Christmas Tree Run to Tonga Ridge

I had sent out a reminder notice to all club members as well as candidates about this run. I also added in I didn’t think there was going to be any snow or very little and it should be just running up, pick a tree cut it down, (with a tree permit of course) and get back home.
How wrong I was. LOL

Me and the wife are not early risers as we work swing shift schedules but I made it up there got unloaded and was calling for a driver meeting by 10:18 just about 3 minutes late.
There were about 15 rigs and some people who had never been in the snow before. I tried my best to stage the non-winched people and the inexperienced in between a couple of well equipped and seasoned wheelers and we got up and rolling up the trail at about 10:30.
It was drizzling rain and the trail was wet and muddy but for most part easy driving.

We made it up to about the 2000 to 2500 foot mark and it started snowing and the trail changed over to snow. Within a mile or two everyone was stopped to change gears and get into 4-wheel drive etc. but we mad good time up to the fire pit area. Sure, enough someone had dropped off some firewood and lighter fluid but had continued on? There were a couple cars in there and we suspect they were up there to get Christmas trees as well.
We stopped here and let the kids slide down the hill a bit and people play in the snow. We let the people new to snow try their hand at going up to the right to get a feel for what their rigs can do. I saw one white TJ go up their and past out guys and had assumed it was one of us. I was waiting for him to come down and join back up with us which delayed us getting back onto the trail.
Once people set me straight onward, we went.
The snow was sticking and once a few vehicles made tracks it became very slick snow.
Everyone was doing alright, and we saw several people up there getting trees and having fun sledding as we made out way to what some of us call “The Bowl”.
I had Steve behind me, but he wasn’t in his radical little samurai he was in his almost stock jeep. He almost made it to the top when he spun out and lost traction. He got out and aired down some more and got moving again. I can’t remember what I was doing but he almost caught up to me before I got my butt in gear and got moving. I didn’t want to make Steve stop and lose his momentum again.
We made it to the top and out into the bowl and started playing around a bit. Steve got himself up high in a spot and came down a hill where he lost traction and slid into a rock and he was stuck. I wasn’t getting around very well and once I saw Steve stuck, I decided to drop my air down to extreme mode. So, with 1 psi I crawled up behind Steve and we got the short tow strap attached and I pulled him out.
I had been hearing over the radio everyone was having problems coming up that spur road to try to get to the bowl. And then I see Josh in his Sidekick just motoring his way up into the bowl. That sidekick just works, and today was no exception.
I got back down to flat area of the bowl and got some air back into my tires I think I was running 2psi in front and 2.5 in the rear and it seemed I was getting pretty good traction.

With radio crackling and people having troubles I had heard we had a slight collision between two rigs and was at least hoping it was a light collision. The snow was now ice and it was super slick. This getting to be a thing on these Christmas tree runs. No injuries and everyone was safe!
Steve and Jamie had parked his jeep and rode up a but farther with Josh in his sidekick to pick out a tree. So I went up after them to make sure all was good etc. By the time I got up there Joe and Travis were with us and we began picking out a tree for the club Christmas party. We found some good ones but the back sides were flat. hmmm So we picked the best we could and figured the flat side toward back for the party. Once we got it cut down and up close to Joes rig who was transporting this year. I could hear Shawn calling my name over the radio asking for assistance.

With the tree in fully capable hands I made my way back down the scene of the accident. And got out to assess and report what it was like up further. We all decided to get Terry turned around and heading down and it was slicker than snot. I buried the MissUnderstood (My Samurai) in the side in some deep snow and we got Terry worked around facing down hill and decided to “Winch out” to control his descent down. I got about 100 feet of line out and then decided to motor down the hill with him. I figured I had enough cable out along with a strap that if I started sliding I would slip into the ditch before I hit Terry’s rig. We got Terry down past some of the other rigs to a flatter spot and got the cable loose. I was still kind of in the ditch. And tried to crawl out, but MissUnderstood was not having it. She just slid along in the ruts. Dang it. So I backed up tried again. This time I went all the way down to were Terry had crawled out. No go..What the heck?
I looked at my switch panel, DUH, let try this with both axles locked up. I hit the switches backed up a bit and then forward and crawled right out. Boy did I feel like an idiot..LOL.

So now we got like six rigs parked on side of trail 3 of which I didn’t recognize. Come to find out it was three rigs wanting to go up so they could camp over night? Ok well, we made a path and they motored thru tracks we had made on side and made it up to the next group.
It was getting on in the day by now and we figure it was best to get Matt in his stock F150 turned around and heading down. We thought it best to get one rig below him just in case so I motored down past him and got off to the side. By the time I walked back up, Joe had him almost turned around and was working the 10 point turn and finally got Matt facing down hill.
So by now we had Rick in his black JK and two candidates Steve in his white YJ and Marc in his lime green Jk or JL, had turned around headed home. Chris in his silver JK had gotten down and was waiting for us at the bottom.  We had almost like 3 different groups coming out at a snails pace due to icy conditions but it seemed everyone was doing fine.
With Shawn and Joe kind of in the middle and Curt bringing up the rear I felt confident everyone was making it out ok.
Once everyone was down and back together as a group we made our way out.
At the suggestion of Curt, we stopped at the firepit on the way out so everyone could air up and still be in the snow instead of the mud. It was freezing rain and as others aired up, we saw quite a few rigs coming out with Christmas trees. One rig that came by us gave us waayy to much room and he slid down into a deep rut. And he was not going forward or reverse. I asked if he wanted help and his answer was yes. I backed up to his rig attached a short strap and went over to tell him how we are doing this. I asked him if it was 4 wheel drive and he pipes up yes. I told him to put it in 4 lo and he asked, whats that?
He then told me it was all wheel drive. So I asked him if auto or stick and he says stick.. Ok I tld him put it in first gear and would go very very slow. The road was wide enough I could pull him hard and got him popped out of the rut. Good to go! They thanked us heavily and they got on their way.
Our group was still airing up and before too long they were ready to roll.
It was dark by the time we made it back to the staging area. It was about 5pm by now and a few of the group decided to stop in at the Mountain View for dinner. Me and the wife had gotten loaded up and headed back to our little lonely dog and out crockpot full of corned beef and potatoes.

Thank you all for your patience, help, advice, and work to make this a fairly successful Christmas tree run. We had a couple of paint exchanges but I think everyone was ok with it and everyone got out safe and sound and home again.

Till Next time

Gary Miller TT256