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Jeep's Moab Mania 2002 at the Easter Jeep Safari

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Jon Thompson | Writer
Posted August 1, 2002
Photographers: Craig Perronne

Going Crazy at the Easter Jeep Safari

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  • For all it’s bigger-than-life reputation, Moab really is a tiny place, with about 5,000 inhabitants.

  • They Said It Couldn’t Be Done Dept: An interesting little obstacle called Double Whammy defeated some very well-built rigs, including one well-known Jeep driven by a well-known magazine editor, so when Randy Haflich rolled up in his IFS Toyota pickup, snickers were heard. Those snickers stopped when Haflich drove right on up.

  • While the easiest way past this rock formation was to go around to the right, there would be no fun in that. It was hard enough to get up the rock chute but then one had to somehow navigate around the big rock in the middle that was just begging to grab axles. After some fuss, this Jeep made it up and over.

  • If ever there was a photo that could be used to illustrate the concept of high-centering, this would be it. Amazingly, this Jeep freed itself after some rocking of the vehicle.

  • Proof that Four Wheeler editor Jon Thompson (right) and Rick Péwé, who is associated with some other magazine, really are different people, in spite of the fact that they apparently have the same taste in Woolrich four-wheeling jackets. Usually we’re not slaves to fashion but in this instance we feel compelled to point out that Péwé’s sandals do not match his purse.

  • Another “only in Moab” sight would be this mobile driveshaft shop that the folks from Six States had on hand to repair busted shafts.

  • Double Whammy is another fun obstacle that catches a lot of shorter-wheelbase rigs by surprise. While it doesn’t look like much, the two bumps are perfectly separated to make traversing it with a short rig a difficult task.

  • If you like action and crowds, Potato Salad Hill is the place to be. We got there just as Top Truck Challenge judge Tim Hardy finished putting on a show trying to conquer the hill with his stock Suzuki Grand Vitara.

  • A sign at Moab spells it all out for us. Four-wheelers are a vital part of this town’s economy, and local merchants are very pleased indeed to see them show up.

  • “Rover” 4x4 takes on new meaning in the City Market parking lot as a four-pawed four-wheeler waits for his passengers.

  • ’Wheeling in Moab can also have some serious consequences as was evident this year when a 4Runner rolled off of the top of Lion’s Back. It wound up rolling into the rock chute on the right and came to a rest halfway down, where it can barely be seen in this photo (arrow).

  • Jim Terry made a couple of tries at Double Whammy in his Durango, and a voice from the crowd cried out, “Careful, Jim, you’ve got to drive that truck home.” Those echoes barely had died when disaster struck—you can see the first hint of that disaster on the ground behind the Durango’s right-front tire.

  • A big bang was heard, the Durango rolled back, and left this evidence that the truck had more traction than its front diff could handle. An impromptu cleanup crew was on the scene immediately, and when they were done all evidence of the carnage had been scoured clean.

  • Durango front-diff gears aren’t supposed to be exposed like this, are they?

  • Wipe Out Hill looks bad enough going down it. Much to our amazement, some did that, turned around, and tried to go up it. This Jeep finally got the right line after plenty of wheel lifting.

To committed four-wheelers, Moab means just one thing: Some of the finest, most scenic, and most difficult redrock trails on the planet. The beginning of the Moab four-wheeling season is the week prior to Easter, when Moab offers to ’wheelers jaded by winter the Easter Jeep Safari, organized and promoted for 18 of the Safari’s 36 years by a local club, the Red Rock Four Wheelers.

Moab is an easy place to miss if you’re not specifically headed there to enjoy some of the incredible trails that are woven around the place. Located in the high canyons of eastern Utah—base elevation in the town is 5,011 feet —Moab, at about 30 miles south of I-70, is well off the beaten Interstate path. It was first settled as a farming community in 1855 by Mormons who soon abandoned the place, frightened off, according to local historians, by Indians. It was resettled in 1876 and remains tiny, with just 5,000 people living in the town and a total of about 3,000 more in the surrounding county area.

According to city officials, Moab’s population easily doubles during Easter Jeep Safari week, and that’s both good and bad. With up to 1,800 Jeepers registered for organized runs, and many more who show up to just wing it, Safari week constitutes a tremendous boost to the tiny town’s economy. Noted Marian DeLay, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council, “They all need a place to stay, and they all need food and gas. It’s an incredible boon to the community; it’s just very important to us.”

Indeed, Moab is packed tight during Safari week. Not only are all the hotels filled to capacity, but so are campgrounds for miles around. Lately there’s been extra pressure that comes from a source that is—at least to some—unwelcome. This year’s Safari week coincided with spring break. That meant that Moab was swarmed by college students looking to blow off a bit of steam. One of the places where that steam was most in evidence was Potato Salad Hill, a popular obstacle near town. Said one observer, “The spring breakers made Potato Salad Hill a mess. One guy brings his Jeep, six friends, and all the beer they can carry. And now there’s talk of MTV coverage of spring break at Moab—that would just be too much.” As a result, there appears to be at least some enthusiasm around town for holding future Easter Jeep Safaris during some week other than Easter week in an effort to not mix the ’wheeling crowd with the spring break crowd.

Whenever the Easter Jeep Safari is held, however, with collegiate revelers or without them, what will remain immutable and unchangeable will be the stark, scenic beauty of the place, the clarity of the air, the depth of the colors of the sky and sandstone, and the unforgiving nature of some of the most challenging trails and obstacles—Double Whammy on Golden Spike, for instance, and all of Pritchett Canyon.

Moab—during Easter Jeep Safari, or any other time—is worth experiencing. It is our hope that the photographs you see here will help to convey just a little of what this incredible week of four-wheeling is about.

Also spotted at Moab was the brand-new Jeep Rubicon crawling down and up the Hot Tubs, Dump Bump, and other 4-plus obstacles. Click here for details on the most-talked-about Jeep in Moab!