The red rock country of Utah has long been a favorite destination among four-wheelers. It is a hard land that eons of erosion have sculpted and will continue to transform many years from now; a veritable sea of stone. There is also a vast emptiness to this land that encourages exploration. And that is precisely what the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and so many others have committed themselves to during the past four decades.
For the thirty-fourth time in as many years, the Red Rock 4-Wheelers once again hosted what has arguably become the premiere event among ardent off-roaders: the Easter Jeep Safari. Every year, four-wheelers by the hundreds travel from across the United States, Canada, and South America to Moab, Utah, just to participate in this event. And just as in years past, we were right there with them.
Rolling into Moab in the midst of the Safari is like stumbling into one huge 4x4 convention. Sometimes we would simply stand on a street corner to watch as one incredible rig after another cruised by. At this time of year, Moab is as much a show ground as it is a testing ground, and it's interesting to see what everyone has brought to play with.
After much effort, our editor Trent Riddle, finally brought his YJ to Moab this year, and after rumbling into town at about four o'clock in the afternoon, we parked it at Moab Off Road to take care of any last-minute adjustments it might need - and there were a few. The most irritating problem was that we couldn't shift the newly built 700-R4 out of Second gear. Now, as four-wheeling goes, there are worse gears we could have been stuck in - such as Reverse or Fourth. It wasn't enough to keep us off the trails, but it sure made for slow driving around town.
Our first day out was spent with the folks from ARB, who were heading up a run on Cliff Hanger. We had never had the opportunity to take this trail before, but it offers some of the most magnificent views we've seen around Moab. The first quarter of the trail is generally considered the most difficult. There are a series of rock ledges on the way in that make for some challenging four-wheeling, and if it has been raining, the crossing at Kane Creek can present a real obstacle for those without tall tires and lockers.
The real payoff, though, is the portion of the trail that gave Cliff Hanger its name. After narrowing to maybe 10 or 12 feet, the trail runs right along the edge of a cliff with a drop-off of several hundred feet. It is not your driving skills that will be challenged here, but rather your fear of heights. There is no room for backing up or turning around. Once you set your wheels on the path, you're on the straight and narrow (as it were). You needn't go quickly, though. In fact, this is a perfect place to stop and admire the view because this section of the trail looks out across an enormous valley, and on a clear day you can see for miles.
It made for an auspicious first day and had us feeling good about the prospects for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, as Tuesday morning dawned, we didn't have the good sense to take the weatherman at his word when he advised of an approaching storm. Given our experience with the volatile weather in Moab at this time of year, we should have known better.
Tuesday had been slated for our customer appreciation run, an annual tradition where we take all of the magazine's advertisers out for a day of four-wheeling. In defiance of looming clouds and deafening wind, we started up the trail and, of course, about halfway along, it began to rain - a lot. In a philosophical moment, we considered it unfortunate that so few people had dressed for cold weather, and even more unfortunate that so few people had tops on their vehicles. By the time we reached the rim, pretty much everyone was cold and wet. And while a few hearty souls decided to press on, the majority of drivers held on just long enough to show Mother Nature they weren't cowed and then headed back down the trail. We'd done what we'd come to do.
A secondary but exciting part of the Easter Jeep Safari is the manufacturers' display at the Old Spanish Trail Arena where you have the opportunity to browse around for some of the latest equipment for four-wheelers. You'll often find parts that are being introduced for the first time. This is also a good place to talk with both vendors and other drivers about what works, what doesn't, and why.
For our final trip of the week, we hooked up with Dan Mick and headed out to run the Rusty Nail. This is not actually one of the official trails on the EJS roster, but a small group of four-wheelers had hired Dan to guide them through this difficult run, and it made for an interesting day.
The Rusty Nail consists of running part of the Golden Spike trail backward to a point near the Golden Crack. From there you can negotiate such obstacles as the Stairs, the Ledge, and the Double Whammy. You need a well-built rig and good nerves to make it out here. There are a lot of steep, off-camber ledges that have to be tackled, some of which run along cliff sides whose edges seem much too close for comfort.
It was a challenging but gratifying day for everyone. And with Dan Mick doing his usual fine job of spotting, everyone made it through pretty much unscathed. There were even a couple of Cherokee owners who were a little hesitant about a few of the obstacles, but they came through in flying colors.
There are a lot of good reasons to go to Moab - the incredibly unique four-wheeling, the spectacular beauty of the area, the camaraderie of other 'wheelers - and as summer is winding to a close, this is the perfect time to begin making plans for next year's Easter Jeep Safari
To find out more about the 2001 Easter Jeep Safari, contact: Red Rock 4-Wheelers, P.O. Box 1471, Moab, UT 84532-1471.