Well, it took a passel of hassle, but most of us were able to get our rears in gear and make it back to Martinez. We were delighted to have our new, yet old in the saddle friend, Bobert make the run with us. It had been a few years since he had been there, and I had been on a couple of trips before, but Jared and Dana hadn't driven the loop yet (for the record, J did play gear hauler in his stock Frontier to the cabins a while back). We took the weekend off and planned to hit Martinez Saturday, camp overnight, and then run to Coke Ovens, taking the Gilla out.
The desert trail was pretty crowded out until we got to the Cabins. There was a circus of random vehicles rethinking the rain washed trail just south of the Cottonwood Canyon lead in. It was obvious they were having a tough time when they all gaped at us passing by at our leisurely clip. Everything was pretty uneventful all the way to the WH cave where we lightened our load by dumping off our camping gear. As always the greener and wetter spots in the start of the canyon, provided some very nice photo ops. I was grateful that J's Jen was there to help out with pics too as Martinez always photographs well with its scenic back drops and jagged lines.
After the cabins, they put it in low and went out in search of trail obstacles. Martinez, while not filled with over the top rated attractions, has plenty of rocks to be negotiated all along the way. Many people just call it a day after reaching the old mine structures, or even just at the cabins. As long as you have the clearance and flex for it, it's pretty much just a matter of staying on top of things.
The rain hadn't put as much of a hurting on the trail as Ajax, but it was still evident. The various rock gardens sprung out at the Jeeps pretty strong, and were assuredly larger than we had remembered. Everyone still did pretty well on the trail, a few snags from underneath here and there. More outside help was necessary as I shirked my spotting duties and scampered off to play mountain goat to get different shots of their progress from ahead and above. The Jeep drivers took turns leading, chose their own lines, put out their helping eye for one another, and at least from an elevated position, made it all look gracefully doable (especially Bob hunkering on his 37's). While everyone had their own picture worthy styles, Bob also took a couple noteworthy chances to test out his maximum tippage point- without incident to the camera's dismay.
The mine building came quickly enough, but it was the switchbacks that required the double pedaling (pun intended). The season's monsoon storms had rutted out some nice footprints on the 750ft twisted climb to the top, and one off-cambered moment did manage to launch one of Bob's rear springs off. It took some doing to get it back in, but a hi-lift finally got us a moving again. Later on during the ascent, a rope and some weight shifting was needed on Dana's Jeep (wasn't her driving), to keep her Jeep moving forward and not... well, over the side.
When we got to the Silverbell/ Columbia mine conglomerate, a few of us explored the levels and managed to find our way in one hole and out the other. We didn't spend too long there this time, because the sun was racing us to camp. At the summit we were just in time to shoot a great multi-wranglered sun down shot that'll definitely go in our keepers book. We took the Luge bypass (which seemingly is becoming the new Luge), at almost full dark so the camera couldn't capture the Jeeps sliding down. I did notice by headlights, a couple Jeeps almost side walling on the way down though.
Once we were all grounded again, we found our way back to our camp stuff, and half of us gathered wood while the others set up camp. It was supposed to be low 30's in nearby Florence, and even though we were in a damp canyon, experience had taught us we'd be fine with a fire in the cave hollow. In fact, we stayed cozy in regular shirts from fire until dawn. When we woke in the morning, we packed it up and headed out toward the Cokes.