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Toyotas Take Parker Trails at AZ Rocks 2015

Posted in Events on June 15, 2015
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The Colorado River carves a lazy path between California and Arizona. It offers a contrasting retreat from the sprawling desert throughout this region. It was near here that we ventured to the annual AZ Rocks event, a gathering that is almost exclusively Toyotas but not stubbornly closed to the addition of a few other makes here and there.

With Spring Break hopping in Lake Havasu about 40 miles north, the attendees at AZ Rocks were more focused on exploring and crawling rocky canyons than cruising London Bridge. Parker is a unique riverside town in Arizona. It is a popular desert race locale and holds 150 years of history in and around old mining locations. The geology of this region is fascinating. The rocks and canyons range in color from tan to green to dark red.

This was the 15th year for AZ Rocks and the second year it has been based in Parker. Most participants camped at the La Paz County Campground, where tent camping and RV spaces are available. Many of the trails are no more than a handful of miles from here.

Another local site besides the wheeling trails is the Desert Bar, in an old mining camp a few miles off the highway. Once a small, solitary structure, it has grown in size but still remains off the civilization grid in the remote desert.

If you missed the event this year, you may want to meet up with fellow Toyota fans next year. You can find more information about the event in the forums at

Justin Waters' dad was working on Justin's 4Runner back home, so Justin had the chance to borrow his dad’s truck. The flatbed rig is simple and effective. A 22RE engine powers through an A340 auto transmission with dual transfer cases. The 37-inch BFGs help the lightweight rig climb well.

Hats off to members of the the Parker 4 Wheelers who took time to lead us on some of the trails during the event. They know these routes backwards and forwards, and their help was much appreciated. Mike Reeves leads us in his Toyota based buggy down into a canyon at the start of the True Grit trail. The Parker 4 Wheelers hold an annual Poker Run & Desert Splash event in this area.

Karlton Durkee descends a steep drop on President's Choice Trail. His 2001 Tacoma runs the stock V-6/auto drivetrain but turns 37-inch Goodyear MTRs. A solid axle has been swapped in up front and equipped with a Lock-Right. In the rear, a Toyota electric locker helps with traction. Both axles are geared with 4.88:1 cogs.

Jamie Jackson guides his Simple Green buggy up True Grit Trail. This route offers some good boulder crawling along with a couple of waterfall climbs.

Nate Wass has a unique Taco. He drove about 15 hours from Colorado to wheel the Parker trails in his 2000 Xtra Cab body sitting on a standard cab frame. He bobbed and shortened the bed to minimize the body exposure on this coiled and linked rockcrawler, which runs built Diamond axles.

We had the pleasure to wheel with Marlin and Christine Czajkowski of Marlin Crawler fame. They crawl trails in their trusty first-generation truck with uberlow gearing. Who can argue with a rig and a driver who just plain gets it done with ease?

Eric Mollencopf is a longtime AZ Rocks attendee and one of the event's tireless organizers. His wheeling weapon of choice is his built 1998 Tacoma. It has a full-width Dana 60 solid axle swap and a 14-bolt rear axle to turn 40-inch Goodyear MTRs, with a Marlin Crawler crawl box added to the Tacoma transfer case.

The awesome spring weather left us free to explore the Parker canyons. The terrain here varies from rolling desert hills to rocky slot canyons. One can run trails here for quite a few days and not have to repeat the same one.

George Otwell ran some of the harder trails in his 2001 IFS Taco. We were impressed with his driving and the capability of his MCM long-travel front suspension. It was set up with ADS coilovers, and the rear was modified with 3-inch All Pro leaf packs and ADS nitrogen bumpstops. With the 3.4L V-6 and auto tranny combined with 4.7:1 and 2.28:1 Marlin low-range hardware, this IFS truck could crawl surprisingly well on 38-inch Super Swampers.

John Dicus and Brian Calhoun took some optional lines on President's Choice Trail. They took turns wheeling Calhoun’s truck, which had just been refreshed after competing in the KOH Everyman Challenge. These guys were out wheeling and working the truck hard again.

On Friday we crossed the river into California and ran Longo's Curse. Jeff Weldon also had a well-built first-generation Tacoma with a long-travel kit. His 1999 IFS truck uses a Total Chaos kit and Fox coilovers with Tundra axleshafts to widen the front track by about 7 inches. He's running 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains to work his way through this tight notch.

The tall obstacle on President's Choice is called the Launch Pad. It's a steep ascent, but traction is fairly solid. The bypass to the side doesn't look much easier, a hill just about as steep but strewn with loose rock and gravel.

Brian Ellinger of Front Range Off Road tried an alternative line near the Launch Pad in his Formula Toyota buggy. The line was steep and tall. Crawling was not really an option, so Ellinger made a number of attempts massaging the skinny pedal.

Ellinger would eventually grenade the rear ring gear and then tumble to the bottom of the fall. He took it all in stride and exited the rig with a big smile on his face.

This is mining country, and there are numerous remnants from past days. This area was known for copper, silver, and some gold mining from as far back as the 1860s. Some claims are still active today. We ran across this old building full of sorted dig samples.

We had a small group of Toyota buggies at the event. They tried their best to seek out the gnarly rock slots and more impossible lines. The event is relatively informal, and drivers gather each morning to meet up and hit the trails. The Parker area provides trails ranging from easy dirt roads to relatively hardcore canyons and obstacles. There's something to suit every rig and driver.

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