We find ourselves out at Sunflower a lot (past trip). It's not too hard of a trail and the scenery is really great. The old mine trail runs a large loop, offering plenty of mines to explore and beautiful views both from the creek bottom and hill summits. Even though this is only a 3.5 trail there does seem to be some kind of Sunflower curse with our group, and it was the hope of breaking (for lack of a better word) it that drew us out here again. On this excursion, Chris invited a few guys from his work and the plan was to have about 7 vehicles make the run.
We almost didn't get Chris's Jeep out of town for the trip. We had just finished putting his Atlas II in and he was still in need of a front driveshaft. He had ordered one from the place he got his new rear one from (Tom Woods), but the new front didn't have a cardan joint so it would not bolt to the Atlas's yoke. This left us without 4-wheel drive on the eve before the trip. We were able to get in touch with a local drive shaft shop (AA Arizona Drivelines and Axles) that was open on Saturday's and had his old one cut down to fit in 40 minutes at their shop. -Thanks Oscar and Jeremy!
Chris and Jared and I went up a day early just for the heck of it and camped out down near the creek. We knew the weather had a chance of getting wet but felt sure we could handle it. When we got to the trail, we were pretty amazed to see so much water rushing through the creek since we had actually never seen it moving before. There were a couple really cool waterfalls coming down from some of the hills above.
Turns out, only 15 minutes after picking our camping spot, it began dumping snow on us. We rushed to get our makeshift shelter up and then got out the food while watching everything turn white. By the time we went to bed a few hours later it had snowed about 2 inches on our camp. We were still able to get a fire going and warm things up before retiring to our sleeping bags. When we woke up most of the snow was still there, but it looked like it had rained away a little too. The sun took care of the rest later except for what was up on the taller surrounding hills.
In the morning we woke and turned the CB's on so we could hear when the rest of our group got close. Included in the group coming up that Chris invited were 2 more Jeeps, a full size Blazer, an Xterra, and a couple quads. Dana was also meeting us with her new Jeep. This would be her Jeep's offroad maiden voyage since she sold her old one a couple months back (incidentally, it was her old Jeep that had to be towed off the trail last time we were out here).
After the tour, we got back on the trail and on our way to the harder off roading parts. We even managed to get all the Jeeps up in the front of our convoy for better picture taking purposes. The Jeeps did fine on the rocky terrain, especially the Blue YJ since it was locked all the way around. The only vehicle that had trouble was the Xterra. It unfortunately had no lift on it and had to be dragged along in some spots.
We made it eventually through the Creek part of the trail and got to the turn off to go up and out to the other side of the loop. If you haven't been on the trail before, the trail out begins with a shelf and then it's a long steep loose gravel climb to the top. Chris, Jared, and Dana got up the lower shelf and began their ascent but as Chris's friend Tim followed behind, we heard an unmistakable noise- Unmistakable, because we had all heard it before in this very same spot the last time we were here with Dana's old Jeep. That's right, another red 4cyl Wrangler blew out its spider gears in the exact same spot. Tim had a great attitude though and went with the "If you wheel, you gotta expect something to break eventually," response. The fact that we knew what it was right away and that it was only a $70 fix helped though I'm sure. We now just had to figure out the best way to get him out.
When Dana's blew, we had originally thought about taking her up and out. The other side of the loop is relatively easy and void of large rocks. The problem though, was pulling her up the gravel hill because of traction woes so we had to backtrack the trail in the rocky creek. This time, the guy that had the Jeep with lockers felt that we could succeed by going up. We disconnected Tim's SYE driveline to prevent the damage from traveling forward and then hooked him up to Mike. The first part was tough because of the steepness and small rock, but by pulling a little and winching a little, they were able to get the train moving. Once going they had no intention of stopping and losing their momentum, but coming around a corner we met 5 trucks traveling down at us. The kids in this party were all from out of state and had no idea where the trail led. They wanted to know if they could get out any way than the way the came from. We told them the way they came in was the way we planned to get out because it was much easier and let them know that since they were all driving stock trucks, they didn't have a prayer getting out the way we came.
So they tried backing their way out but only dug themselves (and us) some huge ruts. They were able to get a Ranger turned around and proceeded to try pull out the other vehicles; this included an extra cab diesel Ford F250 that they managed to break the bug guard and some other plastic trim off of on a bush. They finally got all the trucks pulled up and out of the way and then let us get by. You should have seen their faces when they saw a Jeep pulling another quickly up the hill that they couldn't even make it up.
Long story short, they actually joined the end of our caravan as we headed out. The going would have been much easier, but all the watershed had muddied and rutted up the road. We almost lost Tim's Jeep off the side where the water had eroded away part of the road. Through it all it was pretty impressive to see Mike's Jeep mule it up and over everything while dragging Tim's. While the going was more smooth, the main obstacles were the muddy hill climbs. The work did pay off though and we were able to get to a solid maintained road to get the rest of the way out. Tim unhooked and just drove it out in front wheel drive. He actually decided once out, to drive it all the way home and pray that the rear end didn't lock up like it had been doing while getting pulled.
We really didn't take any pics of the towing ordeal, partly because we tried not to stop, but mostly so Tim wouldn't hurt any of us, but you can check out a slide show of some more of our better trip pics that we didn't have the heart to shrink down here here.