Rock Rage; Affliction Exacerbated When Surfing South Dakota's Big Boulders

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by Park Owens,
BRC Board Member
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The weekend of October 24th and 25th was scheduled to be a last good weather fling in the Black Hills of South Dakota before snow settled in for winter...and oh what a fling it was.

We've all heard about "Road Rage." but have you heard about "South Dakota Rock Rage?" Rock rage occurs when surfing in South Dakota on big rocks that tend to move thereby adding new dents and wrinkles to your 4x4 vehicle. And we do all this in the name of fun.

Well, this weekend was a rock rage extravaganza as 20 vehicles lined up for the 4+ Full Size trail (only eight finished) on Saturday and 13 rigs ran the 4+ Prospector Gulch trail on Sunday.

Saturday was a gorgeous day with clear skies and a temperature climbing through 58 degrees when the folks departed Rapid City, South Dakota at 9 a.m.

Leading the Saturday group through the 4+ Full Size trail were Clyde and Kate Goin in their '48 CJ-2A. Others along were Park Owens in his '76 FJ 40; Tony and Ken Bartlett in Tony's '85 Toyota pickup; Sean Fulton, John Lipp, and Darrin Lipp in Sean's '83 FJ-60; Gary and David Brandt in Gary's '80 FJ-40; Jim Van de Ven in his '68 FJ-40; Duane Nickel in his '77 FJ-40; Dave Cain and Katie Kohl in Dave's '76 CJ-7; Barry Edwards and Kevin Bybee in Barry's '74 Bronco; and Greg, Rhonda, Jessie, and Joe Mumm in their '98 TJ.

Also along for the Full Size run were Brenen Brown, Jessi Massey, and Than Marco in Brenen's '79 Scout; Charley Rupp in his '74 FJ-40; Casey, Lori, and Kylee Meyer in their '72 FJ-40; Mike Morrell and Steve Walters in Mike's '70 Bronco; Chris and Tera Geidel in their '98 TJ; Shannon Gill and Lindsay Elston in Shannon's '72 FJ-40; Dennis Richer in his '85 Toyota pickup; Bob Niemeyer and Stan Wiszezur in Bob's '92 YJ; Brad and Barb Larson in their '75 CJ-5; and John Kulp in his '77 FJ-40.

Not long after the group dropped off a Forest Service road and into the Bear Butte Creek drainage, the adventure began in earnest. All of the obstacles on Full Size with one exception, have a less difficult bypass.

Rounding a corner the trail riders stared at the first obstacle...a gigantic rock pile at least 10 feet tall and twice the width of a Land Cruiser. Guarding the rock pile were two humongous boulders that one had to crawl between...very difficult as only five or six rigs were able to negotiate the obstacle.

This obstacle took its toll as driveshafts, hubs, and body metal were broken and deformed. Straps and winches were also used to extricate vehicles from the rock pile's clutches.

If this were the first obstacle on the trail, what would the rest of the obstacles look like? Thankfully, the remainder of the obstacles were all doable until the end of the trail where the group met an obstacle no one successfully conquered.

The third Full Size obstacle was a waterfall with two possible approaches...neither one particularly appealing. When all was said and done, several rigs suffered body damage and needed straps and winches to get over the waterfall.

The remainder of the trail ride was relatively uneventful until the group hit Big Twister. Big Twister is a collection of very large rocks requiring a hard off-camber right turn while on the spine of two boulders. With expert spotting, low gears, and faith, the folks who attempted the obstacle were all successful.

The day soon ended as the rigs crawled out of the drainage and back onto the Forest Service road to the trip back to town. What an experience Full Size was. People discovered many things about their driving abilities and the capabilities of their vehicles. What an adventure!!

Day two of South Dakota Rock Rage began at 9 a.m. as the group rolled out of Rapid City enroute to the 4+ rated Prospector Gulch.

Leading the group this day was Park Owens in his '76 FJ-40. Also along were the Mumm's...Greg, Rhonda, Jessie, and Joe, in their '98 TJ; Gary and David Brandt in Gary's '80 FJ-40; Jim Van de Ven in his '68 FJ-40; Duane Nickel and Gordy Wermer in Duane's '77 FJ-40; Tony, Ken, and AJ Bartlett in Tony's '85 Toyota pickup; Casey Meyer in his '72 FJ-40; Dave Cain in his '76 CJ-7; Brenen, Tim and Connie Brown and Jessi Massey in Brenen's '79 Scout; Trent Eckburg in his '77 FJ-40; Brad and Barb Larson in their '75 CJ-5; Clyde and Kate Goin in their '48 CJ-2A; and Mike Morrell in his '70 Bronco.

Prospector Gulch is a short, but very intense trail as the riders would soon see. The trail consists of two sections and begins benignly enough on an old mining/logging road that then deteriorates rapidly to rocks and large holes.

Problems began at the Squirrel and Glory Holes as several folks needed a strap or a winch to successfully negotiate the obstacles. Getting in the holes is easy...getting out is difficult.

The second section of the trail is known as the Gauntlet and consists of rock after rock all jumbled together in a downward chute-type topography barely wide enough for a Bronco or Scout.

The Gauntlet did its job as rig after rig was forced to run its obstacles. A ding here, a dent there, a high-center here, and cut tire there were all results of running the Gauntlet.

One big surprise occurred when Brenen gently laid his Scout over on its driver's side at the base of the Gauntlet. Everyone was ok and the crew quickly jumped in to right his vehicle. His heart soon recovered from it's wild beating and he continued on around to prepare for the climb up the Gauntlet.

Thankfully, the climb up was, for the most part, uneventful except for one very large stubborn rock smack dab in the middle of the trail. However, everyone was soon out. All too quickly it was time to say goodbye to friends and wheeling partners.

But the memories of South Dakota Rock Rage will persist forever. What an adventure!

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