Day 2 of our Florence trip put us on the Coke Ovens Trail. This is another one of those trails like Backway to Crown King- Not especially hard by any means, but a trail that has become a common mainstay for a locals to include in their personal done files. Besides putting you up close and personal with the Historic Coke Ovens, the trail also offers a pristine view of the desert as the horizon stretches on and on out before you.
All in all, the run from Martinez covers about 10 miles, but the terrain is just rough enough to keep the pace slow, thus time consuming. One rutted step down could cause the trail to challenge a stock 4wd vehicle, but otherwise, the trail rating almost isn't worth mentioning.
With nice weather out, the quad population was well represented, but there was almost always a clear line of sight so it didn't present a problem. One cluster of them clearly did not know where they were going, evident by their shadowing behavior; We'd stop, they'd stop, etc.
Before dropping in too far, we found one mesa-like vantage point that offered a great panoramic valley view and stopped to pose about for the camera. Other than that, the pace was pretty steady until reaching the Ovens. There, we took the obligatory "I've been here" photos and stopped so the newcomers could check out the site.
After that we dropped down a little further to the Gila river in hopes of getting a few more scenic shots, maybe testing out a snorkel or two, and then crossing to exit out the Florence-Kelvin Highway. Turns out we got that snorkel test and more.
We stopped to grab a bite to eat on the bank and then let the Jeeps splash around in the shallow parts of the river. J found what looked to be a deeper spot in the river bend, and hesitantly let his Jeep feel out for the depthy bottom. By the time his windshield had started becoming goggles, J's panic bug bit, and he called for the rope. Without wasting much time (since pedal standing did not stop his submersion rate), we tied him on and tugged him back to a level plane. When he opened his door, out came a flood of collected water, but, his engine still ranneth. I will clue you in that maybe a little caulk around the air box would have bettered the final outcome, but the handful of water that managed to get in just sat in the bottom of the box until we sponged it out with a shirt. No worries- yet.
Where we came in at the river was a little off course, so we decided to head upstream a bit. Driving in the river didn't pose a problem since it never got above tire; it was the shore that was out to get us. In a couple spots, the mud just threatened to give us a run, but finally one area sunk J's Jeep to the doors. The submerged mud there was like churned butter and it just sucked him in so tight, it rendered pulling him out, double pulling him out, and winching him out useless from all angles. While the sun started getting dimmer, we had no choice but to dig him out.
It was one of those dirty jobs that you almost realize right away no matter how gingerly you go at the task, you're going to end up covered head to toe, so you might as well just dive right in. The mud was so softly churned, we had no problem digging with our hands, save from the now almost freezing temperatures. It took a few attempts, but finally after digging down past the water table and to the bottom of J's tires, Bob was able to winch him out using Dana's Jeep as an anchor. All of this strain on J's Jeep created a new problem. Water had snuck into his Tranny via the top of his dipstick, and spinning in the mud in 4Low for that long took its toll on his drivetrain. What was left of his tranny fluid was boiling out the top of the dipstick and what remained inside wasn't enough to let his gears do their shifting. So, once again, we went about pulling a trannyless Jeep out of the Florence area. Bob, got us on the right trail on the opposite side of the river and we took Cochran Road (a wide graded trail) until it hit the F-K HWY and we found the pavement we had all looked forward to. A short drive to a Taco Bell west of Florence got us some grub and met us up with a tow truck. When the truck got there, who should it happen to be, but the same driver that took Dana's trannyless Jeep back to Phoenix when hers went out at Ajax.
A couple of days and a lot of power washing later, J brought his Jeep in to the dealer where upon finding water in his pan, told him his tranny was no more and his Warranty was useless, so... long story short, we pulled his tranny ourselves, separated it in pieces and went about drying it out. We used rags, we used a shop vac- we even used an air compressor, until we saw foam no more. We then put it all back in, added some fluid, and found to our amazement that it wasn't dead after all. The shifting was iffy and it seemed to be stuck in 4Low, but he took it in to have it flushed and then brought it to another dealer. They ended up giving him a brand new transfer case and his tranny, a clean bill of health. No harm, plenty of foul, and J got to say he's pulled his own transmission. His next Jeep related buy will probably be a tube of caulk, but it all worked out in the end.