Hackett and Longwater Gulches ...
Both the Hackett and Longwater Gulches trails are closed.
Well, when the Forest Service says close the bypasses what do you do? We arrived at the Hackett Gulch trail head about 11:00AM to be greeted with the seldom seen sight of a FS truck. Wow! Haven't seen one of those in a while. A friend had told me a couple months ago that the FS was going to close the bypasses so we weren't sure what to expect. Well, this is what to expect ...
We decided to run the trail loop "backwards". Starting on Hackett first and coming out on Longwater. This is the difficult route. If you've never run these two before I HIGHLY recommend you run Longwater down and Hackett back up and out. You'll understand why soon.
Ok, on with the story .... First, we noticed a peculiar lack of traffic at the Hackett trailhead. Thought, "Hmmmm, well, cool. That's nice." Then promptly forgot about it. Ah, hind sight. The first couple obstacles are small - off-camber rock I hate, couple small moguls to get the suspension warmed up. Then the first obstacle comes up. This is a LARGE, LONG but not very steep rock. About 20' wide by 50' long and you need to make a right at the top and go up the hill. Again, no biggie. We DID, however, come face to face with three Jeeps coming down just as we get to the bottom of the rock. Dang. Ok, back up a couple feet and pull into the slot on the left. Well, dang, by the time we let them through its easier to just drive up the slot and turn right up the face so we did.
By this time the trail work is evident. Huge steel cables and posts, trees, boulders, etc. are strewn all over the place. You can't even tell where the old bypasses were if you haven't been there before. But, upwards and onwards. The next obstacle is about a 100' feet up the hill and HAD a bypass to the left that went around. NOT ANY MORE!!!
The big nasty rock is now the ONLY path through. A description is necessary: BIG ROCK. 5'+ step, 30' long and off camber to the left. Oh, did I mention the grit covering it? BIG hole in front of rock so, of course, you're nose down. Its a slot so the only way to do it is to crawl up the right and turn left around a nasty 18" high pointy rock on the driver's side while avoiding scraping a huge tree root and the rock WALL on the passenger's side WITH the passenger's side!
Only thing I can say is this. If you have a large combination of the following: street tires, no lift, no locker, no winch, no rock skids, stock exit and approach angles (ie. stock bumpers), stock skid plates -- GO HOME! 'Cause you are going to incur body, wheel, drivetrain or chassis damage. Most likely ALL of the above.
Brian in his newly 5" lifted '87 Bronco with 35" TSLs (not locked, BTW) did this obstacle using the velocity method much to the disgust of the FS agent and the Predators Jeep club members there. Without the TSLs he would have never made it. Got to love sticky tires!
I have never heard so much scraping and grinding on an obstacle. ANYTHING unlifted - including Jeeps - will drag front and or rear BAD either going up or down this obstacle.
Well, first try up didn't do it. Back down. Try again. Little more gas. Inch up the incline. Curse self for not cleaning air filter before trip. Give it a bit more gas. Edge to the left. SLIP! DAMN! THUMP! Right into the rock with the back tire. WANG! DANG!!! Clip the rock wall on the right. Well, I now know what kind of abuse an ARB bumper will take. Thankfully it is made well and only serves to align the other side correctly and shave off the powder coating and a couple mm of metal. Ok. Pull over and breath. Watch Jeep club members giggle. Sigh.
THIS is what I get for not having rock skids installed! If I had the skids I would have just drove over the big rock on the left like Brian did and use the skid to slide forward. Oh, well, can't have everything.
Onward. The next obstacle really isn't anymore. It WAS a slot cut into the down side of the hill with a nasty dog-leg in it and a lot of big tree roots sticking out. Well, they "fixed" it and that's that. On the plus side people running the "normal" route can now make it up the hill.
Next is a drive down a HUGE rock! This is probably 100' long and has NO bypass! It is extremely steep but smooth and flat so there is really no problems coming down as long as you stay to the right. It is covered by gravel, like every other rock there, but is not really much of a problem with decent tires. At the bottom of the rock you will make an extremely hard right. KEEP YOUR SPEED DOWN!!!! If you go down this too fast and can't stop you will make like a Wright Brother at Kittyhawk and not land until you get to the bottom of the ravine.
On to the moguls!!! Next obstacle and formerly the scene of LOTS and LOTS of REALLY ingenious vehicle acrobatics! Not of few of which resulted in roll-overs. Well, Brian is second in line behind my Sport so ... here goes. Pick NASTIEST line I can. Previous runs have been made without a locker in the rear and have been interesting. This is doable as long as you have LOTS of articulation front AND rear, M/Ts and a limited slip diff(s) or A/Ts and a locker(s). Otherwise, its a point and stomp climb which you may not live through. Or may WISH you hadn't. Well, I point straight at the biggest holes and drive straight up and over. Not a problem. Got to love good tires, too!
Oh, oh. Brian's turn. STOMP!!!!! BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE!!!! SLIDE!!!! BOUNCE BOUNCE!!!! Flying dirt and gravel!!! Truck stops. No traction. Ok, back down and try again. Run DOWN the hill to stop him from doing that again! Walk the line he's to follow and slap him for the first run. STOMP!!!!!!! BOUNCE BOUNCE SLIDE BOUNCE SLIDE SLIP BOUNCE STOP!!!!!!!! Ok. Right line right up to the point he BOUNCES four feet sideways completely off of it. Run BACK down hill AGAIN and slap him AGAIN. THIS time make SURE he knows to take is SLOWLY!!!!!!!!!!!! Bounce, slide, bounce, slide, slip and he's over. If it weren't for the TSLs he'd still be there, I'm sure. AGAIN listen to the giggles and smirks from a half dozen Jeep'rs. Put bag over head and head for river.
The next obstacle is actually two water crossings. At the bottom of the Hackett Gulch trail is the South Platte and then Taylor Creek which you have NO CHOICE but to cross if you don't want to go back. PAY ATTENTION!!! This is COLORADO!!! If it rains the rivers will go UP. If it rains hard and happens to do it where you're at you may not be able to get out EITHER way because of the rock climb before the moguls and high water ahead. WATCH THE WEATHER! When the rocks get wet the difficulty of this trail goes way up.
Anyway, through the Platte. Pretty boring as long as you stay right. Turned out to be about 30" deep today. Not a problem for the Sport or Bronco.
Next is Taylor Creek. Again, not to big a problem, so I take the cut straight through. About 30" again. No biggie. Couple good size rocks under the water, though, so be careful and DON'T STOMP IT! That rock to the right is much bigger then it looks. More acrobatics from Brian. ALMOST crushes the right rocker into the door. Misses the right hand rock by a finger tip width. Threaten to leave his butt there if he doesn't behave.
Now. Off to Longwater! After you leave the creek you turn right and keep going. Next obstacle is the "Teller County Car Wash" and is actually the combination of Taylor Creek and the South Platte that you cross earlier. DO NOT head straight for the trail on the other side unless you have a snorkel and paddles!!! I've seen them FLOAT a Cherokee through there! Its easily 6' plus in spots and its deceptively shallow looking. Keep left and head for the sand bar on the other side. Good plan and we do it. Now, back up the bank and out on the trail. KEEP AWAY from the bank! About 6-8' is good. There is a hole of epic proportions hidden there. Anyway, Brian crosses and things are well. Next me. Nothing of note. Pretty low today. Only about 28". Ah, well, better luck next time!:-)
Up Longwater! There really isn't too much here. LOTS of up and up and up! The first obstacle is a series of moguls under the power line. Brian opts out and takes the bypass to the top to get pics. Smart move. This is for locked vehicles with M/Ts. Ok, up I go! No problems. Not long but it is fun!
Next up is the ROCK. Yes, its another one. This one is very off camber and about 40-50' long and of course steep. Forget the bypass. THAT is worse then the ROCK. The bypass is filled with holes dug out 2-4+' deep and its all loose gravel. Well, Brian is up first and takes the rock. I don't know what happened but can't be much 'cause he made it. Meantime I'm trying to get off the trail to let a troop of Toys through with a Sami. Pull off the road. Watch the Jeeps go through with varying amounts of gravel slinging and minor acrobatics. Next is the Sami. HAH! THIS is entertainment!!! There is just nothing quite like watching a SHORT wheel base vehicle on inclines, moguls and rocks. At the same time. He tries and finally ends up resting on his rear bumper and two rear wheels. One front wheel four feet above the rock. Talk about a wheel stand! Ok, everyone figure out how to get him out without rolling. Hmmmmm. After several more attempts he decides to go to the right of the tree and up the rock. THIS results in two almost rolls and a slide that gets VERY close to mashing the entire passenger side into a rock ledge and tree. But, he pulls out and makes it. Result? One VERY white Sami owner!
Ok, my turn. I DON'T like off camber stuff. Not after a VERY close call at the FIRST obstacle of the trip a few months ago. So, I walk around a lot and end up taking a similar track to the Sami with the exception that I just drive straight up the rock and then turn right. Here goes! Up the rock, turn right and up the trail. BORING! Ok, so next time I shut the locker off, first. BTW, have I mentioned my whiny passenger? "That was no fun!" Yea, waa, waa. Sigh. Well, off we go.
Last obstacle. Well, this didn't even exist last year! Its not exactly an obstacle. At least not officially, anyway. What it is is a dug out 50' long section at the VERY TOP of Longwater. 4' deep holes. NARROW slot so there is no room to maneuver and up hill, steep. Not like the moguls hill, but definitely inclined. There is a bypass which I highly recommend if you're not locked but which will give anything full sized fits and may result in body damage if you're not VERY, VERY careful. As for me, I know for a fact that I did the entire obstacle section on two wheels! Doing this in a short wheel base vehicle would suck REALLY bad. It would actually be possible to get into one of the holes and NOT be able to climb back out. But, I make it and we stop at the end. Spend five minutes trying to figure out WHAT the HELL we just drove through!
As an aside, coming down Longwater you need to be aware of this little gottcha! I hit this early this spring and the entire front of my Sport disappeared in the first hole. All I could see was ground out the front windows as well as the driver and passenger windows. Bystanders swear on a GIANT stack of Bibles that I had at LEAST five feet of air under the passenger rear wheel. I would certainly have taken the stock front bumper and completely trashed it. Love my ARB bumper, too!!!:-) But, taken too fast it would be WAY TOO EASY to do an endo on this one! Short wheel base drivers should pay attention here, for sure!
Well, that pretty much is it. Back to the main trail head to air back up, unlock the hubs and shut everything else down. This is a fun trail either way and should be nicer now that the FS has the trails set back up again.
Longwater (down) -- A/Ts and limited slip differential(s). 2" lift helpful - more necessary or snorkel if river is high. Locker and M/Ts nice but not required unless wet. Experienced driver - no body or other damage likely. Inexperienced driver - rollover possible, minor body, trim damage probable. (up) multiply by 2.
Hackett (down) - Limited slip, 31"+ A/Ts or M/Ts, major lift or very high approach and departure angles required. Low low-range helpful. Locker and or winch very helpful. All of the above required if wet. Inexperienced driver: Body, drivetrain, chassis, suspension and/or wheel damage a certainty. Rollover VERY likely if driver panics. Experienced driver: Minor damage on unprepared vehicles a certainty but not likely otherwise. Rollover possible to likely if attention lapses. (up) divide by 2 unless wet then virtually impassible without winch.
WARNING: Both trails pose a real danger of hydrolock. Sucking water into the engine through the air intake. This is an extremely expensive mistake. Also, the water in the Platte and Taylor Creek is generally very clear. This makes judging depth impossible from the bank. Walk your line first!!! I've seen one floating Jeep in person and pictures of worse. I've also seen $10,000. worth of engine, electronics and body damage done to three vehicles in less then an hour in the Teller County Car Wash on a single day. Be careful and PAY ATTENTION if you choose to do either of these trails.