Lunch on a hill along the
Tomichi Pass trail
Saturday morning was crisp
and cold, yet the sun was shining brightly. The remainder of the group
had descended upon Salida the night before and by Saturday morning 15 Explorers
were ready to head out onto the trail. The group was made up of drivers
who were scattered between 19 to 56 years old. Most of the runs participants
were from Colorado, but we had Explorers arrive from; Arizona, Calgary,
California, and Kansas. 4 stock Explorers and 11 modified machines were
on hand for this run. One of the most significant Explorers in attendance
was a '98 Explorer Sport with a 4" suspension lift
that had been adapted from a '98 Ranger. Todd Curtis's (TC's) ingenuity
showed that yes, the '98 can be lifted!
15 Explorers makes for quite
The plan for Saturday was
to tackle Old Monarch Pass, Tomichi Pass and Hancock Pass. Old Monarch
as I mentioned before was an easy trail. There were no obstacles and the
road was easily accomplished in 2wd. The trail had us descending rapidly
into the valley below. I spotted a deer peering out from the pines, but
he decided it wasn't a good time try to cross the trail.
Tomcihi Pass was rated difficult
in the "Guide to Colorado Back roads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails". The author
said it was difficult due to the narrowness of the trail and he didn't
recommend the trail be run if there was any snow present. I wouldn't say
that the trail was difficult, but in spots it was an attention grabber.
The trail heading North from Tomcihi Pass was very narrow and in spots
it seemed there were mere inches between the Explorers tires and a long
steep drop off. I spoke with a hunter later that day who told me that the
trail had been closed by a rock slide just 2 weeks prior. While traveling
through I could see where the rock slide had previously closed the trail.
Loose rock covered the right side, it continued to roll down slope as our
vehicles passed through. To the left was the narrowest section of the trail
with a little snow thrown in to keep us on our toes. We took a well deserved
break for lunch after our descent, here I took the time to take some photos.
TC's '98 Explorer with
a 4" Superlift adapted from a '98 Ranger
the decent down Tomichi Pass we came across a plank bridge which is there
to keep vehicles out of the ecologically fragile bog area. At this altitude
it's difficult for anything to grow let alone thrive and it's important
that the bog be left undisturbed to keep soil erosion to a minimum. The
group crossed the old planks with help from spotters. The planks had a
tendency to kick out to the side as the Explorers passed over so they needed
to be put back in place after each truck passed. Brett Grooms and his spotter
learned the importance of good spotter / driver communication the hard
way. The spotter was yelling to go right...he meant his right not Brett's.
So Brett turned right and ended up with his passenger side wheels off the
boards. Brett's stock Explorer was no worse for the encounter, he just
popped right back on the bridge and continued on his way
Mary Murphy Mine was next
on our agenda. This landmark is quite an impressive site. The old mining
building slid down the hillside years ago leaving the building split in
two and perched precariously on the hillside. I'm glad to have seen this
site for myself because it's hard to visualize just how big a building
it is from the photographs.
Since we finished fairly
early we decided to take a look at Iron Chest. Dave, Ryan and Trace made
a run on Iron Chest during their pre-run. At that time they had decided
to turn around before completing the run because they didn't know what
the trail had in store for them. After talking to someone who had just
completed it they found out that they were almost all the way through when
they had turned around. Iron Chest is composed of thousands of rounded
boulders the size of VERY large pumpkins all placed in a narrow chute which
ascends towards the Iron Chest mine. The run is rated as difficult with
the caveat "body damage likely". During the main run no one wanted to retrace
the steps of the pre-runners. I believe many may have shared my thoughts
which were; "it's a long way home from Salida and this section of trail
could prove to be very expensive should something go wrong".
During the pre-run. David Meisner on the Iron Chest Trail.
Mt. Anterro's Switchbacks
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