High (And Low) Adventures At The Arizona State Jamboree
I found myself at the Arizona State Association Jamboree in my gnarly Jeep with a 4-inch lift, 33-inch tires, lockers, low gears, and a V-8. I thought I had it made ... until I saw the others. One look around told me that I was in trouble. It seemed as if everybody's rigs towered above mine, especially when they got up on the suspension testing ramp. I drove up on the ramp as far as my wheelbase, but these creations just kept going well past where I'd been. I knew I was in trouble; I had signed up for nothing but the tough trails. Good grief, where had I been all those years?
The first day we did a trail called Lower Woodpecker. This is a new section of the Woodpecker, which I had read of in magazines before coming to the Jamboree. Wouldn't you think that after dropping into the wash, the trip leader would keep going down the wash? Nope. Good ol' Ed Melendy headed for the biggest rocks he could find. His spring-over-axle CJ-5 had clearance I could only dream of, but surprisingly I tackled the paths over these rocks and lived to tell about it. Further down, there wasn't an easier route. For a short stretch drivers either had to take the big boulders on the left, or an off-camber steep climb on the right.
I attempted the steep right climb. Simply approaching it puts you over some good-sized boulders and into a little hole at the bottom. The climb looked like a big slab. Easy, huh? Not so. Just over the top of the slab was a huge hole to the left. If I fell in, my Jeep would tumble over and fall about 5 feet down. I couldn't go that way even though it looked easy. No, I had to go a little to the right, straddle a groove in the rock, off-camber on the rock face, tilted towards the direction necessary to roll off the rock. I put the Jeep's front end up, let 'er crawl just a little over idle and aimed at the wall in front of me at the top of the mound. The tires bit, grabbed, and the Jeep crawled, easily cutting the quick left turn to avoid the wall at the top.
The next day we did a new trail in the area called Martinez Canyon. The country around it is pretty dramatic, with rocky, craggy peaks jutting out of a hilly up-and- down Sonoran desert with saguaro, palo verde, and mesquite everywhere. Entering Martinez Canyon certainly reminds you that it is a canyon, as you are surrounded by steep vertical walls on either side. Yet this is a green, tree-covered cove in the middle of a low desert. At the entrance are some cabins that have been occupied within the last several years by people with a mining claim.
This trail became confusing for me, because I saw perfectly good road on my left, but vehicles went down the dry wash on my right. Walking down the wash, I soon realized that this was the boulder-seeking crowd. It's not enough to just get somewhere-they had to do it by getting over the biggest boulders possible. I suppose it keeps the springs supple and shocks lubricated. No doubt that's how they were able to go up so high on that ramp. I liked the road though. It gave me a chance to be a spectator without any undue strain on my vehicle (I go into distant backcountry alone and have to depend on this thing to get me out).
The fun in the rocks took place up and down the canyon. Meanwhile, I found a pleasant, but definitely four-wheel-drive route around everything. Further up the canyon was the ruin of an old mill. Around the area of the mill all of the vehicles were forced to participate in the rock confrontation. I put my Jeep in low and idled it over the rocks. Occasionally someone picked a line that was not so good, like one guy who had, as I did, a Dana 300 transfer case. One problem with this otherwise excellent transfer case is the angle it hangs off of the transmission. This costs a bit of ground clearance. Was that "guy" me, you ask? Perish the thought! Shame on you. It doesn't matter; one of these days I'll fix it (maybe with an Advance Adapters Atlas)