Memorial Day kicks off the wheeling season for much of the country, and Colorado is no exception. Just after Memorial Day each year the Grand Mesa Jeep Club (GMJC) hosts Rock Junction. Originally the event was a hardcore rockcrawling gathering that ran trails in Montrose, Moab, and Rangley, all within easy driving distance of Grand Junction, which serves as the base of operations for Rock Junction. Over the years the event has evolved to be more inclusive, with scenic trail rides for stock vehicles and the addition of the Rocky Mountain Off Road Expo. And for the second year, GMJC led the multiday Rock Junction Rendevous Overlanding Trip.
The growth has not diluted the spirit of Rock Junction, as the Grand Mesa Jeep Club is one of the most active 4x4 clubs in the country. In addition to hosting Rock Junction the club has worked with the local BLM office to open new trails and to maintain existing trails to keep them open. The effort hasn’t been trivial, but the club’s success serves as a road map for other groups around the country looking to achieve the same results.
Ryan Boudreau sharing driving duties on the trail with his wife, Hannah, while their dogs Snickers and Tucker rode in the back. The Jeep has a custom front axle that uses a Spider9 housing with Dana 60 knuckles. The third member, 5.13 gears, Grizzly Locker, chromoly axleshafts, and 35-spline locking hubs are all from Yukon Gear & Axle.
This year we ran Billings Canyon and took backroads through the Colorado National Monument and Glade Park. Billings is an example of the club’s work with the BLM and offers world-class rockcrawling within minutes of Grand Junction. The canyon is located within the Bangs Canyon Recreation Area, which is successfully shared with mountain bikers and hikers. The entire event is permitted by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, further strengthening the relationship between these organizations and the GMJC and opening up opportunities for even more trails in the future.
Whether you are a new wheeler looking to hit harder trails or have a growing family and have replaced your rockcrawling buggy with a four door JK, Rock Junction has something for everyone.
Crawlertech built the front and rear four-link suspension on Luke Starcevich’s 1988 YJ. It uses 2 1/2-inch, 14-inch-travel King coilovers in front and TJ coils with 16-inch-travel Fox shocks out back. The Jeep is powered by a 5.9L Magnum engine. There isn’t much left from the original Wrangler but the body.
Jeff Bates was our trail leader on Billings Canyon in his unique Willys buggy. He’s a pillar of the off-road community in Grand Junction and beyond, dedicating countless hours to land uses causes. Bates also builds some pretty cool art at Bonehead Customz.
Stephen Watson from Offroad Design joined us at Rock Junction in his K5 buggy, Wally. Stephen’s son, Riley, drove the bulk of the trail and demonstrated that driving skill is indeed genetic. Stephen also had a booth at the Rocky Mountain Off Road Expo with ORD’s latest products, including a Magnum underdrive mated to an SCS transfer case.
As the name implies, Billings Canyon is in the bottom of a canyon. There are posts and cables along the sides of the canyon to keep people from building bypasses around the trail. You start at the bottom and climb in elevation, with numerous ledges and obstacles along the way.
Christina Sullivan definitely had the prettiest vehicle in Billings Canyon, but she didn’t let that stop her from taking all of the hard lines. The JK is a rolling billboard for her company, Lyft Offroad, and is outfitted with many of the products and brands that the shop carries.
Matt Peterson of Rock Ware in Colorado Springs was back at Rock Junction this year piloting the family’s two-seat buggy, while his son Jack drove his red single-seat buggy through Billings Canyon.
While it looks like a Scrambler, Tim Jones’ Jeep is actually a stretched CJ-7 that he built with the help of Jason Blethower and Tim Antonio. Running gear consists of a 5.3L engine, 700R4 transmission, and a Stak Dana 300 with LoMax 4:1 gears.
Terry Mode has one of the baddest LJs we’ve ever seen. He and Ryan Boudreau run LJ Adventures. Mode’s personal ride has a custom suspension from Advance Suspension Design in Twin Falls, Idaho, and is super-low slung but still fits 42-inch Goodyear MT/Rs on TrailReady beadlocks.
Wally Sheata was our tailgunner in Billings Canyon in his narrowed Jeep, which uses a TJ tub and CJ grille and hood. The front Dana 60 and shaved 14-bolt have been filled with 5.13 gears and spools to live with the 40-inch Maxxis Trepador tires.
After Billings Canyon the buggies ran Cut Off, a new trail in the Bangs Canyon Recreation Area. The trail is less than a quarter-mile long but is nonstop boulders. Jeff Bates and the Grand Mesa Jeep Club worked with the BLM for years to get this trail established, and they are working on opening more trails in the future.
Members of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club planned and led a variety of trail rides over three days, ranging from scenic and suitable for a stock Jeep to hardcore, buggy-only runs. Cody Lange was our trail leader in the Dolores Triangle and provided a wonderful driving tour of the area.
It is possible to take backroads all the way from Grand Junction to Moab. While we didn’t go that far, we did pass through the Colorado National Monument and Glade Park on our way to the Dolores Triangle. The views in this is area are absolutely breathtaking.