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Trucks Removed From Colorado Perch

August 7, 2000

SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) _ Two passenger trucks have been freed from their mountainside perch, ending a six-day ordeal for two Texans whose predicament brought smirks and little sympathy from locals.

The Dodge Ram and Jeep Wrangler were dragged, nudged and driven to safety from a shelf above a steep 800-foot slope Saturday in what one man who helped remove the vehicles called an ``extremely dangerous″ five-hour operation.

Two all-terrain vehicles pulled the trucks off unstable ground.

``If one of them were to slip and fall off the side, it would pull the other off,″ said John Gilleland, whose Hummer helped extricate the trucks. ``I can’t imagine anyone surviving a roll that far down a slope.″

The not-so-excellent adventure began Aug. 31, when brothers Alan Hatcher, of Dallas, and Gary Hatcher, of Bryan, Texas, drove their vehicles into steep country and they couldn’t turn back. Alan Hatcher’s 13-year-old daughter, Kyle, was with them.

``They went down slopes they were not able to get back up, so they committed themselves to keep going farther down as they searched for a way out,″ said Gilleland. ``They should have stopped after they made their first poor judgment.″

All week, the brothers hatched plans to remove the vehicles from their perch some 12,500 feet above sea level. In Silverton, an isolated former mining town of 500 about an hour’s drive away, they became the subject of remarks ranging from mild reproach to ridicule.

``I don’t feel sorry for them. If they fine them, I think that’s OK,″ said Glen Wiebe, a backcountry tour driver in Silverton, about 200 miles southwest of Denver. Wiebe said the Texans were jokingly called ``Bubba One″ and ``Bubba Two.″

Some residents drove up Houghton Mountain to gawk at the spectacle. Gilleland said dozens of onlookers came to watch the salvage effort.

The Bureau of Land Management has ticketed the men for driving off the road and harming the fragile alpine tundra environment, which a sign nearby says can take 100 years to heal when damaged.

The Texans drove off a two-track trail _ part of a looping system of rough roads that draw four-wheeler enthusiasts to the San Juan Mountains _ and followed a single-track rut. Wiebe said other roads would have given them the same views.

``We fight wilderness designations here tooth and nail, and this just gives environmentalists more ammunition,″ Wiebe said Sunday.

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