When we met in the parking lot of Winchell's and saw Fearless Leader in a two-wheel-drive vehicle; we knew something was up. Imagine Fearless missing a Jeep trip for work!! And to work on Saturday, no less; with just a short time till retirement! Come on, Bob .. let's get our priorities straight! But Rooster came through and led us all (Pappy & Nancy, Gadgetman & Rascal (Cathy), Russ & Terry, and Montego (in his new Toyota)) on a fun-filled (but REALLY COLD!!!) weekend in Johnson Valley. We met Knucklehead (without Happyface) and Scarecrow & Casper at the truck scales; and Robbie in his Chevota Landcruiser at the Bear Valley turnoff. We made a number of stops at the stores along the Bear Valley road for Pappy to look for firewood, for Gadgetman & Rascal to look for chairs (seems they forgot them in the rush to get to Winchell's), and Nancy to get a haircut. Three stops later, with lots of expensive firewood, no chairs and no haircut; we were again on our way. Of course by this time, Robbie, who didn't want the extra weight of his hardtop, must have been the coldest driver in California! We finally found Boones Road, and after a few wrong turns; we found a sandy ravine and made camp for the night. The wind was howling, but we used our vehicles to block our tents and everyone crawled into their sleeping bags as soon as they could.
The next morning was even colder, and there was a big hill blocking the rising sun. We all watched the sunlight slowly make it's way toward us, and were very grateful when it finally got to us. Knucklehead took off to the left, and the rest of us followed Rooster down a maybe-trail to the right. Rooster finally came upon a real road and Knucklehead found his way over to us. Using Montego's and Gadget-man's GPS's, we found the entrance to Hellsgate Jeep trail. 100 yards later, there was a HUGE rock outcropping in the middle of the wash with lots of paint and scrape marks all over it. Rooster gave it a try, but couldn't make it. He almost rolled twice; once on his left side as he started backing off the rock, and then he came even closer to tipping over on his right side two seconds later! Wish we had a video camera.... We figured he would have made it if he hadn't turned to the left at the top, but we knew that all of the group couldn't make it (especially Montego in the Toyota), and decided to find another route. Again using the GPS coordinates, we saw a little-used trail that appeared to go towards Sun-bonnet Jeep trail. Gadgetman was in front and failed to climb a silty/rocky wash wall. He then backed into some rocks and put a new hole in his gas tank, and reopened a hole that he had repaired 4 years earlier at the High Desert Roundup. Montego had a two-part epoxy that seemed to work at first, then it became evident that gasoline was an excellent solvent for the mixture. Rooster had a harder putty-like epoxy that never quite sealed all the way, but sealed enough to slow the leaks to a seep. That was good enough for Gadgetman, so after we all had lunch, we were on our way again. We found a trail that led straight to the Leprechaun Mine, but from the back side. Rooster kept reminding everyone to look for open mineshafts, but neglected to take his own advice and drove right over one. After carfully pulling him free, we explored the mine for a while, and then we went out of the canyon the way we usually came in. Rooster found another dead end trail to try... and he got stuck (of course) and it took some time to get him back down. Rooster then led us back past the Leprechaun mine and said he wanted to find the Jeep trail shown on the map. All but Pappy & Nancy and Gad-getman & Rascal followed Rooster into a little canyon, because Gadget-man thought he knew what Rooster was looking for. He and Rascal took off towards the giant downhill trail the Roughwheelers had taken on our last trip to Johnson Valley. Knucklehead tried to follow, but lost the tracks and turned back; then Pappy led the group to where Gadgetman and Rascal were waiting. Several tried to climb the big hill, but the trail was too torn up. Rooster found an easier route to the left, and we all followed him to the top. As per usual, that only meant we had to go back down again.... Finally, Rooster explained where he really wanted to go, and Gadgetman show-ed him the right road to take. We went back down to the bottom where Gadgetman had holed his gastank, and then turned around and took the harder Jeep trail back up to where we had been. It was getting late so Rooster led us back into the canyon he had found while looking for the Jeep trail, and we made camp for the night. Rooster soon had the horse-shoe stakes in the ground and started crowing about how he and Knuckle-head could beat anybody! But when Russ and Terry almost skunked them, Rooster's crowing turned into a cluck-cluck. Gadgetman still needed a chair, so he made one out of a bunch of flat rocks from a nearby outcropping. Everyone liked the chair, but nobody was willing to carry it home for him the next day....even though they all had room. Gadgetman and Rascal already had half the desert's rocks in their Jeep, and decided to leave the chair for the next campers to enjoy. Camp-fire was fun, as usual; with good food, good tequila (thanks Pappy!), good snacks and so-so jokes (again, as usual).
The next morning, Gadgetman and Rascal found a little rose-colored snake with diamondback markings. The snake went so far as to hide his telltale narrow head and "rattle" his rattleless tail to try to make us think he WAS a diamondback; but Rascal was the only one fooled. She kept yelling at Gadgetman that he had lied to her about it being too cold for snakes! Everyone finished packing up and Rooster tried to lead us out of the canyon through a bouldered wash. Some followed, but the smarter Roughwheelers found a longer but much easier way around and met the die-hards as they came out. We went back down the Jeep trail we had come up the day before, and when we went back past the turnoff to Hellsgate, Pappy said he was sorry he didn't try the rock. We were all willing to wait for him; but he "left it up to Nancy" to say "lets keep going" instead. We then retraced our steps; stopping only to try some long sandy hill climbs along the way (nobody made it) and Pappy almost stuffed the side of his Wrangler into some rocks backing down from an aborted attempt. We finally made it back to the dry lake we had crossed Friday night on our way in, and found the shallow sinkholes that Nancy called "Bomb Craters." We had fun parking in the "craters" so we looked like we were sinking into the lakebed. Knucklehead's Jeep got stuck in a right turn, and he spent some time doing "doughnuts," and raising huge dustclouds. Finally, he tired of that; and we all headed homewards... Another great Roughwheelers run!

Gadgetman and Rascal