For over a decade, the Chile Challenge in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has maintained a reputation for offering some of the hardest wheeling in the country. And for nearly as long, the Las Cruces 4WD Club has been fighting land closures in the Robledo Mountains, where the event is held. In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management played a much larger role in the event, with BLM employees riding along on the trails and enforcing restrictions on tow rigs parked at the trailhead. The theory was that the tow rigs attracted locals who not only come out to watch, but also cause environmental damage since they are not as informed about land use issues as most Jeepers. With the added restrictions piled on top of an already weak economy, participation was down for this year's Chile Challenge.
The silver lining? First was the opportunity to introduce BLM employees to our hobby and show them that we are not a bunch of maniacs hell-bent on eliminating the desert tortoise. There are a number of BLM employees in Las Cruces who now have a more favorable view of rockcrawling as a direct result of Chile Challenge. Also, while buggy owners were scrambling to add turn signals and insurance to their tube creations, Jeep owners who showed up to Chile Challenge had their pick of trails to run. Speaking of scrambling, we saw at least a dozen clean Scramblers in Las Cruces, more than we have seen at any event outside of organized Scrambler rallies. It makes perfect sense too, since their longer wheelbase is a benefit on the steep climbs that Las Cruces is known for. We also saw many CJs, YJs, and TJs that originally had short wheelbases but were stretched in the rear. Despite the lack of fender coverage, the owners of these Jeeps were not harassed by local law enforcement, so don't be afraid to bring your Jeep out to next year's Chile Challenge. Based on the results of past years, we can promise you that the trip will be worth it. Go to chilechallenge.org for more information about the annual event.