I guess we're partly to blame. For nearly a decade, we've been extolling the virtues of the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari, both as a killer wheeling event and as a can't-miss, action-packed spectacle. And the word is definitely out. Officially the largest off-road event in the world, the week preceding Easter sees the little town of Moab, Utah, fill to capacity with wheelers from all over the world. Hotels and campgrounds are booked months in advance, and the trails get crowded. It's the Cannes Film Festival of the off-road crowd. Only where they've got megalomaniacs hocking movies and self-promoting, we've got a locked and low-ranged party on the trail.
There are a number of dangers converging on this event that threaten to - if not shut it down - increase the amount of rules and regulations. For starters, property in the backcountry surrounding the town of Moab is actually becoming valuable. Each year, we see new plots scooped up, with closure signs where there was once nothing but open trail. But hey, it's a capitalist market. Whaddayagonnado?
Then, there's the spring-break contingent. College kids who don't have the coin to go get stupid in Jamaica or Cabo come in their Hondas and Hyundais to hang out at the more popular obstacles. They often get drunk, get rowdy, and sometimes get arrested, leaving a river of trash in their wake. Now, the more popular obstacles like Potato Salad Hill are closed at sunset by The Man and checkpoints are set up to check for drunk drivers and vehicular infractions.
And mostly, there's the overabundance of enthusiasts just looking for a good time out on the trails. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers club does an extraordinary job of hosting the world's biggest off-road event, but the increased traffic is making it harder and harder for official club runs to coexist on the same trail with unofficial runs. While normally not a problem, it has ruffled the feathers of a few participants who paid fees and signed up for official runs, only to sit behind the ubiquitous broken-down jalopy all day that cut into the line. It's a problem that moved the club to petition for certain trail closures during official club trail runs.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Sure, the Utah Highway Patrol is in full force, along with the local Sheriff's Department. Sure, there's a lot of people in the town and on the trail. And sure, you've got to pay an access fee or buy a day pass to enter some off-road areas. But the Moab Easter Jeep Safari still offers it all. You can still get a table at a restaurant with a shorter wait than on a Wednesday in Los Angeles. There's a whole rolling car show in town with tons of 4x4 eye candy to gawk at. And there's hands-down some of the best wheeling in the world to be had, with incredible scenery and challenging terrain.
If you do wind up going, make sure your rig is street legal if you plan on driving it on the roads between trails. If it isn't, throw it on the trailer. There are a few organized trash pickups at the more popular obstacles like Potato Salad Hill. If you can't get hooked up with an organized trash pickup, just take a few hours with your buds and fill a few bags. Finally, to learn more about what you can do to help keep the Moab trails open and accessible, or for more info on next year's event, contact the Red Rock 4-Wheelers at 435/259-7625, www.rr4w.com. It's still a can't-miss event. Let's keep it that way.