All the way to the top

That new-to-us Polaris Ranger 570 midsize is, according to its previous owner, due for an oil change. The fuel gauge reads 3/8-full now, meaning there’s (probably) just over two gallons remaining in its nine-gallon tank. The battery, which reportedly is the original, appears to need some attention.

I want to give the buggy a quick once-over, the sort of productive puttering I didn’t take time to do the day we got it. Stuff like checking fluids and tires, shooting lube on latches, hitting the zerk fittings and wiping down the windows. I’ll run the winch cable out, check its condition and wind it back.

Nothing major, just things that an owner — one who doesn’t necessarily have mad mechanical skills — can do easily.

Once again, the way we’re living, carrying only the essentials, means that we didn’t bring a lot of tools and supplies from Second Chance Ranch, including stuff that’d be useful right now. So yesterday, without going crazy, we shopped for a few things.

A couple of five-gallon gas cans and a bottle of Sta-bil. An oil-change kit (5W50 full-synthetic, filter and drain-plug washer) from the local Polaris dealer. A handful of bungee cords.

Supplies like white lithium grease, WD-40 and polycarbonate-safe window cleaner we can borrow from the Jeep, distilled water and a trickle charger from the bus.

One thing we shouldn’t need to buy or beg, by the way, is recovery gear. That we added to our arsenal when we installed the winch on the Wrangler.

This is the tenth day of December, sliding toward Christmas and the coldest time of year — and yet we awoke in northern Arkansas this morning to temperatures in the low 60s. Deb got up with the dogs and, after fortifying ourselves with coffee, we gathered our gear and pointed Mercy toward The Mountain.

Despite good intentions, the only maintenance task I knocked out on the Ranger today was checking the battery’s electrolyte level and topping it off with distilled water. With that done I added a gallon or so of (borrowed) gas to the tank and threw our Stihl chainsaw in the bed.

Deb and I had a mission in mind. Her cousin mentioned that a previous owner of the property once cut a path from the road to the highest point on The Mountain, intending to build a home on the wooded summit. The path has since overgrown, he said, but the cut is still there.

We wanted to make a run at it and see what the Ranger could do. Now it’s worth noting that neither Deb nor I had ever tackled anything quite like this. We’d both been off-roading in trucks and SUVs, never on an ATV or UTV.

I guided the Ranger down the road ’til we found where the cut began, now almost completely erased by Nature and time. Braking to a stop, I shifted the transmission into low range and thumbed the 4WD switch. We cinched our shoulder harnesses.

As I stepped on the gas and plowed into the woods, it became obvious that we weren’t really following a trail — we were, for all intents and purposes, breaking trail. The slope was fairly steep, the ground covered in a thick layer of oak leaves, yet the 567cc Ranger didn’t feel the least bit challenged and the tires never lost grip.

Overgrowth on the old cut was damned dense in places. We didn’t stop to clear anything, though — we just kept digging, breaking through and rolling over whatever was in our path. When we reached the top, 150 vertical feet above where we’d started, it felt like we’d actually accomplished something.

The very top of The Mountain is relatively large and flat, and the brush isn’t nearly as thick as what we’d ridden through. It was easy to see why someone would want to site a home there (the driveway notwithstanding). We spent a good while exploring, admiring the 360° view, before deciding it was time to head back.

That old, overgrown path was a lot more obvious on the way up. Our tires hadn’t disturbed the leaf cover enough to leave a plain trail, so I had to get out and walk ahead, then turn around and reacquaint myself with the course I needed to follow down The Mountain.

Using the chainsaw and a pair of pruners, we took the opportunity to clear some of the brush, vines and saplings we’d bulled through on our ascent, mostly in the middle of the run. We have more work to do where the path approaches the summit, and also down closer to the entrance, but we got a good start.

When we emerged from the woods and bounced back onto the road, both of us let out a whoop. We’re thrilled with the way the Ranger (and the Stihl) performed. We had a genuine blast.

And we can’t wait to get back up there.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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