Luxury Exploration In Colorado's Rocky Mountains
A thick layer of snow covered the mesa, obscuring the rocks and mud just below the surface. Momentum was required to retain forward progress, but too much speed would result in broken parts and no escape from the growing storm that was quickly approaching. Climbing out of our camp along the southern edge of the Grand Mesa shelf, the group cleared each of the obstacles, including a 100-yard-long bog, made all the more impressive because the group was not driving highly modified SUVs, but 14,000-pound EarthRoamers.
The 2006 EarthRoamer Rally brought together 11 EarthRoamer XV-LTs (there are over 60 on the road today) from across the country for a Rocky Mountain adventure, which included an overland expedition, remote and beautiful camping spots, and 4WD training. Camp one was located at the terminus of Land's End Road, which climbs to nearly 10,000 feet and is east of Kannah Creek and Grand Junction.
The trail into the camp would be considered moderate under dry conditions, but the recent rains turned the track into a quagmire, made even more challenging by the 8-plus inches of fresh snow on the surface. It was an impressive sight watching the line of EarthRoamers descend the switchbacks and climb over the large volcanic boulders and through the axle-deep mud. With 37-inch Bridgestone all-terrains and a tight limited-slip differential, the XV-LTs made short work of the rocks and mud, allowing access to an incredible campsite over 19 miles deeper into the wilderness than other RVs would even attempt.
Temperatures that night dropped into the teens, but the diesel heaters in the EarthRoamers easily kept the occupants warm. High winds swept across the plateau, drifting the snow up the sides of the trucks, adding to the base of ice and mud on the trail, and freezing the tires to the surface. At dawn, another storm system packed against the mesa and began near whiteout conditions; however, it was time for the expedition to move on.
Moving east along the mesa, the convoy broke through over a foot of fresh snow, and the pace came to a near crawl as visibility degraded to less than 100 feet and ice formed on the wiper blades and mirrors. The XV-LTs HID foglamps provided contrast on the road surface and helped the drivers keep track of the convoy. Reaching Highway 65 marked the end of the first trail, and as we dropped in elevation the surface conditions improved and snow gave way to rain and finally blue skies upon reaching Orchard City.
The scenery in Gunnison National Forest was incredible and made all the more impressive by the vibrant colors of fall. As the rally moved farther east and made good time along Highway 133, our normally aspirated Tacoma struggled to keep pace with the EarthRoamers' big turbodiesels (with 4.88 axle-gearing) in the thin air of McClure Pass. Turning off Hwy. 133 onto FR314 brought us along the Crystal River and camp number two in Bogan Flats.