Snow Trip to Mineral Ridge
January 27, 2007
by Ron and Donna Burris, and Bruce Erickson

map of the area

We met at 9:30 am in the cold shadows and Hellgate winds at the truck stop in Bonner. We had four rigs - Ron and Donna in the tow truck, Shane, his wife Jessica and two kids Dakota and Paxton in a stock 80's full-size Blazer with open diffs they had just purchased (still had the paper plate), Jason in a locked beat-up Toyota 4-Runner with 35" tires and a Chevy Vortec motor he had just put in it, and me in my low-rider Wrangler. We headed east on Highway 200 about 10 miles to Gold Creek Road. We went up Gold Creek towards Mineral Ridge, following the plowed road until it turned into a snowmobile trail, aired down, then continued on.


Shane's Blazer and Jason's Toyota

Jason's Toyota and Ron's Blazer aka Tow Truck

Bruce's Jeep

The snow was weird. Ron was up there a couple weeks ago and got up to the ridge. Today, there was a crust maybe 6 to 8 inches thick from snowmobile use over 18 inches of dry, sugary snow. With tires aired down, we could mostly stay on top of the crust, but there were soft spots in the trail and adjacent to the packed stuff that gave us (not Ron, though) trouble.

I was the first one to get stuck. I got sucked into the soft stuff on the driver's side. I didn't get too deep, and managed to get myself out by rocking back and forth a few times. Shane got stuck next, getting pulled off to the passenger side. Ron pulled him out. Then Jason got stuck on the driver's side trying to avoid Shane's ruts. He worked it back and forth and we shoveled snow for maybe 15 minutes but he just kept getting deeper. Ron ended up pulling him out. You'll hear that phrase a lot - "Ron pulled him out." It has a nice, comforting ring to it, unlike "we abandoned the truck until spring."

We got a little farther and Shane got pulled into the soft stuff on the passenger's side again. I didn't see it because I was having my own troubles. The packed snow was breaking up into that grainy sugar snow from the previous vehicles, so I was really bogging down and getting pulled from side to side in that stuff. By the time I caught up, Ron was trying to pull Shane out, but Shane's rig just kept sliding closer to the edge on a narrowing stretch of road and nearly sideswiped a tree.

Ron getting ready to pull Shane back on the road.

We ended up using a tree strap, snatch block, and Ron's winch to pull the front of Shane's Blazer up onto the road, nearly pulling over a tree in the process. We had some snowmobiles stop to watch the winching, but got the cable cleared so they could pass as soon as possible. We had to tie to a second tree before we could finish. We then re-rigged the winch and pulled the rear of the Blazer back onto the road.

Ron didn't have too much trouble turning around, but I bet there is still snow floating down from being tossed into the air by his tires. Horsepower, gearing, lockers, and 40-inch tires really put on a show. We got Shane's Blazer turned around with some pretty dramatic theatrics, fearless driving by Shane, and a tug from Ron. With the two Blazers pointed downhill, Jason and I decided it would be easier to just back down the road.

We had to back down the road trying to find a turn-around spot. I was in the lead, going backwards. I got stuck a couple times, but managed to get free without straps or cable. Shane was having trouble, too, because the snow was getting so bad from all the tire traffic. I got myself good and buried at one point, and no one was coming down the road to help! Apparently they were getting Shane out of a jam. I had to winch back up onto the road just about the time the others showed up.
We went maybe a mile to a turn-around spot where snowmobiles had packed a trail up the hill. It was solid enough that Jason and I got turned around. We took a breather at that point. Donna heated up the pot of chili and had cheese, onions, and Fritos ready. It was a perfect lunch for a cool, sunny day full of extractions. For dessert, Jessica had made a chocolatey cake/mousse sort of thing that was absolutely wonderful.

Donna's kitchen

We had a nice fire going, and sat there maybe an hour visiting and eating. Shane's little girl, Dakota, was really getting a kick out of sitting in the snow by the fire. She asked her dad if they could go fishing after this!

Time to go fishing?

The ride out after lunch was fairly uneventful. It was downhill all the way and the snow seemed to be setting up in the cold. Ron aired up the two Blazers with his on-board air, and Jason aired up his and mine with his converted air conditioner compressor that he hadn't had a chance to try before. Worked great!

Ron and Donna took the photos in this write-up. We talked about doing another snow run in a month or so. Ron's going to try to get some ideas for places to go that don't have that much snowmobile traffic, and maybe we'll pre-run one some weekend. I don't know if they are interested in joining the club, but Jason and Shane, Jessica and their family are all real good folks. I really enjoyed the day with them, Ron, and Donna.