2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited: In the Soup
June 4, 2015
Risue Canyon Road (Forest Road #050) is 16.5 miles long and runs through the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. My plan was to get to one of the primitive campgrounds at the tail end of the trail before dark. In no way is this trail the Rubicon, so I felt confident in anything AWD/4WD, with no need for a 4-inch lift, lockers, or 35-inch tires.
I was having a great time. The Cherokee was a blast and soaked up the bumpies with ease.
Once it started getting wetter, I switched the terrain mode to MUD/SAND. The ABS was turned off as was traction control. In any standing puddles or slick stuff, I could accelerate and concentrate on steering input while the transmission kept the revs up and the tires spinning.
At about 12 miles, I hit a summit and started down the grade. That's when the Continental 225/60R18 all-seasons met their match. The mud was thick, clingy, and deep. Before I had a chance, the treads clogged and halted any progress. I tried to back out, but any throttle input just made things worse.
So now I'm stuck, but still slowly sliding down the grade into the overflow ditch. After a quick and sloppy scramble, dead branches and logs chocked the front tires. That was able to stop the Jeep's forward momentum before I had high-centered.
I ended up hiking down the slope to the valley floor and found some campers gearing up for the long weekend. I told them of my situation, let them know where I was, and we agreed to meet up in the morning. Since I already planned on camping, I had plenty of food, water, and warmth.
Around midnight, I spied two flashlights and greeted them. Turns out they were sheriff's deputies who'd received a call that I was stranded up on the hill. That was surprising as there was no cell coverage anywhere close to where we were.
"We didn't really want to come all the way out here, and I did just wash my truck," one of them said. "But if you ended up dying and we didn't come out here, they'd come after us."
The deputies weren't very encouraging, and led me to believe that nobody would be crazy enough to pull me out until things dried out in four or five days. So we hiked back down the slope and loaded into their RAM 1500. The dog and I got back into town at 3:00 am.
First thing in the morning, I contacted the local tow guy and he was great.
"No problem," he said. "I have a good idea where you're at. That's the soft side of the hill. No way we're getting up that slop."
We agreed it would be safer to approach the Cherokee from the top, and winch me back up the grade to a firmer spot where I could turn around.
The tow driver's F-250 with BFG Mud-Terrains had a hard time staying put, but he and his son had me out quicker than expected. We ended up taking Desert Creek Road back to town, through rocks and several water crossings. It was really beautiful and I wouldn't mind going back. But only when dry.
I can't knock the Cherokee. The Active Drive system helped get me farther than any simple AWD crossover/SUV would have (the deputies were amazed I'd gotten as far as I did on street tires) and it really did inspire confidence. After only a minor delay, I got back into vacation mode and had a solid Memorial Day weekend.
It's my fault for pushing the tires way past their limits, but it makes me wonder: What if I'd had the Trailhawk?
John Adolph, Senior Production Manager @ 18,180 miles