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The Painted Trails of Parker - AZ Rocks 2014

Posted in Events on September 12, 2014
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For the last dozen years or so, Toyota enthusiasts from Arizona and surrounding southwestern states have gathered every spring for an event known as AZ Rocks. It’s a three-day event of crawling and scenic runs somewhere in the Arizona desert. This year the event was held near the Colorado River city of Parker.

Unlike past events, which were held in a fairly remote desert, more convenient camping accommodations were made at the La Paz County Park. This base camp was great as it was only a few miles from most of the trails in the area. Tent camping and RV spaces were available in a large group campground on-site.

An area near the trails called Cienega Springs has some storied mining history. Off the Nellie Mine Road, prospectors searched for copper, gold, and silver as far back as 1860. Ore production began here about 1870 and continued on and off into the 1970s. For those who wish to explore, there are some mine shafts and old remains scattered here.

Dave Jewell’s rig was originally built using a 1943 Ford GPW body combined with a first-generation Toyota truck as a base, with leaf springs and Toyota axles. Since then, he’s tackled tougher trails and increased both tire size and axle beef. Now, 1-ton axles turn 43-inch Super Swamper SX meats. He was easily able to tackle the tougher trails and negotiate his way through some of the tighter squeezes.

The area around Parker is a popular ’wheeling destination, and many of the trails here can be credited to the local Parker 4 Wheelers club. They hold their Hardcore Poker Run and annual Desert Splash events here. We tackled a good handful of trails over the three day event, crawling into narrow slot canyons and following desert washes in this multi-hued landscape. Saturday, after a good morning on the trails, the group converged on the Desert Bar for lunch.

Positioned about four miles down a dirt road off the highway, the Desert Bar once began as a solitary little structure alone in the desert. Now, the Nellie E Saloon resides on the site of an old mining camp. It’s a much bigger destination than it once was, but a great place to stop on weekends, fall through spring, to grab some grub and a couple of cold drinks while you take a respite from your exploring in the desert.

If you’re looking for a fun crew of Toyota enthusiasts to join for some good trail crawling and camaraderie, just point your browser to the forums at

This is a steep, optional climb on President’s Choice. Jamie Jackson tries idling up the face in his Simple Green buggy. Too much throttle on this stepped obstacle can start your rig hopping and sliding. We had one 4Runner barrel roll off the face the weekend we were there. Fortunately, no one was injured and the truck remained driveable.
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This obstacle is aptly named The Launch Pad. It’s a steep waterfall climb up a solid rock face. A line to the left is slightly less steep, but tends to cause the front tires to drift further left when the back tires are trying to climb. A line to the right offers better traction, but some suspension unloading may cause you to lift the front passenger tire as you crawl to the top. Mike Berg shows how it’s done.
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