What an exciting day of adventure! I’ll talk about the Deep Creek part in a later post. Or not.

I was supposed to meet with a couple of naturist groups (San Diego Camping Bares, Southern California Naturists) at Deep Creek Hot Springs today. On my way out I got distracted by my GPS.

Now, I know how to get to Bowen’s Ranch which is one of the trailheads to the hot springs. I thought I’d try the GPS on my cell phone as an experiment. Instead of turning onto Bowen Ranch Road it had me turn onto Jaratul Road, which is 3 blocks shy of where I wanted to go. I took it anyhow just to see what I could see.

Jaratul Road turns into Juniper Flats Road. While Jaratul is a graded dirt and gravel road, Juniper Flats Road is a 4WD high clearance road. So I am merrily tooling along and the road gets worse by the minute. I am driving my red Suzuki SX4 which I have lifted 2 inches and installed a skid plate under the engine specifically so I can go off road with it. My black Suzuki Sidekick is my real off-roader (larger tires with big tread, more clearance, low range gears) but was left at home due to lack of A/C. Then I pass this unfortunate vehicle, a RAV 4, completely bottomed out.

The car was abandoned. I waited a while just to see if the driver was coming back and a tow truck showed up and pulled him out. Not a good day for him. (Assuming a male but doesn’t have to be.) Out of state plates so the driver is likely unfamiliar with the area. Probably had to walk miles to get cell reception. Since I didn’t pass him on my way in, he probably had walked more miles just to get to a place the tow truck driver could find him. Backcountry towing on those kinds of roads will be VERY expensive. IIRC, there is only one company that will go back there.

Wonder if he used a GPS to get there? Maybe he was trying to get to Deep Creek. It has an international reputation.

Heaven only knows what kind of damage he did to his underside. Might easily have destroyed his oil pan, his exhaust or even his differential.

I know I could have gotten myself out of there. My skid plate would have protected mission critical parts. Break out ye olde shovel and start digging that hump down. Use the jack to lift the vehicle up and place rocks and dirt under the wheels. In my aged & decrepit state that could take hours. Water and food to last for days. If it were really hot, I’d wait for evening to start.

More importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten myself into that situation. I have a general rule of not driving in deep ruts. If the driver had only positioned his truck 3 feet to the left, he’d have been fine.

I have another rule of driving slowly on dicey terrain.  Drive fast and you cannot react in time.  Hit the brakes and you keep sliding forward into what you want to avoid. You don’t have enough time to analyze the terrain and pick the correct line to take. When you hit something, the energy is proportional to the square of the velocity. Hitting that rock or dip at 20 instead of 10 will cause 4 times as much damage to tires, suspension and undercarriage.

Experience will tell you where your wheels are and how much clearance you have and prudence tells you when not to push it. Common sense should tell you that a RAV 4 is NOT a real off road vehicle.  And All Wheel Drive (AWD) ain’t as good on the trails as 4 Wheel Drive (4WD).

I continued cautiously on my way. The GPS directed me to an abandoned quarry. At that point it told me to turn right. There was nothing there to turn onto. I kept on to the quarry where the GPS was telling me to turn around, so I did. On my way back, it frantically told me to Turn left! Turn left! I ignored it, and returned whence I came, making sure to drive down the same rutted road the other driver did and easily making it past the nasty spot.

Bowen Ranch Road was 3 blocks further east. One would think that the GPS would have indicated to take Bowen Ranch Road to get to Bowen Ranch, whose address is on that very same road. Bowen Ranch Road is a well graded dirt and gravel road that ordinary street cars can travel. The last bit after passing onto the property and getting to the parking area gets a little rough so you want to take care but some of the cars parked there only had about 4 inches of clearance. Almost anyone can do it.

Juniper Flats Road would eventually get you to Bowen Ranch but it would be a rough ride. I went back and took the easy way instead. The GPS probably selected it because you might save a fraction of a mile in distance but then it wanted me to turn off into deep brush and soft sand where there was no road at all. Good grief!






Now imagine you are NOT an off-road driver with many decades of experience, who is prudent and has a vehicle modified for the terrain. In unfamiliar territory, you are following your GPS into empty wilderness because that is what it said to do. You don’t have extraction tools. You don’t have cell service. You don’t have a satellite communicator. You don’t have gallons of  water and you don’t have anyone expecting you home soon. No extra fuel. You aren’t in a convoy or on a road with regular traffic.

Now you have gotten stuck like the guy in the RAV 4, only so far out that cell service is days away, and environmental conditions are brutal. I am unlikely to come across you on a lark to see how badly my GPS screwed up.

Don’t be that person either. You could end up dead.

Death by GPS