On a sunny fall Saturday, a group of Jeepers dove into a trio of trails to satiate their appetite for big rocks and tight squeezes. The Table Mesa trails lie just north of Phoenix metro near the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains. This area started to be known as a rockcrawling destination in the late 1990s, and it remains popular to this day.
Like many rockcrawling places in the Sonoran Desert, trails consist largely of sandy washes with boulders and waterfall ledges. Some years back, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created a public use plan for this area, dividing portions up for use by off-roaders, mountain bikers, hikers, and target shooters. Now, there are a handful of legal trails in the area designated by BLM as Technical Vehicle trails. It was here where the group had come to play.
That morning more than a dozen rigs dropped into Collateral Damage, ran down and up Anaconda, and then followed Lower Terminator upstream. The last trail may be about the easiest rock trail in the area, except a fair number of optional obstacles can make it very interesting for even the best built Jeeps. A bunch of skillful drivers with a variety of well-prepared rigs helped make it a great day on the rocks, with only minor vehicle damage and surprisingly no significant mechanical failures.
Collateral Damage was our first trail of the day. After working their way up the initial trail obstacles, Tyler and Nicole Parsons throttled up this steep waterfall in their buggied 2003 Rubicon. Lost Industries built the linked suspension on the Wrangler using 16-inch-travel King coilovers. The rear has been modified with a Motobilt back-half kit.
Thom Campbell is a skilled Jeeper, putting his 2001 Wrangler down a lot of Southwestern trails. Front and rear Dana 44 axles with Detroit Lockers serve him well on this stretched rig. Pit Bull Rockers on TrailReady beadlocks provide traction under a 5.5-inch Rubicon Express long-arm suspension.
Like many southern Arizona rock trails, Collateral Damage meanders its way up a narrow wash that climbs in elevation, increasing the difficulty factor.
James Martinez takes the hard line on the biggest obstacle on Collateral Damage in his 1976 CJ-7. The Jeep has been tubed in the rear and linked with ORI struts. Rear steering on the GM Corporate 14-Bolt axle offers him an advantage on tricky obstacles.
This obstacle on Collateral Damage has a small ledge on the driver side that narrower vehicles may be able to follow, but many wider rigs have to run tires way up on the wall to get through the squeeze. Cliff Nerenburg runs Dana 60 and GM 14-Bolt axles under his Rubicon Express linked 2003 TJ Rubicon.
Neal Hancock had the lone Cherokee on the trail. His chop-top XJ is heavily modified though. The 6.0L GM V-8 and four-speed auto feed an Atlas transfer case. Built 1-ton axles and custom linked suspension are also part of the hardware list.
The final climb up and out of the chute on Anaconda can be tricky with this axle-grabbing boulder. Dan Felix threaded his 2006 Rubicon Unlimited up and over the rocks with the help of 39-inch BFG Red Label Krawlers on a RuffStuff 609 front axle and a GM 14-Bolt rear axle.
The Luxo Crawler suffered a small dent in the rear ’cage pillar when Kerry Hancock slid the tail sideways into this huge boulder before making it out the other side. It was also a special weekend for him and his wife, Joe Ann, as many of their good friends had come to the desert to help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Max Werkmeister threads his dad’s ’83 Scrambler through Z-Turn on Lower Terminator. The classic Jeep has been linked front and rear, and it is built to crawl with a Mustang 5.0L V-8 under the hood, backed with an NP435 tranny and 4:1-geared Dana 300 transfer case.
Mike Messer’s clean buggy climbs one of the extra credit lines on Lower Woodpecker easily, using a bored and stroked Ford Windsor 351, C-6 tranny, and 5:1 ratio Atlas II. Fox 2.5-inch-diameter, 18-inch-travel air shocks keep the chassis compact and lighter on weight when turning 39-inch BFG Krawlers.
Greg and Stacey Johnson were playing on one of the side obstacles on Lower Terminator when gravity conspired to flop their Jimmy’s 4WD buggy. A winch rescue ensued, and they were shortly back on all four tires to resume playing on the big-boy obstacles.
Aaron Booth pointed his rig up an obstacle that peaks some 20 feet above the wash bottom. The tube chassis that sits under his Jeep sheetmetal conceals an AMC 360, TorqueFlite 999, and a 4.3:1 ratio Atlas II. One-ton axles with 5.13 gears turn 39-inch BFG Krawlers.
The trip down that same wall obstacle can keep you on your toes as well, but a longer wheelbase makes the ride off the rock a little less dramatic. Rene Dugas eases his long-wheelbase Wrangler off the drop at the end of Lower Terminator.