This run is gonna be tough to top. Those of you who were registered and couldn't make it for whatever reason really missed out.
Day 1 started out at the gas station rendezvous point. There, we handed out some mementos from the run. Thanks Duerk for the AZ Run III Flyers, thanks DL for the tow cards (thankfully they weren't needed), and special thanks to Nissan Mike at AC for sending the box of goodies to hand out at the run. That was totally unexpected.
At any given time we had about 10-14 trucks on the trail, which made for a very manageable group given the conditions.
The coves were dry for us on Monday. We ran all 6. We tackled one kickass hillclimb after another. The big hill out of the first cove goes up about 200 feet vertical at a 45+ degree angle and just can't be explained properly without you actually seeing it. I tackled it first and almost lugged out the 4 banger at the top but did scratch over. The rear ARB helped as I took the mogulled line to the left. Others tackled the big hill as well. 98XE4X4 tried real hard, but the hill proved to be too much for open diffs and he took a strap. Others scratched and clawed their way up. Then it was Duerk's turn. You'll see the pics and video later, but the 3 foot wheelie he did at the top was CRAZY! We hooked up with Dennis in his Cherocar and Silverfox in his SAS'd HB later in the day. We eventually dropped into the 6th cove and crawled tne little rock garden there. We made our way back to the 4th cove, set up tent city, and settled in for the night. Marshall made up a couple NY Strips that were simply awesome. Was pretty cool hearing the fish splash out in the calm water after dark. Flip's ultimate grill mod was tested and approved that night.
On Day 2 we woke up to ominous skies. After breakfast, we got tent city torn down and headed out through the Saguaro Lake "rolls" and up the big hill and on out to El Oso Road. The sky began to open up at this point and we drove in a downpour. Once back at the highway, we rolled about 15 miles to Sunflower and the Sunflower Mine trail. I was a little concerned when we planned this run that this trail wouldn't be challenging enough, but all those doubts were put to rest as we slid into the rough stuff and churned mud for the entire length of the trail. We rolled through a lush creek bottom area that recent rains has brought alive. Didn't seem like Arizona at all. Instead it was much more reminiscent of east coast wheeling. Next, we visited the big mine up there. Breaks in the rain were few and far between, but a few guys did manage to walk down to the mine and check it out. The rest of us concentrated on staying warm and dry. We then proceeded to the rock garden. This is a bout a 1/2 mile stretch of creek bottom boulder crawling. I led through as John got video evidence of our presence there. A few trucks struggled on the wet slippery rocks, and skidplates and sliders were used for their intended purpose. Marshall snapped off his towhook on one of the protrusions. Getting a dozen plus trucks through this area took us a while, but all perservered. Coming out of the wash, you start up switchbacks that take you up nearly 2000 feet in elevation in a big hurry. The climb was loose, rocky, and muddy. Steady throttle was needed to maintain forward momentum. Once at the top of the hill, the trail splits. We opted for the northern route loops to the Pine Mountain road. This proved to be a much more adventurous choice than any of us had anticipated. We got above 5000 feet and rain turned into sleet, and the conditions were absolutely sloppy. Here's where things got REALLY fun. A number of steep inclines take this trail past 6000 feet in elevation. Those climbs were very muddy and rutted. Our first challenge came at one of these inclines - there was a 3 foot deep rut on the right side and a higher, off camber right hand curve around the left side of it. I gassed it up and the MTR's and rear locker grabbed just enough to keep me from sliding into the rut. Flipper's mobile cook station wasn't so lucky, as his BFG AT's just wouldn't grab enough. He tried it and backed off a few times until he got thoroughly stuck. I backed down and strapped him up. He wasn't the only one. Joel couldn't climb it either in his ARB locked X due to worn BFG AT tires and he took a strap from John's Pathy. I think a couple others got tugged as well.
Then we got to the BIG hill. I tried the more difficult line at the top that goes through some moguls but the mud won. I ended up putting in both lockers and rotating the truck 90 degrees while sitting in the same spot before I found enough traction to get out of the hole I'd dug myself into. Flip tried the easier line to the left and had to take my strap again. Duerk and Lee also too straps here. It was a really nasty spot. The remainder of the trail was reasonably uneventful as we connected to the Pine Mountain road and back out to the highway. We did see about 8 whitetail deer on the way down the mountain. We got near our campsite and the rain became a torrential downpour - perfect weather for setting up camp. We got Tent City up in record time and we were all soaked, cold, and tired. Duerk and Jason tried setting up their tent, but a gust of wind came and folded their tent poles and Jason was flapping in the breeze hanging on to the tent. Since their sleeping quarters got destroyed, they headed to town for the night and rejoined us Wednesday morning. The BBQ mod really came in handy this night heating tent city and drying out clothes.
It rained all night and continued to rain on Wednesday morning. We were a little slow getting moving this day, as everyone was damp and chilled. Duerk shows up with DL in the Xterra, and JW and J in Jim's red Rubicon tested Frontier. We got tent city down and everything loaded up and proceeded to play around in the mud near camp. 98XE4X4 immediately flew into a HUGE puddle and drowned his truck. Jim, John, and Mike spent time drying out the intake, removing the plugs, etc. to ensure the truck wouldn't hydrolock. Mike was ass deep in water when he got out of his truck and we all got a pretty good laugh out of it. Marshal thought he'd be funny as DL was sitting there in the X. He backed up to a big mud hole right behind our pretty Xterra and gassed it, laying stucco mud siding on the entire rear hatch and window. Still gotta get him back for that one! Xcetra had to take off and attend to work related stuff, but promised to rejoin us Thursday. Turned out he also had a gashed tire he needed to fix. One dead BFG MT. Thank goodness for Discount Tire CERTS!
Once Mike was running again, we headed for the FR524 trailhead to Reno Pass. DL parked the X at the trailhead. We figured with stock step rails and the General Grabbers, it wouldn't stand a chance and of course, we were right. We'd anticpated only going to the pass and coming back due to the weather conditions. We ultimately went all the way and that turned out to be the right choice. The trail this day was absolutely spectacular. Long rock gardens on this trail became raging streams that we had to drive up. Every single wash was running with it's own creek and the water crossings were countless. Despite conditions, many in the group still tackled the tougher lines and had a blast going up the mountain. We stopped briefly at the top of the pass but the wind was blowing and the sleet was falling. At this point we decided to risk going down the other side and driving the muddy shelf roads so we could reach SR188 at the bottom and come out 3 miles from a gas station. Tanks were getting low. I had dumped in 5 gallons the day before and was OK, but others with V6's were running lower. On the way down the pass we saw spectacular waterfalls where there is normally no water. This was really a treat, as these waterfalls are only active a few days out of the year. We also saw a good amount of snow up on Mt. Ord immediately North of us. We continued down to religous rock where we'd spent time working on the road with the USFS. The weight of the mud proved too much for some of our erosion blockers, but the trail was still suitable to drive through. I went ahead and then ran up the hill and spotted others through the spot ensuring no one got too close to the edge. BRRRR!!! Got wet in the process.
We continued down the mountain to the flats below. The trail immediately turned from rocks to red clay GUMBO. Dennis had been letting his kid drive his Cherocar (he does amazingly well), but he slid it into a rut and the swampers and dual traction devices were no match for the mud. Terrence got the honors of strapping out the Jeep. I went up to help and line up just in case, but in turning around I broke a tail light in a bush, dangit. Didnt' get the bulbs though, so I was still pretty much legal.
This would be JW's only day on the trail so he and J decided they wanted to run the pass back the other way. Most of the group continued down through a mile of the gumbo and out to the highway to get back to Phoenix via Apache Trail. Terrence did some amazing rut-running, as did Duerk.
Steve (mud), JW, and myself started back the other way about 2 pm. The trail was equally gorgeous going back the other way and remained relatively uneventful until we were most the way back up to the past. JW's truck just kinda darted right and damn near off the trail. He corrected but the truck still wanted to go that way. Closer inspection revealed he had bent a tierod center adjustor at a 90 degree angle and when the right front was pointed ahead, the left front was turned all the way in. As soon as jacks and wrenches were broken out, it began to sleet heavily - of course. The truck was sitting on an incline and was not in an optimal position. We chocked the back wheels and used two hi-lifts side by side on the front bumper to lift it up because we didn't trust getting under the truck with just one. Wasn't the safest thing in the world, but it was all we had to work with. After some cussing, we got the thing replaced and got back on the trail. Doug, a guy with another Cherocar, happened to catch up with us at that point. He had run Reno with us 2 weeks prior and he ran the rest of the trail with us that day. Was good to have the extra company.
We continued over the pass and down the other side. Down by Bushnell Tanks, there are a couple major washes. At the trailhead we put DL back in the Xterra and I followed her. We got to the first wash crossing and the water was probably a foot deeper than it had been earlier in the day. JW went first and DL followed. The water was hitting the Xterra aboud mid-door on the upstream side, but she made it, and I was proud. The next water crossing had a huge log in the middle that had washed down. JW went in and nudged it with his bumper and pushed it up stream. It then came back down and caught his rear bumper and rotated his truck around, mid crossing, about 90 degrees, but then washed out of the way. Was pretty cool to watch. DL and Steve put their Xterras through and I brought up the rear. Once at pavement, JW gave his truck a little better alignment, and Doug was drying out his airbox, as the Jeep didn't seem to much care for the deep water.
We drove home. I inspected the truck. I had a torn CV boot - crap. A lot of work with a rag, and a subsequent wrapping with lots of duct tape ensued in the morning. The first leg of AZ Run III was complete.
The second leg started at Carefree Hwy and I17. I just made it in time after taping up the blown CV boot and getting gas/ice/beer at the store there. We lost a couple trucks for this leg. Accesabel was in for the first leg only, and Xcetra still had work crap to deal with, so he would join us Friday. Thanatoz joined us for the first time, and Silverfox was there, but he also said he would join us Friday morning, as the mud and rain didn't appeal to him. So off we went to the Table Mesa Road exit.
We got off the highway and began airing down. Skies were dark and ominous once again and we were more than a little concerned about the river crossing we'd be doing. We started along Gasline trail and slipped and slid nicely on the muddy ascents and descents. We finally came down the big hill where the gasline trail hooks into Table Mesa West and there was a guy with a big new Chevy HD2500 waiting at the bottom watching. He asked me how the trail was and I told him he'd be fine if he could climb the first big hill. He went, and we watched. He BARELY made it. Was comical.
We continued on Table Mesa West and got to the Aqua Fria Wash. I've never seen this with water in it, but it was frigging raging this day. Send the truck with the snorkel first! John made it and I followed, and we took the opporutnity to get some pics of others coming through. Thanatoz in his stock Pathy was seeing water about mid headlight. Any deeper and he'd have been done.
Since we were making good time, we decided to try a side trip to TipTop Mine. That trail crosses a normally dry creekbed many times and it became evident after the first couple crossing that we might not make it. This was confirmed when we came to a REALLY deep crossing, so we turned the train around and proceeded back to the river.
We got down to the sand flats (more like mud flat) and let everyone play for an hour or so. If you let a group of 4 wheelers play long enough, things tend to get crazy, and they did. Joel and Mike (ClimberRn and 98XE4X4) decided to engage in bumper wars. Joel has an ARB on his X, and Mike's is homemade out of box tubing. Neither bumper lost, but Mike's clutch did. Don't try to outpush a V6 auto with a 4 banger manual. When the smoke cleared, he realized he had some clutch left and was able to continue. The rest of us got a great laugh out of it.
Out of the sand flats is a rutted red clay hillclimb. John went first and did a very impressive climb. I followed and Flip was after me. Again, the mud proved too much for the AT's and I strapped him. Not to be outdone, Thanatoz took his bone stock Pathy with Big O AT's and gassed it up, proving a little momentum goes a long way. Everyone else slipped and slid their way up the hill, but from this point, I just left the strap hooked up to my back bumper. It wasn't much farther and we had to do another off camber detour around a major rut. Thanatoz picked the right line but may have gone a little slow, and the Pathy simply slid sideways and into the rut. So I got to strap him too. We found camp reasonably early and got tent city erected. We played around a bit before parking and this was where Marshall found the ledge to drive off of. I'll let that video speak for itself. The firewood bouncing off the windshield and hood was absolutely hilarious. We had enough time to set up horseshoe pits and play a round. Much cock was cooked on the BBQ mod. Everyone was tired and most of us were in bed by a little after 90 - and we didn't get up until 8 the next morning. It sprinkled a bit through the night, but for the most part, it didn't rain on us much. I slept better than I had all week.
On Friday morning a white Xterra and a green HB showed up. Xcetra and Silverfox came in on the Lake Pleasant side and found us. We broke camp and headed west out to Cow Creek road. Flip had mashed too many puddles the day before and the battery light kept coming on. Once at the CK road intersection, he hauled back to town to have it checked out. A new alternator did the trick and he joined back up with us Friday night.
The rest of us headed towards Castle Hot Springs and on up through the box canyon. The sky started getting dark again and within no time, it was raining. The box canyon was a trip, as the trail became a river and was difficult to distinguish at times due to the amount of running water. We actually drove up a river for nearly 5 miles. This is something none of us had ever done in years living in Arizona.
Eventually we climbed out of the canyon and up to a couple mines. The rain stopped briefly, so we stopped for a quick lunch. This day, we would cover more distance than any of the others, so we had to keep moving. The remainder of the trail was very scenic, and you could see the snow capped Bradshaw Mountains to the North. We continued on to Wickenburg, where we found a Texaco station. Joel had to head back to California, so we said our goodbyes. The gas station shitter got ruined by a couple people. Of course I didn't get that urge until we got to camp.
We originally planned to camp in the Box Canyon of the Hassayampa, but once we got there, the Hassayampa river was flowing heavily and we couldn't get to our campsite. We were also trying to hook back up with Flip who had gotten his truck fixed and knew the general area we would be camping. After fording the river a few times, we decided the canyon bottom was not the place to be and we went up top. Flip had scouted out an awesome campsite for us and we parked and quickly put up the best tent city we had all week in the last few minutes of daylight. Once dark fell, the clouds cleared out and we were welcomed by a crystal clear sky and a lot of stars. I hadn't seen Orion so visibly in a long time. With the clearing came the cold and it dipped below 40 degrees by 9 pm. By dawn, it was much colder. A great campfire was built and the trail weary warriors sacrificed Chucky to the fire gods. OK, Terrence has this Chucky doll and then......Anyways, you had to be there...
We had to meet J, DL, Kim (Mike's girlfriend), and Flip's wife, Michelle in town at the Texaco at 10:30. We got there just in time.
We headed west out of town to the Vulture peak trails. These trails were pretty mild compared to what we'd been doing all week, and that was OK. We snaked our way through the desert through some of the densest Cholla forests I've ever seen and eventually down to the lower Hassayampa river bottom. This is the ultimate wash - about 1/4 to 1/2 mile wide, all sand, and a lot of fun. The water flows left some sand ledges, however, and there were long patches of greasy mud along the way. Scooting over these at 35 mph felt like ice skating!
High speed fun ensued but you really had to watch for the ledges. Some were 2 feet high. We got couple miles down the wash and Flipper, who was in the lead, stopped. He destroyed a rear shock, and chunks of it were dangling under the truck. Xcetra saves the day and produces one of his stock Xterra shocks out of the back and a few minutes later we were wheeling again. Terrence found some quicksand and sunk his Frontier and took a strap. Xcetra's parts bin self destructed in the back of hix X due to the bouncing. Duerk, Mike, and Flip played around on a little jump.
We finally headed back up the wash, again, just hauling ass. Remember the 2 foot ledges? Didn't see one at about 45 mph and drove off it. I rearranged my inner front fender liners a bit, but was otherwise no worse for the wear. DL was riding shotgun and she was having fun. Once we pulled out of the wash and unlocked, we headed back out to the highway where the group dispersed.
Depression set in. AZ Run III was over. What a run!
For more pictures and videos, visit www.nissan4wheelers.com/6/ubb.x and look for the AZ Run 3 forum. Information on AZ Run IV is being gathered and more information will be posted in the AZ Run IV forum.
We wish to thank Nissan4Wheelers for sharing another spectacular event. Every year these runs keep getting better and better. Make plans now, because you won't want to miss AZ Run IV!