some paperwork complete I'm making a last minute trek to the North Sand
Hills (sand dunes) north of Walden Colorado. I'll join a few others
that are planning to camp but I'm only day-tripping it. Doors and top
off for the wonderful weather today!
I found the group near the entrance of the area and joined in. None of
the three had been to the area and they were curious as to some camping
areas so we traveled through some of those areas first. There are
somewhat two groups who camp - RV areas and tent / small camper areas. The whole area
is dispersed camping - a first come first served setup.
Once we took a
peek at one tent area we headed out to the first open sand area, the
northern area. It has the largest hill (for full size vehicles we are
in). After running the large hill a time or two I lead the group for a
quick "what's here". Between the northern play area and the southern
play area is a bit of a valley - a dip down and a climb out. Not overy
big - but a separation with trees. Crossing over the southern area we
went to the south end. There used to be a dead-end trail into the trees
- but no longer. From my past visit in 2014
the ruling body looks to have put up copious fencing, closing off
several areas to motorized travel. You'll see the fencing in several
After the quick tour of the area I was following the fence to a smaller hill to toy with. On the
way we came across a four place side-by-side with a tire off of the
bead. This would be the start to a bit of nice deviation to the day - helping others.
While I was able to spend time with the group for a fair bit of the
day, I was able to help three groups that had mechanical issues. Dad
would often comment - things come in threes. Today was such a day.
1) Pop'd outside bead on a 4-place side by side (SxS)
We came across a 4-place side by side that had a tire off of the bead.
The guys said they had help on the way (a buddy with an air pump). If they called a paid recovery
service I'd have taken second seat so as not take a paying job from
someone. I mentioned jacking it up - they commented - oh no, we'll just
lift it up (they had many strong bodies in the group - it was an easy
task for them). One guy had a lighter - I had starting fluid (it's been
in the jeep perhaps 8 years, this is perhaps the first use). One guy
handled the tire to align it, many hoisted, I sprayed and clicked the
lighter - poof - mostly done. It didn't fully seat (perhaps 80%). The
portable inflator didn't look to be doing anything so I pulled the
jeep's air hose and finished it for them. Hindsight - I should have
removed the valve core and sprayed uniformly around the tire. When it
seated, it wasn't proper. I called it out to them and they said they'd
take care of it later. A happy group. Mark, one of the guys in the group, posted video - YouTube Link.
2) Toyota Tacoma - blown front suspension
we were playing with a small, steep hill I was sitting up top trying to
stay in the breeze to keep mosquitos blown away. I watched a 4-place
SxS and a full size
pickup heading to a rise. This
rise / small hill had a bit of an abrupt transition from flat to
incline. The black truck hit it with enough speed to make the climb but
the result was a loud BAM sound - that's no good. I didn't see
any deployed air bags through the windows (good). The right front tire
the bead (good). I assumed the left front tire blew off of the bead -
worries - we can get that fixed. Then I notice the truck where it
stopped up top / on the flat - the right front tire is stuffed into the
wheel well. We drove over to them for a look. The left front tire was
stuffed into the wheel well. Looking at the underside - both shocks
were blown. The driver said this vehicle has coil over shock
suspension. The interface at the lower end of the coil spring broke -
on both sides. This means that the springs that hold the truck up were
not functioning as designed - the truck's front suspension is bottomed
out. With the suspension bottomed out, the issue of the top of the tire
rubbing against the wheel well / body was a concern. The truck would
roll with minor rubbing of tire / wheel well - in the straight.
Turning would likely be worse.
They had a trailer that could haul it (that the 4-place SxS came on) but didn't
have a vehicle to get it back to camp. I volunteered. We drove to their camp, grabbed the trailer and headed back to the
truck. I was quite curious how the light jeep would handle this heavy
task. At one spot, heading uphill with the empty trailer, the jeep was
having a struggle. Mark, one of the guys in the group, kindly stayed
nearby to be a helping hand (I told the group to split off and have fun
- this was their planned trip and I was an un-announced drop in and
could join up with them later). The jeep got the
trailer up to the pickup and from that point it was mostly downhill. The
jeep did well enough until one small uphill section. Mark lined up in
front of me with the elastic rope and that was the trick - out and
moving in only two or three tugs. We stayed connected until the hard-er
packed downhill then disconnected.
The jeep was able to get the trailer
and truck to their campsite. It likely exceeded the jeeps rated towing
capacity - by a wide margin. Looking up specs - the jeep is
perhaps 3100 pounds and the truck/trailer looks to be about 6500
pounds. In a couple turns on the sand (all of 5mph) I noticed the
trailer pushing the rear of the jeep outward - not a feeling one would
want at speed on a highway. Trent, on of the guys in the group, posted video - YouTube link.
3) Bad chain dirt bike (broken master link, no spare)
The day's mostly complete and the group was splitting up. Mark
and I were making one last pass through the dunes and at the valley
between the north and south areas we saw a guy waving his arms at us.
Driving over he was emphatically asking for help. The master link
failed on his dirt bike chain and he had no replacement. With no chain,
he was pushing the bike through the sand. We were in the little valley
between the north and south areas and he was looking at one gnarly
up-hill to get out - pushing a bike uphill in deep sand - ugh.
figured - we can just set it in the back of the jeep (the
back of the jeep has a big steel trunk, giving a fairly flat open
surface). He and his buddy hoisted the front tire up to the jeep and
I held it in place as they lifted the back tire up. We pushed it across
until the front tire dropped out the passenger side. This left the back
tire in the jeep and the bottom of the engine sat in the jeep. He
jumped up with the bike to hold it and we headed back to their camp -
the way visiting the big hill one more time (Mark wanted to tackle it
once more). The biker and I only rode down the big hill - with no
issue. We had the bike unloaded and then it struck me to get a picture
- that would have been a fun picture to have. He was very appreciative
the hand. He was looking at a hard task getting the bike out of there.
Out from the sand hills I headed home via the northern route - up to
Laramie WY and down to Fort Collins. I brought a winter coat as I knew
the evening could be cold. I was happy to wear it from Laramie to
about twenty miles north of home the temps were cool (higher
elevation). Getting close to town, lower elevation, temps were just
right for no coat.
Map of the full route. Fort Collins to Walden via the Poudre Canyon /
CO Hwy 14 - the black line on the map. On a late morning most of the
traffic heading into the mountains had settled down and the road was
mostly clear. The river is turned on and nicely flowing. The red line
is the off road of the sand hills. For the way home, the blue line via
Laramie was easy, straight, driving.