Lava Mountain - 6/11/98

The morning of the first trail ride of the first Montana 4x4 Association's Divide Ride Jamboree. Since I had just finished installing the transfer case at 7 or 8pm the night before, I'd only thrown my gear into the Scout at the last minute, and hadn't a chance to pack properly. I rolled into Boulder at 11pm, and unrolled my sleeping bag and slept in the Scout. Wakin' up early Thursday morning, I still had to register, and then re-pack the Scout so my camping supplies wouldn't accidently decapitate me during the day's ride.

For the first trail ride, I chose to join Mike Kelly on his Lava Mountain trail. This is the same trail I'd pre-run with Mike two weeks before.

We lined up our twenty-odd 4x4s in the Boulder County Fairgrounds, and held our driver's meeting. CB radios to Channel 17, and we rolled out a little past our 7:30am staging time.

As we motored through Boulder and then down the Frontage Road to the trail head, we went through the line and called out our names, rig, and placed we call home. We had a small group of Canadians along with us, along with folks from other areas. Eric from Bozeman (pre-ran the trail two weeks earlier) was up front in his CJ7 with his co-driver Rocky. Eric turned off into the gas station on our way out of town - he'd forgotten to tank up! A large '60s IH Travelall with GM running gear and 35s was right behind me, with Milo from Missoula driving. Naturally there were a lot of Jeeps, our trail boss in his EBronco, our tailgunner Rob St.Clair in his Jeepster (350/NV4500), and one built Chevo ta LandCruiser from Canada (454/TH350/Dana60s).

Brent Ross from Four Wheel Drive & Sport Utility (4WD&SU) rode along with Tyler Gordon in his '78 Bronco right up front to take some pictures. Eric caught up with us and zipped down the left lane of the frontage road as he regained his position in line up towards the front.

The trail started off easy enough winding up through the hills, and passing by the Pegasus Gold mine. We stopped in Corbin to air down n' lock up the hubs. We then wound our way out of town, and into the forrest.

We drove through the set of gates and started the rocky climb, twisting and turning through the trees. The Washingtonians started making comments comparing our Lava Mountain trail and their trails back in Seattle. We all enjoyed the relatively easy driv e and the beautiful scenery.

Several rigs started commenting on running a bit hot, so we paused a few times to let things cool off. I drove past the spot I changed the U-joint the week before without incident, enjoying my new 4:1 T19 tranny, and my front Lockright.

We came to a left turn, and Mike had us rotate our line positions a bit, sending the first 5 rigs to the back of the line, so Brent Ross could take pictures of a few different trucks coming through the obstacles.

A few scratches provided the only entertainment until we reached the foot of Mike's Hill.

Mike made the first climb, followed by several rigs. Eric from Bozeman tried the hill again.. and walked right up.

It finally came to be my turn to try the hill. Naturally I didn't have any film in my camera... I took a small run at it, with my '77 Scout II in 1st gear, low-range, hubs turned in, and the 196 breathing up in the RPM band for some grunt. I spit n' sp uttered a few times as I hit bumps in the trail - the carb was giving me fits. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I had lost most of my momentum, and lacked the grunt to make it. I stopped on several occasions at the very top. I'd let the 196 r ev up n' roar, then slip the (brand new) clutch, and scratch n' claw farther up the hill, with my front climbing up, and maybe onto n' over, the first big rock to climb, before the carb would sputter, or the motor would power-out, and I rolled backwards t o try again. After a few failed attempts, I finally started to work my way backwards down the hill.. only to plant my rear step bumper firmly on a rock on the side of the trail. Trying to go forward, I just started churning the loose soil. A few more t ries with some gas, and rocking the steering wheel back n' forth, I worked my way far enough forward to finish backing out.

I was standing at the top when the "IROC-ZJ", a CJ with an '89 Iroc-Z/28's drivetrain tried to climb up over the big rocks at the end of the climb, and started to slip. More go pedal had the front end climbing for the sky, and several people were more th an a bit concerned about a roll-over. A few more tries, and the "ZJ" found itself off on the "try again" patch of the trail, to the side of the "you didn't need that tailgate" tree.. As he rocked back n' forth a bit, he rolled the sidewall of the driver 's rear tire, and we were greeted to the sound of air whistling out of the tire. Another try or two, and the IROC powered CJ was up n' over the top.

The yellow Chevota LandCruiser from Canada made the climb.. he walked right up to the hardest part of the trail, when his 454 blipped and stalled. He simply restarted the 'Cruiser, and walked the rest of the way up. There were some of us that wondered i f he'd purposefully stalled just to show off!

Rob St.Clair was the last up the hill, walking right to the top and then proclaiming, "OK Mike.. just let me know when we get to your hill so I'll know when to engage 4wd!" and then, "What hill?."

We motored along through the trees, and came upon a large pile of tree roots sticking up out of the mud in a tall, but short n' wide, pile. Tyler drove his open/open '78 Bronco up one side of the root clump, and then got high-centered. Mike backed up an d threw a strap to Tyler, and he was freed. Everyone else made it over just fine, now that Tyler had shown us the mess to climb over! I recall my frame rails smacking a little bit when my suspension cycled down after climbing the roots.

We continued on towards the mud holes. We pulled up in front of the mud, and broke out lunch. About five minutes later, the skies broke out in rain. Mike had ordered the car wash a little early.. we weren't muddy yet!

After munching lunch, we started into the mud. Mike went first, then the others piled through. I worked my way through MUCH slower than the week before (when I broke a rear shock bolt) and made it through, only clanging the axles n' diffs a few times on the rocks. The other rigs made it through without incident.

The second mud hole came up, with a long set of ruts for an approach. I started slowly working my way towards the mud, when my passenger side front differential and shock hangers started piling mud n' rocks up.. and the right side of my Scout lost tracti on. Milo gave me a tug backwards, and I tried again... only to be tugged once more. Third time's the charm, I got a better run at it, cranked my front wheels a bit to the left to let 'em bite the side of the ruts, and got up some momentum.. I still had a hard time, but finally made it into the mud, and clanged my axles on the rocks as I climbed through the mud n' out the other side. Whew.

The rest of the day we wound through more rocks, more trees.. then came out and overlooked the Pegasus mine. We turned back across the meadows, climbed a hill, n' then snaked our way down, across some twisty flexy sections, and into the ghost town of Com et, MT. A little while to poke around in there, then a quick jaunt back to the Frontage Road, and we were back into the Fairground by around 4 or 4:30pm.

Divide Ride '98