Part 4: Comb Wash to Mule Canyon


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The Trip

We left our tire training session in Comb Wash and traveled the back route to Mule Canyon ruins.

The photos below are what we saw.

The back route to Mule Canyon was not hard but most of the U500 operators were relatively inexperienced in off-road travel in these large trucks.  So, a small obstacle could cause great angst.  Above, the group waits while Bill and Chris check out the obstacle.

Chris has already passed the washout and the rest of the group discusses the alternatives.

Bill kneels at the crux of the obstacle.  The issue is the high center of gravity of the U500 combined with the rolling "lurch" that would accompany the bottoming out on the obstacle could cause a rollover.

The group decided to take an alternate route that bypassed the washout altogether.  The plan was to turn into the creek bottom and then follow the opposite side on the slick rock.  Above, Vince goes first.

The U500 has some significant dangle-downs that impact the approach angle on obstacles.  Above, Chris spots Vince to insure that he does not tag his steering box on the rock.

Mark and Gail came next.  Their rig is longer and therefore will provide some additional challenges.

Mark came real close to plowing the hill with his rear bumper.

Tony came next.  Tony's rig does not (currently) have working gears, so it was much harder to control on the down slope.

Because Brad was a novice driver, Rob drove his rig over the obstacle.

John's rig came close to tagging his bumper.

I looked both routes over carefully and concluded the road was the best route.  I fully expected to tag my rear tool boxes but in the end I just did a bit of plowing with my trailer hitch.

Rob followed me in his 2450L.

Note the axle articulation between the front and rear axles.

To get back to the highway required crossing a bridge that generated some angst.  None of us were sure the bridge would support the weight of a fully loaded U500.

We traveled the highway to the Mule Canyon ruins and got out for a look.  Above, Stephen, Bill and Chris discuss the main kiva at the site.

We traveled south of Mule Canyon looking for a camp site, but the camp was occupied.  So, we got out and hiked to the nearby ruins to check them out.

The so-called "Tower Ruins" had twin stone towers on either side of a large canyon.

The opposing tower is visible at the top-center of the photo above.

We crossed the canyon to see some additional ruins and along the way I spotted this small cactus in bloom.  The flower is a complex structure.  Oddly, there were no insects on the flower.

The group examines the descent route to the cliff ruins below.

The ruins are visible in the center of the photo nestled under the overhanging cliff.

Bill spotted the descent down the first pitch.

We elected not to do the descent.  Since the weather was closing in, we decided to return to the truck.  On the return trip, we got a better view of the second tower.  Our return to the truck was timely as the rain started as we arrived.

Since our first-choice camp location was taken, we headed out to an alternate.  At a stop, I spotted more cactus in bloom, albeit a different species.

The spring rains had brought out plenty of blooms.  I do not know what kind of flower this is, but notice the complex structure with the purple hairs.

We saw plenty of these flowers; they were everywhere.

Vince had some problems switching out of crawler gears and attempted to resolve the issue with a tow.  In the end, there was some additional operator knowledge required and Rob provided the training.  We were rolling again shortly thereafter.

Mark demonstrates his best farm boy chopping form while splitting logs.  Mark had the whole process down pat and was the only one that had the presence of mind to bring a chain saw.  That was a good thing too as the temperatures got chilly after dark 7,000 feet and a roaring fire was the perfect solution.

The site we selected was large enough to get all the trucks close to one another.

Mule Canyon ruins were very interesting and easily accessible from the paved road.  Our route, of course, went the back way.  Each of the drivers got good benefit from the obstacles we encountered.

Tomorrow, we head west to the lower flanks of the Abajo Mountains and up Elk Ridge.

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