The quarter-mile trip down Mt. Niitaka needs considerably more care than the climb, because the trail up continues back down in a sort of extended loop, with its own set of challenges. Mind you, I watched an old Jeep Cherokee cruise by camp, having had no difficulties, and once or twice a day, an open Jeep Wrangler went past with a few tourists, its driver stopping now and then to tell his stories. A nice, narrow 4WD vehicle with high ground clearance is all that’s needed, and I’m sure even a 2WD vehicle with a limited-slip rear axle could make it up the trail I came down on.
2WD without a limited-slip diff, which I affectionately call “one-wheel drive”, well, good luck and make sure your spare tire is usable – should your vehicle prove unsuited and you insist on proceeding up anyway, you may slice or otherwise overtax a drive tire. Forget trailers of any type unless they are small, lightweight, and off-road specific – or you don’t mind dragging your converted cargo trailer over deeply embedded rock projections. It’s your money. The cell signal in this area is generally very good, by the way.
The trail as shown in the video below looks flat and featureless, but keep in mind that I’m picking the smoothest path down it. It’s practically a cruise in a small-enough vehicle, but get wider and longer, and you can start grounding things out. At a couple of points, it’s a choice of evils and there is no “best” path. Classic utility or sport utility vehicles will find it fun and very easy. Bigger, lower vehicles with overhang and more cargo capacity, not so much.
I decided to take the advice I’d received and lower the Ford’s tire pressures in an attempt to soften the jarring violence of 70 PSI when going over rocks. I’d noticed on a walk-through that some of the embedded rocks along this trail rose to a sharp point or to a decently sharp blade, but not having to worry about tire slippage eliminated that concern. This was about trying to slow the rocking of the camper, so I put on the Coyote tire deflators, and they took pressures down to 25 PSI in a couple-three minutes. I much appreciate how they snap shut once the exact final pressure is reached, instead of continuing to bleed slowly until they’re manually removed. Good equipment lends confidence and removes itself as a potential source of mishap, which, in many places out here, can mean much more than inconvenience.
Once the cameras were reversed in position from the previous test – DV videocam on the tripod and Pentax DSLR on the vehicle mount, I took off. Slowly. I was surprised just how much the now-soft tires cushioned the impacts, though I also went even slower than the first descent I made weeks before, in order to slow up the rock & roll too. Still, the difference was obvious. If you’re willing to air back up at the end – which takes about 35 minutes with my pump – it makes intensely rocky trails much more tolerable. Much. Off-roaders air down to gain traction, decrease tire hazard damage, and improve flotation. Since I won’t be attempting to push the Super Duty’s performance envelope, I’ll be airing down to save myself and the camper unnecessary punishment and get some emergency flotation – if that’s possible at a loading of over 2,600 pounds per tire.
What’s apparent in the video footage is the rocking of the cargo box hitch, or more accurately, the Curt dual hitch adapter going into the truck’s receiver. The Curt adapter is short and fat, and will not accept many kinds of anti-wobble devices that stop the loose play in hitches. Only the RM-061 Roadmaster Quiet Hitch for 2″ trailer hitches from eTrailer looked like it might have a chance. As it turned out, it does fit, though the threaded portions are not as long as I’d like. Here’s a photo of it:
At first blush, this Quiet Hitch works well. Whether it will need periodic retightening remains to be seen. What’s not apparent in the video is that although the camper/bed assembly still rocks – probably aggravated by all the rooftop solar panels and other high equipment – the camper mounts are holding tight to date. That’s good.
So here’s the video, chopped down to 14 minutes and nearly 300MB of file. This time, it wobbles back and forth between the tripod-mounted camera and then the onboard footage of that same section. It’s about 13 minutes too long, frankly. In the relatively simple task of hacking 1-1/2 hours of video to 14 minutes, the good news is that it drove home to me that this subject, the nature of the vehicle and trails, the shooting limitations, the cellular data uploading issues, the large amount of storage memory taken and the time involved are simply not worth even getting to the rough cut stage. Certain events are worth it and are inherently more interesting, but this isn’t one of them. I’ve already moved on to Chino Valley and its pleasant vistas, and I’m cutting my losses on trail videos in order to be able to stay reasonably up to date on this blog – and enjoy my time. Without videos of this level, I think you’ll enjoy your time more, too.
Handy tip when wanting to camp in this area: A far easier and less mechanically stressful approach to my campsite at GPS 34.052321, -112.751775 is to take “Scenic Loop Road” east from the highway, AZ-93, instead of Rincon Road further south. I noticed an inordinate amount of pickups with stock or horse trailers on it, and looked it up in Google Maps. A little washboard here and there is as challenging as it gets. Using it makes it possible to cut right once past the intersection of Rincon, and go right up the trail shown in the video above. The campsite is at the top.