My wife Laura and I were cruising through some family photos last night when we came across a set that had been taken a number of years back during a trip in our CJ-7 across a section of the California desert that included a stretch of dry lake.
Those photos brought the trip back to me in all its misery. It was winter and had been raining. Ever been in a desert monsoon? The sky opens and water happens. Anyway, because of this, when we came to the entry to the section of lake that our trail crossed, the trail was blocked by several deep water crossings. Hmm. Because the way out was ahead, and not back, we elected to turn south and then west in an attempt to loop around these deep channels. So far, so good. We drove for a while. The lakebed remained solid.
It was when we decided to complete our loop and turn back toward the trail that we got in trouble. We crossed a set of tire tracks that were maybe two inches into the lakebed. No problem, right?
Big problem. The water from the day's rains had all drained into those tracks. And instead of crossing them squarely, I crossed them on a shallow diagonal. So our CJ's tires fell into the tracks, first the fronts, then the rears. Should have stopped when I still could, right? Well, hindsight is 20/10. We continued, unable to steer the Jeep out of our twin ruts, the CJ's 32-inch tires sinking more deeply into the mud as we proceeded toward the lake's center, where the tracks, naturally, got wetter and wetter.
To stop was to be stuck for sure, so I kept my foot in it, hoping against hope that we could climb out of the ruts. No way. Before long the CJ was at full stop, resting on its oil pan, transfer case, and fuel tank, and its tires were gripping nothing at all. Our companions, meanwhile, parked when they saw us get into trouble. We could see them way off in the distance, laughing and holding their sides.
This was, without question, the most stuck I've ever been. Nothing for miles to hook our winch to. My fallback plan was to bury our spare and use that as a winch anchor, but first, another plan. Thank the Lord for our Hi-Lift jack, and for the fact that I was carrying a 2x3-foot chunk of 3/4-inch plywood. I plopped the plywood onto the sodden lake bed, put the Hi-Lift on top of that, and jacked the CJ all the way to the top of the jack's range. Then I pushed the Jeep sideways, off the jack, working the tires slowly toward semi-solid lakebed. It took awhile to free ourselves, working first at the rear, then the front, then back to the rear, then back to the front, but eventually we got it done. Those were the pictures Laura and I found.
That was my worst stuck-worse even than being stuck for hours in the Everglades, our Seminole guides long-gone, 'gators barking all around us. But that's another story. Which got me thinking. How stuck have you been? What was your story? Do you have pictures? No, check that. Do you have good, sharp, usable pictures? If you do, send those photos and the story of your stuck to Stuck, Four Wheeler, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. If we get a sufficient number of photos that are of reasonable quality, we'll run a photo-feature that we'll call, "Stuck!" And if your picture meets our minimum standards, we'll include it. There's no pay involved here, and we probably won't be able to return your pictures. But think of the infamy! That's worth something, right?