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Day 7 Recap of Ultimate Adventure 2020: Ending UA on an Extreme Note #UA2020

Flops, breaks, stucks, and insane off-roading on the Bikini Trail with the Black Hills 4 Wheelers!

Christian HazelAuthor, PhotographyFred WilliamsAuthor, Photography

Up to now UA2020 had delivered on the scenery, spectacular side trips of historic, natural, or mechanical interest, beautiful campsites, and enjoyable trails. But this is Ultimate Adventure, not Moderate Adventure, so for Day 7 we really ratcheted up the terrain. We first took the group through the peaceful and gorgeous Iron Mountain Loop, a short drive from Keystone, South Dakota, that meanders up through the Aspen trees with corkscrew bridges and carved tunnels to an overlook giving spectacular views of Mt. Rushmore in the distance. But this day was not about scenery as much as 'wheeling so we beat feet after enjoying a quick drive through and then hooked up with the Black Hills 4 Wheelers, who help maintain and protect a series of trial systems in and around the Black Hills area. For Day 7, we selected the tight, twisting, rock-spewed Bikini trail. Bikini is an all-out, don't-let-your-guard-down, hardcore trail that keeps hitting your with increasingly harder obstacles. With steep rock ledges, off-camber descents, and super-tight turns that often require you to do several Austin Powers 1,000-point turns in precarious situations to line up for the next obstacle, Bikini is a hardcore rock crawler's dream. Normally the Black Hills 4 Wheelers run shorter-wheelbase rigs on this trail, so fitting huge, long rigs like Travis Farmer's van or the Dana JT Gladiator through the trail was guaranteed to be challenging. But UA participants are no newbies to off-roading, and with challenge in hand we hit the trail—and thanks to spotting by Black Hills 4 Wheeler trail guides Ryan Stulc, Jim Sebert, and Pat Helgeson we pushed everybody through, ending the trail just before sundown.

The first obstacle is a guardian of sorts. If you can't make it or require a winch, it's probably best to take the exit before the terrain ratchets up. We were breezing through with little trouble aside from maybe having to pull a winch line here and there when the IH Parts America Scout took an unlucky hop and with its relatively high center of gravity, flopped onto the driver's door. Jeff Ismail and son, Zaed, kept their hands and arms inside the ride at all times, and with no injury aside from the entire driver's side of the formerly pristine Scout and Jeff's roof top tent we used three winch lines to get the vehicle righted and had the mess cleaned up in no time.

At the same time Jeff was dealing with his unfortunate flop, Corby Phillips of Warn was making the impossible possible by grenading a salad-plate-sized Spicer SPL70 U-joint in the front Ultimate Dana 60 in his "Funky Chicken" LJ. Corby was attempting a front dig under throttle, and with the rear tires somewhat bound the joint blew and splayed the 'shaft ears, which in turn took out the knuckle ball joints. With some help from the talented Chris Durham and other Cronies, Corby's wheel and tire was removed, the knuckle strapped to the axle housing, and the vehicle winched down to flat ground. Once there, the gang popped the Warn hub, removed the axleshafts, reassembled the ball joints, and put the knuckle back on so the vehicle was drivable. Before it was completed, Corby was on the phone ordering a set of new shafts and a ball joint kit so he could come back and finish running the trail the next day. Awesome.

We had more carnage further up the trail. Travis lost the ability to turn right due to something in his steering box in the G10 van letting go. He had a new box and got it bandaged up well enough to limp back to town after the day was done. Ian Johnson was playing on a hardcore in his Goat Built Chassis LJ and took a little flop. The Cronies pounced with fire extinguishers in hand just in case it went poof, locked down the scene, and had Ian's Jeep righted in less than five minutes. There was no real damage done and Ian promptly finished what he started, easily clearing the climb and the wheeling the rest of the trail.

Ryan Broome corkscrewed the old rear driveshaft he had been running in the truck for years, so he installed the Quigley Custom Driveshaft he had ordered before UA and later had everybody from the event sign the broken shaft, which will no doubt find a place of display prominence once he returns home. There was more body damage to report and a few other minor mechanical maladies, but you'll have to wait to read about those in the full UA event coverage coming soon. Keep watching fourwheeler.com/ultimate-adventure for more UA2020 updates through the rest of the 2020 calendar year and go check out #UA2020 on social media as we continue to post our photos and videos from the event in the coming weeks, months, and years.