Competitive rockcrawling events are on the extreme end of our sport. Drivers push their skills and machines to the limits of mechanical strength, gravity, and physics. However, courses are composed of a group of short-marked obstacles that drivers complete one at a time.
How about if you had to get in your rig early in the morning and not just complete a string of timed obstacles, but complete eight hard-core trails in a day? The 2004 event marked the second time a group of 'wheelers known as the Arizona Undertakers had put together a friendly trail marathon.
A number of two-vehicle teams tackled a string of nasty Phoenix-area trails to see which one could complete them all in a single day. The plan was to start the event by hitting the Florence Junction trails early Saturday morning. The trail list included Highway to Hell, Lower Woodpecker, Woody's Wash, Upper Woodpecker, Upper Ajax, Axle Alley, Overdose, and Bad Medicine. Those teams that completed all the Florence trails in less than the 12-hour time limit would then move on to running Sunday trails at the Table Mesa area north of Phoenix. The trails for Sunday at Table Mesa were to be Raw Deal, Anaconda, Lower Terminator, Predator, Annihilator, and Twisted.
Ten teams started into Lower Woodpecker at about 6:30 a.m. That short piece of trail went pretty smoothly, and the rigs continued on to Woody's Wash. It was there that one rig had a few tire problems and a Bronco broke a front axle. Rig repair followed, and the vehicles were moving again. Upper Woodpecker was pretty uneventful and provided a nice break from the more difficult rocks.
At the entrance of Highway to Hell, one of the Cherokees suffered broken steering-arm studs. Some ingenious work and a little welding patched it back together sufficiently to get the Jeep back to a tow rig. It was also here where the major carnage of the weekend occurred. A well-built vintage Bronco became badly wedged at the first obstacle. The extraction was an ugly affair, and when it was pulled back out, only three tires remained intact. What followed was the complicated task of turning it around and towing it off the trail.
Although one of the Toyotas rolled onto its roof while trying to drive the last steep waterfall on Axle Alley, it was quickly righted. As the day wore on, some rigs were disabled, or only finished a portion of the trail list. The trail camaraderie made for a great day and the weather was awesome, but that piece of it would change drastically on Sunday.
The rain started early in the morning and came and went, as a fall storm steered its way back and forth across the area. Six rigs arrived for another day of marathon wheeling and not a single one was weatherproof. The group decided to change trail plans and headed straight for Anaconda, a narrow rock wash that climbs quite a distance from start to finish. The waterfall faces on this trail are challenging when dry, but the saturated terrain made them even more difficult and slick. Everyone was forced to pull a cable at some point on this trail. While a few needed the winch to pull up a waterfall, others needed it to gain forward traction when all four tires were spinning against the wet rock.
Once the group topped Anaconda, it followed the loop trail back down and made an easy run through Terminator, complete with a burst of marble-sized hail falling from the sky. Not to be deterred by the foul weather, this group attacked Twisted and Collateral Damage, with both trails commanding serious equipment and driving skill. The rigs found themselves sloshing through water holes several feet deep, but managed to complete the trails without major incident.
Of the 10 teams that started on Saturday, only three completed all the trails. In 2003, a team from the Built to Grind Rockcrawlers took home the honor for Fastest Completion of all the trails. For 2004, Scott Maiden and Jack Adams, from the same club, completed the Saturday run with the quickest time. With the inclement weather on Sunday, the plan turned into just having fun and getting all six surviving rigs through as a group. Overall, the gathering was a great time and challenge for all.