Fool's Trip, 1997
This photo of my Jeep looks a lot like the IRC's
I'm just starting the descent from Eye in the Sky.
As always, the photo doesn't convey how scary it
Here I am on a sunny Sunday morning on the ferry heading back to
Vancouver. Wil is next to me, hunched over the video camera,
chuckling at the footage of this weekend's offroading. We should
still be out on the trails but this year's April Fool's Trip on
Vancouver Island was cut tragically short when my YJ suffered a
groin injury while climbing up Pigpen's Revenge yesterday
This year's trip was planned as a smaller event which
would pre-run the trails for the
(IRC) Trail Run in May. Five of us from the mainland
Me and Jonathan Yim
||YJ w/rear locker & springover with 31" tires
Jim Mijali and Roger
YJ w/2.5" lift and 32" tires
Toyota shortbox pickup with f/r
ARBs, 6" lift and 33" tires
We met up on the 9am ferry on Friday. It was the start of the
Easter long weekend and we were anxious to try the trails which
had been made tougher over the winter. Rob also promised to show
us some new trails they had recently opened for the May trail
Once on the island, Rob met us and led us to the trail head where
we were joined by some other IRC members. From the island were:
Rob Bryce and his passengers, Glen and Jane
Comanche w/rear locker, springover & 6" custom lift
and 33" tires
Brad Peden, his sister and a friend
BJ70 w/rear locker and 33" tires
FJ40 w/rear locker, 2.5" lift and 32" tires
We started at the Harbourview Road trailhead and made our way
towards a new trailed named, Eye in the Sky. This was a typical
island trail: narrow and winding with a loose surface. We
passed by a small group of stock vehicles parked at the foot of
a particularly difficult section. A couple of their buddies had
made the section but everone else was having problems. They let
us pass. A few of us required a couple of tries but we made it
up under our own power. Near the summit of the trail, an event
of unimaginable embarassment occurred. I had to winch myself
past a seemingly simple section. It was a muddy, uphill
right-hand corner. I was worried about running my front diff
into a stump so I either couldn't take the best line or else
took the best line but without enough momentum. Wil convinced
me to winch rather than chew up the trail for everyone else. It
made perfect sense but it's tough to follow that advice when
your pride is on the line. Everyone else made it up with far
While trying to reach the summit, the clear weather had been
displaced by wet, grey clouds. My nipples balled themselves into
fists (boy, I'll bet you didn't need to know that, did you?) as
the temperature dropped and the first drops of rain fell. We
followed the trail as it made its way to the side of the mountain
and began its frightening descent along a series of wet, sloping
sidehills. Any embarassment I felt about having to winch myself
up the last hill was quickly displaced by an overwhelming sense
of fear. My low gear was way too fast for the slope so I had to
rely on my brakes. And each time I used my brakes, the Jeep
would go into a slow, sickening sideways slide towards the
downward edge of the muddy track. My brakes howled as I tried to
keep the Jeep at a snail's pace, desperating hoping that I wasn't
going to cause it to slide into a possibly fatal roll down the
hill. With three guys hanging on the uphill side of my Jeep, I
finally made it to a relatively level area. That was the first
time I wished I didn't have that springover lift and it's 5.5" of
added height. Rob Bryce came down next with fewer problems.
After him was Jim Mijali who was just as terrified as I was. The
rest of our group declined the descent and went back the way we
came. I think it was a good decision on their part. This
section had the possibility of physical danger, not just vehicle
damage. On a dry day, I would rate that section a 6 on the IRC
scale but when wet, it's an 8 due to the danger. Rob said they
drove that section one time when it was icy. I think his brain
Rob adds: Really, the spot isn't that bad! We've driven up
this spot when it was muddy, without any grief! It's just these mainlanders...
Based on the conditions we found at Eye in the Sky, we skipped
our planned run through Mossy Hill because the mud would make it
nearly impassable. Instead, we went for a short run around
Crabapple Lake before heading down to Shields Lake where we setup
camp for the evening. Later that night, Vern (IRC) came out with
some Dutch girls from the university outdoor club (Sonna and
Monan). Shortly after that, two other IRC members, Wayne and
Rick, showed up with the heavenly gift of DRY firewood and an air
compressor to get the fire burning strongly. Nothing says you
care like bringing dry firewood on a wet night...I wonder if that
would make a good Hallmark card? Or maybe a long distance
commercial: Picture an elderly couple. The woman has tears in
her eyes after hanging up the phone.
The husband asks why she's crying. She replies, "That was our boy, Bobby."
"Bobby? Is he alright?" asks the father, a concerned look
on his face..
Fade into the logo of the long distance carrier.
"Yes, he just called to see if we needed firewood."
Hmm...maybe that wouldn't be such a great commercial after all.
The fire and Rob's mickey of Weiser's rye whiskey kept the cold
at bay. I slept like a log.
Jim jockeys his YJ through the V
The next morning, we hit the trails around 10am. The plan was to
head to Leechtown and then Pigpen's Revenge. I've done the trail
to Leechtown many times but it never fails to be interesting.
Since Jonathan left his Jeep TJ at home, I decided to let him
drive my YJ for a while. I figured that he'd enjoy the trail
much more than I would, anyways. This also gave him an
opportunity to evaluate the performance of a locker-equipped rear
The first obstacle was the right turn through a V-shaped trench.
This is quite easy for locked vehicles but always poses a
challenge for the open diff guys. The proper line and a constant
speed is important or else you end up getting crossed-up or you
slide one side into the v-trench that you're supposed straddle.
Jim, having an open-diff Jeep, had problems but he eventually
found the correct line and made it through. Ian got through the
first part easily but had problems immediately afterwards. I'm
sure his manual steering contributed to his difficulty. He
eventually got through after a series of manouevres designed to
pull the back end of his FJ from the jaws of the trench.
Once again, Rob shows off the articulation of his
Comanche on Tire Change Rock
Meanwhile, Wil shows off the lack of articulation
on his Toyota. That probably explains why he just bought
a new set of springs
Next up was that photo opportunity of photo opportunities: Tire
Change Rock. There are two lines through this exposed rock face
at the top of a descent. The first cuts diagonally across the
trail in order to keep the wheels as level as possible. The
second cuts across a little less diagonally to get the wheels
extremely crossed up for a fine photo. Needless to say, we chose
the latter. The difference in suspension articulation due to my
Jeep's recent springover conversion was startling. Previously,
the photo op line would have resulted in my Jeep doing a "tripod"
(teetering on three wheels). In fact, the hanging wheel was
about one foot off the ground the last time I was here. This
time, ALL four tires remained on the ground. Rob Bryce's
Comanche did the same thing. His combination of rear springover
and soft coil springs in the front provides a nicely compliant
suspension. The other rigs did tripods but none surpassed the
tripod executed in fine form by Wil and his Toyota. His truck's
relatively firm suspension provided all sorts of amusement that
weekend but clearly, his performance at Tire Change Rock was the
acme of tripods.
Here I demonstrate the wrong line to take when
climbing U-Joint Hill in the rain
Rob hurried over to help me back out without
causing additional damage to my running board
Ian demonstrates the proper line through U-Joint
Finally, we arrived at U-Joint Hill. A relatively easy section
when dry, we knew the recent rain would make it a tricky climb if
you didn't choose your path carefully. At Rob's suggestion, I
decided to relieve Jonathan and drive my Jeep myself. I was
first up. Getting up the first large rock step was easy. Then I
decided to be a hotdog and take a line to the left which required
straddling a wet, slippery trench in an uphill rock face. I
started the line. Traction seemed ok, even when the Jeep tilted
hard to the right and briefly lifted the front driver's side tire
as it started to straddle the debris-filled gash in the rock.
That's when the passenger side slipped into the trench. This
event was signalled by a sickening crunch. I stopped the Jeep
immediately. Rob quickly evaluated the situation and was able to
spot me out backwards without causing any further damage. Once
out, I tried it again but with more effort to keep the driver's
tires as close as possible to the edge. Riding the brakes and
feathering the gas to crawl as slowly as possible, I was able to
clean the section. A quick damage check revealed minor damage to
the passenger-side step. No big deal. Wishing to avoid similar
damage (or worse), the others took the more sane line to the
right. Once again, it was Jim's open diff YJ which had the most
problems but once he found the right line, he scooted through
easily. Although he had the toughest time getting through the
various sections because of his open diffs, I think he did
amazingly well given the quality of the trails. Others thought
U-Joint Hill was the last hard section on this particular run and
the rest of the route into Leechtown was uneventful except for
the sleeper off-camber around a large rock obstacle at the bottom
of the Chute. (A sleeper obstacle is one that looks easy but
proves to be much worse than anticipated once you're in the
middle of it.)
We stopped for lunch by the river at Leechtown (a ghost town).
While we were doing the usual snacking and BS'ing, we heard the
revving of a motor. We looked up just in time to see a white
Toyota pickup come charging through one of the feeder streams.
The truck bounded into the deepest part of the stream and was
immediately enveloped in a hissing cloud of steam and water
spray. The motor tried to rev harder but we could hear it
struggling against the water coming at it from all directions.
It finally crawled onto the rocky beach and parked beside Wil's
white Toyota pickup. We were all surprised that these dopes
didn't stall in the river but we were even more surprised that
these two dopes in the Toyota were women! To be more precise,
they were biker chicks, as evidenced by their distressed leather
jackets, Harley Davidson logos, and fake snake skin boots. The
driver struck up a conversation with Wil and proudly revealed to
him the cracks in both frame rails of her Toyota which w ere
crudely patched with some plate steel. After some spirited
discussion, the biker chicks disappeared the same way they had
appeared, by crashing with break neck speed through the stream.
You can laugh all you want but I think it was a divine act of
fate. Those biker chick fourwheelers were supposed to drop into
some biker guy fourwheelers' lives and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, the biker guys were probably hanging out 2Km
upstream and the biker chicks made the wrong turn. I can only
hope that they find each other. Gosh, life sure is funny, isn't
At this point, Jim and Roger headed out to catch the next ferry
back to the mainland. Brad and crew went home the night before
and didn't come back. That left Jonathan and me in my YJ, Rob,
Glen and Jane in the Comanche, Wil in his Toyota 4x4, and Ian in
his FJ40. That's when we headed towards Pigpen's Revenge.
Ian ponders the best way out of this off-camber
ditch on Pigpen's Revenge
Lying under my Jeep, in cold water, trying to
remove my driveshaft...
...meanwhile, Ian decided to help me out by
helping himself to my bag of Cheetohs
The trailhead for Pigpen's Revenge (PR) was the typical tiny turn
off from the main road. It immediately began climbing and
twisting and doing the things typical of Vancouver Island trails.
Rob put me in the lead since Jonathan was doing some videotaping
plus he wanted a winch-equipped vehicle in front. He said it was
very likely that we'd need to winch in one or two areas. I tend
to believe Rob when he says stuff like that, and sure enough, the
trail started getting ugly fast. The first hint of the true
nature of PR came when the trail started a long, undulating climb
up a narrow, rocky track. When the rocks got larger and water
was running down the middle, I knew we were getting close to the
juicy bits. The Jeep started to bounce as it slipped off the
loose rocks and gained sudden purchase on others. I went from
bank to bank as I tried to pick the best line to maintain
momentum and avoid damage from the bigger rocks. Our progress
was violently slow. All the while, I was mut tering to Jonathan
that the IRC had found a hell of a great trail. My drivetrain
interrupted my one-sided conversation by yelling, "BANG!"
I retorted by shutting off the motor and saying, "...shit."
My first guess (and hope) was that I had grenaded a u-joint. No
such luck. The mainshaft (an MIT tailshaft eliminator product)
had sheared just past the bearings. My driveshaft hung limply
from the rear diff, looking entirely suitable for my suddenly
I don't feel like discussing the ugly details of the extraction
process but I will mention these points:
- I'm damn glad my 8274 winch had 150 ft of cable. It made it
so much easier to winch my Jeep down the trail.
- I'm really getting tired of having to perform emergency work
under my Jeep while lying in cold, running water.
- Ian somehow perceives that he provided invaluable assistance
to me by chowing down on my Cheetohs while I was lying under
my Jeep...in a stream of cold, running water.
Oh well, at least Jonathan got it on videotape.
PS: It is now Friday afternoon and I'm on a ferry again, headed
back to the mainland after coming back to the island last night.
It's another sunny day (spring has definitely arrived) and I'm in
great spirits. Thanks to the Island Rockcrawlers, and Rob, Vern,
Wayne and Nadine in particular, my Jeep is fully operational and
stronger than before. While I was back on the mainland, Vern and
Wayne removed my transfer case, cleaned it up and inspected it.
Wayne determined that it needed a new shift fork and inserts and
obtained the parts for me. Last night, they all helped to
reassemble the case and install it in the Jeep. It was 3am when
we finished the job (we started late). I also owe a big thanks
to Wil and Jonathan who helped with transportation and parts
acquisition on the mainland.