Differentiating the trucks in addition to their cab configurations were
their rear axles: 3.42 for the Canyon, 3.73 for the standard cab Colorado
and 4.10 for the Chevy with the five-speed.
The biggest difference from the driver’s seat was the degree of
engine braking each of those rear axles provided. The 3.42 had us wishing
these trucks offered hill descent control. The 3.73 was more like it and
in the words of that famous off-roader Papa Bear, the 4.10 was just right.
engines power and engine braking both were important as we ascended and
descended sometimes very steep and rocky trails.
Many of us who live in the West swear by the Backcountry Adventures trail
guide series by Swagman Publishing of Castle Rock, Colo. (www.4wdbooks.com).
The books rate off-road treks on a point scale.
Mine Trail is a “4,” which means, “high-clearance 4WDs
are recommended, though most stock SUVs are acceptable. Expect a rough
road surface with rocks larger than 6 inches, but there will be a reasonable
driving line available.” The next section talks about mud and stream
crossings, which weren’t a problem with the unseasonable hot weather
Phoenix had been suffering, although there was one point on the trail
where we did have to splash through some puddles. “Sand may be deep
and require lower tire pressures,” the book warns, adding “there
may be… substantial sections of single-lane shelf road, moderate
grades, and sections of moderately loose road surface.”
And that was the easiest of the three trails we’d tackle in our
daylong drive. Telegraph Canyon and Box Canyon are rated “5,”
which the book says means, “high-clearance 4WDS are required. These
trails have either a rough, rutted surface, rocks up to 9 inches, mud
and deep sand that may be impassable for inexperienced drivers…
Certain sections may be steep enough to cause traction problems, and you
may encounter very narrow shelf roads which steep drop-offs and tight
clearance between rocks or trees.” To which we’d have to add
cactus, but hopefully the “Arizona pin stripping” we added
to the car’s sides can be buffed out.
Speaking of narrow, the book adds this warning for those entering Box
Canyon, a winding, 1.3-mile slot between rock walls that rise hundreds
of feet on either side: “The trail is very twisty and narrow, and
there are large boulders and rocks that must be negotiated. Vehicles with
side steps, low-hanging brush bars, or low-clearance will be at a definite
disadvantage. This trail is not recommended for such vehicles because
of the likelihood of damage.”