The red rocks were pretty much like Moab with plenty of verticals yet good traction. Our '97 TJ was getting a good grip on the sandstone as we eased up a sweet technical obstacle on the Faultline Trail when it dawned on Stacie and me - this place ROCKS and might even rival Moab in some ways!
We were representing BlueRibbon Coalition at the 3rd annual Southwest Crawlfest, put on by Rockaholics Anonymous of St. George, Utah. Conducted on BLM and Utah State Park lands, Crawlfest turned out to be a righteous treat for a lot of experienced 'wheelers.
Almost 320 registered vehicles attended the event, which offered 11 different trails, ranging from moderate to extreme levels. "We increased over a hundred registrations from last year," said Steve Crabtree, event organizer. "Our donations to land use organizations, and in particular our partnership with BlueRibbon Coalition, made a huge difference in our incredible attendance this year," Steve added.
George Richardson, fellow event chair from the famous Hump 'N Bump, said, "The incredible scenery combined with the phenomenal trails along with their contributions to the right causes will make Southwest Crawlfest a long-standing successful event."
Most of the trails were in Sand Hollow State Park and meandered around in the rim rocks of Navajo sandstone, with layered steps and vertical climbs, some perched precariously over long drops to the valley floor below. There were graded gravel sight-seeing roads to boulder-filled, near impassable obstacles. But for the most part, there was little danger to participants even if a rollover occurred.
Rick Russell, a noted outdoorsman and four-wheeler, attended Crawlfest and had this to say: "The outstanding challenging terrain and variety of obstacles made this a fun event for all levels of drivers. And, Crawlfest put on some dang good chow."
The event started Friday morning with registrations, drivers meeting, and initial vendor setup time. Steve gave an overall briefing to start things off and thanked the many sponsors who made the event possible. Stephen Wade Chrysler Jeep Dodge was the title sponsor with dozens of other businesses and off-road industries supporting the event and what it stands for.
Steve explained how Crawlfest was a two-day, fullsize 4x4 gathering, trail ride, and clean up, and made sure we all had our trash bags. All participants were instructed to pick up trash and ensure we left the trails better than we found them. Stacie and I can attest to the fact that most all the trails and heavily used areas were very clean to begin with. We were very pleased to see how trail users were being good stewards of this great part of America.
Using the Washington County Fairgrounds just outside St. George, there was plenty of room for RVs and trail lineups. The vendor show and event activity hub was inside one of the big fair buildings so everything was conducted in comfortable surroundings. Several participants set up camp in RVs right there in the fairgrounds parking lot, while others took advantage of event discounts in local hotels. There was something for everyone.
Day two found us back up in Sand Hollow area, as well as nearly lost in some amazing sand dunes. We had plenty of fun finding our way through the beautiful reddish dunes. The four-wheeling was diversified and most scenic. Everywhere we turned there were huge eroded bluffs, rim rock walls, and gorgeous views while we explored the high desert terrain.
Trails were rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being "let the carnage begin." A 7-rated trail was a lot of fun for us. The description read, "Trail consists of rock and sand and considerable slick rock with many steps exceeding 24 inches. Steep inclines and declines are prevalent. Enhanced off-road equipment is required, including locking devices (front and rear), tall tires, maximum vehicle ground clearance, and tow hooks. A winch is desirable. Excellent driving skills are required. Vehicle mechanical or body damage is likely. Roll over possibilities exist."
We found the "body damage" was not really likely as most hard stuff had good bypasses, so the 7-rated trails were a blast. We were able to seriously challenge the "Seein' Red" trail. Other trail names included: The Maze, Sliplock Gulch, Honeymoon Trail, East Rim, Renegade, and Milt's Mile.
Saturday night was the big banquet, vendor show, and raffle in the big fairgrounds building, with a sound system, nice bathrooms, and plenty of tables and chairs. Rick Russell and I were the featured dinner speakers. I spoke of freedom and our heritage in America of exploring our backcountry and being able to do things like four-wheeling with our families. Rick added his own perspective and how clubs need to do more to support local efforts and bring kids into our sport with cleanups and education.
Southwest Crawlfest promotes land use issues and organizations. Proceeds from the $30,000 of off-road raffle prizes go to support groups like BlueRibbon Coalition, Canaan Mountain Legal Defense Fund, Red Rock 4Wheelers Mud Fund, Tread Lightly, United Four Wheel Drive Association, Utah 4 Wheel Drive Association, and Utah Shared Access Alliance.
Steve Crabtree pointed out that they have big plans for 2011. "We plan to expand our event a lot next year," he said, "with the addition of another five or six trails and perhaps another full day of wheeling. We also want to add a lot more vendor showcase time, so 2011 is going to be one heck of a 'wheeling event!"
Vendors were happy with this 3rd annual event and were already anticipating next year. Eric Lichtbach from Olympic4x4 Products said, "Crawlfest has grown quickly and offers a lot of opportunities for vendors in our business. We were able to get out and wheel while showing off our great line of bumpers, racks, and accessories."
Rob Graft from Nemesis Industries added praise to the event. "We're a fairly new company but growing fast, and this event was perfect exposure for our off-road products. We started by supporting BlueRibbon Coalition in their Christmas Auction, and now we plan to be staunch supporters of keeping our trails open wherever we can."
About The Author
Del Albright is an internationally published columnist and freelance photojournalist with 45 years of outdoor recreation experience and nearly 30 years as a recreation advocate for responsible access. He has been published in over 600 websites, newsletters, magazines and periodicals. For more information, check out www.delalbright.com