Saturday, April 02, 2005

Campfires and Four-Wheel Drive Survival Skills

For the second time this week, I traveled up Iron Mountain Road for a campfire and an afternoon of reading, lunch and whittling. This time my son joined me.

We spent three hours at the campsite. My son recovered his pocket knife from the glove box and whittled on several pine twigs while we ate out Taco Bell lunch.

"Don't get stuck dad"

We left the campsite around 2 p.m. and traveled east on a dirt road the parallels Iron Mountain Road. I had intended to eventually merge onto Iron Mountain and run up the mountain until snow prevented any further travel.

Looking back toward the mud holes. Fortunately, they weren't very deep. We were able to drive the truck in reverse through both holes.

But, Murphy's Law was in full force today. As we rode up the mountain on the four-wheel trail, my son warned, "Don't get stuck dad." He knows that I have priors!

"We won't get stuck," I responded. I'm not sure if I was expressing confidence in my four wheeling abilities or confidence in my ability to free the truck. Since buying Jeep Cherokee vehicle in 1991, I routinely pull the 4X4 out of a jam at least once per year.

As my son predicted, a 4X4 is no guarantee of stuck-free off-road travel. One hundred feet from the outlet, I attempted to negotiate one of those tall berms that the loggers build to block off-road travel. I should've backed out and turned around at the first opportunity.

Instead, I gunned the accelerator and attempted to cross over the berm. As the truck leaped over the berm, the weight of the engine brought the truck down on the transfer case. The truck sat high centered right on top of the berm. Fortunately, I didn't damage the transfer case or drive shaft.

All four wheels spun. I couldn't even rock the truck back and forth to free it. I tried to insert several pieces plywood under the read wheels. This didn't work either.

The jack is fully extended. I used a piece of firewood as a base to support the weight of the truck.

After 30 minutes I saw that my only hope was to dig the transfer case free. It took another 90 minutes to accomplish this. In the end, I jacked the front left quarter of the truck up and built a mound of dirt under the front left wheel.

To extract the truck I place the transfer case into low range and shifted the transmission into reverse. I gave the accelerator a gentle tap to free the transfer case and to place the truck's weight onto the rear wheels. It worked!

After recovering the jack and shovel, we backed out though two mud holes and turned the truck around in the first clearing. Since it was after 4 p.m. at that point, we headed home.

I need to get back in shape! At this point I'd been digging the transfer case out for over an hour.

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