Spring Creek 4th May 2002
Yes folks, another installment in the Off Road adventures of Norman Hall, traveling Australia 4Wdrive enthusiast. This time the Rover Riders club visited the Spring Creek Trail [trail 54 of the Charles A. Wells book], which winds itself into the Arapaho National Forest. This is an approximate 45-minute drive West of Denver along the Interstate 70 on the southern side, and between, two small towns called Dumont and Georgetown.
The Spring Creek trail is described in several books of the area as a difficult trail with steep climbs, narrow shelf roads and rock fields. In reality it is a mildly challenging local mining road that goes up the mountain near Dumont, follows the ridge for approximately 5 miles then descends to Georgetown via a large number of switchbacks. The trail can be attempted by stock standard vehicles [of which three of the Discoveries and the Defender 90 fell into this category] although underbody protection such as rock sliders and the like are recommended. Most of the difficult challenges had bypasses for the less adventurous.
The group consisted of:
Marc Richardson Range Rover 1992 Trip Leader
Stefan, Ben & Paul Discovery 1997 First time out
Chris Rice Defender 90 1995 First time out
Allan & Regina Discovery 1999
Tim & Patty Discovery 1997
Phil Discovery 1994
Norman Hall Range Rover 1988 Yes, the oldest vehicle yet again
Art & Sue Range Rover LWB 1993 Tail End Charlie
We also had 4 dogs along for the ride.
Whilst I was waiting for everyone to turn up [yes I was early again not knowing how long it would take to get to the start point] I saw a sight I only thought occurred in movies and on television. Working at the side of the road, no more than 50 meters from me, was a chain gang of prisoners. They were chained up in groups of two and were wearing, yes you guessed it, black and white horizontally striped prisoner outfits. I was wearing a dark blue and white striped rugby jumper and one of the guards jokingly suggested that I was lucky to be wearing jeans or he would have mistaken me for one of his charges. This type of sight may not be unusual for Americans but it is for Australians as we do not have chain gangs working at road sides like you seem to do. When the others turned up they commented that it was unusual for prisoners to be wearing the black and white stripes, as it is now more usual for them to be wearing less conspicuous work attire. Another first for the trip.
The trip up the mountain started with a steep rocky climb over some large rocks and a solid rock shelf. The obstacle itself would not have been much trouble other than the surrounding area was a very soft soil, much like bull dust back in Australia, which made traction quite a challenge. With a little maneuvering and spotting for the standard vehicles we all overcame this first obstacle with little difficulty.
On the way up the hill we passed several abandoned mining shafts with some of them retaining their original outer wooden framework. Part way up the trail we came across a group of Jeep owners, one had broken down with an overheated starter motor. We joked that he should install a Rover starter motor, which can usually be coaxed into action through the judicious use of a hammer. With our assistance and a lot of pushing and shoving we managed to get the Jeep moving and he clutch started himself, in reverse back down the hill. Luckily for him we were not at a steep section. They followed along, half a mile or so back for most of the trip.
The trail is in the process of thawing out and, prior to departing, the last report that we had been given was that the Rock Garden near the top of the trail was still snow covered. The Rock Garden is basically an area about 200 yards long with large boulders and rock shelves making it difficult driving and requiring at least 1 diff lock, good tires and additional ground clearance. Marc Richardson in his tricked out Rangie with front and rear Lockers and myself were the only ones to attempt this part of the trail, with all others taking the safer and more sensible bypass route. The bypass though is not all that easy with most people requiring some guidance and several attempts to get past the bottom of the bypass. We were lucky that original reports were inaccurate with all snow at that section having thawed out by the day we arrived.
Allan and Regina were driving a Series II Discovery with traction control. Its excellent performance and capability was very noticeable as their vehicle less trouble than Tim and Patty in their Series I Discovery in overcoming the various obstacles. Having said this Allan and Regina got caught up at one stage with Diffs high centered requiring a short tug to get them moving again, Traction control, excellent but not invincible.
We had lunch near the top of the trail on an open area, which overlooked the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and in particular the Breckenridge snow resort area [if this is incorrect blame the others as they told me it was Breckenridge as I had no idea]. The view alone was worth the trip. At that stage I regretted having run out of film further back down the trail and being unable to capture the magnificent view.
The trip out was along Saxon Road, which is a long rough dirt Road, which switches back and forth as you descend. In places the descent was very steep with only a foot or two to the right of the vehicle before a virtually sheer drop off hundreds of feet. Not the sort of location for those with vertigo, although the views are sensational. Along the trial we got to see many of the old log cabins of the original miners. The cabins were built using full logs and not lumbered wood, which gave them, character and instilled a sense of history about the area.
Overall it was an enjoyable day trip and my thanks go to our trip leader Marc Richardson for a great day, particularly as we had no mechanical breakdowns. We did however have two vehicles experience some minor panel damage.