A Living Tribute To A Departed Friend
It happened way too fast. Steve Riffel was out enjoying Johnson Valley's Fissure Mountain Trail in his Jeep with a few friends. Steve, driving solo, attempted a low-speed descent over a ledge. Vehicle weight shifted suddenly, and tragically. The Jeep rolled over, and Steve died of his injuries. Life is short, and it is fragile.
Steve is described as "a fun-loving guy who loved the outdoors, a straight shooter who never complained. [He was] self-sufficient, good with pranks, and laid back. Steve wasn't bothered who went or where we went. Hardcore or a picnic run, it was all the same to him. 'Just get out of Dodge,' he would say."
A group of Steve's friends came to his funeral dressed in black shirts and were subsequently dubbed the "Men in Black." The MIB members' common thread was a love of off-roading, and they wanted to make sure Steve's memory would not fade with his passing. Brian (who requested last names not be used in this story) spearheaded not one but two projects in Steve's memory.
The first project was to erect a monument on the Fissure Mountain Trail at the site of the accident. Off-Road introduced readers to this monument while covering an All-Pro Off-Road trail run (see "Johnson Valley Unhammered," July '06). The MIB hauled and mixed 2,800 pounds of concrete on location to build the monument, which was adorned with a plaque bearing Steve's name. The monument was a fitting tribute and was completed with determination, time, gasoline, and muscle power.
If the monument was a tough project, building the Riffel Canyon Trail can only be described as gargantuan. Rising steeply from the valley that adjoins Soggy Dry Lake, Riffel Canyon's obstacles rank right in line with other hardcore rockcrawling trails in the area. If you've ever run Wrecking Ball, you'd do well to get yourself and your rig down to Riffel Canyon for a test of mettle.