Set Them Free Off-Road 2014, Part Two: Grizzly Lake

Last week we looked at the first trail we ran during the Set Them Free Off-Road event last month: Iron Chest. Iron Chest is a short trail, and even though quite challenging, it’s easy to finish it in enough time to run a second short trail, called Grizzly Lake. After our group finished Iron Chest and loaded the one casualty of the day on a trailer, we were all ready to continue our adventure. Much to my husband’s supportive delight in my interest/adorable disappointment in giving up his Jeep, I am taking the wheel more and more – and I wanted to run Grizzly up and back.

Grizzly Lake is a moderate yet consistently challenging trail, with the biggest obstacle presented at the beginning: A large, stacked rock climb that changes with use, located just beyond a small creek bed crossing. Wet tires make everything more difficult, and getting up this obstacle is no joke. The first few rigs required a few tries, but made it up relatively easily. I was the first who needed a tow-strap tug, and the Jeep after me saw a winch cable, but soon enough we were all up.

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The next obstacle is just past the first, but is much easier. There is a bypass, but the obstacle is rather simple and worth trying.

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From there, the trail continues up a long, steep hill. Narrow shelf roads filled with loose rocks is the name of the game on Grizzly Lake, and careful, technical driving is required.

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In one spot, three larger boulders jut out from the inside of the trail, and if you try to hug them, they will push you toward the edge of a 150 foot drop. After one rig nearly slid off, my husband figured out how to get us safely around them: Steer away from them…toward the edge! By carefully and barely bypassing them, you remain in control and eliminate the risk of being pushed involuntarily toward the drop off.

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What?? Do I look worried to you?!

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Thankfully, we all made it past that spot safely and securely! From there, more shelf roads, narrow spaces, and rocky inclines greeted us. We passed though a few water crossings, then climbed to the top of the trail and to Grizzly Lake itself, the namesake of the trail.

Spectacular views, pristine waters, and cool, comfortable temperatures combined to make this a Jeeper’s paradise. THIS is why we Jeep!

The trail returns the way it came up, but gravity was on our side on the way down. While careful and technical driving was still a must, the challenge was significantly less – even the initial obstacle was easy coming down. And the beauty was astounding!

Once off the trail, we were ready to head back to camp. It had been a great day of wheeling with minimal damage and lots of challenging fun. Our trail guide, Chris, was knowledgeable and patient, but he kept everyone on time and allowed us to run both trails, even with a breakage.

That evening, Gionni and Betsey (the STF Off-Road organizers) had arranged a catered dinner of bbq pork, beef brisket, baked beans, and potato salad, a raffle grand prize drawing, and a concert. After supper, Peanut played around on the campground play equipment for a bit, we spent some time talking with a friend, and then it was night-night time for Peanut – and fireside time for Mama and Daddy. 😉

The next morning, Sunday, we had planned to run Mt. Antero, an easy and scenic trail, and include a hike to the top of the mountain. That trail was snowed in, so another was substituted, but there was a frustrating amount of confusion about the campground checkout time that eliminated our ability to run any of the trails.

The STF Off-Road website said that checkout time was to be at 4:00 pm, allowing plenty of time for some easy wheeling before we needed to pack up. But we found out late Saturday evening that, instead, checkout time was noon, so we would need to be packed up and checked out before we left for the trails at 9:00 am.

All of our stuff had to be packed into our Jeep, so we wouldn’t be able to wheel. A couple of friends who were staying Sunday night offered their campsites for storage, but we didn’t want to have to be packed up and ready by 9:00, either. Several people found the confusion to be destructive to their plans also, and out of the entire event, this was by far the most frustrating. But we made the best of it, and chose to stay at our campsite and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, the beauty of the campground, and some relaxed family time.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Buena Vista, to those friends who stayed behind, too, and to another great weekend of camping and Jeeping.

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