September 23, 2017.
Amazingly, Ben wasn't the first one up. Glenn was, to clean off his tent. Snow had continued through the night, and we had a good 3-4 inches covering everything. It was pretty, but cold.
As we got up and took stock of the situation, Ben made an off-the-cuff remark that it was too bad it wasn't sunny, because he and Kirsten had been planning on making breakfast for everyone if it had been.
And then, like magic, the sun started to peek through.
We all smiled and turned to Ben. He mumbled something under his breath and went to talk to Kirsten. And, as we dusted the snow off of everything, they made a delicious breakfast of family-made bacon, eggs, and potato "surprise" (all mixed up in one pot to reduce cleanup) - delicious!
Then, we were off. Getting down was back through the fog, muck, and snow from the night before, but we were "used to it" by now, as much as one can be used to cold and suffering, so we soldiered on.
Our destinations for the morning were Shell Reservoir and then Boulder Basin - a couple of roads that Monte was sure would "Be fine on your 31's, since you'll use your skids."
Hmm, I'm not sure I equate the two - but I'd been OK to this point, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I mean, it's not like the snow and mud made it even slicker or anything…
At any rate, mid-morning, most folks were down to a quarter or tank or so (except Derp who had 1/8th) so we decided it was time to break out the spare fuel. One of Monte's rules for the trip was to bring at least 5 gallons of fuel, since the plan was to be in the wild for 2-3 days at one point. Everyone did, except Derp. And so yeah, the guy with the least gas had to bum some off of Glenn. Turns out he'd later "permanently borrow" Glenn's gas cans too. What a Derp!
It as also at this point that we noticed how low the reservoir was - normally full, it was a good 10-12 feet lower than normal and we couldn't see any water at all, and not just due to the foggy conditions.
Full of gas, we wrapped up the Shell Reservoir road and continued to Boulder Basin. In fact, I'm not sure where one stopped and the other started, because the whole area was covered in snow and of similar terrain: "the rocks are the road."
We proceeded at various paces through the obstacles, not running into too much trouble for a while - even I, on my 31's got through everything with minimal difficulty and only a lost front mud flap (which I'd be reminded by several folks was going to have to come off anyway when I get bigger tires).
And then, over the radio, we heard Devin scream, "Oh f***, watch out!"
Ben rounded the corner first, but we all shortly came on Frank in a bit of a compromising position.
You see, Monte likes to go fast. And in this case he missed the road and Frank went for a swim. We weren't sure if Frank would be OK, but Devin was definitely sure about one thing, "I hate Frank." And we all understood.
So, we hooked up Frank to Ben's winch and gave a tug. Nothing. Well, not quite nothing - Ben's truck was pulled toward the river as well. Then, we strapped Ben's truck to my truck and tried again - a bit of movement, but we were still pulled forward. Finally, we hooked up two winches and four trucks, and pulled Frank back up onto dry land.
He was waterlogged, but otherwise seemed OK, because luckily he started right up!
Now able to laugh at what could have been a serious situation, we continued on until the next major obstacle - a narrow rocky section that I decided to by-pass. With 35's, Monte and Derp made it up easily, and Ben was able to gun it at just the right second to bounce over the main rock. But both Glenn and Mike ended up with their rear diff stuck and had to winch themselves up the final ledge, with a peanut gallery egging them on!
It was all good fun, and as we got back in the trucks, Monte told us that we had just two more major obstacles on the trail - an off-camber ledge that could be really slippery if it was covered in snow/ice, and a final hillclimb that would "be especially fun for Dan."
First though was the ledge. Luckily it wasn't covered in snow or ice and so was relatively straight-forward for us to cross. We even gave Monte a bit of a hard time for over-hyping it.
But then, not fifteen minutes later, we hit the last hill climb. As Monte started up, his last words on the radio were "We may need to winch Dan up this." And then, "Everyone except Derp (also on 35's) is going to need to bypass this one, to the left."
Well, that was enough for all of us to get out and look…and in doing so we noticed that something wasn't quite right with Frank, again.
Our Tacoma's (and especially Frankenstein) aren't known for their amazing turning radius - so that just wasn't natural. Monte knew immediately - he'd broken a ball joint.
It turned out that one of the four bolts that hold the ball joint had backed out, and then under extreme pressure, the others had sheared. Luckily, Ben had a spare in his OSK, and so we got to work with the trail repair. And it truly was a group effort (of sorts). In order of importance:
· Devin vowed never to ride in Frank again
· Monte was able to fix Frank
· Derp, Kirsten, and Devin made us all hot dogs for lunch while the repair took place
· Ben supplied the ball joint
· Mike supplied a necessary bolt
· Glenn noticed that the truck was slipping and suggested we use the winch to anchor it
· Dan supplied the hi-lift
With that, and three hours, Frank was once again drivable. But we all knew that the drive out of Boulder Basin would be the last for Frank on this trip. After breaking down on the first day, flinging mud everywhere every day, and two incidents in a 30-minute window today, either Frank was staying home the rest of the trip or Devin was, and we all wanted Devin to continue.
So, it was up and out of Boulder Basin in the increasing snow to air up and head back to Powell.
But of course, even airing up didn't go to plan as once again, Frank decided to be a pain in the ass and not start after airing up.
Glenn was quick to offer Monte a jump - "Saved by a third gen," he said…except that the jump didn't work - and Frank saved a little bit of face by having us all run behind and push-start start him to get going.
With that, we headed back into Powell where we first destroyed a car wash and then met Monte's dad and the FRV for dinner before most of us headed Monte's house for the night - we'd still sleep in our tents, but not before our first shower in a week!
After getting clean, we hung out in the shop until 3am as Monte moved all the gear and communication equipment from Frankenstein to Igor, chatting about trucks, ham radios and APRS (Monte's dad being the resident expert), and what the plan should be for the rest of the trip.
It was at this point that we started to seriously float Moab for the first time. Because, "it's always sunny in Utah," and after our last week, we really needed some sun.