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The Epic: Leg 1 The start of something amazing

Written by  Monte Nickles
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The EPIC Leg 1

Our trip starts Monday August, 5 2013 at 6:30 am in Powell, WY. With me is my brother Grant, good friend Jessica, and fellow Tacoma owner and enthusiast Mark from central Idaho. Our trucks are packed to the brim for the journey and we are all very anxious to get on the road. But like most plans, we where late.  However it wasn't before too long when we hit the road to Clark, WY to get to our first trail. Morrison Jeep Trail.

Mark and I met our third brave member to drive the switchbacks at Edelweiss in Clark, Wy.(Magazine-1.jpg) Joey from Northern Colorado had driven all day Sunday to get here. We were 30 minutes late so of course spent plenty more time talking and greeting each other before setting off to the trail.

 


As we drove to the mouth of the luminous canyon in the morning sun, the excitement started sinking in(Magazine-2.jpg). As well as the jitters knowing what we were about to go up. 27 tight corners up steep switch backs on a loose rocky trail right up the canyon wall. ATVs fear this road. I myself was particularly a bit more worried being a manual transmission with a brand new clutch only days old. No going back now, we aired down and hit the dirt. I lead with Mark and Joey in tow and set a very quick place trying to make up time. Bit too quick as at one point Joey commented over the radio,

“Make note, when wheeling with Monte. Air down more and tie s**t down better”.(Magazine-6.jpg)

Slowing down a tad as we took in the pure awesomeness of the canyon. The walls casting large shadows down on us along the river bed.(Magazine-3.jpg) It wasn't long before we met a few locals fishing the river all on ATVs.

“You all going up the switchbacks?” said one rather large fellow atop his ATV.

“You bet!” I said with a big smile on my face.

“HA!..good luck” says the man puttering off.

Wonderful. Very uplifting of him. Regardless we marched on soon coming to the base of the switchbacks. Where at the bottom is a lovely sign warning people of the inevitable danger of going up the road. Once you start, there is no turning back. Our kind of trail! (Magazine-7.jpg)

We hit the first corner and it was merely a 3 point turn. As was the next corner. And the next. Grip was plentiful despite the loose rock road and we kept the pace up. Before we knew it we were what appeared to be about halfway. The view was spectacular. And no matter how simple the corners appeared to be, the rush of driving on a cliffs edge was amazing. One slipped tire and down you went. Very far down. (Magazine-11.jpg)

By this time some of our other companions that had decided the cliffs edge was not for them had gathered at the top, as they had camped further up on the trail the night before. The three of us all of course had to tease at how easy yet exhilarating it really was, shouting up the canyon walls at them. And then the bad karma kicked in.

No sooner had our words of “easy” and “wusses!” left our mouths when we got to the next corner. Which had a rather large ledge right on the apex of the corner. This proved rather difficult to get around. Almost too difficult. After several attempts including one that felt a tad too tippy for my liking I somehow 3 wheeled up and around the corner after a few minutes.(Magazine-8.jpg) Mark didn't have it much better. (Magazine-10.jpg) But prepared for the tipy part we gladly jumped on the slider to counterbalance and help him avoid the tumble of doom. After yet another 10 point turn or so, Mark made it up. With Joey made it up much easier after we learned how to correctly tackle the corner.  But that one corner claimed over 20 minutes of our time. Luckily it was the worst to come. (Magazine-9.jpg)

From here the corners were very tight. We where driving with our bumpers tapping them against the granite faces of the cliff claiming ever inch we could muster. Only to roll backwards to the edge of the loose rock cliff as far as we dared. Talk about adrenaline. We all three made it up alive and unharmed however, other then some paint off our front bumpers.

It was spectacular. Never have I driven a trail that made me so antsy and excited yet scared and cautious. Add this one to your list. Very fun. But not for the faint of heart. (Magazine-12.jpg)

From top of the switchbacks we continued on to meet up with the rest of our crew who had camped up on top the night before. Joining us was Jason and Mike from Arizona, Lisa and Micheal “Keys” from Montana, Gage from southern Wyoming, and finally my two good friends Ben from Idaho and Mike from Washington who helped plan the trip.  It didn't take us long to find them all enjoying a nice lunch which we joined in. (Magazine-13.jgp)

The rest of the trail took us a while to get through due to length. It goes through many open meadow areas with some fun rocky sections in the trees.(Magazine-15.jpg) Overall more scenic then anything. Still very fun and well worth the trip. Before long we were back out on the highway. But not for long.

At the last minute we had decided to add a new trail to the agenda to find a place to camp that night. Sawtooth Lake. A very mild trail in terms of terrain.(Magazine-18.jpg) But man, what a awesome pay out at the end. (Magazine-19.jpg) We came down into a lush small area with room for all 9 Tacomas right on the lake. We quickly set up camp and got ready for our favorite part of these trips.

Camp fire time.

Despite a bit a rain, nothing could get in the way of our beloved huddled mass around the campfire. Some of the greatest memories are made around a campfire after a days worth of wheeling. We all enjoyed the evening and into the night thoroughly, high on the fact it had only been day one and it was only going to get better.

The next morning we where greeted with the lovely sound of my alternator belt screaming. Not the way anyone wants to start their day, especially before coffee. Luckily was an easy fix for both and soon we where back on the high way ready to air up to head to Cooke City. Much to Mike's surprise his ARB compressor suddenly stopped working and I had the great pleasure of letting him borrow my CO2 setup. It's the little things I tell ya..(Magazine-20.jpg)

After taking over all the gas stations in Cooke city we set off up the mountain right from town on a road that tied into DaisyPass. The views were unbelievable all around. (Magazine-20-2.jpg) I had never seen the Beartooths so green before. We went from look out point to look out point more and more amazed until we hit the mother of all look outs.  (Darby pass 3.jpg) You can see for miles mountains everywhere. It was breath taking and mesmerizingly beautiful. And we weren't even on the main trail yet. (Magazine-21.jpg)

After a bit more exploring down into Lulu Pass, we found Goose lake and once again encountering an elderly gentleman on an ATV coming out of the trail.

“You guys are crazy! You'll never make it!” the man said.

We just chuckled and continued on our way enjoying out AC and stereo equipped trucks.

But soon nothing really mattered. Before we knew it we were driving on another planet it seemed like. The many lakes, ponds streams, creeks, rocks and trees with mountain peaks jutting out of no where. It was fantastically delicious. (Magazine-22.jpg) A Middle Earth on its own. Truly a trail with everything you could want.(Magazine-24.jpg) From smooth sections, rocky sections, water crossings, mind blowing beauty and a couple of nice obstacles to boot, it had it all. (Magazine-23.jpg)(Magazine-25.jpg)

The only thing bad about this majestic trail is the end. Sadly due to people not following Tread Lightly Rules, they have closed off the last 1/3rd of a mile to all vehicles. So you can no longer drive to the actual lake and camp there. (Magazine-26.jpg) Instead we camped at the streams edge that drains from Goose Lake. Not that that stopped us from going to explore it.

Something about being at 10,000 or so feet above sea level in a cove of mountain peaks with the sunset lighting them on fire with a calm lake at your feet is peacefully satisfying. (Magazine-27.jpg) Up there, everything melts away. Time seems to stand still and in many ways you wish it could just to live there in that picture perfect moment of beautiful serenity.

But we had camp to setup and dinner to make.

We enjoyed our evening amazed at our camp spot, the sights we all saw, and the roads we had conquered. (Magazine-28.jpg)

The next morning we all seemed to drive slower down Goose Lake trail. None of us really wanting to leave the mysterious place. We still enjoyed experiencing everything from a new angle and obstacles backwards.(Magazine-29.jpg)

When we finally hit pavement again some had to say their good byes from the trip. But the rest of us had many more adventures ahead. The first of which was driving the Chief Joseph high way to the top of Dead Indian pass. This road I tell you is one of the most twisty curvy roads of driving perfection I think you can ever drive.(Magazine-30.jpg) Ben and I instantly went into race truck mode enjoying every down shift with glee all the way to the top. Where upon our arrival we were greeted with the breath taking view of the Sunlight Basin. (Magazine-31.jpg)

Before setting off from the top, we noticed a rather large pool of oil under the front of my truck, it was indeed gear oil. Lucky for me we where all head to my home town of Powell for a nice BBQ gathering and shower. So we hit the road with a to do list quiet a bit longer then we had anticipated.

Upon arriving in town, we meet my dad in the shop Prepping to cut up his baby to install his new Bruteforce Fab high clearance bumper for Leg 2's trails.(Magazine-Courtesy Ben Springli-2.jpg) Everyone else set to work on getting a nice shower, some laundry, or fixing assorted odds and ends.

We then enjoyed a lovely home cooked meal put on by my beloved Mother and lit up the campfire and continued the great tradition of story telling and reminiscing of the trip.(Group.jpg) However I snuck away to take my truck to a larger shop and tear apart half the front diff in hopes I could possibly repair it so we could continue our adventures the following morning.

What I found, was not promising....

To be Continued..

The Epic: Leg 2
Its Only a Scratch..Or Two..

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