We left the museum and started our trek towards the mountain road. At Portal, Arizona, the road turned to dirt and mud and we started climbing the mountain towards Paradise, Arizona. While the town is named Paradise, it is far from it. My best description is that it is a combination of Dog Patch and Hooterville. Very few “nice” homes, some shacks, trailers, etc. Moondust has always wanted to retire there for the solitude and remoteness but as soon as his fiancé saw it, the decision was made and it was “no way!”
The trail to that point wasn’t too bad with little mud. Just when we thought life was good, the mud hit the fan. At about the start of our drive in the clouds, we saw below that the trail had gotten very muddy. The swerve marks of the Jeeps that preceded us were very apparent. Then my Jeep’s rear slid off the trail and I was going up the hill very slowly at an angle, flinging huge clumps of mud into the side of the mountain behind me. “Duh, pull the transfer case lever and put it into 4WD.” Now I had mud slinging off a front tire too. “But wait, what am I thinking? Flip the switches and engage your ARBs.” Okay, now I have mud-slinging from four tires. I am sure that to the Jeeps behind me it looked like a manure spreader on steroids in turbo mode. After a few seconds of that, I decided to let off the gas and put it in 4-low. That did the trick as the lower gears, with the help of the lockers, easily pulled me out of the mud and back onto the trail. From that point on I kept it in 4-low with my rear locker engaged until we were just about off the mountain.
The further we traveled up the mountain, the more it was like driving in a twilight zone. The cloud mists were like an eerie fog on the trail and in the forests. As we hit the point at around 7000’, where we would have normally kept going up to Rustler’s Camp, we took the right fork down the other side of the mountain. By now we were about 20 miles from the Chiricahua camp and the news came over the Ham radio from the advance group that there was enough room for all of us there. A relief to me and everyone else. As we descended the mountain trail, the mud became less and we passed many camps set up in the forest with their people under tarps and such to keep dry. The rain continued for a few minutes more but had stopped before we hit the pavement again.