I was going to post this up last year after I found myself on a 4WD trail wondering how I was going to get out of the area without, at a minimum, damaging my wife's pickup. I just did not get around to it. After finding myself in the same type of situation yesterday, I decided I need to find out if I am the only person who manages to find myself in situations like that.
For me, it seems easy and innocent enough how I find myself in these situations. I spend hours ahead of time looking at satellite images on Google maps, using the Hunter Atlas on CDOW's website, and looking at multiple different paper maps from multiple different sources (BLM, National Forest, county governments, private entities, etc.). I notice a couple spots that I decide I want to check out on foot, and, conveniently enough, some sort of road takes me within a reasonable hiking distance of where I want to go. None of my maps seem to have any practical rating of the road/trail, aside from the occaisional "4WD Trail" designation. Having driven on many alleged 4WD trails that I would not hesitate to take my 2WD car on, that designation has nearly lost all meaning with me (I am beginning to rethink that mindset ).
In person, for the situation last year, there were signs saying "High clearance 4WD recommended" or something of that nature. Having driven many miles on that same trail with that same warning without any problems or any hesitations to drive that trail again, I had no reason to think that a short section of the trail would become significantly more difficult to maneuver while avoiding damaging my vehicle. For the situation yesterday, there was not a single sign indicating that even the use of a 4WD vehicle was necessary.
In both situations, about one-third to half-way into the new section of trail, the trails did seem to warn of what was ahead with a small section that was a little more challenging, but nothing I could not manage. In the back of my mind, I think about turning back, but several factors usualy propel me towards what ends up being the wrong decision. First, I do not want to be a wuss. Second, by then, I usually have quite a bit of time invested in taking this path. Finally, I am curious what lies ahead.
Again, in both situations, these were downhill trails. Shortly after the warning section mentioned above that I so intelligently decide to proceed through, I more or less slide down a part of the trail that, even if I wanted to, I doubt I could reverse back up the trail. Now, reluctantly, I am fully committed to getting down the trail. Luckily, in both instances, these trails were not dead ends, so getting down the trails was all there was to it.
Finally, in both situations, I did get down the trails without getting stuck and without damaging the pickup mechanically. I did stratch and dent the body, but I was just glad that the pickup is not a permanent display in those parts of the forest.
While I will be more cautious in the future about exploring 4WD trails, I can't help but think that some sort of trail rating system with signage on site would be useful. I realize that several factors such as the technical specifications of the vehicle (wheel base, ground clearance, etc.), the experience/abilities of the driver, and variable environmental conditions can all play into how to subjectively rate a trail. However, I still believe some sort of rating system would be useful, whether that is a simple 1-10 system, or some brief recommendations regarding wheel base and ground clearance. Basically, I would like some information before I get quite a ways down the trail to help me decide how adventurous I feel, and how badly I want to know that is on the other side of that trail. Both of these trails would be fun on an ATV or motorcycle, but, if I could do it again, I would not take my factory 4WD down.
So, anybody else want to fess up to similar decision-making abilities?
2000 Dodge Dakota with Offroad package
Roosevelt National Forest 505.1 Caribou Trail
Boulder County 95J