Sunday, April 3
Gabe and I unloaded at the little camp spot above Carnage Canyon because the Kane Springs parking lot was clogged with at least 10 camp trailers blocking the road. I drove right through the middle of them to the trail, hopefully teaching them they were camping on a road and that’s not the neighborly, nice thing to do to people who want to access the road.
I can’t believe how many people are out in the Owyhees. Land use is becoming a major issue, fast.
We spun quickly across the Kane Springs road. It’s amazing how fast you can cover that stretch in a side-by-side instead of a Jeep. “Remember those first Rocket Runs when we had one light at the top of Blacks Mountain and it would take us all night to drive across this stretch, up Tiddie Springs, and cut across to Black’s Mountain?” I asked Gabe at our first stop. He remembered.
We had covered a stretch that took several hours in a Jeep in 20 minutes since getting off the trailer.
Soon, we almost had a major problem. Coming down the long rocky hill from Kane Springs into the Tiddie Creek canyon, I heard a noise. I thought a rock had got between a brake caliper and my wheel. It was definitely a metal-on-rock noise and something felt funny in the rear end.
I got out and looked and my heart dropped. My radius arm was down in the rocks, with the tire leaning way out and about to rip the axle out of the diff. A bolt had broken. I found the bolt; it had been broken for a long time with the tiniest sliver of silver to show the scene of the crime. This was a major malfunction. I yelled at Gabe on the radio and told him he better come back.
In worse news, we had two socket sets and some ratchet straps to work with. Both of us are so used to having our Jeeps and all our tools with us, that we were starting to scramble about how to fix this problem. I thought I was going to end up leaving the RZR and going home for parts. This was going to be a problem.
Luckily, Polaris uses the same bolts in the roll cage as they do that hold on the radius arms. And luckily, they are bolts and not torque heads like Gabe’s Can-Am. After 10 minutes of panic and thinking up ideas, Gabe looked at the roll bar and said, “What about this bolt?” Soon, three of us were lifting the RZR suspension up and down while Lynette shot the bolt through the three holes. Gabe and I were able to get the sockets on each end, barely, to hold it, and we were running again in another ten minutes. We didn’t even have to end our trip. We did learn we need to pack more tools and options.
We continued up the trail.
At the same meadow that Gabe and I once rescued Chris in the Raptor buried in mud and snow, at almost the exact same spot, we found a utility UTV, a Ranger buried. This rig was out of place. It was heavy, low, with small, worn-out tires, and should not have been up there. The guy freely admitted he had no idea what he was doing and was a little panicky. His friend, in the Busch Light RZR, had already broken his winch rope on him and was now fighting a winch that wouldn’t pull under a load.
Lynette stopped and talked to the two women in the group while Gabe and I went to work assessing the stuck. The women were worried about ever getting the tractor rig out. “Don’t worry,” Lynette told them. “This is what they do.” I wonder how many rigs and people Gabe and I have rescued off that mountain in the springtime over the last 15 years or so. It seems like every spring, we get at least one.
The ladies then told Lynette they were trying to drive to Silver City. She couldn’t help herself when she said “you can’t do that this time of year!” She’s right. It won’t be that time for a couple of months.
Gabe and I drove around the stuck, got below, anchored up, and had the rig winched out in five minutes. The ladies told Lynette they had been there for over an hour and that there was no way to get behind the rig to winch it.
We found a way.
After, we spun up to the top to look at my favorite snowdrift in the Owyhees. It will be there for another couple of months and I would like to check on it again a time or two. There is still 10 or 15 feet of snow piled up over the road by the wind and frozen into a solid sheet of snow. It’s going to be a minute or two until you can drive to Silver City this way.
If you don’t have a favorite snowdrift that happens every year, we might not be the hang-out-on-the-weekend type of friends.
Spring in the desert is my favorite time to be out there. The hills green up like Western Oregon, the weather ranges from 30 degrees to 75 degrees, and the animals are all moving about, stretching their legs after the long winter. The mountains in the distance, as far as you can see, are all still white-capped, but the rivers and creeks are flowing at hyper-capacity from the lowland melt-off. Driving through the snow when it is 70 degrees is awesome, even if it can get a spot of mud on you.
We didn’t see any snakes yet, but that will be the next desert right-of-passage for the year.
Maybe next weekend because I plan to be out again, maybe even checking on my favorite snowdrift.
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