The morning began with a 6 o’clock wake-up call and the obligatory stop to stock up on last-minute camping supplies. A few hours and a few hundred miles down the road from Los Angeles, Red Earth Casino came into view and with it over 25 4Runners including everything from lifted first-gens to stock fifth-gens.
Airing everyone down was the first order of the day before driving straight into the dirt from the casino parking lot. After a rather bumpy road parallel to the highway, we entered Coral Wash and quickly came to one of the mud arches. Carefully guiding our loaded trucks through the arch was the first challenge of many for the day to come.
A little play in the Truckhaven OHV area led to the first and only recovery effort of the day. A third-gen 4Runner bit off a little more than it could handle and got bogged down trying to climb a hill after sliding a little too far left of the optimal line. Several trucks went around the “easy” road to the top and attached a winch line, which was used to carefully reposition the truck. Very slowly backing down became the best and most successful option.
Pushing onward a few of us drove up Black Canyon until realizing it was much too small to get everyone through, forcing us to back out over 24-inch ledges through a canyon not much wider than our trucks around tight corners. A couple of bumper touches later and we were all out. Forging onward through the ever-changing routes in and out of washes we made a tight squeeze over a steep hill and found ourselves in Gray Wash.
Following this wash we eventually came to a “trail closed” sign due to the recent heavy rains and retreated back out Gray Wash to the highway.
Taking the highway to Cougar Canyon we hit the dirt once again. Crossing a shallow creek and navigating a treacherous rocky climb were highlights of the trail. That eventually led to a nice, fast sandy section to Sheep Canyon campground where we pitched our tents, cooked tri-tip and tacos, and made a community campfire for the night. We laughed and partied in equal measure.
Day 2 began with the smell of bacon wafting across the campground as we packed our tents and the sunrise lit the rocky hills surrounding our camp. Driving out of Sheep Canyon back down the rock scramble and creek crossing led us back to the pavement and over to the metal sculptures of Borrego Springs. A quick photo opportunity ensued.
After some of us with smaller tanks filled up, we drove to Fish Creek and ate some lunch while nestled between towering canyon walls upon arrival. Making our way to Sandstone Canyon led us through winding canyon after canyon, playing in the mud on our way. Soon after the entrance to the canyon a tricky obstacle came into view. Some careful rock stacking later and all but three of us made it through the squeeze. Continuing up past the obstacle and deeper into the slot canyon we came upon the next collapse and two of our 4Runners made it through cleanly before we decided to turn around and head back out the way we came.
Next up on our run we took a turn up another slot canyon and progressed over numerous rocky sections until it became too narrow for some of the trucks, so we once again were forced to turn around and retreat back down Fish Canyon racing the sunset. From there, after some quick recoveries from getting high centered on rocks, the group split two different ways. Half headed all the way out Fish Creek and the other half headed up the Diablo Drop Off and out. The first half had an easy drive out while the other encountered some extremely deep mud and had to fight their way through it to escape the canyon and get back to pavement.
Overall, it was a successful 4Runner outing with few rescues and no casualties, except for a few bumpers. These highly trail-capable trucks were put through their paces over varied terrain and breath-taking scenery; it was a perfect weekend outing for all.