As oncoming traffic approached, I went through the procedure of shutting lights down, waiting until they passed, fighting the night blindness, and flipping lights back on. About the fourth time, I was just reaching down when something caught my eye. A quick swerve got me around a rather unamused female elk. A few miles up the blinding lights revealed a small deer long before a necessary swerve. An accident this close to my destination would suck.
Just before 11pm, I turned into the Cayton Campground in Rico CO and immediately recognized the rolling gypsy wagon Mel Lowe was towing behind his wife’s 100 series. We chatted for a few minutes, Mel explaining that he didn’t have time to work some kinks out of his FZJ55 in time for the trip, before I headed off to bed.
Thursday morning was temperate and calm, but the best part was awaking to the views. In the campsite next to me was Megadoomers black death pig. Across from me was Pablocruises beautifully restored pig. Next to him was Jmacks big blue Cummins powered pig. A walk to the pit toilets up on the top of the hill took me past FJ55-100s sick Toyota 2UZ pig and Riderjgs’ clean green pig. Before long, fj55tlc and his big yellow pig rolled down from the other section of the campground, then Abqcruiser and Scrapdaddy. Pigs were coming out of all the crevices. Two rigs were missing though. Word had come through ‘MUD that Bobm had lost a clutch slave in Kansas City and Gordobe had blown a head gasket pulling out of the scorching heat of SoCal, but both were still planning on making it.
We spent far too much time chatting so start was late, but eventually we headed up Bolam Pass just outside of the campground. Within a couple miles, Megadoomer started having issues. His computer wasn’t adjusting to the altitude causing the Chevy to sputter under any load. He decided his best bet was to head back and see if he could get it working properly. A little bit later, word came back that FJ55-100 was having issues with his rig intermittently shutting off, a issue he’d been trying to track down for a while, so he was going to drop to the back with the two non-pigs to prevent holding up the main crowd.
As FJ55-100, Mel Lowe and myself played catch up, word came over the 2m radios that they had found snow. We rolled up as Jmack was making repeated attempts at beating a path down. Eventually all the pigs were through and we headed on. Then we came to the next snow section. Fj55tlc had the biggest pig, rolling on 37s and he would try to beat a path though, but it was tipping him hard and he was sliding off line so out came the shovels. That would create a high center so the rigs would go through in order of height, tallest to shortest to shave the snow down. In the meantime, Mel Lowe broke out an old Polaroid camera. A classic camera to capture the antics of classic rigs.
We conquered drift after drift after drift, occasionally having time to watch the guys up front, FJ55tlc, FJ55-100, Voodoocruiser, and Jmack as they worked through the deep sections while the rest of us worked on getting the stockers through. Occasionally, a strap would come out for a pig rescue. Nothing like a pig helping a pig to bring a proud tear to your eye. Almost every rig was on the end of a strap at one point or another, but everyone was proud to be conquering the trails in their fine swines.
We made it to the top where the front group had just extricated a Jeep that had come up from the other side, and we stopped for a lunch break, only now realizing it was not lunch time but past two o’clock. We’d been having so much fun we didn’t realize that we weren’t making miles like we needed. We had the potluck coming up in a matter of hours and people needed to get cooking, plus were all anxious to get an update on Bobm and Gordobe so we headed back the way we came.
Most of it was easy going but one long snow drift grabbed a hold of Riderjgs pig and wouldn’t let go, so out came a quick strap. Pablocruise gave it a bit of throttle and was through. I was next and decided to blast through it but 3.5 tons at 45psi in the tires can bounce pretty good and no matter how wide the shelf road is you always think you’re closer to the edge than you are. I let up on the gas in a moment of panic. Had I stayed in it , I would’ve been fine, but now I was hopelessly mired. Fj55tlc ran up a hill to a high tree and wrapped my tree saver around while I prepped the M15000 on fat bastard. The winch struggled harder than I’ve ever seen and there were some hard pops, but soon I was free. I pulled up to give Mel Lowe room to blast through in the hundred, but ended up having to back up and strap him through the evil white slop.
The potluck was a massive spread of pulled pork, pork chili, tri tip, smoked pork, pork posole, bacon chocolate chip cookies and more, with a predominantly pig theme. We eat our own. Although we apparently don’t eat enough because we had plenty for the next couple nights. Bobm and his co pilot Remy1974, managed to make the trip from New Hampshire just in time for the potluck, but still bad news from Gordobe. First it was a blown head gasket, but that had gotten fixed Wednesday, then he was having fuel delivery issues, he never made it out of California.
Friday, FJ55-100 was going to chase the electrical issue that had been tormenting him for a year, but everyone else saddled up and we headed for Ophir Pass. No snow on this trail meant we should make decent time, but every cruiserhead knows what happens when you get a group of us together. Every stop turned into an hour long chat and inspection of rigs and modifications and you can’t pass up the cool places for group photos which means more chatting and comparing of mods. When you have what is probably the largest gathering of pigs in this century, it’s five times worse. It was after noon when we finally rolled into Silverton.
Some split off to find shade, some went to a local bbq joint to enjoy more cannibalism, and some went shopping. While waiting to gather up the crew to head to the next trail, a white 80 popped to curb and pulled in to drool over the collection, Shane “adventuremobile” Fuhrman, another mud memeber, lives in Silverton and is renovating an old inn, the Wyman Hotel, and couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the way back to work.
We left the mountain tourist town and headed for Corkscrew Gulch and altitude that might cool us and the pigs down a bit, but the steep climbs were hard on the pigs. One had vaporlock symptoms partway up and the time spent getting him back up and running was enough to stall out another swine. The first made it up the hill, but Hank the Tank was forced to hitch a ride on the end of a short strap behind the 100. The v8 and ATrac of the modern Cruiser tried hard and got Hank the Tank all the way up, but they weren’t quite enough for a last little rise and soon Voodoocruiser had to back his big green Illinois pig down to put an extra strap on the rigs. Once at the top, a swarm of gearheads broke out tools and had the air cleaner off. A small hammer and starting fluid and it was up and running again, in time for another group photo.
Our plans for a third trail, were quashed by our lollygagging, but we’d had a great day and it felt good to get back to camp. It felt better to pull in and see another pig had arrived. Mtnyota was at FJ55-100’s campsite. That made 12 pigs, 4 from Colorado, two from New Mexico, one from New Hampshire, one from Idaho, one from Missouri, one from Utah, one from California, one from Illinois, plus pig owners who’s pigs couldn’t make it from Colorado and Florida, along with a future pig owner from Maine, a 60 owner from New Mexico tagging along, and spouses and family galore.
We enjoyed left overs from the potluck and cold beers over the campfire, but not for long. The day had worn everyone out and our beds were calling.
Saturday we all awoke to a welcome sight. Lucky number 13! Gordobe had finally prevailed and rode in around midnight, five days after he left southern California. Unfortunately, I had an emergency and had to leave, so I wouldn’t have day three on the trail. Bobm and Remy1974 had bugged out a little before me to begin their four day drive home, vowing that next year would be on the east coast and everyone else vowed to make it to Pig Party again.
[Show picture list]