Rim Rocker Trail

Here is the Rim Rocker fiasco as told by Chad Beal.

We met at the north City Market in downtown Montrose, Ben Peterson and his boy in his Suzuki Sidekick, Jeff and his boy in his Tahoe, Jo and Leroy Martinez in their JK, Paul and Julie Wilson in their LJ, Billy Schultheiss in his TJ, and me in my XJ all excited to take off on this scenic trip to Moab via the Rimrocker Trail, 160 miles one way of graded dirt roads. We set out on Hwy 90 out of Montrose, after about 10 miles Hwy 90 turns into a nice dirt road. At this point we were officially on Rimrocker. The trail makes it way up through the pines and aspens up on top of the Uncompahgre Plateau to roughly 9,000 feet. At this time of year we saw some beautiful fall colors with fresh snow on the mountains in the distance.We then made our way down to the sleepy little town of Nucla. This is the last chance for fuel before Moab.  From Nucla we headed down the trail, now starting to get more into the desert terrain of red rocks, sage brush, and cedar trees. The trail runs high above the San Miguel River, somewhat parallel to Hwy 141 through the Uravan Mining Area. After a couple small creek crossing we begin to make our way down to Hwy 141. After a short trip on Hwy 141 we made a quick right across a bridge over the San Miguel River. The trail once again climbs up through the red rock, providing beautiful views of the San Miguel River Canyon. Once on top of Carpenter Ridge there are multiple roads and options. We stayed on Q13 for the most part.

This is where the fun began. The trail takes a route to the left that drops down a small hill off of the ridge which gives great views of the Paradox Valley. At this point it begins to lightly rain. At the bottom of the hill we come across a bolder that has fallen into the middle of the narrow road.  We should have taken that as a hint to turn around, but oh no, we decided to move it using a high lift jack to slowly slide it off the trail.  At this point the trail has started to become kind of muddy. No big deal, we are in Jeeps and finally get to put them in 4 wheel drive for the first time in 109 miles and 6 hours of driving. The trail continues along the shelf road as it makes a slight turn and starts to climb back up on top of the ridge.

Now it’s about 4pm in the afternoon and with the continuing rain, the road turns into a slick muddy mess. Ben leading in his Suzuki Sidekick makes the slight turn and starts up the hill and quickly comes to a stop, then with all 4 wheels spinning it begins to slide back down the trail.  At this point I’m thinking, oh boy, here we go. I’m going have to tow Ben to the top. There is a small wide spot just past where Ben slid back to, so we have Ben back down a bit to try to get a run at the hill again. So he backs up a couple feet and gives it another try and moves forward…maybe an inch.  Ok, let’s go back further and try again. On that try nothing. Ok plan B, let’s get some guys and try pushing, it’s a small light vehicle, surely we can push it and it will get traction and head on up the hill. So Leroy, Jeff, and I get behind Ben and try to get our feet planted and tell Ben to go for it. As we push our feet just slide out from under us and Ben’s tires throw mud all over us with zero forward progress.  About this time Billy and Paul show up to the party and see what’s going on, then comes plan C. Let’s find some rocks and place them in front of the tires to hopefully give Ben some traction. Good idea but there are very few rocks in this area. We scrounge up a few rocks and place them in front of all tires.  Ben gives it a try and after some spinning and pushing the Suzuki finally grabs and takes off right over the rocks but quickly comes to a stop, yet again. Ok, well let’s do that again. We continue with this till we get Ben far enough up the trail that I can squeeze by. So I grab the XJ and squeeze by and get in front of Ben to hook a strap to him and pull him to the top.  When I stop I feel my Jeep slide back down the hill a little and I think this ain’t good.  So I try to move again and all I do is spin. Ok really not good! We put some rocks under my tires and I give it another try. The XJ grips the rocks and begins to move throwing mud everywhere. I gain momentum so I stay in it and drive my Jeep on up to a somewhat flat spot.  It’s getting dark at this point but were not giving up.  We fight with Ben’s Suzuki some more gaining only inches.  Jeff is next in line driving a lifted Chevy Tahoe on 35 inch mud terrains. He says let me see if I can get past Ben and hopefully I can pull him up the hill. So Jeff slides past Ben and starts around the corner to get lined up to pull Ben. But the back axle of Jeff’s Tahoe has different plans, it decides it wants to go sideways and drop a tire off the edge.  Now it’s about 10:30 pm we are all tired of pushing and pulling on Ben and Jeff so we decide to call it a night. Off to our Jeeps to strip out of our wet and muddy clothes and into something dry and warm.

After a few hours of sleep in our cramped Jeeps, we get up with the sun still hiding behind rain clouds. Back to work on getting through this mud.  With the morning light we discover that this mud section is only about 250 yards long and then we will be back on a nice hard packed road. This gives us a glimmer of hope. I take my Jeep up to the top and turn around and head back down into the mud.  Time for plan 42B, start using the winch and straps to get Jeff back onto the trail. We pull cable through a snatch block and hook to the back of Jeff’s Tahoe and pull him back up on the trail.  Ok, for the first time since we hit the mud something worked as planned! Now for me to get turned around and get out of Jeff’s way so he can drive to the top of the hill. Billy takes my cable out of the snatch block and hooks me straight to the tree saver strap. I pull myself up to just under the tree I was hooked to and put the Jeep in 2 wheel drive and let the back swing around right on the edge of the trail. Now that I’m sideways on the slick trail I have Billy and Leroy re-hook my winch to another tree up the hill and I let my winch pull the front around so it’s pointed back up the trail again. Unhook the winch and drive to the top. I get to the top and wait for Jeff. I hear his motor come to life for a couple seconds and then it goes silent. I walk down the trail to where I can see Jeff and now he has both driver side tires off the trail.  Back down the trail I go to pull him up again. I hook to the back again and begin to pull. This causes the front to slide further off the edge. So…onto the next plan. Let’s get Jo to bring her JK up and hook onto the front and we will pull Jeff together back onto the trail. We hook her up to the front through another snatch block and several more straps. We slowly work together and get Jeff on the trail again. This time I just backed up the trail out of his way. I didn’t make it very far and Billy was motioning for me to come back.  Jeff’s front is once again trying to slide off the trail. Ok, pull the cable back out through the snatch block, hook it to 3 or 4 straps to reach him without going too far back down into the muddy slop. I start pulling and all I do is slide down the hill and go sideways. Somewhere during this pull, Jeff got going faster than my winch and my cable decided to turn into a giant rat’s nest. Now I’m sitting sideways without a working winch to get me back out. Time to call in reinforcements.

Closest person we know with a winch is Monica Bartlett in Montrose. We call her and she grabs her husband Mike Welch, and a Jeep and head our way. We realize that the mud is getting worse and that we will need more help to get everyone out. We call Scott Click and tell him what’s going on and he decides that he won’t be able to help us with another Jeep, so he grabs his dump truck and Cat D5 dozer and begins his long trek to reach us. It’s about noon now and still raining. Since we now are waiting for Monica and Mike, we realize we should eat some food and get warmed up. Billy pulls out his propane fire pit and sets it up under a tarp that he stretched out between his Jeep and some trees. We relax for a couple of hours and laugh about our falls in the mud and down the hill trying to get straps and cables up to the small trees for the last 20 hours. When Mike and Monica show up, we run their winch all the way out and hook a 30 foot strap to the end of their winch line and then to my Jeep. They start pulling and my back end slowly moves back onto the trail, about then my front decides it wants a turn over the edge. Mike keeps pulling and I turn my wheels uphill and eventually the front comes back up.  We get out to the top and fix my winch and discus our options with Mike and Monica.  We decide to play it safe and keep both Jeeps on top and wait for Scott with his dozer.  Back down to Billy’s fire pit and shelter.  Everyone is feeling defeated and worn out, but we all know our rescuer will be here in a couple hours.

Billy and I head up to my jeep about 8pm to wait for Scott. I miss calculated how long it would take him to get to us, but about 9:30pm we saw headlights coming down the trail!!!  Scott wastes no time heading down the muddy trail, scraping the top 6 inches of mud off the trail and finding solid ground. He hooks onto Jeff and pulls him up the trail with ease.  Once Jeff’s safe on top, Scott heads back down to grab Jo and Ben since we already had them hooked together. Scott gets them both to the top, and back down for Paul and Julie and gets them up. That leaves Billy as the last one to be pulled through the mud and to the top. Off Scott goes for the last Jeep. Scott gets Billy and his trailer up with ease, just like the rest.  We had been fighting to get everyone to the top for nearly 30 hours and Scott gets all of us out in about 30 minutes, lol!  Scott brought us some Serious Texas BBQ so we had a quick supper to celebrate our rescue before heading down to the hwy.  We get Scott’s dozer back to the truck at Buckeye Reservoir, load it up and head for the highway.  So after over 29 hours stuck in the mud and having it rain for at least 27 of those hours, we were done with trying to run the Rimrocker Trail! Never even made it to the Utah border. This is a very good example of why we all need to bring extra clothes, food and supplies. What should have been an easy 8 hour dirt road trip turned into a grueling wet and cold weekend.  We were very lucky that most of us had planned on staying a night on the trail, otherwise this would be a different story. Thank you Billy, Paul and Julie, Jo and Leroy, Ben and Jeff for all the hard work and patience.  It’s great to be part of a family that can come together and work as a team to get out no matter the situation.  Extra special thanks to Mike and Monica for coming to our rescue from Montrose, and also Scott for bringing your dozer that far to get us all out!!!  Rimrocker 1 – Creeper Jeepers 0.

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