This another one of those write-ups where I want to put so many photos up on the page, I don't know how I'm going to fit any words in. While this may please some of you, I assure you I'll figure something out. Maybe I'll add one of those in-line scrolling frame thingies I hear everyone likes so much.
Well, before this trip even started down the trail, we had the misfortune of losing a Jeep. It came down with a bad case of cold feet apparently, and wet itself with metal stricken tranny fluid. The good thing was that it was going to be easy to get it out to a tow truck, and the dealer (i.e. not I) would be fixing it for free (i.e. not Dana's money).
Another good thing that came of this trip was, like Sycamore Creek, we had another visitor anti up and join our carajeep. Geoff (Jeff) found us via our schnaztastic "business card" and wrote us on the message board about joining up. It turned out great, cuz his Jeep (while *ahem*, being a Cherokee and all) wasn't too small to be able to keep up, and wasn't too big to show us up. He was locked in the rear under his 5.5 RE long arm which helped a lot, but I'd say his greatest advantage may have been that he did body work as a job. I'm not sure, but I think that's why he kept reaching out the window as he slid past the rocks, almost his side, and slapping them, but then again he was an... energetic character.
Anyway, we decided to skip Lower Ajax, do Upper Woodpecker first, and maybe finish with Upper Ajax, so we'd have daylight to pull Dana's Yellow Sub out.
We noticed right away that the recent monsoon rains had hit the trail hard, and we really saw the evidence when we ran UA. Jared and Geoff started the drive upstream while Dana and I ran cameras and our other "visitor" Chris ran video. Plenty of spotting was required on this trail as well as careful attention and skills from the drivers to keep the rocks at bay. Geoff's Changler was a crazy rock magnet, and it was everything he and his lookout party could do to keep his ride home not roof- or windowless.
Sometimes J would lead, sometimes Geoff would, but they always stuck close enough to lend a hand on getting each other through. There was only a couple spots that took Jared a smidge longer w/o being locked too, but he would always persevere and get it up and over the tricky spots.
Upper Woodpecker is definitely a off-camber nightmare. Add that to the fact that the trail sees how close it can get you to canyon walls, and its rating lives up to it's number. Bypasses there are, but they should have ratings of their own. The only thing the boys can't say they defeated was Fire Hole. Maybe if they were running full widths and locked all the way around, and were exoskel'd, but alas they are not. But then again, while some people must trailer their rides in and out, gears locked and lowered to the extreme of just point and go, pedal be damned driving, I gotta say I respect the 7 Slots out of the daily driver that can drive it back home, sheet metal and all and still take his girl out on the town without attracting tow-truck drivers every time they park. It's just not my kind of bag baby.
Back from the world of opinionated rhetoric, the two Jrivers pushed it to the limits on UWP, never letting a dull moment pass through the camera lens and making it even more exciting when they could, trying out different lines. They did take the obligatory pic you'll see all over the net, "My Jeep at Firehole" (rarely do you see an up and over shot on that one- and I'll admit you won't see one from this trip either), climbed Devil's Back, and straddled up V Notch and every rock and ridge in between.
I did forget to mention that there were spots of water, running and pooled, scattered amongst the obstacles, adding a little tractionitus into the mix. Both drivers had an umpteen number of times to flex out or to salute their tires into the air, whether they wanted to or not; and plenty of rocks had plenty of times to attempt to add their signature and create a little body work of their own, but, J & G would prevail all the way to the twisted metal demon marking the beginning of Highway to Hell.
We took the mine road up to the top of Woodpecker and stopped for lunch. On the way down into the next canyon over where Ajax lies, we drew straws on who would try to obtain the footage we missed last trip to the area, and enter Jared's Javelina mine. Geoff and I headed in, ready to hug in the musty dark, the sides of the walls (surely that could have been written better), should the Javelina parade be scheduled coincidentally again for that day. It turned out to be a bust. Apparently they are camera shy because we found only their nesting areas. Again lacking the footage we had hoped for, we returned to the Jeeps and headed down to Ajax.