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First mission for a J4600
August 5, 2000 - Accros the McElmo Dome

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This classic 1972 J4600 joined the Classic Canyon Cruisers in July 2000.  It is all stock, including the paint and had 61,000 original documented miles at purchase!  It took a little bit to get used to the fact that the T-18 transmission has a granny low and you don’t really need to use first unless you really need the extra grunt.  On a maiden run to see some of the canyon area, The J4600, Krista and I embarked down Road G in McElmo Canyon about 3:00 in the afternoon.  I was reminiscing back to the first Full Size Jeep I purchased in 1976 (which was also a 1972 J4000) as I worked the shifter through the gears.  These trucks are real workhorses with a long bed and 6000 GVW.   The interior of the cab in the J4600 is immaculately clean with no tears in the original vinyl seat.  We weren’t real sure where we were headed until we got there.  We indeed had unexpected pleasure on this ride, from both the scenery and the fact that this truck is so well preserved.  As we approached the road to Cannonball Mesa, we decided to hang a right and check it out.  This road runs through private property to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) north of the canyon, is gravel and the ground was packed hard.  It wasn’t long before we realized we were driving across what appeared to be the middle of nowhere.  The J4600 was riding smoothly on the new 245x70x16 tires and we heard very few rattles.  Even the doors latched securely after 28 years.  There were some washboards, but most of the drive in was managed in third gear.  With 4.09 gears, the J4600 can roll effortlessly at 10 to 15 mph in third.  As we got further down the trail, the road got a little rougher and I shifted to second.  There are several Jeep trails off this road once you reach the BLM area but we hesitated to take any turns because this area was recently designated a national monument.  There were no signs indicating we shouldn’t leave the road however.   Krista pointed out some neat rock formations that looked curious because they were layered with smaller stones.  We stopped for a break and walked around a bit.  There was a jet passing way overhead and as soon as it had cleared audible range, we were both struck with the awe of absolutely no other sound.  This stopped us in our tracks and we soaked up the beauty of the landscape in dead silence.  Not even a wind.   There is truly magic here.  We got back on the road after a few minutes and head off to…  we didn’t know where.  Nearing the end of the road, which stops at an oil field fence line, we saw a motorcycle and bicycle trail to the east.  I thought, what the heck, it looked well ridden so I turned onto it and stayed in second gear.  This trail was mostly dirt and silt.  There were places where deep ruts had been cut during wetter times.   The trail takes many turns in accordance to the terrain and we were headed in a general northeast direction.  The grass was brown and the shrubs were sparse.  Soon, we noticed the presence of horses on the trail.  As we made the next bend, we came upon four Ute Reservation mustangs who appeared to be wary of our presence.  I had never seen wild horses before.  They were a bit under nourished and had obviously migrated here to find better grazing land.   It was hard to believe that this arid country could support the mustangs as we had not seen any sign of water since turning north from McElmo Creek.  It wasn’t long before we got into more rocky area with pinion and juniper trees.  The trail got rougher and leaded us up over a small ridge and down into a small canyon.  As we approached the creek bed, it appeared the trail may turn to follow it because we could not see a trail up the other side.  We were surprised to find we were then climbing a much higher ridge instead.  The J4600 had been cooperating very well and it didn’t seem necessary to lock in the hubs.  We wanted to avoid four wheel drive use since the front drive shaft is in need of some attention.  I shifted to low gear and we slowly and easily climbed up the winding trail.  The view across the canyon here was breath taking.  Even though the trail was plenty wide, I was cautious of the fact that one mistake and it would be a rough ride down into the canyon to our right.  We stopped near the top to take in the view and felt the air was at least ten degrees cooler than down in McElmo.  It was sad to see that there had been some careless travelers along the way with the presence of discarded trash and even a shredded tire.  The view, however, was picturesque as we looked toward the ridge above McElmo Canyon and the Ute Reservation beyond there to the south.  At this point, we figured we were probably northeast of the family farm and slowly working our way back toward Cortez.  The J4600 continued the crawl up the trail to the top where there is a power line.  The trail emptied onto a gravel road at this point and we headed back toward civilization.  The view was quite awesome upon mountains to the west in southeastern Utah.  The J4600 had made his first off road journey since joining the family and we were all quite pleased!  The gravel roads eventually lead us to highway 666 in the small town Ariola and we headed south back through Cortez and beyond to the farm.  When we arrived, we had much to describe to Krista’s father about our adventure and joined in fellowship with many friends from the canyon area and beyond with a big pig roast that had been planned for the weekend. ~Flint Boardman~

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