Exploring Texas Backcountry at the Superlift 4xAdventure
It's hard not to rave about the Texas Superlift 4xAdventure, and the reason is twofold: its awesome, isolated location and its wide variety of stunning, challenging trails. That sounds like the perfect combination for a weekend of 'wheeling to us
How Remote Is It?The event's headquarters is at the Longhorn Motel and Restaurant near Terlingua, Texas, which is located a few miles north of the Rio Grande River between Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park. You'd think that with the parks close by there would be the usual tourist support businesses, but that is not so. Cell phone service is nonexistent throughout the area, fuel stations are few and far between, and unless you speak Spanish, your car radio is worthless. The nearest place to acquire fast food or auto parts is Alpine, Texas, which is almost 90 miles to the north across two-lane blacktop roads that seemingly go on forever as they stretch across the desolate Texas terrain. (You'd think the local cops would be a bit lenient about speeding with all this room, but we found out they're not.) This part of Texas hasn't changed much since the state was an independent republic in 1836, and the only things out there are occasional ranches (some located more than 12 miles from the main road), sand, rock, and a number of different varieties of cactus, shrubs, and trees that all sport an amazing array of different-sized thorns waiting to gouge you. It's not unusual for temperatures in this region to stay blazingly hot during the summer, and the area only receives about 14 inches of rainfall a year. Needless to say, vehicle preventative maintenance is paramount; breaking down is to be avoided at all costs due to limited traffic and the huge distance between towns. Even with these natural obstacles, there are a number of people who live in southwest Texas, and they're rewarded with magnificent natural beauty and a laid-back style of living. If you're the type of person who likes solitude and awesome scenery, this area is for you.
A Really Big RanchThe Superlift 4xAdventure uses a privately owned 12,000-acre ranch for most of its trail rides. Sports In-The-Rough puts the whole thing together, and your registration fee entitles you to run one trail per day (eight trails are offered) over the course of the three-day event, as well as participate in a Superlift Suspension Tech Talk on Friday evening, a Saturday evening all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner, and a Saturday evening Superlift 4xRaffle. This year, Keith Marchand of Jeep Doctor was on hand at the event headquarters to provide rider support. He had a trailer full of parts and accessories available as well as commonly broken items such as U-joints. Having Marchand's merchandise available put a lot of participants back on the trail after they suffered breakdowns without having to drive three hours round-trip to Alpine for parts. Trail rides left daily, and they covered a full array of difficulty levels, including an easy run to nearby Big Bend National Park to run the dirt roads that wind through the park.
Trail ActionOn Friday, we signed up for the toughest trail on the schedule, Stairway to Heaven. Our trail leader was Homer Van Zandt, who was actually one of the builders of the trail several years ago. It follows a dry creek up Pack Saddle Mountain, and it's peppered with waterfalls that vary in height and difficulty. Our group of 15 vehicles included a whole entourage of Superlift staffers (it's pretty standard for them to show up en force for its signature events), and they brought with them a variety of vehicles that included some new suspension designs. The trail is only slightly more than a mile long, but it took our experienced group all day to complete. This illustrates the difficulty of the trail, and we had our fair share of winching and vehicle repairs as we climbed steadily upward.
On Saturday, we joined a large group that was heading to the Creek Run, which was led by Alan Dowdy. As opposed to Stairway to Heaven, which climbed up the side of a mountain, the Creek Run would take us into deep canyons as we followed a mostly dry creekbed for several miles. The obstacles on this run were comprised of sand and rocks, but the trail ride was open to open-diff vehicles. Oftentimes, the trail was darkened by high walls on both sides, making for spectacular scenery.
Make Plans NowIf you're an adventurer at heart who likes the excitement of exploring isolated terrain in your 4x4, the Texas Superlift 4xAdventure is calling your name. It will return to Terlingua, Texas, March of 2002. For more event information or to make reservations, contact: Sports-In-The-Rough, Dept. OR, P.O. Box 717, Ketchum, OK 74349, (800) 556-2801, www.sportsintherough.com.