Independence Trail, Penrose CO
June 8, 2002

By Kathy Howell

Last summer I had the opportunity to see and walk the Independence Trail System near Penrose. It's rated "Extreme" and I couldn't believe that a vehicle could actually traverse that course. So, this year, when Matt Nunn suggested a trip to Penrose, I decided to go along and see for myself. Three vehicles were going to run the course - Matt in his Blazer, Greg Beery in his Commando, and Richard Boddy in his Toyota. Besides John and myself, there were others in the "cheering section" - Brian Parrish, Greg Berry's brother-in-law, Larry Burch, and Larry’s friend Dave.

Richard Boddy

Anxious to get started, the three vehicles started down the trail. Before there are any real obstacles, there is an escape route called Freedom. Mind you, the escape route is not that easy, but considering what lies ahead, it’s a welcome alternative for the faint of heart. Determined to proceed, our crew continued to the first real obstacle. It's just a little 5' step down the rocks. And, that's not even the real hard part. Once you are over that 5' step there is a series of rocks to maneuver. Just a slight miscalculation and the vehicle will roll. Our team had the roll experience last year and was hoping to avoid it this time. All was going well until the last vehicle came down. Then it happened - almost in slow motion - the vehicle rolled to the left and landed on the driver's side. It was a perfect fit amongst the rocks. Of course, the vehicle was losing fluids and the ice chest and tool box had been deposited on the ground, but the driver was safe. The vehicle was quickly uprighted with a snatch block. The majority of body damage was to the tail gate. Needless to say, we didn't let this slow us down.

Richard Boddy

Once at the bottom, we had a choice. The Liberty Trail is a longer (approximately 1 mile) trail and not as difficult (mind you, it's still rated "extreme"). Our choice was the Patriot Trail which is quite short, but more difficult. For those who haven't seen it, Patriot looks a lot like a dry waterfall - steep, rugged, big rock steps and huge boulders. To me, it seemed that the entire course was an obstacle. However, as I think about, there were probably only four or five really serious obstacles. The first couple of obstacles are steep climbs up a jagged rock step. There are lots of wrong paths to take and we managed to break the axels of two vehicles on these obstacles. But, with this team, a broken axel is no problem as everyone had an extra and was able to quickly (or not so quickly) change it on the trail. Unfortunately, the Commando also broke the locker on the right front wheel and that would pose some interesting problems as we continued to climb out.

Matt Nunn

As we were climbing through these first couple of obstacles, Ryan Boddy appeared having walked in from the trail exit. His vehicle was being repaired, so he came just to "watch". Being an experienced veteran of this trail, he quickly became the spotter and general organizer of our forward progress. Then, shortly after Ryan arrived, Kristi Urynowicz, her sister and a friend also joined us in the cheering section.

We next maneuvered a narrow passage through some BIG rocks. The Blazer was so big it had to climb over the rocks. The Commando fit very tightly but managed to get through with a few scratches on the rocker panels, but no damage to the doors. The Toyota, the smallest vehicle, went through with essentially no problem.

Then another tough climb. It seemed that the winch point was not located correctly, so we established a temporary winch point. Brian positioned his Jeep on the canyon rim overhead and we used it as a winch point. Quite ingenious and quite effective. Somewhere along here, the third vehicle broke an axle.

These steep rocks steps were particularly interesting for the Commando since it did not have a front locker. At each obstacle, Ryan considered the positioning of the vehicle knowing that it was operating without a locker. But, with expert driving skill and a little extra help from a few rocks piled up, the Commando continued its climb out.

Greg Beery

Just one last climb over more steep rock steps and we'd be out. By now it is getting to be a long day and each obstacle had taken longer than expected. As the Blazer made it out, we all gave a cheer. Then, we turned our attention to the Commando without a locker. Again, with a few rocks piled up, the winch, and a well chosen path, the Commando emerged. Finally, the Toyota came scrambling up the rocks determined to make it without winching. And maybe he could have made it, but the rest of us were tired and insisted that he winch over the last big step.

After a long, hard day - one rollover, a broken axel for each vehicle, a broken locker, and various degrees of body damage - we were out safely. I did hear some mumbling to the effect, "the holes seemed deeper" or "the rocks seemed steeper," but I think, come next spring, all this will be forgotten, and they’ll be wanting to do it again. While this trail is not for me - and I think these guys are a little bit crazy - it was a fascinating and interesting day. I am very impressed with the crew’s driving and spotting skills and their love of the technical challenge.

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