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Fullsize Invasion at the 2012 Easter Jeep Safari

Posted in Events on September 1, 2012
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Photographers: Adam Blattenberg

Every year we go to Moab for the annual Easter Jeep Safari (or EJS, as we like to call it). Despite the name, the “Jeep” Safari has been a gathering of wheelers of every shape and size for decades.

Sure it is mostly Jeeps, but we have found feature trucks in Moab like Mopar’s Ram Runner (on the cover of our August ‘10 issue) and Rob Knoell’s Ram Charger (on the cover of our December ’11 issue). In the last few years, we have noticed a marked decline in fullsize vehicles attending EJS. In fact, we have noticed less Jeeps too…unless those Jeeps are new four door JKs. For better or worse, the JK has taken over Easter Jeep Safari. We can see why they are so popular: They are almost as long and wide as a fullsize truck (and as heavy)! But if you are going to wheel something that big, shouldn’t it have a V-8 under the hood and some heavy-duty running gear?

Moab offers something for everyone, from the slickrock trails to the sand dunes to the Colorado River. There are even petroglyphs right on Potash Road on the way to Poison Spyder Mesa. Fill the bed of your fullsize truck up with your camping gear and mountain bike and come join us for Easter next year.
Shawn Wagner joined us for a day of crawling, but with a full complement of Carli suspension components his Dodge Ram is capable of hauling too. The truck is low slung and understated, although the Addictive Desert Designs front bumper and huge LED light bar definitely aren’t stock.

OFF-ROAD Editor Jerrod Jones and John Cappa of Four Wheeler wanted some diversity at EJS. And so the Fullsize Invasion was born.

Running a magazine gives you certain perks that the average guy doesn’t have. We aren’t referring to the booth babes or getting access to cutting-edge products before they hit the market (well… at least we aren’t referring to those right now). We are talking about having a voice to create and promote our own event. We started putting announcements in the magazine and on to drum up some interest in the month prior to Easter.

Stephen Watson of Off Road Design was our trail leader for the day. He did an excellent time keeping the group together and moving all day long. His ’99 GMC K2500 has a big block, ORD Doubler 203/205 transfer cases, and an ORD solid axle swap with simple leaf springs at all four corners. The bang-for-the-buck offered by this truck is hard to beat.

As the momentum began to build and more and more people started committing, we realized we would need some help to pull this off. Stephen Watson of Off Road Design was the natural choice. Off Road Design makes all sorts of parts for fullsize trucks, including transfer case adapters, suspension, steering components, and solid axle swaps—no one is more committed to fullsize trucks than Watson. He also lives relatively close to Moab in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and knows all of the red rock trails like the back of his hand.

He gladly offered to serve as trail leader on Poison Spyder Mesa—our chosen trail for the inaugural Fullsize Invasion. Poison Spyder Mesa was chosen for several reasons: It is close to town, there are bypasses around many of the more challenging obstacles (for newbies only, of course), and there is even some sand to play in as well.

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A healthy crowd showed up on Wednesday morning at our meeting point. There were representatives from two magazines, several prominent manufacturers like BDS Suspension and Mickey Thompson tires, and readers with Fords, Chevys, Dodges, and more. The vehicles ran the gamut from full-on show trucks to budget beaters, with some daily drivers and even a 4WD IFS 12-passenger van thrown in the mix. They were all treated with OFF-ROAD and Four Wheeler stickers and our coveted license plates.

We even let a few Jeeps and downsized vehicles join our Invasion, but not without some good-natured hazing on the trail. We had any non-fullsizers wear SCUBA masks and “off-road” snorkels.

The group of 20 vehicles convoyed to the Poison Spyder Mesa trailhead to air down and get started. Conventional thinking tells us that for every additional vehicle a trail run will take twice as long, so we were expecting a long day. Surprisingly we had very few problems, as the long wheelbases and wide track widths of our group made many of the climbs like The Waterfall and Prelaunch Pad relatively easy compared to short wheelbase Jeeps. We have run this trail in the past in a Jeep Wrangler TJ and it can be downright scary when making some of these climbs, since all you see is sky. Add two feet of wheelbase and remove the worry about breaking a Dana 35 rear axle and all of a sudden Poison Spyder Mesa becomes an enjoyable experience.

Former OFF-ROAD publisher Jeff Dahlin did have some fuel-delivery issues early in the day in his project Bronco. So, Mel Wade from Off Road Evolution took one for the team, escorting Dahlin’s Bronco back to town and missing the trail ride. What a guy! But the rest of us finished the trail with no issue we couldn’t handle. One of the perks of traveling with a group of fullsize vehicles is that everyone has plenty of room for tools, spare parts, camping gear, lunch, and more. Even though most did not know each other, everyone was willing to lend a hand whether it was spotting on the trail, offering a bottle of water, or tugging a stuck vehicle. With nearly all of the rigs packing V-8s or diesels under the hood if you did need a tug it wasn’t a problem.

Mark your calendars, because we will be back in Moab next year running more trails with Off Road Design and other fullsizes. If there is enough interest from you, we’ll plan trail rides on more than one day. So, bring your fullsize to Easter Jeep Safari 2013. You never know, you might even end up in these very pages a year from now!

Does it count if it has a fullsize drivetrain? Dan Wright was stationed in Utah in the Air Force and loved it so much he never left. His locked, linked S-10 made short work of everything on Poison Spyder Mesa.
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