One of my favorite places to go Jeep camping in Southern California is Anza Borrego state park. I usually go down Coyote canyon, and spend a beautiful night under the stars. I have been down this trail 6-7 times and have had little emergencies here and there (Getting stuck for 5 hours… etc), but the trip always ends on a positive note.
This past weekend I went with a couple of friends after work to spend some time unwinding under the stars after work. We got on the road with my completely stock 4 door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
On the way toward the desert the drive is always beautiful, as we got closer this time though it looked like there was a haze or fog in the distance. This concerned me a little, I have done the drive down the canyon multiple times in the dark. Its trickier then during the day but you can still manage with headlights. Haze and fog was something I wasn’t willing to risk on the trail down through the canyon.
When we stopped for gas 5 minutes from the Coyote Canyon trail head, we noticed it was not in fact “fog” is was actually blowing sand, the wind gusts were pretty strong.
As we got to the trail head, visibility was fine and we pushed down into the canyon. The ride down was fine with no issue, we parked the jeep to try and break some of the wind from our camp. Once we set up the tents, it seems that the wind decided to change direction… we had to use 550 cord tied to rocks to hold my friends larger tents from blowing in the wind.
I brought my hammock but decided it was to windy to sleep in it, and I really did not want to wake up covered in sand. So I decided to pitch my Marmot EOS 1p tent. This was only my second time pitching this tent, and it handled the wind great!
With the small surface are of the EOS 1P, it handled the wind great, and I slept soundly. I did not have any issues due to the wind, on that note, placement of your tent on a windy day is key to success. I kept it close to the jeep, to use the jeep as a bit of a wind block. If you find your self camping on a windy day, take a minute to just pause, listen to the wind and analyze your camp site and see if you can naturally break the wind based on terrain or vegetation.
Also if you have a camp fire, obviously you want to keep the fire low in high wind, but I would not recommend placing tents down wind from the fire. At the same time, be careful and fully secure anything up wind so it does not blow into the fire.
We all survived the windy night and woke up early to catch the sun peaking up over the mountains. The drive out during the day is always just as amazing as the drive in during the night. I am always taken away by how different it looks during the day, and the trip through the trail takes about half the time when its light out.
As we made it to the top of the Canyon, with just over a little over a mile to go before he hit the hardball (Paved road), an alarm sounded in my jeep. I looked at the dash, and saw the tire pressures, and the back right tire was quickly falling…
I quickly eyed the flattest part of ground, anticipating that I would be changing a tire. I got out, and immediately could hear the air coming out of the back tire. We emptied all our gear from the back, and I pulled out my jack. To my horror this is what I saw:
No matter how hard I twisted, the jack would not rise… this was an issue, a flat should be an easy easy fix. When I first saw I had a flat, I did not have the least bit of worry, I have changed a ton of flats in my life. A flat is a little tough when you physically cant lift the car, and unfortunately I am not superman. I tried going back and forth between up and down on the jack to see if I could shake some of the rust off, did not work. I used my Kabar to try and pry the jack up and knock rust of as I spun the lever. Nothing I tried seemed to work…
We next looked around at the terrain to see if there was a way to drive and position the jeep and have the right back tire in the air for the change but this did not look feasible.
At this point, I was feeling a little hopeless and it was about time for me to go for a little hike. We were only about 4-5 miles from the closest gas station…
Even when camping with my jeep and not backpacking, I always bring my pack. Not only is it just an easy way to organize my gear, its always good to have for emergencies just in case you have to go for a little walk. If you read my last post on my blog, you know that I order custom maps, and never leave on a trip without a map and compass.
With a pack, you can take water and supplies to keep you going for a hike to help. I planned on hiking to the gas station and purchasing a new jack and then hiking back. This is when a map and compass really come in handy even when you know the trail.
Thankfully, I did not have to execute an emergency hike. Just as I was starting to prep, a truck was coming down the trail! I flagged him down, explained our situation, showed him my rusted jack and asked if he had one that we could borrow. He gladly helped us out!
He was on his way down to pick up a backpacker, and was so nice that he told us to use the jack and then hide it behind a push and he would pick it up on the way back! That was extremely nice and trustworthy of him, and I owe the guy in the truck from Florida a lot! I am always on guard when I meet strangers, on the trail but I am also constantly impressed by the caring and compassion I have seen and received from complete strangers.
As he drove away to pick up his backpacker, we set up his jack. The jack was small and not made for my jeep and didn’t exactly lift the tire off the ground on first try. Luckily there were a whole lot of rocks, and we went rock hunting for a nice stable flat rock to place the jack on. I do not recommend this at all but if you need to accept a little risk in an emergency situation just be aware your car will be more unstable and keep your friends away.
Once we got the flat tire off, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulder. We were on our way to getting out of the desert and back home! The next small issue occurred when we tried to but the new tire on. Since the new tire was inflated it was a little bit bigger then the flat tire. As a result, we were able to get the flat off, but the new tire just didn’t have enough clearance to go on. At this point the car was already jacked up so we had to improvise a little bit.
I took my hatchet and began digging the dirt out from under my car in order to make room for the tire. This actually worked really well, and we were able to finally get the tire back on!
By the time we got the tire on, and all our stuff back into the jeep, the man from Florida was on his way back up with his backpacker in the car. I was glad I didn’t have to leave his jack behind a bush because I didn’t want it to get stolen. I would have felt awful if this guy helped me out and lost his jack. I handed it back personally and thanked him up and down, we were once again out of the Anza Borrego desert safely!