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4X4 Rock Crawling Trail - Full Size Frenzy

Posted in Events on March 1, 2003 Comment (0)
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4X4 Rock Crawling Trail - Full Size Frenzy

Most Southwestern trails tend to be passable only with short wheelbase, narrow-track vehicles, and some wash trails can be a downright tight fit on a fullsize truck's sheetmetal. But not every off-road enthusiast sees fit to drive a compact 4x4. And some people just like or need a big vehicle; let's just call this group the fullsize fanatics. Many fans of fullsize trucks use their 4WDs as a daily commuter vehicle or even as work trucks all week long. When the weekend hits, they're ready to 'wheel. That's when their daily driver becomes their trail rig.

When you're looking over a hood that's nearly big enough to park a Samurai on, it's a bit more difficult to pilot your way through a maze of rocks. You really have to hand it to a bunch of guys that can fit big 4x4s through tight spaces, especially because large trucks don't allow for much on-trail visibility. The big tires these trucks can run certainly help with traction, but when the trucks are both wide and sport a long wheelbase, it's a whole new challenge on the trail. The drivers of fullsize 4x4s have to pick unique lines and preplan the route around obstacles ahead, always looking to steer wide, lest a boulder be caught on the inside of a tight turn.

All of the hassles involved with taking a big truck on a tight, Jeep-style trail didn't faze Matt O'Rourke, who had the idea to start getting some fellow enthusiasts and their fullsize wheelers together for some local runs. Matt already had a well set up, rockcrawling Ford F-250, and he knew a few others with capable fullsize trucks, so after some Internet banter and some calls to friends of friends, a date was set for the run.

Thinking he might pull together a dozen or so vehicles, Matt figured a good, moderately tough rock trail would be just right. Little did he know that on the day of the run, 20 fullsize 4x4s would arrive and about another five would end up joining the tail end of the group part way down the trail. There were a number of Chevy Blazers, a Ford Bronco, a Willys, several Grand Cherokees, and a wide variety of trucks, including Doug Parker's extra-long '00 Ford F-250 Crew Cab, with its lengthy 156-inch wheelbase.

The site of the run was the Raw Deal Trail, located near New River, just north of Phoenix and east of the Bradshaw Mountains. Situated at 2,000 feet above sea level, this is an arid desert location with interesting geological composition. The rock in the washes has a lava flow look to it, with numerous smaller river bed stones fused in the main body of rock.

Following a flat, sandy wash, the trail drops gradually into a canyon with a hard, rocky bottom and sandy, rock side hills. As the canyon narrows, the rock formations get more rugged and there are numerous slots on the trail to straddle or fall into. These offer plenty of opportunities to twist up your truck's suspension and test its articulation.

From time to time, someone in the group would find themselves high centered, and those with open differentials found themselves with tires spinning uselessly in the air. These situations afforded more than a few opportunities to use winches and straps, and to stake claims and bragging rights.

Toward the end of the main trail, a low lying wash leads drivers back to the network of dirt roads in the area. Continuing on down the main canyon gives drivers another few hundred yards of boulder playing and some interesting optional obstacles. The trail's end leads to a large rock face the trucks climb in order to exit the canyon. Getting up the initial section of the rock face takes a bit of maneuvering because there is a stretch of basketball-sized rocks. Once midway up the face, a deep V-notch forces the driver to pick the left or right line. Going left allows a truck to straddle the V between the left and right tires, but requires climbing a 3-foot-high face on the left side. The right line puts a 4x4's right tires high on a ledge, forcing the left tires hard down in the V, wedging them up against the rocks.

Most of the trucks in the group managed to work their way across the boulder and up the face to get out over the top of the canyon. However, one of the trucks in the group got caught in the V and wedged the front tires. A dose of throttle shattered the front axle and a hub, and a tie rod got pretzeled. It took a fair bit of winch work to pull the wounded fullsize up and out of the slot, but the job was finished with enough time for the rest of the group to complete the last piece of trail.

This fullsize trail ride was a good day's run and proof positive that the fullsize crowd can get out and play on rock trails just as well as Jeeps, Land Cruisers, and Samurais. Sure, there's a whole lot of sheetmetal bashing on a tight, rocky trail, but that's a small price to pay when driving big rigs in tight quarters.

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