Spring has attempted to come to us in my part of the world, but winter is putting up a pretty good fight! There’s still too much snow on the backroads to go wheeling and temperatures are still too cold to want to put the soft top on the Jeep. I’m going to flash back to spring 2013 when Fiona was a young grasshopper jeep, yearning to earn her mudding badge. This is the story of her very first initiation into the world of 4 wheeling. I’m part of two 4×4 groups in my north coastal area of British Columbia, the Kitimat Off Road group in Kitimat and the Coast Mountain Crawlers group in Terrace, which are neighboring towns. I lived in Kitimat for many years and moved to Terrace in 2012 so I already knew a few members from the Kitimat group and have met the members of the Terrace group through a mutual friend. Sometimes we wheel separately and sometimes members from both groups get together. On this trip I was with the Kitimat group for my first time literally giving Fiona the gears and getting muddy. There were seven vehicles, two of us women driving our own jeeps. We met at a local hotel/hotspring on a gray, sunless, semi warm spring day in March 2013. The trail we’d chosen is a powerline that has a trailhead just across the road from the hotel. We were 7 vehicles strong and I was excited to face this new challenge, even though I had no idea what to expect, I knew that it would be good. We set out around 12:30 from the hotel parking lot and within 2 minutes we were at the trail head. What I saw gave me the inkling that I was about to go home without completing the trail. A massive uphill mud hole! The mud was so deep and chewed up that I figured that I’d either get royally stuck and need to be winched up the hill or I’d be winched back out and would sadly slink home without a 4 wheeling story to tell. Since it’s law in my area to have winter tires from October 1st until April 30, Fiona still had her winters on. I was apprehensive, but watched a few vehicles that had lifts and big tires wrestle through the mess to make it through. My turn. I had some direction from some of the guys and was directed to stay left to avoid what loomed as a huge stump, but to the left was thick chewed up muck that I was certain to sink into. I started off slowly and gained some speed just before hitting the muck hole, then gave it all I could to get though… fail. I was stopped by what felt like an object below Fiona that was probably still frozen mud. I managed to back out and tried again. Another fail. Not looking good. I asked one of the guys to sit in the passenger seat to help guide me & Craig jumped in. I picked my driving line and got going faster before hitting the mud, then floored Fiona, weaving my steering wheel back and forth to keep traction. This time I triumphed! I was overjoyed and amazed! No winching! Fiona greatly impressed me! I parked up the trail a little ways and walked back to watch the rest of the group.
Once we were all through, we continued along the trail, hitting the occasional deep puddle, but this part was easy. We climbed and dipped for a few kilometers until we came upon a creek bed that was looking like a bit of a challenge. There are two ways past this creek bed, through it and around it. The only issue is that going around it meant traversing some thick wet spring snow. I knew that Fiona was NOT going to get through the snow so we had to go through the creek. The first step was to get over a short but steep embankment. Since Fiona is still a stock jeep with no lift or fancy offroad tires, I was thinking she may end up high centered on the edge of the this embankment, or at the very least, the center of her belly would scrape the edge as we descended. My friend Kristian guided me as I nosed Fiona over the edge… Sure enough, Fiona’s belly scraped, but didn’t get high centered or hung up and we successfully dropped into the creek bed.
Then the brave ones had to get through the snow… most guys made it, but this jeep needed a bit of help… (love the flex).
The rest of us drove through the creek, and we all met around a bend at a sandy area where we all stopped for a break before easily climbing up the embankment on the other side.
After our break, we followed the muddy spring trail until we got to a fork in the road. A couple of guys had an idea what direction would take us up the mountain, since they had been there with quads before, so we all headed off behind the leader, who we hoped remembered the way to where we wanted to go. Sure enough, he was right, and we found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep hill. Part way up this hill, the road was snow covered but the guys figured that they could forge their way through it, knowing that there was a downhill just ahead and back to a muddy, snowless trail. I knew that Fiona with her winter tires would not get through this wet slushy snow, but I had to give it a shot. We all figured that if a couple of guys plowed ahead they would create a trail for the rest of us. That didn’t work… we all got stuck! Needless to say that we didn’t get very far and the snow was too slick, even for the bravest and hardest working vehicles… some managed to back up out of this snowy mess, but Fiona and a couple of other vehicles had to be winched out. It doesn’t look like much snow, but it was they typical heavy wet, spring snow that we get every spring and it’s very slippery. Unless you’re driving a large machine, it’ll stop you in your tracks. Which it did this day. We had to admit partial defeat and find something else to climb. Which we did… To be Continued….