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Old 06-18-2011, 09:23 PM
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First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

This was our first real road trip in our WK2. We spent a couple of days in the Alamosa area and took a day trip through the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We drove up the Medano Pass road to the Medano Lake Trail head for a hike up the trail and visit to the dune area.

We have the Overland package with the Quadra Drive II system, Quadra Lift suspension and 5.7L Hemi engine. Tires used are 265/60R18 Bridgestone Dueller Revo 2’s.

The WK2 performed well on this trip. We had an average MPG of 23.0 highway on the trip back home. We averaged 19.5 MPG on the way to the park, but our path to the park was generally along gradually increasing elevations and we had a good head wind.

Off the highway we had very little issues to note, except one which I’ll mention later. Prior to entering the park, we took a short diversion up an access road to hike to Zapata Falls. This road had some moderate wash-boarding which was pretty rattling at speeds above 20mph. But, I’ve yet to ride in a vehicle that didn’t get rattled easily by wash-boards like this. At this point we were running with the tires at around 40psi.

Once we entered the park we did head up the Medano Pass Primitive Road with the tire pressure reduced to about 18-20psi. The hazards along this road are primarily sand the first several miles. The sand in places is very, very soft. I did switch the select terrain to the Mud/Sand mode and the WK2 performed very well through the deep sand. The road through the deep sand has many curves, some fairly tight and many small dips and rises, with several deeper suspension bottoming depressions to hit if you were doing 20-25mph through here. There were several areas where I presume the park service had placed some sort of plastic netting or matting that I guess were either for traction purposes or perhaps erosion control. Not sure. But, the sand during the section near the northern edge of the park is the primary hazard on the road.

In fact, on the way back down from Medano Pass we were we following a red Rubicon most of the way. These guys didn’t appear to be running with reduced tire pressure and they hit one little dip and came to a dead stop when they tried to come out. We stopped about 8-10 jeep lengths behind them. I assume they were running 4HI when they got stuck, but not sure. They struggled to back down off the hill and then only backed up half way to us and made two more running attempts at the rise and got stuck each time. They backed out again and this time they engaged they front and rear lockers but got stuck again at the crest. Then they sat there and spun all four wheels for a few seconds and I’m thinking to myself, “Hey, don’t dig four giant ass sand holes for me have to cross!” They backed off the throttle, back down again and on the fifth try made it through.

So, now I am pretty worried. I had increased my tire pressure up to 28-30psi to climb the pass and never lowered it back. I put the drive system into 4LO and placed the QL to the off road 2 setting to lift the vehicle up as high as possible as I had to pass through the new depressions the Rubicon had made. I was running with the front fascia on as the Medano Pass road doesn’t have much in the way of significant approach angles or departure angles, nor any significant rocks hazards. I’m glad to say that I made it through the depression and up that hill on the first try. I had a bit more of a run at the hill and I’m pretty sure was running lower tire pressure than the Rubicon, but even though we hit the hill and lost momentum fast, a moderate press of the throttle and the WK2 pulled right on through. Very nice.

The rest of the Medano Pass road contains mostly water crossings as hazards. Quite a few, maybe more than 10 with a couple of them being significant crossings. The park service warned some were deeper than normal due to beaver activity. We came across one and I stopped and walked out to the middle of the crossing. It was just above my knees, measured the depth around 22-23 inches. I knew the recommendation was no more than 20 inches but the deepest part was just limited to the very middle and the bottom was solid gravel, no mud. So, I lifted the WK2 to OR2, left it in mud/sand mode and crossed at 4-5 mph. Just had a small bow wave, no splashing and the bow wave cleared the water to right at the rock rails on the side of the jeep. No water leakage, but I didn’t stop and sight see in the middle either.

I only have a couple of little quirks to report. One occurred on the way down from the Medano Lake trail head. I was making another water crossing and when it came time to climb out the other side I couldn’t. I pressed the throttle and nothing happened. At first I thought I had stalled it, but it was just idling. I looked down at the terrain controls and the system was back in auto, with the traction control engaged again. Not sure how that happened, but I had been in 4LO coming down the pass to try out the hill descent control (very handy) when I was following a long bed Chevy that was going pretty slow. I had switched out of 4LO and maybe the system defaults back to Auto when you do this. I hadn’t recalled reading that to be the way the system worked, if it is, then chalk that up to operator error. I turned off the traction control and pulled right out of the creek. If leaving 4LO resets the system to auto, I’m not sure I like that. I haven’t tried to replicate that though. I could also have accidently hit the knob to reset to auto too. There is a fairly short, rocky rough section of the road that might have caused one of us to hit the controls.

The other quirk was a message that was displayed whenever I took significant suspension hits. By significant I mean bottoming or near bottoming hits. I would see a message flash for a second that said something to the effect, “Memory System Not Available, Vehicle Not in Park Mode”. I’ve never seen this before but it happened enough to correlate it with the heavy dips either in the sandy area or crawling down some rockier terrain higher up the pass. I made sure my legs, arms or anything else wasn’t hitting any of the controls in the jeep, so I have no idea what this message means.

All in all this was a very nice getaway in which the Jeep performed well. It took us there and back with capability and comfort. And while Medano Pass isn’t a very technical or difficult trail, the WK2 didn’t struggle at all and is certainly capable of more challenging trails. I’m just not ready to risk those quite yet!

I have some pictures to follow.
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Old 06-18-2011, 09:29 PM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

WK2 - Great Sand Dunes - Water Crossing
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Old 06-18-2011, 09:33 PM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Forest Fire Damage from 2010 Fires and Upper Medano Pass Road
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Old 06-18-2011, 09:37 PM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Medano Lake Trail Head, Sand Dunes and other pictures on the way back out.
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:02 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Very nice writeup and photos Meso! I might have to give Medano Pass a try.

The “Memory System Not Available, Vehicle Not in Park Mode" message comes on if you tap the seat control memory buttons on the driver's door. Perhaps your leg bumped the switch when you were taking the "suspension hits."
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:08 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Awesome write-up and pics Meso! I'm thinking I might have to invest in a set of rock rails myself, they look BA on your truck!
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:10 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Meso, two questions if you don't mind...

1) What are you using to change your tire pressure out on the trail?

2) What did you mean by "I turned off the traction control?"

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Old 06-19-2011, 08:30 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

very nice! I like that it took you one time and the GREATEST 4x4 on earth 5 times!
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:56 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkbusch View Post
Meso, two questions if you don't mind...

1) What are you using to change your tire pressure out on the trail?

2) What did you mean by "I turned off the traction control?"

Thanks
1. I was using a small 12V electric pump - which is really just for emergencies as it is pretty slow and weak. It seemed to take several minutes per tire to add in 10 additional PSI of air. But, doesn't take up much space.

2. I disabled the electronic stability control via the button below the climate controls. I think I read this actually only partially disables the TCS in the Jeep. I'm not sure exactly what that means. I will say that once it was off, throttle response didn't seem that robust, it slowly pulled out of the stream crossing. But, prior to that with my front wheels resting against the lip of the stream bank, pressing the throttle didn't seem to have any response in engine RPM. It was kind of unnerving. I don't think I switched the select terrain back to mud/sand at that point.
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:11 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

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Awesome write-up and pics Meso! I'm thinking I might have to invest in a set of rock rails myself, they look BA on your truck!
They were kind of expensive, but I do like the look and functionality. My prior vehicle was a Ford Sport Trac which I wish I had rails on. I was on another trail in Southern Colorado, pretty mild one too, called Yankee Boy Basin near Ouray. There's more to that one that Medano though. One little tight spot between two large boulders with deep ruts and I put a small crunch in a side step. Prior to going on the trip, I debated taking them off, but figured I'd rather crunch those than the lower door panel. Went up Imogene later that day with no issues. Took the crunch on the easy trail...go figure.

That lower plastic fascia along the bottom door panel seems pretty flimsy, so some additional protection is needed since I'll take the Cherokee down mild trails. Plus the kids like to use them as steps, so hey, dual functionality. Oh, they also seem to do a good job of deflecting rocks flying off the front tire from hitting the lower rear door. I always hear rocks plinking off them and I've heard of some other owners having problems with rocks hitting the lower rear side of their WK2 near the rear wheel wells.
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:23 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobkbusch View Post
Very nice writeup and photos Meso! I might have to give Medano Pass a try.

The “Memory System Not Available, Vehicle Not in Park Mode" message comes on if you tap the seat control memory buttons on the driver's door. Perhaps your leg bumped the switch when you were taking the "suspension hits."
That is the first thing that I thought off as when I first noticed it we were in a section that kind of rocks you side to side pretty good. But, I tried to be very careful to watch my knees and am pretty sure I didn't hit the controls later. But who knows, it didn't seem to cause any problems...and I was looking out for trees more than I was watching where my knees were.

It was a nice day trip out there, awful impact the wildfires had in some areas those, saw several scorched aspen groves. I've taken a Explorer Sport Trac down several of the mild to moderate trails in the Ouray area and look forward to visiting those again. Many are just challenging enough to get a thrill out of without taking too much of a risk of getting any trail damage your vehicle. And of course, the main reason to go is the awesome views.
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Old 06-19-2011, 11:30 AM
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Re: First Road Trip Report - Medano Pass Road

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Originally Posted by Scottina06 View Post
very nice! I like that it took you one time and the GREATEST 4x4 on earth 5 times!
Yea, I stood and stared at a nice Rubicon on the showroom floor for a looooong time before deciding on the Cherokee. If I took day trips to these trails every weekend instead of just a few times a year I would have gone for one.

Still, I am more that certain that this was the best vehicle for me. And I was surprised that Rubicon had so much trouble with that hill. I was sitting there watching him, thinking, "Crap! If he's having this much trouble...."

I don't have much experience with sand, it's surprisingly treacherous. I think probably tire pressure and momentum were the reason I had an easier time of it.
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