I have to draw way back into my memory for this post recall.
As I remember, the day started inauspiciously enough. I was supposed to follow up with another low key trail. Maybe Lathrop Canyon/Fallen Peace Officer trail. I am pretty good with the reading. Or at least I used to be. As far as I knew at the time, only Elephant Hill was cited in the trail catalogue as being off limits for pets. Well, as it turned out, my intended Green trail selection was also off limits. And poor Maddy and were excluded from the trail ride upon clarification from that morning's trail leader of the oversight (whether it was mine or the organizers).
Fortunately, so I thought, the Blue trail group for Strike Ravine would be meeting at that same rendezvous point in the next hour. That would afford me plenty of time to tighten a loose fog light mount and do some other general reorganization of gear.
I didn't count on encountering one Mr. Bill E. I usually don't type first and last names in the blog. If you tried hard enough, I'm sure you could surmise this gentleman's full govt.
As I'm on the far side of a gas station lot busying myself with quick post-trail checkup tasks, another group is assembling for a soon-departing Red trail. Bill's wife, Kelly approaches me to make sure I wasn't a misplaced registrant for their group. I assured her I had no business on a red trail and explained my calamity. I had also heard a couple of weird pings periodically the day before and was just curious if she thought they had any significance. This is where I set myself up.
"What about the pings?"
"You're going to ride in line right behind me. It'll be ok, sweetheart".
I'm pretty sure it went that way.
We were on a trail with the monicker "Bill" being led by a guy named "Bill" and although I had always rejected the nickname of Bill for myself, you did kind of have three of a kind. Sort of. Close enough.
There is a section on Backwards Bill named "Wipeout Hill". It's basically at a portion near Seven Mile Rim which is run in reverse. I had done Seven Mile Rim as a green trail 4 years prior. However, when run in reverse, I was told there was no bypass for Wipeout Hill. Everyone has to run it. Having seen things like Tipover Challenge and Hell's Gate on Hell's Revenge, I felt I wanted no part of any named obstacle on this ride. Basically the names draw from the truth of what has happened at one point in history or another to some hapless enthusiast.
Tip-over Challenge. Guess what? Some fools done TIPPED. OVER. And it's more than a tip. It is a precipitous and calamitous drop if you are unfortunate. You actually just hope that the shock of free-falling is enough to kill you before impact.
So Wipeout Hill. Hmm. What could that imply? You are going to WIPE OUT your very own existence if it goes south. Why would I want that?!
The reality is, I was thinking "We somehow were able to bypass that area running it in the opposite direction as a Green trail. This must be some sick hazing ritual where they're gonna make me do this unnecessarily to see if I soil myself".
I mean, if people want to see it, there are easier ways to end up with poo in a grown man's britches.
The main challenge is that the trail kind of switches back on itself while you are in the midst of a fairly steep ascent. You generally want to be aimed vertically in the direction of the climb. But due to large rock outcroppings, you have to change course a couple of times at a steep angle. Miscalculation could send you end-over-end, or initiate a pretty violent roll back down to the bottom.
Why is my winch line out?
Well, Kelly was driving Princess 2.0 for Bill. The rear locker was suffering some sort of malfunction and did not appear to be engaging. This meant that more throttle was necessary to try to maintain forward progress; however, the greater momentum and enhanced suspension articulation meant that the truck would rebound forcefully and unpredictably upon encountering rocks during the climb. It made for some harrowing moments.
So, the guy who was too timid with the truck that was unproven ended up dropping a helpful winch line back to some impressive builds and experienced drivers for whom Wednesday just wasn't there day on Backwards Bill.
It wasn't so much of an ego boost but a confirmation that I belonged on that trail that day and as a part of that trail group. It wouldn't be the last confirmation I got that day or with the crew.
Gobs and gobs of power and articulation.
As it turned out, Dan's impressive climb up Wipeout in his open-open diff Xterra was not without penalty. At one point, the back end hopped, caught some air, and then resumed contact with the earth. That was enough change in momentum from the tires free-wheeling and then momentarily being brought to zero angular velocity to send tremendous forces through the drivetrain. In other words, spider gears exploded.
But I also had something considerably more valuable back at camp: a complete rear axle assembly from Steve D's Frontier including needed replacement spider gears.
We were at a decision point after breaking for lunch and diagnosing the severity. Roughly half the group would continue on and complete the trail. The other half would run Backwards Bill...forwards? and seek an exit point back to civilization. My truck was in questionable shape (she was fine but I didn't know that). Dan was handicapped and a few others came along for mechanical support. We sojourned on a recovery mission. Despite the somewhat perilous circumstance, it was kind of fun.
Join me 6 months from now when I get around to telling those stories.