest of our group ahead.
We would catch up with them.
Coming down a small ravine, we spotted two signs:
We thought to ourselves, "Hmm, I wonder what that could
mean?" For the longer wheelbase vehicles, it was quite
literal. The trail had narrowed and began running parallel
to a stream. As the trail continued downwards, it started
leaning more and more into the stream. Finally, to avoid a
tree, you had to turn right and cross the stream.
Naturally, this turn had to be made at a point where you
were very likely to flop your truck onto its side,
especially if you had a long wheelbase vehicle. The fact
that Wyatt's Jeep flipped here when they were exploring the
trail laid proof to the risk. We had caught up to the rest
of our group here. One by one, they were carefully
negotiating the correct line. At the worst point, some of
them needed bystanders to hop onto the rear bumper to hold
the vehicle down. One of the trucks had almost flipped a
few minutes ago so they were being extra cautious. The
caution paid off and everyone came through unscathed.
Neil and his co-pilot had to replace a snapped tie rod on
the back-side of the Dumicon. He was lucky that Rob Brooks
had a spare to lend him.
Neil on his way to "Hell."
The "Hell" section had an ugly off-camber around this tree.
The next obstacle was only dangerous if, like Vern, you
wanted to have a little fun. It was a sharp left hand turn
into a shallow run-off creek, over a log and onto the
elevated road surface. The safe route was to approach the
long at an angle as close to perpendicular as possible
without running your bumper or other hard parts into it.
Approach and departure angles were critical here and
vehicles with 31" or smaller tires and small lifts had
difficulty. Vern, in his own inimitable thrill-seeker way,
decided it would be more interesting to drive his driver's
side up the END of the log and then crank it left to climb
it. This route put him at an pretty bad tilt which
titillated and thrilled the audience. After a couple of
tries, he was successful. Neil decided to try the same
thing and his Toyota came within a hair's breadth of
slamming down sideways in the creek. Everyone rushed to
pull the Toyota down before it went past its centre of
gravity. After some more careful attempts , Neil also got
through. Of course, he scared everyone else from trying it.
Rob took the sensible route and idled his Comanche over the
log without a problem. A 4Runner came through next. It was
locked front and back but the V8-powered rig just couldn't get
enough traction so the driver used some momentum. Did I
mention that the log was at a slight angle, and very wet?
Spinning the tires against it sent the Toyota sideways
before it caught traction. The passenger side rear dragged
against a tree a pulled the signal light apart as it climbed
out. The Toy pickup behind the 4Runner had smaller tires
and no front locker. He drive had to use momentum and ended
up munching his front fender although he did climb the log.
The end of the expanded Dumicon trail emptied us onto the
Gollege Crk trail, not far from Gas It! Hill. But before we
got to the hill, we had a little detour. The course
organizers thought one of the ancient log bridges was no
longer safe so they re-directed us over the side of a steep
bank to drive through a rocky run-off stream. If your truck
didn't have enough ground clearance, it would sink its grill
into the stream and you'd be picking rocks out of your
radiator. Although imposing, this obstacle wasn't as tough
as it looked. Everyone made it through without much
This unlucky driver tagged the tree with his bumper, earning
himself a good-sized dent.
The drop-off into the creek was intimidating but it wasn't too difficult for the
The climb out of the creek could be difficult if you weren't careful about
picking the right line.
Gas It! Hill wasn't a problem but the trail between it and
the main road (which marked the end of the course) had an
interesting spin on it. The heavy rains had turned one
section into small river. Not terribly deep but it sure
looked cool. Once we had completed that section, it was another
ten or so minutes before we reached the end of the trail and
were back on the main logging road. It was 3pm and we were
finished the course. But that wasn't the end of our day.
Neil's undercarriage caught on a rock and was in danger
of rolling down into the creek. Rob Bryce managed to winch him free.
Did I mention it was pouring rain? This is actually a road,
not a creek.
After we finished the course, we went back to the beginning to
watch James in his 1942 6x6.
Throughout the day, we had been talking about how cool it
would be to see James' 6x6 climb the Dumicon. We knew that
the last vehicles were still trying to get up the first hill
so we (Rob & myself in the Comanche, Vern & Brian in the
CJ5) headed back to the start of the course. We were
disappointed when we arrived at the base of Dumicon and
found out that James' was taking the big beast home. It had
no working headlights and the light was fading fast. I
wanted some pictures of it so we followed him out to the
trailhead while I shot some photos. It took a while to get
the Deuce out of there because whenever the rear axles experienced
any kind of articulation, one of the driveshafts would pull
out of its splines. Then we received word
on the radio that someone needed assistance. Jason Dumont
had rolled his full size Bronco coming down the Dumicon and
needed a winch. So it was back to the Dumicon we went. By
this time, it dark. Rob & Vern parked at the bottom and we
hiked up to assess the situation. Since first contacting
us, Jason had also managed to contact Donny who immediately
turned back from the trail and returned to the top of the
Dumicon. His huge Mercury would be the perfect winch
Jason's big Bronco was on its side, its fiberglass half roof
crushed when it rolled into a tree. Earlier in the day, he
snapped an outer axle shaft and had no spare. On the way
back down the Dumicon, the un-driven wheel got caught
against a rock and he was unable to back up the hill. So he
tried to goose the throttle to bump him over the rock and
that's when the Bronco rolled. Fortunately, no one was
hurt. It took over an hour but the beast was finally
winched upright and was driven out under its own power.
Fortunately, Jason wasn't hurt in the rollover.
This trip report wouldn't be complete without giving public
recognition to Wyatt Sabourin who drove the course sweep
vehicle. He was the last one off the trails at 11pm.
That's 14 hours in a typical west coast rainforest
drenching. Thanks, Wyatt!