florence sand dunes

Day 2 Tonight We Bowl

fj cruiser ocean beachThe last off-road drive on the dunes was scheduled to go into the wee hours running a jeep trail known as 430 route from Horsfall up to Spinreel.  One of the coolest sights is a long line of FJCs driving down the road like pretty maids all in a row.  The trail for Horsfall is south of where we were all staying just off highway 101.  Driving to the trail took us through 35 miles of twisty highway dotted with sleepy little one beach towns.  Each town brought the speed down to 35 mph and as the parade of FJCs passed, town folks would stare and point at us as if the prom queen were ridding by in the back of a caddy.

The day was sunny and bright, the night…  rainy, windy and dark.  Sitting in the staging area we contemplated the dilemma before us.  The locals told us the trail run should take 3 hours. The Forest Service web site shows the dune area open until midnight.  The signs in the staging area says, “Gates Close At 10:00 p.m.”.  The clock in the rig reads 8:15 p.m.

The map showed three exits along the trail and we decided we would pull off at the closest exit when Micky’s big hand pointed to the nine and his little hand pointed to the six (that’s 9:30 if you are doing the metric conversion).  We now had a plan and hit the trail.  Last night I lead the group with all the lights on turning the night into day.  Tonight I ran tail gunners with only the factory headlights as a courtesy to everyone ahead.  The trail is wide, carving its way north through the trees which line the dunes and contain the endless miles of sand.  With windshield wipers on we proceeded and marched in.

When you hear a trail is filled with one foot woopty doos you often picture motocross or desert race courses where rigs glide over as there suspension beats up and down maintaining the speed of a cheetah tearing through the African Savannas.  In reality what you get is a slow train of rigs pointing their nose into the air than back down into the dirt than back into the air and so on and so on like the rhythm of a defective pace maker.  After 10 minutes of watching the lights of the rigs ahead bounce off the tree tops followed by lighting up the dirt we knew why the locals said the run takes 3 hours.  It is good to run lots of different types of trails, that way you know what you like and what you don’t.  The chatter over the CB gave a resounding thumbs down to the ever present woopty doos that stretched across the trail as we all climbed and descended the gentle tree lined hills.

toyota fj cruiser sand dunesBut as the saying goes, you dance with the one who brung ya, and we were determined to make the second exit before the gates locked us in.  It didn’t help that the factory Illumination failed to provide us much depth of field in all the rain, leaving us to wonder if the woopty doos ahead were getting smaller or bigger.  You just knew there were more ahead.

As 9:30 p.m. approached, the sign for the second of the three exits appeared.  The parade of rigs veered to the right and aimed back to the tarmac in order to air up and cruise back north on 101 to Florence.  With rain now on full drenching, we drove the 35 miles north from whence we came and after 45 minutes including a short stop to see one of the few working light houses around, we were saying our good byes over the CB as the group peeled off to their camp sites.  We hoped their tents were on high ground as we contemplated a hot shower, soft bed and HBO.

Bonus Pictures

The wet night run left little room for photo opps, so we thought we would put up a truck load of off-road adventure pictures at flickr off-road adventure that we captured from the previous two day runs. Some you’ve seen, some are new.

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