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Crystal Mountain & Moody Hill Colorado
26th October 2002
by Norman Hall
[Double click pictures to get enlargements]
Winter is fast approaching, there is snow in the Rockies, the wind is becoming extremely cold and many of the 4Wdrive trails are already closed due to snowdrifts. Whilst this scenario is fantastic for those who want to go skiing, some of us are about to go into withdrawal. As a result, Marc Richardson's offer to lead a trip to Crystal Mountain via Moody Hill for the Rover Rider Club was something to be embraced, like a smoker taking that last puff before they know they have to go back inside and stay there for a long time. Well at least that's how I imagine it [NB I am a non smoker].
The day started off sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. The wind was blowing and given the unpredictability of the weather in them there mountains, we were all rugged up in our winter woolies. Our meeting spot was the car park of Zang's brewery at 7.45 am [I should have been asleep in bed]. We met most of the trip participants here; the others were to join us further up the Highway in Fort Collins.
- Marc Richardson & Kim 1992 Range Rover
- Mark & Bev Devereaux & Friend Penny 1996 Discovery
- Tom & Marsha Martell 1999 Discovery
- Ali Vali 1993 Range Rover
- Eric Myer 1995 Defender 90
- Scott & Laura Robillard 1997 Discovery
- Tim, Colleen and Bronwyn Clair 1995 Discovery
- Norman, Trish, Alex & Connor Hall 1988 Range Rover
Our final call to pick up participants and fuel was Fort Collins, which is approximately 1-hour drive North of Denver and only some 45 miles south of the Wyoming State Border. At this point I was running as the tail vehicle so was keeping track of the vehicles in our group. After refueling I did a mental vehicle check and discovered that one of our Discoveries had gone missing [I will not mention names to save embarrassment to those who became geographically removed from the group]. Given that the group had driven less than 3 miles from the turn off this was very surprising.
Ali Vali volunteered to turn around and search for our missing participants we soon found our friends and we back on our way.
Upon arriving at the trail head for Moody Hill most vehicles aired down tires. Moody Hill is only classified in the Charles A Wells second book as a moderately difficult trail although is one of the more challenging in this classification. The first part of the trail started off moderately steep however all the harder parts had been removed as it was obviously that a bull dozer had been through the area clearing the rougher sections. The climb up through Roosevelt National Forest afforded us some spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Eric Myer in his Defender 90 near our lunch spot
Near the top of the climb we took a bypass road, which led us to a small quarry, which is used by many as a fun stop over point to test our vehicles. The quarry is basically a short run up a small valley with a 3 foot high rock ledge at its end followed by a sharp dogleg turn right then another small climb up to another 2 - 3 foot high ledge. The surface was surprisingly loose and was dug up very easily.
Marc Richardson overcoming the Quarry
The first to try the quarry was our trusted Leader Marc. Although he needed several attempts to get over the first ledge, he managed to get through the entire area with relative ease. The second to try was Mark in his Discovery. Having only open diff's he was unable to overcome the first ledge as his rear ties dug into the soil. As a result he smartly reversed out. Ali Vali was the third to try. Unfortunately he broke a rear axle at the first ledge. Further compounding his predicament was the fact that he had dug his wheels into the soft soil necessitating a gentle tow out backwards.
Ali Vali being recovered back to the car park area
Never liking to be beaten and despite Ali's misfortune I was up next. Luck was on my side and with the use of both diff locks and some gentle persuasion I managed to drive through the entire quarry. All others within the group took the sensible decision of passing on this little bit of needless play. Ali decided to remove his broken axle and drive out and back to Denver wisely not wanting to attempt the rest of the trip with only 3 axles.
We joined the Crystal Mountain trail after about 30 minutes more uneventful driving. This trail whilst being classified as Difficult is not overly difficult for experienced drivers. At the bottom of this trail we drove in parallel to a small stream that was already fully frozen over by the cold weather and early snowfall. After about 30 more minutes driving we came to a nice open area, which provided an excellent lunch spot for the group.
Our Lunch Spot
During lunch my youngest son, Connor, decided to get to know his friend Bronwyn a little better and rekindle their ties from the recent Moab National Rally. I think the photo below tells the entire story.
After lunch the trail started to become a bit more challenging with numerous off camber rocks to drive over and several steppy / ledgy areas to drive through. The group overcame all with relative ease although on some occasions those with more standard vehicles needed external spotting for wheel placement and several attempts to get the correct driveline.
Connor Hall with Bronwyn Clair [Sorry Tim]
The last 100 yards of the trail consists of large loose rocks affording little traction. Marc suggested that those in standard vehicles park at the base and walk this final section. Those with diff locks, raised suspension etc proceeded to drive up to the trail end.
At the top, being the peak of Crystal Mountain [elevation 9,949 ft] and after a small climb we enjoyed 360 degree views looking into Wyoming to the North, the Rocky Mountains to our West, the front ranges disappearing to the South & West and the plains heading out towards Nebraska and Kansas.
Our Group at the Peak of Crystal Mountain
Unfortunately at this point our trip turned a little sour. Despite trying to watch our boys all the time, we missed seeing Alex wander off. Upon realizing he was gone the entire group started looking for him. It was 20 minutes or more before we found him. He had wandered off to the rest of the cars parked at the base of the trail. He was in big trouble. Apparently he walked down to the cars and did not tell us because he thought we would say no. Our thanks go to the group for helping us search for the little bugger. Hint, parents, buy some rope and tie your children to the car if you go off road. Make the rope very short.
Alex Hall just before he went for a walk. NB the smile left very soon after getting him back.
On our way out back to Buckhorn Road we stopped at a section of the trail that allowed us to check out each vehicles wheel articulation and how the different suspension setups affect the cars. Each driver drove to where the car was at its most articulated and then he or she got out to have a look at the results. It was a good safe learning experience for all.
Checking out Wheel Articulation.
It was then off to Fort Collins where the group went their separate ways. All our thanks go to Marc Richardson and his able side kick Kim for their Leadership and supplying us with another great excuse to go exploring.
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