With each passing year, it becomes tougher and tougher to find time to escape. In all of 2019 thus far, on only two occasions have I had the opportunity to hit the trail: once for a week and a half earlier this summer for our annual StanceWorks Off Road trip, and the other, just yesterday: a quick day trip to Big Bear, California, to shake things down.
Since acquiring the Hummer, I’ve been jonsing see just how well it performs doing what Hummers do best. No, not burning fuel… off roading, of course. While most civilian Hummers have been relegated to a life of on-road-only driving, I’ve been eager to push my H1 to its limits. With a free Sunday on hand, my girlfriend Emily, our dog Chloe, and I set off to Big Bear to find some rocks, and as luck would have it, a bit of snow, too.
Jeremy Whittle and Andrew Sylvia joined along for the fun, too, and both eager for a shakedown of their own. Several months ago, Andrew purchased an imported right-hand-drive turbo-diesel HDJ81 Land Cruiser, and has been itching to put it to the test. Similarly, Jeremy purchased an Mercedes G55 AMG, and although he has managed to dirty it up once prior, it was a welcome opportunity to push its limits once again.
Largely unprepared and without real plans, we met in Fawnskin, and once together, hit the trail. It wasn’t long before we took an offshoot and encountered the first of a few obstacles on the trail, the first of which was a dug-out section of trail requiring a lot of flex and suspension travel to take directly. As a spotter, I guided Jeremy’s G55 along the trail’s high points, and despite his street performance tires, he accomplished things without a hiccup. Andrew followed suit, trouble free. The Hummer, of course, succeeded too, although I did take the path directly, simply for the added difficulty.
It wasn’t but maybe a few hundred yards before the trail ramped up significantly in difficulty. In fact, some may recognize it as where I took the FJ60 almost a year ago exactly, on a day trip with Franklin and his white Ford Bronco. In the 60, I was only able to conquer part of the trail, meaning I was all-in for attempting to make it through in the H1. After all, internally justifying my absurd purchase is quite important, right?
The initial section, a rock garden, proved relatively simple, with one rock providing a bit of a hangup in terms of getting up and over it - something some fellow H1 guys say is all a matter of learning to use the Torsen diffs and the TT4 traction control system effectively. In all, it was a relative cake-walk, and following that, I left Andrew and Jeremy behind, heading on up and over the icy hill. Andrew felt a lack of confidence in his wildly worn tires, and Jeremy was content admitting the G55 simply wouldn’t make it through the crags without a much-needed lift and larger tires.
Once over the hill, I descended the other side, over a few rocks that didn’t cause a second thought. As soon as room permitted, I turned the behemoth H1 around, and began my way back up the hill. Those few rocks proved to be quite an issue, however.
A slick coating of ice allowed me down the hill, but was preventing the climb back up. Several attempts proved unfortuitous, and one final run-up had the H1’s tires spinning, and before I knew it, the tail end of the truck was making its way towards the embankment to my right. It was a “pucker” moment, and for a few, I thought I might drop my new-to-me truck off the steep incline on my first outing. I was unable to reverse back without the truck slipping off the trail, and making forward progress proved impossible.
It took some figuring… The Hummer didn’t include a winch controller when I bought it, and whoever used the winch last wound it up improperly, meaning winding it out was an uphill battle. With some finagling though, we freed the cable, and attached it to a tree up trail, with only a few feet of cable to spare. With a pair of tiny screwdrivers jammed into the controller socket of the winch, and jumper cable lead clamped to them for “control,” we managed to bring the winch to life, and without much further stress, we were up and over the ice patch, and on our way back through the previous rock garden, all without a hitch.
We regrouped back down the trail, and from there, continued onwards. We assumed we'd continue our day perched in the mountains with the light dusting of snow we had encountered, but we paid the price for not looking at our GPS. 20-or-so miles further down trail, and it was becoming more and more clear we were descending into the desert. Before long, the trail had turned to the familiar Southern Californian desert sand and dust.
That didn't stop us from enjoying some offshoots and spots to test the trucks, though; it was merely an unexpected change of scenery. Before we knew it, we had found ourselves at the trail's end, in Apple Valley, CA, just outside of Victorville... not the most entertaining place to be. We weighed our options... but with the sun setting earlier and earlier, and only an hour and change away, we figured we'd spare ourselves the dark drive back, and went on home. It was a short but sweet day, and a welcome break from the day-to-day at the SWHQ. Next time, though, we'll need to plan a better route....