This was going to be Bud’s first mountain hike since his knee surgery in July and we’ve been walking every day to get his legs in shape, so we felt good about the day. We had a good breakfast of bacon, egg & potato burritos and packed a lunch of sandwiches and grapes.
As we slowly made our way up the rough narrow road, we had to back up to a wide spot to let two vehicles pass that were coming down from Long Park. We passed the trailhead to Bootlegger’s Saddle and about 100 yards beyond that we bounced over an unimpressive rock and heard a loud bang and we stopped dead in our tracks.
We both said “that can’t be good” and I looked out the passenger window and the front wheel was parallel to the axle instead of perpendicular. Definitely NOT GOOD.
We got out and accessed the situation. The ball joint had broken and the wheel was still connected, but no way to hold it aligned to roll with the others. We were sure we were not going anywhere in a hurry.
Bud thought if we could jack it up and drop the wheel onto the ball, it might hold enough to drive out, but after working at it, we could see that once we took the jack out, nothing would hold it together. So......... plan B, my idea was to take some wire and wrap it around the works and twist it tight to hold the wheel and ball joint together and maybe we could at least get it off the road so other trucks could get by. I walked down to the trailhead for Bootlegger Saddle Trail with my trusty pliers and cut a piece of old barbed wire (that was not strung to anything important) and Bud twisted it around the whole mess and when we let down the jack, everything stayed together. Small success.
In the meantime, a fellow came up the road behind us and another truck came down from Long Park. Both were bear hunters who were tracking their dogs, but could not get around our roadblock. Brandon and Luke were coming down. They had a dog still out that they were hoping to catch up to as it moved down the drainage toward the Turkey Creek crossing. The guy behind us backed down to the wide spot and turned around and went back down. Bud started the truck and tried to go forward, thinking it would be better to go slowly forward to a spot to turn around. The truck just spun it’s tires, so I found a wide spot behind us about 40 feet and Bud tried to back up. Again the tires just spun, so I got in front and pushed and we were able to maneuver the truck to one side and leave a wide enough spot to allow other trucks to get by. As Brandon and Luke came by, we asked if they could give us a ride to Portal and they agreed, so we grabbed our packs, sticks and camera from the trusty “Desert Rat” and left him there on the mountain.
We had mixed emotions over leaving him there. (yes, he's a him!) Bud bought that truck new in 1995 and it has never left him stranded. It has over 400,000 miles on it and all original parts except for a starter and fuel pump.
The “Little Guy” as Bud calls him, has been a great, dependable vehicle and this event hasn’t changed how we feel about him, but now we worry that this may be the beginning of the end for “Little Guy”.
Coming down the mountain, Luke was tracking his dog with GPS and the dog was staying put about a mile up Turkey Creek, so we pulled off the road and the guys headed up the creek. Bud & I walked behind them for about 45 minutes, so we did get a little hike in before returning to their truck to wait for them. It was a busy area. There was a group of German researchers from the Southwest Research Station collecting or monitoring ants in the smaller drainage just past Turkey Creek and the other group of bear hunters were tracking their wayward dogs in the same drainage.
While waiting there, we had our sandwiches and watched vehicles go by and about 3 hours after heading up the creek, the guys came out with their dog in a backpack. The dog was alert but he had fallen off a waterfall, so he was pretty banged up. He did not appear to be in shock or have internal injuries, but was definitely going to be sore for a few days.
Coming down the mountain, Brandon asked Bud “what would you take for that truck where it sits?” Bud said “if you can get it out of there, I’ll sell it to you for $1000. Brandon asked for our phone number and said he was definitely interested.
This morning Brandon called and he and Luke were coming out from Elfrida to see if they could get it down off the mountain. Bud decided if they get it down and want to buy it, he’d sell it for $700.00.
Though it’s been good to us, we can see that once things start breaking, it’s like a job on old plumbing, as you fix one thing, something else breaks.
So, Bud is up on the mountain with Brandon and Luke. I hope they are successful in getting the “Little Guy” on the trailer and back down here.
Stay tuned for updates to this saga……….