I am meaning to share a full trip report of my recent Baja trip soon, but let me at least start here with one story of my foolishness. Here I go learning things the hard way again...
As you might know, I sometimes like to travel completely alone -- no passengers, no convoy. This was the case for my recent trip up and down Baja California.
I was exploring southeast of Bahia de los Angeles. After an afternoon of bouncing along the once-graded road (that's now single-track and deteriorated), I approached the beaches of Bahia San Rafael. Evening was approaching and I started to think about finding a place to camp. On a whim, I picked the first beach I saw (marked Boca Grande on my map), and headed down.
As I approached the shore, I followed some tire tracks that headed over a dry lakebed (playa) to what appeared to be a rocky beach. Seconds before I would reach the beach, I saw the following [image taken from my windshield camera]:
I should have been looking farther ahead and noticed these old deep tire tracks and piles of rocks earlier. Mistake #1. But it was too late. The van started slowing down, and then stopped. Wheels spinning. Foot off gas quick!
I immediately switched to reverse, and tried to back out. Wheel spin again. Checked shifters -- verify I'm in 4x4, check. Gave it some gas while looking out the window. Rear spinning, front not. Rear getting deep. Yikes. Jumped out and checked the hubs -- unlocked!! Mistake #2. Argh!
By this time, the rear had started to dip pretty deep into the mud. I locked the hubs and grabbed my new MaxTraxes. The rear wheels were too far down to easily apply the MaxTraxes, so I put them behind the front wheels. Switched into reverse and tried again -- no luck. And the rear axle had now dipped down in the mud!
Though I was a long walk from help, I wasn't in any danger. I had shelter and plenty of water & food. I was going to figure this out on my own if I could.
I pulled out all my tools, including my virgin hi-lift jack I had bought a couple years back but never used.
That was when I noticed the van was sinking!
The rear wasn't really doing anything with the axle already resting in the mud, but the front wheels were noticeably drifting down into the muck. The front diff was now only an inch off the ground. I raced to jack up the front of the van so I could stuff the MaxTrax under the wheels for flotation. I placed the hi-lift under my front trailer hitch (I don't have a custom bumper or wheels with good jack points), and tried to jack up the van.
The base of the hi-lift immediately sunk into the mud. I grabbed one of the nearby boulders previous visitors had used to help extricate their mud-stuck vehicles, and used it as a jack base. The van started going up, but then as the weight started lifting off the front wheels, "squish!" -- my boulder started sinking into the mud too. Ugh! More rocks! Bigger! I ran the 50 yards to the rocky beach and looked around. Even the biggest rocks I could find (carry) wouldn't hold the jack up.
I'd gone many years without needing to use a hi-lift, but I had finally bought one for emergencies. When I bought it, I realized I had no way to attach this jack to stock wheels (no holes) -- no way to use a device like the Lift-Mate
. So, I had fabricated a couple of attachment bars that bolt onto a couple wheel lugs. I never really expected to have to use my creations, but now was the time.
Amazingly, my do-dads worked. I still spent some hours building underground rock fortresses to support the weight under the jack, but I managed to get the MaxTrax under the front tires -- and the sinking stopped!
Now for the rear, which was heavier and deeper. I eventually devised a plan where I would try to spread the weight between two jacks -- by using a combination of the stock bottle jack on the rear hitch and the hi-lift on a wheel. Many hours of jacking & boulder lugging later, I still couldn't quite get the balancing act to work. It was midnight, and I was exhausted. So I went to sleep, trying not to dream about my van sinking into the mud.
Early the next morning I got to work again. It was important to finish work before the heat of the day started. I heard a fishing boat buzzing by beyond the rocky beach, but I was too proud to go ask for help. I would finish this myself!
The goal was to get the rear axle out of the mud. The full power of my v10 wouldn't make the axle budge when it was buried down in the thick muck. The traction of the MaxTrax under the front wheels was amazing -- those wheels didn't spin even at full throttle! Just no vehicle movement.
Finally, it all worked. There was much hi-lift jacking of the rear wheels, and stuffing rocks under the lifted wheels -- all the while raising the rear hitch bit by bit using the bottle jack standing on a rock castle. I had to act quickly because the rear wheel I wasn't hi-lift jacking would slowly but consistently start sinking again, even with all the rocks underneath. Finally I got to the point where the rear axle was just barely above the mud level. I removed the hi-lift, started the engine, and assertively backed out of the mess, allowing the bottle jack to fall down as the rear wheels traveled backwards over their holes before finding ground again. Momentum then got me out of the wet muck. I was free!
Here's the rocky beach. Not very exciting I was grateful to have such a great supply of rocks!
I was never in any real danger. I never put myself under the van. I never put myself above the hi-lift jack handle. I had a week's food and water, and the ability to hike or bicycle out for help if needed. I just wanted to fix my own mess myself.
[edit: Here is the full story of my Baja adventure: Baja 2014