The Daily Grind – Climbing to Santiago Peak in the StanceWorks FJ62 Land Cruiser

-March 30, 2015-

The Daily Grind – Climbing to Santiago Peak in the StanceWorks FJ62 Land Cruiser

Mike Burroughs

Over the past months, my thirst for a truck has been impossible to satisfy. I had been eyeing Monteros for the most part, with searches for Isuzu Troopers and the occasional Jeep Cherokee taking up extra tabs in my web browser. A Land Cruiser, and more specifically, an F60/62, was more of a pipe dream, typically demanding prices far beyond what I wanted to spend. However, an early-morning search presented one hell of a truck: an '88 FJ62 that was everything I could dream of. I hit the bank, and two hours later, it was mine. Now, two weeks later, the itch to hit the trails and put the mule to work has made the wait for the weekend longer than ever. On Sunday, we set plans: climb to Santiago Peak, the high, distant peak in the photo below, 5600 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

My girlfriend, Emily, was quick to jump at the chance to be the day's co-pilot, and our friend Khalil joined along; we loaded up the FJ62 with food, drinks, tools, parts, and a spare tire, just in case. Joining us for the climb in an LC100 of his own was Ben Massey, his girlfriend Christina, and friend Adam. It was set to be a day of fun, friends, photos, and a good shake-down run for my new purchase.

It was only minutes into the climb before we were all enamored with the views from the mountainside. The long drive to the trail's start was still above the tops of surrounding hills. Early parts of the trail were simple in terrain, with mounds, bumps, and dips here and there, but calm overall in comparison to the later portion. From the trail's start, it was a 13-mile drive to the top.

The terrain and landscape changed every mile or two, sometimes imitating desert roads, and other times sinking us into the forest beneath the trees. We scratched our heads, knowing that at some point years ago, something had to carve these trails; an undertaking that had to be monumental in comparison to the climb of our own. Later parts of the trail did however allow us to push the trucks a bit harder, testing both articulation and traction. Neither truck faced even a single issue, short of test climbs up a loose, sandy wall, just for kicks.

Santiago Peak eventually began to grow closer, but the distance and terrain between us and our goal seemed far further than what the GPS suggested. The trails grew steeper, and thus more exciting. More than half of the day was spent perched on cliff sides, with nothing preventing certain death, should one stomp the accelerator instead of the brake. Massive careening hillsides offered nothing in the way of safety to stop a rolling truck. Still, it was part of the excitement, and the paths were more than well-established.

Lake Elsinore, Southern California's largest natural freshwater lake, came into view as we rounded the backside of the mountain. It was just a puddle amongst the landscape. Eventually, we came upon the trail's split. We had been travelling along the Main Divide Trail, and breaking off was the Indian Truck Trail, a 5-mile, smoother descent that we'd be taking on our way down, to shorten the trip. Ahead of us was the last leg of the trail, which climbed to the peak. We stopped for a short while to take in the view, drink some water, and snap photos, of course.

It was only another hour until we reached the summit - a moment worthy of celebration. Our hard work had paid off, and my FJ62 had yet to leave me stranded on a mountainside trail. From the peak, we were able to see all the way out to the ocean, roughly 25 miles west. We could also see off into the Californian Inland Empire, all of Orange County, and even Los Angeles. We ate a late lunch, with the sunset rushing towards us. Neither of our trucks were equipped with auxiliary lighting, so Ben and I felt it was important to get off the mountain before darkness set in.

Ben had evening plans, and after ensuring we were set, he took off on his own, scrambling down the mountain trail as quickly as possible. We trailed, slower in our pace thanks to the age of my truck and its old, stock suspension which translates small rocks into giant boulders, although our slower pace did allow for photos on our way down. Emily, Khalil, and I began the descent, taking turns driving to enjoy the somewhat smoother trails. We had 3 hours to make it down before headlights would be a requirement.

The setting sun lit the hilltops and shaded the valleys, making for a picturesque and sublime Sunday afternoon. The colors of the trees and the fading sun made it all but impossible not to stop every quarter mile for photos. As we neared the half-way point, we made our final stops, capturing the Land Cruiser in its dusty, dirty glory. I was proud of it for having made the trip unscathed and unbroken, although it was hardly taxing, relative to other trails. Still, I find a new sense of confidence in the old boy; it's ready to go anywhere and everywhere. The list of mods I'm dreaming of is growing already.

As the sun dropped beyond the horizon and the sky turned gold, we reached the end of the trail. Even now, a full day later, it's hard to wipe the smile from our faces. Talks of the next trip are already starting, and here's hoping it's longer, tougher, and more strenuous than before. The climb to Santiago Peak alone was reason enough to justify the purchase of my FJ62, and now I'm more eager than ever before to put the truck to work, doing what it was built to do. In the mean time, I'll have to figure out how to clean the fine yellow silt from every nook and cranny imaginable.





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Comments on The Daily Grind – Climbing to Santiago Peak in the StanceWorks FJ62 Land Cruiser

  • Eric

    Can you please refrain from posting about your Cruiser even though it’s awesome. The BMW scene is full of knobs now and I don’t want the same thing to happen with Toyota.

  • Kristopher Clewell

    @Eric What a ridiculous statement.

  • linhbergh

    Dirt ricing. I approve of this 1000%

  • cchristiansen

    @kristopherclewell I’m with Eric. Mike can be an enthusiast and has every right to post about his cruiser. I think @Eric is just trying to express his frustrations of the trend followers vs authentic enthusiasts. Mike is an enthusiast who happens to have followers that just wanna follow the trends, which is frustrating for some enthusiasts. Hopefully this trend of vintage 4wd,s/campvibes will help true seekers find something they are passionate about vs flocks of followers that will follow this trend until a new one comes along leaving behind them a desolate field of molested cruisers.

  • Kristopher Clewell

    cchristiansen so what now then? air ride e28 climbs mountain? I dont get it. People buy a truck and drive it up a mountain and enjoy the outdoors and the accompaniment of friends as inspired by this post? I dont see the downside. Other than the general “stance” movement, which honestly can not be entirely attributed to Mike anymore, do you have some examples of what you’re talking about? Was there another hot rod with a v8 bmw swap, e36 ITB, or chopped e28 out there I am unaware of thats pissing you off? I get what you’re saying but vehemently disagree with your premise.

  • Eric

    What he’s referring to isn’t the work of the stanceworks team. The work they do is inedible. It’s all the kids that think they’re Mike Burroughs. I believe he’s referring to the kids that show up and throw some racelands on their e30 and some xxr’s that are so wide that they can’t even stuff them under the wheel wells without prying on them with vice grips. It’s those kids. Nobody is worried about new people getting excited about cars. It’s the wake of would be classic cars left in the wake…. people following trends will always happen, we just don’t want Toyotas to be ruined just like the wake of e30s.

  • Kristopher Clewell

    @ Eric

    Blaming that on Mike is hideous. The culture moves like starlings in the sky now. It doesn’t follow the flute of one man. As much as I love what Mike and Andrew do here, I really dont think we’re going to have a migration from vice gripped e30’s to 4WD trucks.

  • Eric

    I’m not even remotely blaming that on Mike. The work he does is great. The things that everyone else does can be extremely mediocre. That’s not his fault or anyone else’s. There is a large push in media that’ll generate fads though. Sure, just because there’s one article doesn’t mean some radical trend will come do be. Sorry, I shouldn’t express my frustrations in a public place such as stanceworks and I’m not blaming anyone in particular. It’s just sad to see what happens to some cars and different groups of people.

  • Chase

    Awesome photos! Sounds like a wicked day. Jealous of the 62, always wanted one myself!

  • Betweenthewhitelines

    Beautiful post, man that California light makes me jealous every time. Beautiful!

  • meowlogio

    @Eric How lame of you, the bmw toyota and any scene in fact has always been full of knobs.

  • Mike_StanceWorks

    @ Eric I do understand entirely what you and cchristiansen are suggesting. Kristopher Clewell , I do appreciate the flip side and support as well.

    Eric, it would, no question, be a disappointment to have that “particular demographic” move towards destroying classics, whether we’re talking about vintage cruisers, or others, like air cooled Porsches, which find their way to our homepage regularly. 

    With the position we (StanceWorks) are in, things can be sort of tough. On one hand, I want to preserve the things I love, whether we’re talking about FJ62s or E28s, or anything in between. Keeping them to myself helps to ensure a longer life and a less saturated market. It means keeping “our secret” so to speak. We’re able to keep these cool, classic gems to ourselves… and as cchristiansen said, I don’t want to be even .01% responsible for the leftover desolate field of molested cars once the bandwagoners move on to the next trend.

    On the other hand, if I’m not sharing the things I am passionate about, I can’t help push the car scene away from the troubles you are discussing. I can’t help steer things in a new, positive direction. And worst of all, I can’t inspire, share, and curate. I know at least one enthusiast will see my work and be inspired to turn a wrench or tune a carb; to breathe new life into a classic. When that happens, my work is done. The downside is that for every enthusiast that joins the ranks, there’s a kid with a hacksaw with beady eyes and an insatiable hunger for followers right behind him. 

    It’s unfortunately a double-edge sword that I’m not entirely sure how to wield.

  • ioncelfals

    now that is a seriously cool car!

  • IanMoore

    I got my 89 FJ62 October of 2013 and I definitely agree it makes the work week last entirely too long.

  • Luke Holmes

    meowlogio I agree with you most of all. Hopefully the the awesome work that Mike and the stanceworks team do in any scene will inspire them to progress from their knobdom.

  • FlatFour

    God…..what a beautiful article. Growing up with my dad it was nothing but Toyota trucks. This hit home for me.

  • AlexandrMehtiev

    Really cool pictures made ​​, and Toyota is not bad;)

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