September 21, 2017.
For those of us that awoke to the pitter-patter of rain at 1:30am, our weather-contentment from the night before was short-lived. For everyone else…ok, there was no one else.
We waited for the rain to slow before getting up the next morning - even Ben and I getting up a couple hours later than usual, at 9:30. But, eventually we realized that it wasn't going to stop, so we tumbled down our ladders and got to breaking camp. Oh, and Mike started the only real "breakfast" of the morning, …which was warm by lunch.
It was at this point that we were all eying Ben and Kirsten's tent. The new-fangled pop-up variety, it looked a bit goofy on the truck, but it put away quickly, and stayed a whole lot drier than the rest of our RTTs.
Still not sure any of us would have traded though. Hahaha!
As we headed back up the Pryor's, the going was nothing like the previous day. Dry, dusty trails had turned to mud, and warnings of slick sections were frequent. In fact, as we entered the tree line, Monte popped out of his truck to tell each of us in person to be careful - "This part gets off camber and if you slip into the trees I don't think we're getting you out."
Right, "Thanks Monte!" At that point we were are all careful, and we didn't lose anyone. At that point.
We continued on for a bit, only to hear Monte - over the radio this time - with two phrases that just didn't seem to go together…
Monte - 11:33 - "That was one of the scariest things I've ever done in my life!"
Monte - 11:34 - "The edge is about to give out, but you guys should follow, I'm going to go get my Muck Boots on."
Most of us got out of our trucks. But not Zane. Zane started to follow. And then, he lost traction in the mud and started to slide off the edge. Or rather, the edge started to slide down the hill. He stopped.
We realized pretty quickly that like many of the trails before, this just wasn't happening - at least not today. The problem was that Monte was already through the narrow section (with Frank, a good 12" wider than our trucks), and "There's no way I'm driving through that again," was his reaction when we suggested that we rescue Zane and then all head back down.
Understandable, I guess.
So we decided that the best course of action was to have Ben winch Zane out of trouble, and then have Mike, Ben, Zane, and I head back the way we'd come, and Monte would continue on, heading down the mountain via another route. We'd meet up at the bottom as soon as possible, and stay in touch via ham radio in the meantime.
So out came the recovery gear, and we got started with the rescue - eventually getting Zane winched off of the edge using his slider and a tree, and back towards wider ground.
We then turned around and headed back down the way we'd come - all of us that is except Monte and Devin.
Down was easier than up in this case, and by lunch time we were back at the main road, waiting for Frank (which we could hear rev-ing his way through the mud towards our location). Sandwiches were made, and as we recounted the morning - mostly discussing the grippy-ness of the various tires we were all running - it was generally decided that KO2's were probably not the right tire for this trip.
Except by Ben, who was running KO2's. (So was Zane, but he agreed with the rest of us. Sorry Ben.)
Bellies full, we decided that the only thing to do was to head towards the next stop - an ice cave in the Pryor's that was on a more maintained road than the one we'd just attempted. The highlight of the cave - Monte had told us -was that on an 80 degree day, you could feel 30 degree air pumping out of the mouth of the cave.
That wasn't going to happen, but we wondered if it might actually warm us up on this day.
On the way to the cave, we drove through and around several canyons deep canyons and fire-burned areas. Even on this wet and overcast day, they were amazing. We couldn't help but to stop and take pictures.
Oh, and of the trucks.
Eventually we reached the trailhead to the cave and made the short trek down the trail to it's entrance.
Neither warmer nor colder inside the cave, we looked around for a bit and then decided it was time to move on - we wanted to get out of the cold and rain, and perhaps to sunnier skies by the time we camped that night.
We clearly hadn't learned.
So we packed into the trucks and headed down through East Pryor, on the lookout for two highlights - Pen's Cabin, and the herd of wild horses that Monte and Devin had seen in the mountain meadows just weeks before.
What we got, initially, was snow.
We were breaking trail, and there were points at which Monte was driving by GPS, having lost the road entirely. Later, he'd tell us that "we survived only by his killer instinct in finding the road," which might have been true if we couldn't have simply followed our own tracks out.
But we continued on, and the snow gradually stopped as we reached the top of the ridge (above the clouds), and came first upon Pen's Cabin and then on a few wild horses.
Could it be? Our first success?
Even Milo's spirits seemed raised. Or maybe he just wanted to chase the horses!
From there it was back down out of the mountains as (we assumed) the sun was setting - our quest for sun and warmth still unfulfilled - and into Lovell where we could refuel and destroy a car wash by power-washing some of the mud off of the trucks.
We also picked up Glen - a third-gen owner - who was going to join our first-gen bunch for a few days of wheeling. The fact that his was Inferno Orange immediately endeared him to Ben, who'd recently purchased the same!
Intermittent rain showers continued as we left Lovell for our camp site some 17 miles down the highway. As we arrived, it was perhaps fitting that a 50-foot long, 12-inch deep mud puddle stood between us and our camp. We each proceeded to gun it through the mud. And yes, we should have skipped those car washes.
Camp was smaller than Monte remembered it, and that unfortunately meant splitting up the crew into two groups. Mike and Glen (in what turned out to be the "red truck" group) ended up hanging back, just out of the main camp but would both survive the herd of "killer goats" that we'd seen as we drove in.
The rest of the evening proceeded as usual - we setup in the dark, made and ate dinner in the dark, and chatted around the campfire until sometime past midnight. We filled Glen in on the adventures of the day (and previous days) and wondered if Mark (@IDTrucks, aka Derp) would be able to find us - because just like Ben and Kirsten a few days before, he was going to drive through the night to meet us for a few days on the trail.
And as usual, as the rain started to pick up, we all headed into our tents hoping that tomorrow would bring just as much adventure, but with significantly nicer weather.
Yeah, one can always hope!