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HOT4X4 GPS Challenge IV

Date: Saturday May 2nd 2009

Event Summary and Details

Article Curtiousy of BC 4x4

Hot 4x4 GPS ChllengeThe Hurd of Turtles Hot GPS Challenge was a huge success! 

The Herd of Turtles' GPS Challenge is like a four wheeling rally but instead of going from check point to check point, participants are given a single latitude/longitude coordinate at the starting line and are left to rely on their GPS to find their way to that coordinate. Once there, they have to search for a small Tupperware container containing the coordinates for the next location. It's not a race. It is simply a fun way to begin the four wheeling season; practice using a GPS; and discover new trails.

This year's event focused on trails along the West Harrison Forest Service Road. My co-driver, Mark, and I, were in the "hard" class. Some of the trails, such as the ones to Hale Creek and Sunrise Lake, I was familiar with, but others, such as the road to Secret Lake, were new to me and provided some decent entertainment...

GPS 1For me, this annual event has marked the beginning of my four wheeling season for the past three years. This year's preparation entailed a much longer list than normal. Since becoming a parent, I haven't done much four wheeling over the past five years. Problems that would normally be dealt with in a prompt manner were allowed to fester because I only drove my Jeep 2-3 times per year. But this year, I addressed many of the outstanding issues. Staun inflatable bead locks that were sitting in my garage since time immemorial were finally installed by the folks at North Shore Off-Road.

 

I had my rear differential inspected to ensure that driving it for 15 minutes last year with a severely loose pinion nut had not destroyed it. The rear diff cover with its badly ground-off bolt heads was replaced with a fancy ARB diff cover and fully recessed bolts. A new battery, starter, Warn hubs (replaced under warranty due to a crack), and Stage 8 hub nut locks were also installed. I also disassembled the steering column to tighten up the loose bolts responsible for all the play. And the night before the event, I spent several hours looking for the long-forgotten and misplaced soft-top hardware. For the past seven years or more, I have only driven my Jeep with a bikini top and soft doors. But since the forecast called for afternoon rain, and because my 5 year-old boy would be riding in the back, I had to install the soft-top and, while I was at it, I decided to slap on the steel doors, too. Aside from a few hours on Eagle Ridge over a year ago, this would be his first time going on an all-day four wheeling trip with me.

 

GPS3The staging area for the event was a few hundred metres north of the Sasquatch Inn, at the start of the West Harrison FSR. Despite the forecast of rain, the skies were clear and I was beginning to wonder if the hours I spent finding my soft-top pieces had been for naught. Mark and I signed the waiver forms, aired-down, disconnected the anti-sway bar, and I re-acquainted myself with people I met on past trails and events. Around 9:15am, we were sent off with the first set of coordinates. My Garmin GPS contained topographic maps of the area so it immediately plotted a route to the coordinates. YGPS4ou'd think this would be an unfair advantage when compared to those who didn't have topo maps loaded into their GPS unit, but it was a double-edged sword. The problem is this: the topo maps might not be accurate. Unlike street and highway data, most topo data is quite old and infrequently updated. So while the GPS can easily plot a route using its data, the usefulness of that route is only as good as the data it is based on. And once we started following the route, we tended to put on blinders to the more subtle navigational clues, like which trails had recent tracks, which heavily brushed turn-offs had been recently disturbed, etc.

GPS5For the first set of coordinates, the GPS's route solution was almost perfect. Even though its map didn't indicate a road that went all the way to coordinates, it did direct me to the correct trail that, as far as it knew, got close to the coordinates and then dead-ended. In reality, the road did not dead end and in fact went all the way to Secret Lake where the Tupperware container, or cache, was hidden. It was a fun trail that had some very interesting exposed rock sections and eroded ditches sprinkled among its twists and turns as it gained elevation. Once we reached the lake and the coordinates, spotting the cache was pretty easy. GPS6It was directly behind a tree that was flagged with neon green tape. On the way back down, we pulled aside to wait for an oncoming group to go past. In that group was Armin and Dave in Armin's new Jeep JK Rubicon (4-door...and hauling Dave's teen-aged son and his two cousins in the back). Since Armin and Dave are my long-time four wheeling buddies and since I knew that Dave is severely deficient when it comes to operating a GPS receiver, I decided to wait for them to come back down from the lake. In any case, I wanted to take photos of the event so I kinda needed some trucks to photograph, or else all my photos would be of a certain white Jeep. So I put Mark in the driver's seat while I rode shotgun with my camera.

GPS7The next coordinates took us to the Francis-Weaver Traverse where we were faced with a large boulder which we had to drive around by going up a side hill on the left side. Unless the obstacle is extremely daunting, I'm very complacent when it comes to someone else driving my Jeep through an obstacle. The low gears, lockers and automatic transmission make it a very easy vehicle to drive. So when Mark asked me for advice as he was trying to go around the rock, I just told him he was fine and didn't offer up any warnings. But Mark thought he was a lot closer to the boulder than he really was, and was taking a rather wide line going up the bank in order to avoid hitting it. That line involved putting the front driver's tire onto a short stump while the passenger side front was in a deep depression. He was slowly creeping along this line when I immediately felt that sick sensation of a tire lifting off the ground and the center of gravity shifting to a rather unorthodox location. The lifting might have been instigated by Mark stopping the Jeep but, to be honest, I cannot clearly remember.

 
As has happened in the past, the Jeep didn't actually land on its side. The tall, wide tires kept from going all the way over but it was a very delicate balance. Then Richard, one of the Washington Ridge Runners who were participating in the event, came up and told Mark he could drive out of it if he just turned hard right and hit the gas if it started to tip any more. So Mark began creeping forward some more and...the Jeep went onto its side. It's possible that he could have saved it if he hit the gas. Or maybe not. Either way, it was close to succeeding and close to failing. To my embarrassment,

I forgot that my son, Cam, was in the back until I heard him calling me. He wasn't panicking but he clearly knew that sitting in a Jeep parked on its side with my socket set box sitting GPS2on his legs wasn't a Mom-approved activity. His primary concern was that I lift the tool box off his legs, which I did with a great sense of guilt. I should've shown more caution about this situation with my boy in the back, and instead of allowing Mark to drive out of the situation, I should have insisted on winching immediately. I got him out of his seat belt and lifted him out through Mark's window where some of the guys from the trucks behind us were already waiting. Then I helped Mark, who was essentially hanging in his seat belt and unable to release it without falling onto me.

 
 

Putting the Jeep back on all fours was easy. First, we tried lifting it but it was clear that it wasn't going to go without a lot of people helping, so we used Richard's winch and a snatch block to pull the Jeep over. Although it was only on its side, I still took the precaution of pulling the plugs and turning it over for a while. No one got a money shot in the eye, which was a bit of a disappointment. There was some ATF in the extended breather hose but none on the ground so I didn't have to tap into my bottle of spare fluid. Damaged included a bent door (the vehicle's weight was mostly on the door where it was sitting on a short chunk of wood that just happened to be lying on the rock) and a tear in the soft-top's right-rear corner. Basically, I damaged the two pieces of my Jeep that never went 'wheeling in the past seven years. More significant was the damage to Mark's ego and my fear of what my wife would say when she found out. Cam said he was very scared at the time but he was more than happy to get back in and continue four wheeling. I'm writing this the day after the flop, and having had a full night to dwell on it, my feelings about what happened are coloured with more concern. If I'm going to bring my kids four wheeling with me in the future, I'm going to have to keep their presence foremost in my mind.

Wow, this write-up was getting pretty somber, eh? I'll get it back on track by posing to myself the classic question, "...other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

Well, if you must know, I did manage to enjoy the rest of the day. I put Mark back in the driver's seat and gave him enough utterances of forgiveness that his repeated apologies soon diminished to once every thirty minutes. But his guilt was regularly re-invigorated by Cam, who being of purely innocent intentions, began asking if we were going to tip over whenever we were on a rocky or off-camber section.

 
 
As expected, one of the coordinates took us to Sunrise Lake, where we took a lunch break and let the kids play with their RC 4x4, skip rocks in the lake, and collect empty rifle, handgun and shotgun shells so thoughtfully left behind by others. The last coordinates provided a clear example of how having topographic maps in the GPS can be a double-edged sword. My GPS immediately plotted a route to the cache but the road that it used dead-ended in a logging cut. So we followed another one of its road which also dead-ended. So we finally ended up taking the third and final option which, if we had been relying on visual cues instead of the GPS, we would have noticed that it had seen more recent use than the other trails. This trail took us through a series of mud holes, some coarse snow, and heavy brush. Because it was so narrow with few opportunities for turning around, when we ran into a train of 4x4s coming in the opposite direction, we turned around and went out with them. We were only a couple of hundred metres short of the cache, but in a strange twist of physics, that would've entailed about 20km of BC pin striping. I'm pretty sure I heard Armin, in his new Jeep, scream, "WOOHOO!" when we turned around. Besides, the final cache contained the same coordinates that were at the bottom of our instruction sheet, which told us where the end location would be at. And that location was on the beach at Harrison Lake, at Hale Creek.

 

When we arrived at Hale Creek, most of the event participants were already there, and some had already gone home. There were a lot more vehicles there than we had seen in the bush. This was a good thing because it meant that we weren't all bunched up on the trail, looking for the same caches at the same time. It also gave us more opportunities to take the wrong turn since you couldn't just rely on following people who knew the trails. While we were there, I took the opportunity to straighten my door's window frame to the point where we could roll up the window without fearing that it would spontaneously shatter while driving on the freeway.

By the way, it did end up raining for a little bit in the afternoon so the hassle of installing my soft-top was justified! Thanks to the Turtles of the Herd for putting on the event. Once again I came home with valuable GPS track logs that I've added to my database of trails.

...lars

Read the original article on BC4x4.com