By Alan Chung
I have a fulltime job and live in Seattle which is several hours and one expensive ferry ride away from Vancouver Island. So it is a source of constant amusement for people when they find out that I am a member of the Island Rock Crawlers. Recently I had some time in my schedule to make a weekend trip up to visit my friends and it happened to fall on a weekend when they planned a club run. I didn't bring my Cherokee, as it needs some attention, so I tagged along as a passenger for a day at Mt. Sitcker.
Our group met not too early at the Tim Horton's in Duncan. Joining our group was, Shane Hoffer and Lori Hryniuk and their Suzuki Samurai, Chris Borton and his getting bigger Toyota pickup, Jim Sprang, the IRCs president, and his highly modified GMC S-Jimmy, Bill and Gina Inness and their full-size Blazer, Andy James and his one of a kind Nissan pickup, Rob McFadyen and his CJ5, Luke Estes and his Toyota pickup and Richard Sheridan and his "new" rock buggy, that used to be a Chevy S10 pickup. See the pictures and you'll see what I mean. Travis Rankin with his Toyota pickup would meet us later on the trail. Rob Bryce showed up as well to ride shotgun with Andy James, and I rode shotgun with Rob McFadyen.
The trail run couldn't have been on a more perfect day, clear and Sunny. We were high enough in elevation that we had a couple inches of snow on the ground, which made the trails a little more challenging.
Our first stop to play was in an area with some hill climbs. Making them harder of course was the snow on the ground. It was a nice, thin ice layer, with soft powder underneath. Just great for getting your shoes wet and enough for some usable traction.
Richard Sheridan made a few runs at this one hill climb, followed by Andy James and Jim Sprang. Each time one person went up, he went a foot or so farther than the person before. Richard Sheridan would eventually win by completing the hill climb. With a small-block and 44" Swampers, he made it look easy. On one of Andy James's attempts, while he was backing down the hill climb, in neutral with the clutch in, he tried to get it into reverse at speed. Now on a SM465, this isn't very easy. As he was attempting this, several of us heard a loud snap/clunk. After that he mentioned that his transmission was stuck in first. That was the first breakage of the day. We tugged him aside, and while he got under and inspected his tranny, the rest of the group decided to move on to the clay pits, which were about 5 minutes away, and within CB distance. (In the end, Andy discovered that his SM465 was just bound up, an easy fix. But he also found that his clutch had partially disentegrated. He was at least able to drive the rest of the day and made it home okay.)
At the clay pits, it looked like it would be a nice play area. With some snow on the ground and the paths and ruts fairly washed out, it looked like nice stuff to get stuck in...and break! The mud was thick like glue. If you got your foot stuck in it, you definitely needed some strength to get out, or a helping hand! First stuck was Chris Borton.
It wasn't too bad because he had only wedged himself against a clay wall. The next up was Jim Sprang. He got stuck in one spot where later on Bill Inness would get stuck as well. Jim had to be pulled backwards, and after getting unstuck, decided to take an alternate route out. On that alternate route, his truck decided to flip on its side! However, since the clay mud was soo soft, it didn't do any damage. Just a little loss of tranny fluid and all his tools getting flopped into the mud.
His dog was riding with him so unfortunately the dog had to deal with being thrown around as the truck flopped onto its side. It must have been a great ride! Getting the truck back on all fours wasn't very dramatic, although the side of his truck was absolutely clayed. Once again there was no damage from being in the soft stuff.
While that happened, Beaner got Lori's Suzuki high centered on a mud berm. He was actually quite happy because he found a perfectly nice pair of bolt cutters in the process.
Next up in the pit was Bill Inness. He got stuck and muddy in the pit. And after a bunch of back and forth, he decided to get pulled from the front. But as he was winching, everyone heard a loud clank. The front U-joint on his front axle shaft snapped. Funny thing is that last time we were there in the summer, he snapped the other side U-joint. They blamed me because I was also there at the time. Bill thought it was time to swap the D44 out for a D60. Gina Inness also got stuck in the mud, while reeling in Bill's winch cable.
Next up to get stuck was Richard Sheridan and his new S10 thing. Where Chris Borton got stuck against the clay wall, Richard seemed like he did it 10 times as hard. Plus his tools also ended up jumping into the mud, too. Extricating him was quite a show as three vehicles were used needed: Bill's Blazer and Jim's Jimmy from the rear, and Chris's Toyota from the side.
The next vehicle to get muddy was Lori's Suzuki. It got a nice mud bath and facial as well.
All in all, it was a great day. No terrible breakage even though we there till almost dark. It was really nice to see all my friends again and catch up. The spirit of off-roading is still alive on Vancouver Island. And there are many great people to enjoy it with.
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