It was the best decision we could have made. Jason and I decided to hustle our butts out of Pismo Beach early on Sunday afternoon. This early start allowed us to break the 860 mile drive to Moab into two days. We stopped in Jean, NV on the way over, taking advantage of the $19.95 rooms. The next day we were quickly back on the road arriving in Moab well before dark. The best part, it was only Monday and we had a full week of wheeling ahead.
As we made the rounds at Slickrock Campground Monday evening it was clear that other great minds think alike. There were many cruiserheads already in camp. We met Eric Christiansen, Alan Losbaugh and Steve Fox from the Tornado Alley Cruisers. They were planning a run to Rose Garden Hill on Tuesday with some of the Texas Lone Star cruiser club. We quickly said yes to an offer to join them. The wheeling was on!
After a little mix up finding the beginning of the trail we left the highway and headed up Onion Flat road. (It's funny how much fun a group of cruisers can have heading up a wrong way dead end road!) Once we were on the right road we started up a beautiful canyon with several water crossings. Traditionally, the trail actually followed the narrow creek and soon we spotted the rest of the group working their way up through the rocks in the creek below us. We noticed Dave Brown in his easily recognizable red FJ40 "Red Fox" and Henry Brimmer in his equally recognizable technicolor mini-truck.
The Rose Garden Hill trail is mostly easy dirt roads with a single steep, loose climb with a series of challenging rock ledges. The tough part is only about a quarter mile long, but we spent a good bit of time there.
Eric Christiansen was leading the group in his capable FJ60. Eric's cruiser has V8 power and a body lift to provide clearance for 35-inch tires. He's got a rear locker but is open in the front. The latter being his undoing on this technical climb.
The tricky part of the hill climb required navigating a large ledge that sucked you left. Naturally, the ledge was higher and the holes deeper the further left you slid. To make matters worst, a large boulder on the left side prevented you from backing up once you slid over too far. You guessed it, our leader slid over too far and found himself in the awkward position of being unable to go forward OR backward.
Next in line was Alan Losbaugh, aka "Chef". It was clear Alan's winch equipped FJ40 would need to pass Eric, turn around and winch him forward. Alan had little trouble passing the stranded wagon on the steep hill and soon he was turning around on top the hill. This hill is so steep and so long Alan would have to winch from a position part way down the steep loose hill. Physics tells us Alan's little 40 would simply pull itself down to Eric's heavy wagon. That's when the call for a "winch anchor" came over the radio.
I was next in line and driving the perfect "winch anchor", a heavy 80 Series Land Cruiser. I only needed to pass the stranded vehicle on what had to be the toughest part of the trail. No worries, I pointed the tires up the hill and off I went. After passing Alan at the top of the hill, I decided to back down to facilitate an easy exit. First day on the trail and I was already having a blast!
As Eric's wagon was being winched clear of the nasty ledge, Eric was heard saying he planned to win the coveted Warn Winch at the up coming raffle. A prophecy that turned out to be true! Good call and congratulations Eric!
As it turned out most of the open diff'ed rigs needed help getting up Rose Garden Hill. Most notable was a red FJ60 from Tijuana, Mexico. The winches worked long and hard to move this heavy beast up several hundred feet of trail. This cruiser was part of a Mexican Land Cruiser club. It was interesting to heard familiar spotting calls and winching directions being shouted in Spanish. I had wheeled with some of this friendly and helpful crew at a previous Cruise Moab and it was great to see them having so much fun this year.
Eventually, everyone made the climb and we continued our trek through the beautiful canyons and mesas North East of Moab. Now, with our first day of wheeling under our belts we headed back to camp ready for a cold brew.