Step By Step
Defying gravity is standard procedure on the Hammers. In many spots the driver of this Cherokee sees nothing but hood, as the trail has sections that are nearly vertical. We are seeing more bead locks every time we hit the trail, and colored rings can make all the difference when rockcrawling. On Sledgehammer pink ones seem to work best.
Its never been a question of whether or not fullsize trucks can run Sledgehammerits a question of how much of their body theyll leave behind. To get an idea of how tight these trails are, check out Guide to the Hammers (Mar. 99) to see what the body of this Blazer looked like last year.
Dana 60 front axles are worth their weight in gold when you want to play on the rocks with V-8 power. Even dressed in camouflage this Wrangler was hard to miss. Beyond the paint, the military theme continued with surplus Hummer wheels shod with not-yet-NATO-approved Super Swampers.
Even with front and rear lockers your truck will only have two-wheel drive in an off-camber situation like this. There must be 1,000 ways to get stuck on the trail, and here the guys make sure the body wont get torn off when they start winching.
Vegas Valley 4-Wheelers showed up for the rock party and brought along this 4x4 video camera cleverly disguised as a Wrangler. Home videos are always more exciting when there is an aired-down mud tire in every frame.
Even with the ground clearance of a front Ford 9-inch, this rock was still too big to straddle. On the Hammers the tight canyon walls often require the driver to back up and make multipoint turns to get the line they want. You earn every inch of progress on these trails.
Jeeps arent the only toys that can fold down the windshield and play at Johnson Valley. This clean FJ-40 worked so well they didnt even pull the winch cover off for the entire 1.2-mile run.
Sledgehammer is a great place to show off how prepared you are. The whine of air tools and the pounding hammers could be heard echoing through the canyon when the spring pack slid off the axle pad on this Cherokee. Surprises like this can turn a trail into a parking lot if you are not equipped to handle it.
Hard core in every way, rockcrawlers are a funny breed and they will bare any burden to do what they love. Accommodations for people without motorhomes are still a little lacking in the Means Dry Lake bed. A sleeping bag on the hood makes for a pleasant nights sleep, and it keeps the snakes from crawling into bed with you.
Honey, I am going camping with the guys for the weekend. Can I borrow your Cherokee? Rock rash is contagious on these trails and we were surprised to see this white Cherokee in such good shape on the second half of Sledgehammer.
Humans are the only species twisted enough to travel out into the desert in search of fun. Over the years some species have evolved to the point where they can laugh at these harsh desert conditions. They have met the challenges and identified their weakness. When day-to-day life has become too easy, we too venture into the wastelands to find enjoyment and excitement. Historically, deserts have meant death and destruction to all those who dare to challenge such a harsh environment. But for us it means shredding sheetmetal, snapping drivetrain parts, and if youre really unlucky, a rollover.
The Victor Valley 4 Wheelers know how to throw a party, and they turned the Johnson Valley OHV area into their Fun in the Desert event for the ninth year in a row. This dry lakebed fills with trucks of all kinds for a Columbus Day weekend event filled with rocks, dunes, and even night runs!
Home of the HammersSledge, Jack, and Clawas well as Hells Gate, Outer Limits, Wrecking Ball, and Aftershock, the trails in Johnson Valley are rated by difficulty (all trails are 4-plus) as well as how much body damage you should expect. Vehicles with wheelbases under 100 inches dominate the tight trails. Fullsize trucks are in for a squeeze play more than a trail ride, but a few experienced drivers still bring them out.
These are not trails for the faint of heart or the ill prepared. Lockers front and rear with at least 33-inch tires are required, and 35s seem to be typical. Spare axleshafts and U-joints are typically carried on the trail, and even complete driveshaft assemblies are good to have. Rocks love to grab at four-wheel-drive parts, so if you cant protect it, be prepared to fix it! Our trucks are built and often fail, only to evolve and return next year with that Dana 60, lower gears, or bigger tires that we need to drive the trails we want to. The Victor Valley 4 Wheelers understand this evolutionary process and they look forward to your joining them next year. If you think you are up to it, contact them at Victor Valley 4 Wheelers, Dept. 4WOR, P.O. Box 1733, Hesperia, CA 92345-1733, www.vv4wheelers.com.