Hackett/Longwater (1999) - Colorado USA
Story by Dave Gomes / Pictures by Jim Hall
0900 zulu - The Rocky Mountain sunshine is falling in buckets as the protagonists gather for a day on the trail. It's a varied group, thrown together by circumstance here at the bridge over Buffalo Creek. Chuque Henry had just arrived in Colorado the previous week. Cheryl and I had thrown a little welcome-to-the-neighborhood party where Jim Hall announced he'd be tackling the Hackett's Gulch trail today with a friend and asked if Chuque and I would like to come along. Silly question. And that brings us to the rallying point. Chuque in his D90 soft top, I in my D90 Station Wagon, Jim in his Series IIA 88", and Jim's buddy Raife in his full size Dodge Power Wagon. Introductions are dispensed with, CBs tuned, and we're off to the trail head.
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A short trail ride brings us to Hackett Rock. Thank Heaven for the bypass here as the rock proved too much for me. Not too much for the truck, but too much for my weak mind (details to follow). After a few failed attempts I take the bypass and park at the top while Chuque takes his shot at it. The 35" meats and Detroit locker make short work of "the Rock". About this time I remember I'm still running street tire pressures and decide to air down a little. The tire gauge shows the BFG A/Ts to be at 40 psi! Tough to climb rocks when your tires are harder than the surface they're trying to grip! Jim's driving skill makes the rock look easy, even with the open diffs and 80 hp of the intrepid 88. Raife has to be a little more creative to pick a line the Power Wagon can negotiate around the corner leading to the rock. But, he's up to the task and brings the big Dodge up without incident. My tires are aired down to a more suitable 20 psi now, but any thoughts of going around for another try with the D90 are scuttled by another group of trucks approaching. Quite a diverse beer-swilling group they are too and we hang around to watch them pass rather than be pushed down the trail.
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The next hill is twisty and rutted, but we all get up without incident and we're off to the famed "Mogul Hill". Oh joy.....Our approach to the mogul hill finds the bottom choked with eight or ten trucks while the leader of the "brew crew" we met earlier shows his prowess and that of his locked CJ by driving up and down the hill forward and backward while drinking a beer and taunting those below waiting for a clear line.......so public trails DO have a price to be paid. We elect to wait things out and let everyone either move up the trail or turn around and go back before we start up in earnest. Once again the theme of the day is reinforced. Jim - slow and steady conquers all in the 88". Chuque - well equipped for the situation showing the advantages of a locker. Dave - showing how capable a stock D90 can be in spite of sway bars, A/T tires, and a relatively inept driver! Raife - showing us the different challenges posed by a long wheelbase. Once the mogul hill is behind us, a beautiful downhill ramble brings us to the water crossings at the base of the trail, which are passed without incident as the level is low this time of year. Seems it was high enough though, for one of the brew crew rigs to ingest some of the stream. His tale is told by the cranking motor and cloud of vapor thrown from his empty spark plug holes.
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After the stream crossings we face a chioce between an easy escape, or moving on up and out via Longwater Gulch. We stop for a snack, choose the latter, and head off toward the first hill on the trail. This one is a little bit of sandy two track up a decomposing granite hill with a little kink in the middle. An easy creep with lockers (the way up the trail, not the guy driving the red 90!). For those of us not so equipped, a little momentum carries the day. After a few minutes for Chuque to try some rather....diverse...lines up the hill, we're on our way to the second and final obstacle on the Longwater Gulch trail.
A survey of this one is rather disappointing. Not the hill itself, as much as the F-150 half way up, strapped to a Toyota pickup above it. The Ford is adorned with a blue tarp stretched out underneath and an ominous crowd gathered 'round. Lost a push rod it seems. Looks like they'll be here awhile, but the afternoon is pleasant and we offer to wait and see how they make out as the trail is blocked with rigs anyway. Predictably, the brew crew arrives in short order and, not inclined to wait for the trail to be cleared, proceed to cut their own trail around to the right of the stranded Ford. One of the Ford party confronts the brew crew about trail etiquett and, since there is enough blame for the situation to go around on all sides, things get a little heated. I feel lucky when the situation diffuses itself as members of both parties are for some reason armed, and with alcohol invoved, one never knows. It seems that in addition to the side arm, one of our intrepid Ford boys is also carrying a cellular phone, and the local constabulary will be awaiting the brew crew at the trail head......Now that the excitement is out of the way, a line up the hill is cleared and we make our way up in keeping with the theme of the day mentioned earlier.
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A little spirited woods driving brings us back to the trail head and a good view of proceeding sobriety tests. It's not our problem this day, so we move on out to the main roads, air back up, and head our separate ways home. What a day!