I had a plan for our summer. We continued to take our Jeep out during the winter last year and spring this year, and I watched Peanut critically. Though last year was wonderful and she’s always been a hardy and well-behaved Jeeper, clumsy toddlerhood tumbles and long days took their toll on her little body. But this year, Peanut’s sturdy legs and quick mind made wheeling so easy that I knew this was the year of the Jeep!
So, I made a plan: I wanted our summer so full of camping, Jeeping, playing, and activity that by the time the season was over, we would be glad to just stay home. I scoured our club’s calendar and made a rather busy one of my own, taking us away from home and into the mountains nearly every other weekend throughout the summer. And my plan worked: By the last Greene family camping/Jeeping hurrah, we were ready!
Our last summer wheeling trip was to Holy Cross, one of Colorado’s most difficult, popular, and beautiful trails. Holy Cross is about three and a half hours from home and, due to its popularity, we needed to hit the trail at 8:00 am, so camping near the trail the night before was a happy necessity. We didn’t need to leave very early on Friday, so we took our time and left town a little after noon.
A few hours later, we pulled into our campsite, a quiet, secluded wilderness spot near a beaver pond and close to the trailhead.
We set up our tent, our chairs, and our stove, cooked up some burgers and soup, built a fire, and propped up our feet.
Skot and I hadn’t run Holy Cross in four years, and Peanut had never been. Last time, in 2010, we had a 25-rig band. The trail is pretty hard-core, and a large group requires a significant amount of time to get through all of the trail’s rocky challenges. Though I couldn’t wait to get back to Holy Cross, I did hope that we wouldn’t have quite so many vehicles!
Friday had been a cold day that turned into a frigid night that gave way to a frosty morning. When we arrived at the trailhead early that chilly Saturday morning, we found that only six hardy, well-equipped wheelers came out to play – a perfectly-sized group to run Holy Cross.
It warmed up quickly, and turned into a gorgeous day.
The trail gets rocky near the start, and the rocks only get bigger. After a particularly rocky stretch, an intersection greets you with a sign, letting you know that the trail goes from moderate to difficult and, should you choose to continue, a minimum tow truck service fee will be $500 dollars. We went on. 😉
The first major obstacle is called Steep Rock. There are a few lines through this rock, with the easiest being the farthest right-hand side, and the hardest being the farthest left. But there are no effortless lines. A small stream at the top presents a rocky surprise, but with a little momentum, it’s not a problem.
Not too far from Steep Rock is French Creek, a long, shallow creek bed filled with large boulders that changes – and gets harder – each year. What used to be the easiest line one year may be the hardest line the next. If you run into other groups on the trail, French Creek is where you’re most likely to experience a traffic jam, but no one else was near the creek when we got to it. Though this obstacle is quite difficult, with only six rigs, we passed through with no trouble and in little time.
A few smaller obstacles lie between French Creek and Holy Cross City, but they make better photos than true difficulties.
Holy Cross City is a 130-year-old ghost town that used to be home to 300 residents. This beautiful area with two broken-down homes, a small creek, and a fair-sized parking patch is a great place to have lunch and enjoy the sights.
Just down the road from Holy Cross City is the final and most extreme obstacle on the trail. Cleveland Rock is an enormous optional obstacle with no bypass, and though it has a couple of lines through, they all challenge even highly modified vehicles and buggies.
No one from our group wanted to tackle Cleveland Rock, and most of us had already enjoyed the spectacle of watching others try. So after some sandwiches and chips, a few photo ops and fun stories, we chose to just head back down the trail.
Though going down the trail is much easier than coming up, I still got some good pictures of the guys heading down the major obstacles.
We completed Holy Cross Trail in record time and headed back to our campsite. Relaxing with a beer and reading while Peanut played was all that was on tap for the remainder of the afternoon. As the day cooled into evening, Skot built up a rip-snorting fire (that’s a technical term, isn’t it?!) and cooked some dinner while I read to Peanut. After dark, it was cold enough for a treat: Hot cocoa – with a good pour of Fireball whiskey for Skot and me. 😉
Overnight was much warmer, and though we still awakened to a frosty world, our catalytic heater kept us toasty warm in the tent. Everyone slept in a bit on Sunday, and no one was in a hurry to get out of bed.
Soon enough, we were up and packing our things to go home. While we may take a few Jeep runs here and there over the winter, our camping days are over for the season. I would say my plan worked out well: We’re ready to stay home for a bit!