08/25 - Wrote this post a couple nights back when I didn’t have a WiFi connection.
After the somewhat disappointing Woodchuck Trail on day 1 (2nd half of the day was fun, but short), day 2 ended up being one of the best days I’ve had on a trail. I spent the day on the Shell Trail, in the blue group. Probably tied or edges out Hell’s Revenge in Moab (they’re very different trails, so hard to compare).
The trail was gorgeous, if not smokey from the fires; although, I think Colorado has an ever so slight edge in the scenery department, but the trail itself was a masterpiece. The trail guides kept a great pace throughout the trail and did a great job, especially considering there were probably 2 dozen Jeeps in our group (it was a very popular trail). The day was challenging, but not extreme. I never felt like I was in danger of breaking something, and the really difficult parts had bypasses, but I never took them unless it was on accident. The trail was strewn with boulder fields everywhere and I know the guys in the Jeep behind me were having fun watching me take the toughest lines I could find. I followed Raymond and his wife, from Colorado, most of the day, in their stock Jeep Rubicon. They did a great job getting through the trail, and knew when to take the easier route, but their Rubicon handled it in stride, I think I only heard them hit their diffs or skid plates a couple times.
I am ecstatic how my Jeep handled the trail without any bangs or scrapes until the very end, more on that later. I aired my tires down to 15 psi, but from talking to folks I was running higher pressure than some. Some Jeeps were aired down to 8 psi, but I don’t think I’ll ever air down that far unless I really need to. I feel like my trip to Drummond in July and this trail really put my lift and tires to the test and they passed with flying colors. I definitely recommend the AEV suspension (Premium 3.5”) and Goodyear MT/R’s (34.1” with Kevlar) I’m running on my Jeep, they did great on this trail.
There were a couple places where the trail guides acted as spotters for everyone, including the last climb, which was certainly the toughest. There were two routes you could go; left was easier and right was the hard route. I, of course, picked right, the hard route. On the hard route, there were two basic lines you could take, up the right side away from the big rock ledge, or up the left side and over it. I believe I was the first one in our group to take the hard route, and Mike, my spotter, wanted me to take the easier line up the right side of the climb. I motioned to him that I wanted to go up the left side and he acknowledged. He walked me up the left side, but I was eventually unable to keep going any further. First I high-centered on the ledge, then he got me over that, but there was a very large boulder, that would slide when you would put your wheel on it. My axle kept getting caught up on it, but he did a great job of keeping it away from my tie-rods and suspension components. Eventually they determined it wasn’t happening without me just gunning it and praying that I don’t break something. So, they backed me down defeated, but got me up the right side line, which was still pretty tricky. I’m not sure if anyone else tried the left side line, but I did watch at least a handful of guys come up the right side where I did. Some of them made it look pretty easy.
After getting up the hill there was a large boulder (kissing rock) where we crawled the Jeeps up, two at a time, so their front bumpers touched for photos. There wasn’t much trail left after that, but it was a heck of a trail ride. Would definately do it again! After we got back to the lodge, I aired up my tires and spent then next hour or so wiping down the dirt from the interior of my Jeep. I finally managed to get it to a state where you didn’t get you or your clothes dirty every time you sat down or touched something, so it was time well spent. Dinner was good, and spent it again with Dave and his wife Pat, along with Tom from JKS and Mike, our trail guide. Turns out Pat had competed in nationals in triathlons years ago, and Dave was a runner/marathoner. During dinner I got a lot of ideas and suggestions for my Yellowstone/Teton trip.
After dinner I got a chance to talk to Chris, the organizer of the Ouray, CO Jeep Jamboree, and thanked him for introducing me to Colorado. I also let him know how much fun I had, and talked about my return visit and how rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about Colorado. I think he appreciated my gratitude and told me if I should ever return for a Jamboree that I should come early and do some of the trails, including Black Bear pass with him and the guides. Maybe I’ll take him up on that offer some time.
After saying goodbyes I made it back to my lodge and went to bed. This was the only day since last Thursday that I didn’t spot a moose.