"Don't worry, it's gonna feel funny," said Wally Sheata of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club. "Just drive right through it." I was perched on a rocky obstacle, feeling the squeeze of uncertainty, getting enough air to have clouds under my Jeep's driver-side front tire. But, with his encouragement, I drove through it smoothly as the tire came back down off Mount Olympus.
There is just something about a few of the famous trails in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area that do tend to give air on certain obstacles. Something about the geology, the sun in your face, the bedrock volcanic formations, and the alignment of the stars … I don't know. I do know that on a couple trails, Billings Canyon for one, I saw the bottom of my driver-side BFGoodrich KM2.
It was all in good fun, and it happened to me quite a few times on this event in western Colorado called Rock Junction. And I can't wait to go back again.
Rock Junction is three days of trails—all within an hour and a half of Grand Junction, Colorado—with a different trail offering each day, conducted by the Grand Mesa Jeep Club (GMJC). After the trails, there's one day of a swap meet/vendor show, and one day of an optional desert cleanup.
Permitted and supported by the BLM, the club sends out 10 different groups daily, in five different directions each morning. It lets a lot of people still get in a great variety of quality 'wheeling.
Each evening, there is a group barbecue cookout, rotated between houses of various club members who host the party. These evening gatherings were some of the best times, where folks could visit in a casual atmosphere and still kick tires. I put on my land-use hat and spent a little time talking about ways groups like BlueRibbon Coalition (www.sharetrails.org) can help the club with land-use and access issues.
When it comes to the trail ratings, participant groups were divided into similarly built rigs so they could 'wheel with equal success on the chosen trail. It all worked very well. We did trails from scenic Calamity Mesa with incredible views, to Billings Canyon with incredible obstacles, one after another.
After three days of 'wheeling, we all gathered on Saturday at the fairgrounds in Grand Junction for the off-road show, swap meet, and vendor displays. Conducted like a car show–style event plus a huge parts swap meet, it also included a mini rock-crawling course.
The land-use group turnout was impressive. They had booths representing Stay the Trail and Colorado Trail Patrol; several 4x4 clubs like The Wild Bunch, Colorado Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs, and BlueRibbon Coalition; and motorcycle and ATV clubs. I spent quite a bit of time chatting with other land-use types, orchestrating our approach to saving trails and keeping the sports alive and well.
Sunday, we all headed out to the desert outside of Grand Junction for a massive cleanup. Roughly 50 club members and a crew from the BLM showed up in trash-picking-up force. The BLM brought out a couple dumpsters, both of which we filled up in about half a day of organized cleanup. Both the president, Jeff Bates, and Wally told me the trash we gathered up was not left behind by four-wheelers or folks who love the desert. This garbage was left behind by lazy outsiders who don't respect the environment.
Rock Junction had about 65 registered rigs, 120-plus people, and more than 200 rigs at the off-road show, with vendor-day crowd numbers in the thousands. It is certainly an event to put on your bucket list.
Event proceeds get passed around to worthy causes like the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), the Rangely Rock Crawl Park, Area BFE in Moab, Crawling to a Cure, and some local land-use issues. The GMJC is a good outfit, and it shows. The GMJC incorporated in 1962 and was originally started by a few locals who just wanted to make sure they had a place to take their flatties out on the many old mining roads that traverse the tabletop mesas of west slope Colorado. About 50 members strong, they have their own slogan of promoting the three "Rs": Recreation for the family; Respect for other land-users' rights; and Responsibility for protecting the environment.
You can learn more and be part of the next Rock Junction event by visiting www.gmjc.org.