Tell me some of the craziest/ most difficult/ scariest recovery situations you have faced. What caused it? What did you do to get out? What damage did you take?
My driver in the Serengeti said the same thing. He ran science/ research support in the winters and ran tours in the small season and summers. He said you only dig out a heavy rig a couple of times before you learn real quick they stay off the soft stuff. His winter rig is a light weight bare bones small Land Rover, his summer rig is a very heavy 9 passenger Land troopy Land Cruiser that he said sunk faster than the Titanic and was nearly impossible to recover he only sunk it once and will never do that again! LOLLike Jeep or Tacoma, above, I spent 4 years as an undergraduate geology student (Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains) followed by 6 years as a field geologist employed by a mineral exploration consulting firm. Looked for everything from lignite in TX, LA, and MS; base and precious metals in VA, NC, SC, and GA; oil shale in the lower midwest of IN; and diamonds on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A college and early professional background such as that, from the early 1970s to mid 1980s, translates to spending lots of time bombing around in a wide variety of 4wd pickups, small size Broncos, and IH Scouts. All were bone stock (open diffs, OEM tires mostly), and that, of course, translates to getting stuck--a lot. So much so that we generally considered a "great" day in the field to be one during which we never locked the front hubs.
The much-condensed version is that the lignite field work in the Gulf Coast states involved drilling crews consisting of permit men and field geologists in their own trucks, drills and water buggies mounted on articulating log skidder chassis, and downhole loggers running everything from IH Scout IIs to Suburbans to one-ton duallys to skidder chassis. The terrain ranged from soft clean sand to sticky black gumbo. At one point or another, we managed to bury every single asset at least once--with burying defined as being stuck for over 24 hours before extraction was achieved.
The field areas in the Piedmont of the southeastern states were a lot easier--mostly pickups and Broncos for field trucks, mostly half decent red clay subsoils, and rarely out of reach of trees to winch to. Still, we managed to bury one once a month or so.
Upper Michigan, with its vast areas of glacial cover creating vast areas of standing water swamps, peat bogs, black mud, wet sand, and saturated pea gravel, was far and away the biggest challenge. We were primarily F150 and IH Scout II based, with a partner organization running a fleet of 1981 and 1982 single cab long bed Toyota pickups. That group did have one truck modded to form what we called "the mud truck". The mud truck was a shortbed single cab Toyota with a mild suspension lift, big tires (maybe 32-33" tall?), but with the tires being the same Co-Op Grip Spurs which we'd had so much success with in the Gulf Coast. It also sported an 8,000 lb Warn winch. All in all, we spent a lot more man-hours stuck in Michigan than anywhere else, especially when you consider the time involved in hiking out to a road and hitching into town 5 to 30 miles away for help. We had no reliable radio comms so as Project Geologist I initiated a "buddy system" whereby the two-man crew in each of two trucks established a rally point at which they meet toward the end of the day. If one guy failed to show, his buddy truck mates could ordinarily follow tracks right to the "point of impact" and could generally extract the stuck vehicle. But that system had its failings, too, which led to having TWO trucks buried on occasion. We had that situation for 3 days once, well out of reach by standard 2wd wreckers (which, in that particular case was not an option since we were on a "prospect" and couldn't make the locals aware of where we were working), so we called in our geophysics crew who happened to be +300 miles and one state away, in Wisconsin. They rolled out with "The Beast", a 3/4 ton Suburban, lifted, limited slip front and rear, wide and tall Co-Op Grip Spurs, and a 15,000 Ramsey PTO winch. It had the OEM "rock crusher" 4-speed manual trans and a stock 350 4bbl carb engine turning 4.10 gears. In less than an hour, we had both Toyotas back on solid ground and all 3 trucks were headed for "home" in Crystal Falls.
We did find some kimberlites in Upper Michigan, as did our competitors, but nobody found enough gem-grade stones in them to make a mine. That's actually typical of mineral exploration--lots of guys (and girls) have an entire career and are never involved in finding or developing a mine. I had the good fortune to work on three prospects which are today operating "mine mouth" lignite mines and one gold prospect in SC which was subsequently mined by a competitor after they purchased my outfit's lease and data set. Not bad for only 6 years in the field--especially with so much of that 6 years spend extracting stuck trucks.
Ultimately, the take home for me is: you won't find me taking any chances of burying my truck today. It's an old F350 diesel CC SRW and runs around 8,500 lbs wet and loaded for travel. I learned that when a fat girl like that goes down, it goes down hard, and I've spent entirely enough of my 64 years digging out trucks from where I shouldn't have taken them to begin with.
Winner!I have been stuck more times than I can count but here are 2 1/2 stories that illustrate just how dumb a 20 something can be. When I first started out as a geologst i had an old ford fairlane 500 fast back. But being broke and fresh out of college I knew i needed something more dirt worthy. I thought a pick up truck yeah so I bought my first new car a Datsun (yes this was 1976 and Nissan was then datsun) King cab with wide street tires on in bright yellow
(side note yellow in not a good color as bees and wasps tend to follow it) but that is another story . So I am doing a preliminary geolgic investigation which involves digging test holes and collecting samples but it had been raining inthe weeks before. So I pull up with a back hoe my yellow king cab and look at this field in Orange county, CA its about a 1000 yards wide. I walk out don't sink walk out further don't sink still further and don't sink. So then I get in m y truck drive out abit then back then a bit further then back and one final time. Don't sink the truck is floating barely even leaving tire tracks. So now I hop in start driving out and setting stakes for the back hoe to follow. Did I mention how smart i felt for being cautious? I get about 750 yards out and boom the truck goes down like the titanic. I am stuck big time wheel just spinning . Black gumbo Mud. The kind th enative built adobe cabins out of. I am down to the frame in a nano second. so I get out walk back and find out the hoe can't get very far out either and is digging himself out. I call my boss who says well I guess your off the clock. ( nice guy right) . Turns out that in an adjcent developement to where I was stuck there is a slope with down drains on it that just emptied into the field, turning that area into a thinnly crusted over mud bog. SO I dig all day. This mud is so sticky you can't even get it off the shovel. Each shovel full you had to pull off with your hands. Any way about that time this guy sees me stuck its getting late in the day and he comes down to help. We see this out scaffolding board about 10 feet long and he says get in drive while I pry you loose. He stuffs the board into the front part of the ditch i had been digging and against my front bumper. It had little rubber bump stops on it and prys. All of a sudden my truck breaks loose and I just floor it back wards. I hit a big piece of dumped rock in my front quarter panel of the bed which left huge dent but I was moving and I did not stop until until I hit pavement. Lesson learned just beacuse one area is dry doesn't mean it is all dry.
Same truck a few months later. I am out in the Santa ana mtns mapping geology for a new home and to get in you cross this bridge over a little creek. No big deal right? I get my work done and am driving out and I stop on the bridge to look at something and I back up just a bit.. MY right rear tire falls into a broken plank on the bridge and the truck is sitting on its axel. I go to pull forward and all it does is spin. That was the day I learned what an open differential really is. It is getting late, still winter. so I climb out try jacking up the truck only to see the wheel just spin. I ended up just stacking rocks under the bridge, standing calf deep in freezing cold water, until I could get the pile high enough ( maybe 2 and 1/2 feet) to fill the hole then lower the truck on to the pile of rocks and drive out.
I sold that truck the next week and bought a77 cj-7 golden eagle with quadratrack and fulltime four wheel drive because jeeps don't get stuck and can go anywhere RIGHT?
Several months later, we ( my company) gets this big grading job up by the old chapman loop in Orange. I am totaly amped, so I get in my jeep and go to scout out the place.There is big flat top ridge with a dirt road/trail heading up it so. I drive right up only the last 2 feet is vetitcal and is composed of El modeno volcanics andesite tuffs which is simply put volcanic ash with cobbles cemented in by the ash ( like a sandstone) I get to the top and can't get up??? BUT t wait this is a jeep, a golden eagle no less, I can go anywhere nope . So I put it in reverse and start to back down. Only it takes off like a dragster going down hill fast, and I have NO control . I slam on the brakes and the the jeep does a j turn that would make James Bond proud. ONly it is on the side of a hill. It turns almost completely sideways and comes to halt. I throw it park and jump thinking it is gonna roll right behind me for sure. and rund down the dam hill. After watcfhing it for about 1/2 hour. I decide to approach it pretty sure it is going to turn over any second but it doesn't. I take out my Brunton compass with an inclinometer and measure it The dash is a very flat surface and it is sitting there at 28 degrees. I reach in and start it up, and I had seen some scraper jockeys turn their machines side -to-side to walk them up steep hills . I did the same now at the area where I was there was lot of loose dirt. proably 6-8 inches , So standing out side of the jeep with it in park (I didn't have the doors on) I turn the wheel side to side to get it all the way around. It wasn't exaclty sideways, maybe off by 10 degrees to the side of the hill still pointed slightly up hill. and it starts to swing around, until it is pointing into a side canyon . At this point I feel like ok I can get out of here, SO I hop in and drive it over the side of the hill and into the canyon bottom and out of the canyon.
Jeeps can't go anywhere you just think they can. Man I loved that jeep and never did get stuck again, but I always and have always hated backing down hills that are steep. Now I have front and rear lockers and 10,000 lb winch