Trail Jam Hosting July 2021 (Dave)

Representing for the Tamers as trails hosts at this years Trail Jam there were John, Jake, Sean, Rick, and Tammy and I (Dave). I may be a bit off on some of the details, this is all from my (flawed) memory and it was a long week, by the end details were running together.

Arriving Sunday, we found Rick with the front axles pulled, apparently he was going to fix some leaky seals but when he opened them up at camp, he found a missing ring gear tooth in his diff… yay. We met Sean (great guy) and Jake then showed up (another great guy) along with his awesome dog Gus and not one but 2 CJ’s. Then we all proceeded to set up camp in a corner of Jim Sprick Park by the river. Turned out to be a good, and quiet spot.

The first three days we pre-ran the three trails assigned to us, Naches, Manastash, and Rocky Saddle, although the last one wasn’t really assigned until the last minute. Monday, Tammy drove our LJ up Naches which was interesting. Going up the trail we already knew the west side of the trail was still closed, but when we got up to the boy scout sign at the top we found a soft spot in the trail, that was now the turn around point. Other than that, a fun day on the trail. Jake stashed the hood of his CJ to try and keep his feet cool… sadly at the end of the day the hood was gone (more on this later).

Tuesday, we ran up the trail with some great people from Cascade 4×4 club. Early in the day John ended up turning around with a mysterious clunking sound in the rear of his JK. Dan from the cascade group turned around with him as an escort. Not 3 minutes later or so it seemed, Rick was also having issues. This time I think he couldn’t keep his Jeep in low range, so he also turned around and joined the other 2 headed back to camp… so from starting with 8 vehicles was now down to 5. This meant I had to take over lead for our crew, creating a GPS track to follow later in the week and getting some great tips/notes from John from Cascade 4×4 along the way. About the time we hit Funny Rocks, one of the Cascade group’s TJ’s started having overheating problems with the radiator they’d installed the day before. She was able to get it to cooled off each time it over heated and we continued to try to nurse her down the hill until shortly after we hit the service road on the way back when her new radiator explosively burst… resulting in a 7 inch crack in the top of the new radiator. Now down to 4 rigs… sigh. We left her TJ there with Sean to watch over it, and the 3 remaining vehicles went back to camp. I then followed the owner of the TJ and another person from her team back up the hill as they took a pickup/trailer up the service road to recover the TJ… and 3 hours later we had everyone back safe at camp.

Wednesday I think our whole crew was back in action as we proceeded to pre-run our likely yet not finalized rocky saddle trail run. This was the least eventful day so far as 7 hours later all of us managed to come back to camp in one piece!

Thursday was the first day of runs with the participants. We hosted the early Naches run, where we had I think 9 participant vehicles that we led up the trail. We decided to take them through the rabbit holes to start (avoiding the seriously tight section), eventually making our way up to the boy scout sign where we stopped for lunch. We came back down the road and ended up taking some of the more adventurous participant vehicles back through the rabbit trails, this time spotting them through the tightest section. No break downs… just a great day out wheeling.

Friday, we took 11 rigs up Manastash Ridge. We started by heading up The Milk Creek trail then up five fingers (which has 7 now) and let those who wanted to try the different hill climbs before then heading up upper woodpecker. After stopping for a photo op of Mount Rainier, we headed to funny rock where I spotted about half the group up the easy line and the other half opted for the bypass before continuing through the trail. The only issue that day was right at the otter slide as we were lining up those who wanted to climb it vs those who wanted to go around, we found the ZJ in the group had lost the upper bolt to his passenger rear shock. Luckily, he’d found the bolt, and after bending his shock mount back into place we were able to reinstall the shock fairly quickly and continue on. This was the first time I’d been trail leader for something like this and I found I enjoyed it… several of the participants gave thanks and good feedback, so I guess I did OK 🙂

Saturday… Rocky Saddle. We had a much smaller group Saturday, only two of us hosts (John and I), and 2 participant vehicles. We were doing good until about a third of the way through the trail when we had to stop and tighten a missing upper track bar bolt in a JK that was in the group. Moving on, about half way through the trail, we stopped and John got out to check the track bar bolt he’d been having issues with all week… turns out, he’d completely ripped the driver side rear upper control arm mounts off of the axle. We removed the arm, I pulled in front of him just in case and since we didn’t have a welder we just moved slowly on as he nursed his Jeep along the trail. We were nearly down to the service roads once again, thinking we’d avoided major issues as the JK was still moving ok, when one of the participant vehicles cracked his main engine belt pully (I’m sure you grease monkeys out there would know the name, but I don’t). After some discussion, we managed to pull the belts and zip tie the pully remains out of the way enough that he could run the vehicle for a minute or two at a time before over heating (he’d lost water pump, power steering, etc and it was around 95 degrees). Luckily after that it was mostly downhill. I ran ahead of him as he coasted down the hill to watch for oncoming vehicles of which there were 2 groups which I managed to get to the side of the road before he coasted past them, avoiding him having to stop. Once he’d coasted most of the way down, we left his jeep, and his wife with John to watch over them while I drove him back to the camp to get his truck/trailer so he could go get the vehicle. Hit the trail at 8am, back to camp around 5pm.

Over all it was an awesome week, met tons of great people, and at the end of the day, we got everyone safely up and down the mountain. I met with a few people I know a few times, loaned some sockets to Carl Jantz LOL, and generally had a great time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I was really proud of Tammy last week as she drove 50% of the time, 3 full days when she’d never done one before, and she did it like a champ, out driving many if not most of our participants. I may need a second Jeep at some point just so I can keep driving as often as I want 🙂

Thanks for reading ….Dave

(From Rick) I will add…

Saturday Jennifer and I did our obligatory run up to Govt Meadows. We had a nice quiet drive up the logging road where we met Kevin V and his group as they were turning around at the last section before you get to the Boy Scout sign. We said hi and waited for them to head back down the mountain before we headed up ourselves.

As we neared the sign we both noticed a completely stock (right down to the 28 inch highway tires) TJ that was high centered in the mud hole. I approached the driver too discuss good and bad decisions we had both made through our years. He agreed that this had been one of them and confessed that he didn’t know about the hard close dates and said he would be more prepared in the future. After some further discussion I began to set up my gear and get the process going to get him out of that hole. The only way out for him was up the 4 foot ledge in front of him so I snatched to a tree 90 degreed from his line of travel and began to reel him in. As his front tires topped the lip and his belly became flat to the ledge I realized I probably needed to re rig with another snatch block going from his rig to the tree in front of him so I could have enough pull to get his TJ all the way up. I didn’t have another snatch block. He didn’t have one. There wasn’t one to be found. My answer to this? Another shackle. I know this is not the best way. I know this is not the safest way. There was no other way I could think of. So after letting everyone involved know the hazards and clearing the area. We all put our heads low and I began to reel him in the rest of the way. It worked as I had hoped. My cable should be replaced now without a doubt as should the shackle that I used. This was a learning moment for me as well…..make sure you have more than one snatch block in your kit.

After sending him and his family on their way Jennifer and I went the the rest of the way to the cabin for photos and to savor some memories before heading back to camp.