Moab Easter Jeep Safari 2014
Sometimes a single word can conjure up an array of images and emotions, memories and adventures. That one word for me is Moab. If your into four wheeling, mountain biking, or desert hiking, I'm thinking many of you have the same visions of me when saying the name of that dusty little town in Utah where it can snow in the winter and fry you in the summer. Visions of hard curving red rock wrapped all around you and off into the distance, challenging off roading, biking the slick rock trail, hiking into a labyrinth of canyons (watch for arm pinning falling rocks) or just taking in the amazing views and rock arches from the array of national parks all around the Moab area all beneath the towering La Sal Mountains. It is like being no where else on the planet.
Its been three long years since I've been to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari and for my 7th trip and 4th with Co-dog Todd Gronsdahl from Aqualu Industries, its also the first time I've returned since stepping away from the magazine business. So it was kind of a holiday of sorts, really the apple doesn't fall far from the tree - once you have that Moab bug... I used Moab as a motivator to get my Jeep completed after 2 years of down time, which included a move and a job change. 4 months of weekends went into a fairly major rebuild but when I was having issues getting my Jeep ready to go two days before leaving and it looked like my TJ wasn't going to make it, my very generous boss at Gear Centre Group offered to let me take the well build company XJ, I just needed to fly to Edmonton and drive it to Kelowna to load it onto the trailer... My wife said, you need a break go with Jeep or without Jeep but just go. I love my wife - and yes I figured out my TJ, the stars aligned and the rebuild came together and it made the journey back to slick rock heaven with me.
Knowing many of the companies and most of the people that make this world of 4-wheeling in amazing modified rigs possible, I got several invites for trail rides and with some help from our company marketing department I put together a Quality Gear Canadians Only trail ride and BBQ on the Tuesday of Easter Jeep Safari week as well. After an uneventful 2000km, 22 hour drive to Moab, our Monday started in the parking lot of the Old Spanish Trails Arena for the Dynatrac/Falcon Tire sponsored Bunny Run trail ride to Strike Ravine. It has been years since I've wheeled Strike Ravine, actually all the way back to my first trip to Moab so I was looking forward to visiting the area again. This years trail ride was also led by none other than Moab icon Dan Mick. Dan has been leading 4x4 tour groups through the trails of Moab almost as long as Moab has had trails. Seeing the man himself up close is like looking at a walking talking chunk of Moab sand stone. The Strike Ravine trail still exists in its entire length but now a good portion of the trail wraps in and around Area BFE off-road park. If your not familiar with the park it contained a couple of well knows trails, Upper and Lower Helldorado. The land was part of the Utah School lands trust and when the two parcels were sold off, BFE Films stepped up and bought one of the two sections and turned it into Moab's premier hard core 4 wheeling area open to all but donations gladly accepted at the gate. Lower Helldorado was closed by the other parcel owner but the area around Upper Helldorado was saved for off-road use. The group consisted of a wide array of rigs from Trent McGee's stock (including 4 cyl Carburetor equipped engine) CJ7 to a mix of modified rigs including Pat Gremilion's Hummer IFS converted Jeep. While not a "hard core" trail ride is was a great day out getting back in touch with those in the industry that I haven't seen in a few years.
Our second day out consisted of the Quality Gear trail ride. I decided to do a Canadian Only run again and with rather short notice we had a small but enthusiastic group out for a run on Metal Masher. While the trail's name sounds intimidating, it's a good solid fun run capable by most Jeeps with 33-inch tires with lots of optional rock ledges to challenge the biggest badest of 4x4. We caught up to a group of highly modified rigs and got a chance to watch them tackle the hard sections while several in our group poked at optional lines testing our own rigs. One particular steep climb I noticed some slight fluid leakage from my just build Jeep and found a bad fitting on my transmission cooler line. It sidelined me from the harder wheeling till I could get back to town for a fix but didn't stop any of us from completing the entire loop and even challenging Widow Maker, the final optional challenge to the trail. A few years ago a steel hook was placed in the rocks above the steep climb, but it seems this year the hook took one to many tugs and dislodged the chuck of the rock it was drilled into. This reverted the challenge back to getting at least one rig up so there is a anchor point to winch to as short wheelbase Jeeps have a very difficult time getting up this near shear rock face. With three of us pulling on a tug strap on the only 4-door JK in our group, we managed to drag the beast up and Max followed on his winch while the rest of us drove around the bypass to catch up. With the trail being quite a long, we called it a day had a few refreshments back at the condo and called it a night. Our week wasn't quite done yet. We had all our guests plus a few more join us back at the condo on Wed for a BBQ and a generous give away of a Quality Gear Polar EXT 8000 winch. Max walked away with the big prize then we loaded up for the biggest challenge of the week, Moab Rim in darkness.
Rated 7 out of 10 for difficulty in the daylight, the intimidating Devils Crack and the truck flipping Z-turn take on a totally new dimension in darkness. We had to wait for the last few people coming down the steep rock slabs just at dusk before heading up. We managed to catch dusky light for the Devils Crack then a moonless night fell on us and we climbed the slabs with just a little assistance for Bruce and a slight spot or two for the other, otherwise it was near radio silence as everyone focused on the task at hand and had a great climb up to the edge where we could look over all the lights of Moab spreading out under us and off in the distance a few headlights of those challenging Hells Revenge in the dark. This was one of the nicest weather we have had for this night run and it afforded us all some time to sit and take in the sites and chat part of the night away. With the decent still in front of us, we all saddled up and made short work of the 2K downhill run. some tire lifting dropping down the Z turn and back to pavement. This would bring to a close the wheeling days for 2014 as the group split up and took on other challenges with friends the rest ot the week, and I took in the always awesome trade show for the next two days. After two years with my wheeling rig basically on blocks, it only takes one trip back to Moab to get you to say to everyone - see you next year!