Follow Power Tank through the new Slick Rock bypass!
The Power Tank team recently went on their annual father & son wheeling trip out on the Slick Rock 4x4 trail. Here is a recap of our experience on the new section of the Slick Rock trail that bypasses the private property that was previously open to through traffic.
If you're in the Northern California wheeling area, you may have heard that the Slick Rock 4wd trail was under construction for some time. Apparently, the private property near Lake Alpine has a new owner who wasn't happy about all the 4wd rigs driving along the 4wd trail. Go figure.Fortunately, there are a lot of local groups who are always working to improve and maintain our trails. One such group is the Joaquin Jeepers of Stockton, CA who worked closely with the Stanislaus National Forest to build a bypass around the private property. This allowed rigs to run the full trail from Lake Alpine through Spicer Creek and back out to Hwy4 or vice-versa. Hats off to them; they did an amazing job.
It's not an adventure if nothing goes wrong...
The Power Tank crew camped along the Slick Rock trail in mid-August, not long after it was reopened. We were among the first to check out the new section. Half of our crew consisting of Steve, Power Tank Head Honcho, in #powertankjku Rubicon (37's, 5.13 gears) and Marty in his grey '85 4runner (35's, 5.29's and dual Marlin cases) had already made it down the trail and staked out our usual campsite down where the trail meets the river. I drove up with Glenn in his blue 2nd gen 4runner (35's, 4.88's, 4.7 Marlin T-case) and Ken with his white '85 4runner (33's, 4.88's and dual Marlin T-cases) with a plan to meet them at the campsite. We got to the start of the new section and aired down. The trail started off pretty narrow with tight turns around some trees. The first obstacle was a simple rock climb but Ken could not make it up this seemingly easy obstacle. I hopped out and walked up to his rig to see him holding his t-case lever a few inches above where it should be. Uh oh, he's stuck in 2-hi.
We are able to get him reversed and took the left turn down the bypass avoiding dropping down a sizeable ledge and a gnarly bonus line (we'll get back to that later). Obstacle two wasn't very far down the trail. It was a simple slab of rock with a left turn that can get you off camber if you're not watching your tire placement. Ken was able to power through in 2wd but got tippy on three wheels for a second. He wasn't happy that we missed that photo-op. We were racing for daylight in 2wd so I didn't get many pictures of the way in. Fortunately, Steve did. Here's a picture of Marty on this second obstacle earlier in the day.
Obstacle three is a big step up in difficulty. It is a steep hill with tire size boulders dotting the whole way down. Ken got about halfway down the hill before hitting a big rock that his front tires couldn't climb over. Stuck. Fortunately, just then we saw lights approaching from the trail. Steve's spidey senses kicked in as he could sense his friend in distress! He drove out from camp and pulled up in the JKU just as we were pulling out our tow strap. With his encyclopedic knowledge of 1st gen 4runners, Steve was able to jimmy the transfer case into 4-low with a leatherman and a screwdriver. He's like a walking haynes manual for 1st gen 4runners. With the added light from the PIAA lightbars on the jeep, we were able to make it down the hill without further issue and moseyed on into camp a short way down the trail. With the mechanical troubles, it took us between 2 and 3 hours to get to camp from the trial head.
After that, Ken needed a beer...or three...
Instead of banging up our rigs any more than we needed to, our group elected to relax at camp the next day. We took a short hike up the other side of the river and cooled down in the river when we got back. We saw a lot of cool rigs pass by including the '85 4runner driven by Tyler at MyOffRoadRadio.com! We hope to see him again soon!
Sunday morning found us packing up camp and doing a sweep to find any trash that may have been left behind before us. We always leave a camp site better than we found it. We loaded up the rigs and set off up the trail, north bound. We had the added benefit of day light and more rigs to winch off of. Adding a bit more difficulty, however, was the trailer being pulled behind #powertankjku. The two kayaks mounted on top of the trailer didn't help the center of gravity.
Inch by Inch:
It didn't take long for us to make it to the hill. Standing at the base and looking up with proper daylight put into perspective how tough this climb would be. Tyler (MyOffRoadRadio.com) compared it to winch hill 2 on Fordyce and our guys were inclined to agree. There is a lot of loose dirt on this brand new section leading to rocks that roll under your tires. It's hard to keep a line when the rocks on the trail are constantly moving underneath you.
Marty was the first one up in his 1st gen. Not too many issues there, though it did take careful placement of his 35 inch Pitbull tires to keep axles up high enough to clear some rocks in the middle of the trail.
Good thing Steve was wearing his brown pants...
With over 20 years wheeling experience, Steve knew that patience was the name of the game to get the JKU past this obstacle. He made it slowly up the hill in the Jeep and got to roughly the halfway mark before getting hung up on a rock. Halfway is just about where Marty's 4runner is in the picture above. As Steve was slowly backing down to reset his line, he suddenly rocketed backwards about 10 feet into a tree, jackknifing the trailer. Profanities abound as we rushed to see what had happened and to assess the damage.
With the added weight of the trailer and the steep incline of the hill, Steve had the brake to the floor to keep from rolling backwards. As he was slamming on the brake pedal, his foot caught the accelerator (JK owners nodding their heads), sending him hurtling back. Fortunately a tree saved him from careening any further back, off the side of the hill. The rear Metal Cloak steel fender saved the Jeep from body damage and the trailer was perfectly fine, suffering only a minor bend in the drop hitch. The biggest surprise was that the bumper didn't shift or bend at all. Don't worry, we got it on video and we'll post that to our Youtube page as soon as we finish editing the trip together.
The Jeep made it to the final boulders at the top. Instead of holding up trail traffic and risking things any further, we decided to ease the Jeep and trailer over. We attached our Factor55 Pro Link up to Marty's 4runner and winched up, trailer and all. What's the point of having a BA Warn Zeon if it never gets used? We don't care much for looking pretty at the mall.
What about the other guys?
Glenn came up next with little difficulty. He wasn't pulling a trailer, after all. By the time it was Ken's turn, the trail looked a little different. Glenn left him a present in the form of a nice, big boulder in the middle of the path. Ken was also the only one on 33s and the only one without a front locker. He likes to show off. With some good spotting and a heavy right foot, Ken made it up with much fanfare.
Onwards and upwards
Going up the next obstacle was a cake walk compared to the hill. All of the leaf sprung 4runners took a wider right turn down the rock giving them each a chance for a little 'yota wave.
When we got to the last (or first) obstacle on the trail, Steve elected to play it safe and took the bypass as did Glenn close behind. Ken, having had to bypass this obstacle coming in, wanted vengeance. He wanted to take the bonus line. Did I tell you he likes to show off?
Making it up the two ledges up to the top of the rock was a piece of cake for Ken. Getting back down was another story. Once at the top, you have about five feet of flat rock before a 10 foot drop down the other side. Not even enough space for a Samurai. Unable to get his rig fully on top of the rock in front of him, Ken had to do a three point turn with his nose to the sky and one wheel in the air. This would enable him to position his rig onto the flat section of rock to his right. Of course, it wouldn't be that easy. Ken ended up making more of a 10 point turn with his driver side tire in the air most of the time.
Ken, having taken the left path to the bonus line, left the right side open for Marty who made it up and over the obstacle without a problem.
With everyone successfully through the trail, we stopped at Lake Alpine for a bit of lunch before airing up and heading home. All in all, it was a successful trip. We got to meet some new folks on the trail, there were no major breaks (though I heard someone broke a frame trying to make it up the hill before us. Yikes!), we got to wheel some brand new trail, and there was a lot of time spent sitting around the camp fire relaxing and enjoying a few libations. Subscribe to our Youtube page to be the first to see video from the trail and check out the gallery below for more pictures from the trip.
If you're thinking about checking out Slick Rock, we heartily recommend it. If you've done it before, know that the new section ups the overall trail difficulty considerably. We wouldn't try it with anything below a 35 inch tire and/or a lot of ground clearance. We met a brand new JLU Rubicon on stock suspension and 35s who had some trouble coming down the hill. With some smart winching and excellent spotting, he was able to make it down without body damage but it was slow going.