Engineer Pass would open any day; just a snowdrift or two left to bulldoze on its alpine summit. Then, like ants on a Sunday picnic lunch, Jeepers will become Creepers... scratching and crawling their way up and down this stoney, oil pan bustin' four wheel drive ledge on the edge. If you blast a notch of a road out of solid rock, they will come; if you plow away winter's snowdrifts, they will come sooner. That noise you hear in the background is the sweet purr of cash registers... gobbling "goodies" like Johnson's at a Thanksgiving reunion. That stubborn snowdrift gave Engineer wholly to our lonesome selves on a simply gorgeous day, and we did a little preseason boot-scoot boogie. If you'd like to take a little photo trip up Engineer without leaving the farm, read on...
One of the first thing you'll notice on Engineer Pass Road is rocks scream with color. The second thing you'll notice, especially as a Jeep passenger, is the hair raising vertical drop-off and absence of guardrails. It's a Jeep road people. We don't even put guardrails on paved highways around here... there isn't room for them.
But we're hiking so relax; a wide and comfortable path for a change.
|Aspens... greening up nicely|
|Two Wheel Drive Day Tripin' Gal, Bobbie|
|Have dynamite, will Road-Build!|
Interesting things happen when four wheel drive vehicles meet on such narrow roads, especially when one or both drivers are inexperienced and a tad acrophobic.
Walking Engineer's narrower sections had me recalling close encounters with "the Ledge." Imagine meeting a big old Hummer (or Dodge dually, for that matter :)) on the road in the above photo; you would be lucky to find enough room to pass two Jeeps. On 4WD mountain roads the vehicle going up hill has the right of way, so if there isn't enough room to squeeze by each other the vehicle going down hill must back up until there is a wide enough spot. The following is based on a true story.
Jeeper guy meets a wide bodied Hummer. He pulls in both side mirrors and inches as close as he can to the inside cliff face, all but scraping paint on the rocks.
Now the "balls" are in Hummer guy's court; Jeeper guy has done all he can do. He must sit and wait for Hummer to ease by. Hummer guy pulls in his drivers side mirror and inches his puckered butt forward. It's going to be tight... beads of sweat well up even tho it's plenty cool outside. Wifey is not happy... she's on the outside looking straight down to a distant river roaring through the canyon's bottom... about a zillion feet below... and wants out.
Hummer guy second guesses his boy-toy purchase, first because of the Hummer's width, and second, because they quit making them as soon as he bought. One of those little Suzuki's would sure come in handy here. Nevertheless Hummer guy "feels" his way forward, unsure of how much room there is, exactly, over on the passenger side. An odd tightness in his chest develops... palms begin to sweat.
Jeeper guy gets impatient and waves for Hummer to just do it, mouthing, "You're ok... lots of room." Hummer guy knows better and inches forward and grazes mirrors with Jeeper. In the next foot a washout in the road drops the right front tire sharply toward the canyon... Hummer leans uncomfortably toward the canyon.
Hands vice-grip the wheel; pulse quickens. With each forward inch, the road leans more to the canyon. Wifey prays to Plastic Jesus on the dashboard. The off-camber pitch is not as bad as it feels to Hummer guy and his soon to be ex-wife, but you'd never convince them of that. She leans uphill... head practically in Hummer guys lap, as if it might be the difference between life and abyss.
Hummer guy reaches into the Jeeper's window and grasps his roll bar... a desperate and humiliating act. They have essentially pinned each other in, cliff face to abyss; short of a sunroof no one can escape to see if it's safe to proceed. Wifey is catatonic and no longer responds to Hummer guy's plea to "look out your window and give me some feedback."
I've been there... afraid to go forward... afraid to back up, feeling "Nearer My God to Thee" on an off-camber cliff. It makes your stomach squirm to be the one on the outside trying to get by in a bad spot... like gravity's pulling on your arm and won't let go. Only when other Jeepers arrive on scenes like this does the situation get resolved... ever so cautiously, ever so slowly. Once every year or two the worst happens. You hear Rescue sirens, see the flight for life copter land in Town Park... waiting for the injured. Most of the time it's a climber who fell, but eventually it's a four wheel driver. In a few days the mangled remains of an unrecognizable vehicle parades through town on the back of a flatbed truck.
The past few years finds more and more ATV style four wheelers on Jeep roads. They are much smaller, have ragtops, and can carry four to six passengers. When we are too old and crippled to hike, I think I'll get one of those.
If you enjoy waterfalls and would like to see more photos of Engineer pass, check out my video link...