A 1-Ton Truck In A Jeep's World
If Getting Stuck Wasn't Bad Enough, Imagine Getting Pulled Out By A Wrangler!
Moving out to California from the plains of Illinois, I had no solid grasp of how elevation could change weather conditions. Back home, when there is 6 inches of snow on the ground, everyone within a 300-mile radius knows it and is probably experiencing similar conditions.
So one day in February 2009, after the mountainous region of Big Bear, California (elevation approximately 6,700 feet), had received 24 inches of snow, I made the 80-mile trek up there in my F-350. Accompanying me were my co-workers Nick Bennet, and David Kennedy, who brought his diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee. For any of you who don't know, Kennedy used to work for Petersen's 4-Wheel and Off-Road, and he's still fond of the off-road world. Needless to say, my plans for the day were to head up the mountain, cut some cookies, fishtail through a few parking lots, and check out all the snowfall. However, not even an hour into our little snow trip, Kennedy tore off the beaten path, taking a tight, snow-covered trail that had us winding through the woods. This was all fine and good for a while, but then I started getting stuck. Then stuck again. And again. Then Kennedy buried the Jeep and I pulled him out. Before we knew it, the next wave of snow showers arrived and began to cover up the tracks we'd left behind us. So we aired down our mud-terrains and pressed on-not having the slightest clue what lay ahead of us.
Eventually, we ran into an abandoned Jeep Cherokee blocking the trail. Good enough for me. I voted we turn around and get the hell out! The only problem was there was absolutely no place to turn around-not even for a Jeep.
Amazingly, an H1 Hummer came out of nowhere and offered to help get us back to the main road. Honestly, I never thought I'd get pulled out by a 6.5L-powered ANYTHING, but this was different-and I learned to respect the H1's off-road capabilities that day. Nearly every time I got stuck, that Hummer would winch or pull me out.
After finally getting turned around, we headed back down the trail toward the main road. With just two major obstacles left ahead of us (a big hole, followed by a creek), I'd had enough off-roading for the day. I hit the hole as fast as I could. If only Kennedy would've gotten a photo of my front wheels off the ground that day-he swears it would've made the cover of the magazine. One hole down, one creek to go. On our way back out we also came across two Marines in a Jeep Wrangler that managed to make it as far as we did. When we told them what we'd faced behind us, they too wanted to turn around. Turning my 21-foot, 7,400-pound limo around in 30 inches of snow without getting stuck became a fine art with yet another vehicle in the mix.
We strategically had the H1 cross the creek first. That way we had the most capable vehicle on the other side, ready to tow. But even though the H1 made quick work of the creek, it left some nasty ruts behind. Then Kennedy tried his luck, and after an hour of back and forth and a wasted winch cable, his Cherokee made it across. Next up, the Wrangler, whose narrow wheel width put it on non-rutted ground, skipped right through it. Then there was me.
In my attempt to blast across the creek, the heavy front end on my Ford sunk. That was it. No back and forth action was even possible-I was not moving. And you can imagine my doubtfulness of a Wrangler hooking a strap to me and yanking me out, but it was all we could do. And, after four hours of yanking (in which a tow strap snapped and wasted one of my headlights, the grille, a turn lamp, and the stone deflector), they finally got me out. My little snow trip turned into a 15-hour nightmare.
No matter how many times I told myself I'd never admit to having a Jeep Wrangler pull me out, there's no denying that I was in a Jeep's world up in the mountains that day. To be honest, I still don't remember the names of those fine Marines that helped get me out. But I hope if they come across this editorial, it will serve as the ultimate thank you for all their efforts.
Oh yeah, we don't do this kind of stuff often, but every once in a while we put our trucks to the test-even if they're way out of their element.