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Don Miguel Ruiz
What a great trip! 3 rigs headed for Chivo Falls, east of Tucson in the foothills of the Rincon Mtns. The trail is rated at 3.0 to 3.5 on a 5 scale, so is at the beginning of the difficult level as 4x4 trails go. It was a bit of a stretch for my stock Ranger STX 4x4, but I wanted to see if I and it could handle this level of trail.
Jim and Dave were in Jim's heavily modified '73 FJ40.
Tony and Brian were in Tony's lightly modified '85 CJ7. And I in my '88 Ranger 4x4.
We got off to a good, on-time start. The major obstacle on the trail, Three Feathers, is pretty close to the trailhead. We scoped it out and picked our lines and breezed right through. Tony took the middle route, the medium difficulty route, and Jim took the hard way down. I took the easy way down, only scraping my chassis in one place and minor damage to the panel just below the driver side door where it scraped a big rock. Heheh, easy compared to the other two options. Jim showed us what his rig can do by climbing back up a more challenging section (if not THE most challenging). After the show, we were on our way.
The only "carnage" that we encountered was when my clutch linkage came off from the pedal and the C-clip was nowhere to be found. I tried to fix it. Tony tried to fix it. Then Dave "the snake" stepped up and had us back on the trail in no time. Amazing what a little bailing wire and a pair of pliers will do. In fact, that's still holding the pedal and linkage together.
None of us had been on the trail before so we were relying on the Charles A. Wells book "Guide to Arizona Backroads and 4WD Trails". Brian, Tony'w navigator, chose poorly and led the group astray for a few minutes but we realized the error and were back on the right trail right away.
Things got a little too hairy for my Ranger when we started getting close to the falls so I ditched it (literally - I parked in the wash) and rode with Brian and Tony the last half-mile to the Falls. After a short time at the falls, Jim and Dave headed back to the trailhead so they could make it back to Phoenix in time for their prior commitment. We continued to follow the trail according to the book.
On the way back Brian led us on yet another wrong turn, took us a half hour out of our way on a trail that would've been another 3 to 4 hours before returning to the staging area. We didn't discover that until we stopped and asked some partiers (yes, there were people partying out in the middle of the desert under a big tree). We got to backtrack AGAIN. This little detour cost us an hour, but it was fun. Unfortunately, the forest service closed the road we were planning to use as our exit, the one that was listed in the book. So we took a different trail which was in reasonable condition, at least better than the first trail getting to the falls.
Awesome trail, my first time on that trail, and it was quite rough. I believe that trail is the limit of what the Ranger can do in stock form. It was definitely the roughest trail I've driven yet.
I think I know the limitations of the truck pretty well by now, and believe it was a good choice, to ditch it in the was half-mile from the falls, it just doesn't have the articulation to make some of those rocks.
Chivo Falls was actually Chivo Drip, as there's nothing more than a few drips of moisture there right now. Monsoon season is just getting under way so the water should start flowing real soon. The falls are something like 50 or 60 feet high, fall onto a rocky area, the water then fills a large sandy basin before continuing downhill. It's a great swimming hole, and is known as a 'clothing optional area'. When we were there no one else was around. I guess it gets more popular when the water is running.