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2015 Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari - Desert Playground

Posted in Events on April 13, 2015
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Photographers: Fred Williams

Tierra Del Sol’s annual Desert Safari (sometimes referred to as TDS) is near the top of many off-roader’s bucket list. If it isn’t at the top of yours, it should be. The Desert Safari, hosted by the Tierra Del Sol 4Wheel-Drive Club, has been held at the North Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation area in Southern California every March since 1962. That means that TDS is not only the world’s oldest annual off-road event, but it’s an event like no other.

For the flexy notches and mud hills it’s hard to beat a short-wheelbased Jeep like Rick Péwé’s M38A1, built for Ultimate Adventure 2001. Wheelbase and horsepower are nice at TDS if you’re into the hillclimbs, but a stock rig can be tons of fun. Flex is key in the notches, and a locker or two doesn’t hurt.

What sets TDS apart is without doubt the unique terrain, which poses challenges to even the most well-prepared off-road rig. There are acres of mud hills with intersecting valleys and steep sides where you can test your rig’s hill climbing abilities. There are also several areas where the soil has eroded, forming notches where you can flex your rig’s suspension to the max and find the limits of what your rig will do when tires rub fenders and lockers engage. With every year that passes, the terrain changes. What you remembered as an easy climb last year may just be impossible this year, and hard lines from years past could now be like paved roads. If that’s not enough, there are always sandy washes to blast down, all leading downhill to the interesting and historic (if odorous) shore of the Salton Sea. There is also the Ocotillo Wells off-road play area, where you can rockcrawl, tackle huge tires and logs, flex your rig on a concrete RTI ramp, or attempt the comp crawler inspired A-frame climb. Various springs in the area are also worth a look, and Vendors Row has all the newest gadgets as well as any replacement parts you may end up needing—or wanting.

The Desert Safari is a great way to start the spring and dust off those off-road rigs that have been in hibernation since the end of fall. For information on next year’s run to the desert, check out tds4x4.com.

Crowds gather at a few spots around the area. One spot that has become popular for onlookers the past few years is this hillclimb, called the Waterfall, near the phone booth. (Yes, there is a phone booth out in the desert, but that’s beside the point.) The Waterfall is a challenging series of holes and sandy limy rocks almost like concrete. This is a good spot to check out rigs and do a little people watching too. The perfect rig for this climb is something with flex and wheelbase that you don’t mind flopping or rolling, like this cut-up YJ-based Jeep buggy.
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How about this huge flattie that we saw near the waterfall? Looks like it could be fun in a deep mud hole. (Now, where was that mud hole?) We expect to see all kinds of rigs out at TDS. It’s a great place to check out what works and what doesn’t.
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