Subscribe to a magazine

Season Opener For Desert Denizens

Front Driver Side View Cars In Line
Posted September 1, 1999

37th Annual Tierra Del Sol Run

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
  • The Tierra Del Sol Club has its hands full organizing a one-day run for more than 1,000 vehicles. Participants start lining up around midnight to try to get a jump on the morning rush—and no cuts are allowed. The trail crew staggers the exodus, which allows for minimal waiting in line once the event gets going.

  • Steep hillclimbs fool many a driver near the top, where the relatively hard-packed approach turns to soft silt. Good traction and lockers can creep this sort of stuff, but most of the drivers were throttling down just to get close to the crest of this hill. Having a rig with a sealed top and cold A/C is a benefit in these situations.

  • Twisty canyons of soft lakebed sediment from eons past lead the trail followers on. Some offshoot canyons deadend, unless you’re the type to try the radical. An open, designated area frequently allows for new trails to be formed. The rare rains wipe out and change the landscape yearly for more interesting ’wheeling.

  • At the base of the Borrego Badlands, the open desert forms canyons of silt that becomes soft and dusty when the wind kicks up. The club has an organized rough run on Sunday morning, but many participants break off into private groups and wander through the dusty ditches.

  • Colored arrows on sticks point the way for easy-to-rough routes; it’s your choice, depending on driver skill, luck, and vehicular equipment. A supple suspension works well in the undulating terrain, and raw power is needed for some of the hillclimbs.

  • Jeeps were the most abundant, but other rigs always try the same obstacles. The event prohibits motorcycles and ATVs on the run and in camp, but the open nature of the area draws onlookers from miles around.

  • It was flatfender heaven at this event, and vintage conversions like this Chevy small-block just puttered around like they owned the place. Spinning the tires can dig up rocks and slit the tires’ sidewalls, but ambling around usually gets most rigs back to camp safely.

  • This clean Willys wagon tries the Inland Empire Four Wheel Drive Club’s ramp to test the Jeep’s suspension. Other ramps were available to twist your rig, including the Jp/4-Wheel & Off-Road/4x4 Power ramp built by 4Wheelers Supply in Phoenix, Arizona. Diversions like this and the new manufacturer’s midway kept camp keepers busy during the day.

  • Stock and mildly modified Jeeps can easily traverse many of the trails. The twisty areas require a flexible suspension, lockers, and real tires, but often a bit of momentum can be substituted with adequate results.

  • Quality breakage is a way of life when the ’wheeling gets good. This Grand was in heaven, crawling around and having a great time. When a loud pop came from the rearend, and the axle slid out of the housing. Arrangements were quickly made to get it home before the owner’s spouse found out.

  • Dark time on Friday is night-run heaven. The hills come alive with participants who try to cram extra ’wheeling into the weekend. This Riff Raff member enjoyed the trail for three days—some vehicles break on the first night. By sun up, most Jeeps were back in camp, but a few lay abandoned in the hills, awaiting rescue during daylight.

After long, cold winter months of your being cooped up inside, there’s nothing better than firing up the trusty Jeep and heading out to the trail. That’s why the Tierra Del Sol run held March 5-7 in Southern California is known as the season opener. True, it rarely gets below 60 degrees during the day in winter, but after being acclimated to SoCal weather, that’s cold!

Hosted by the Tierra Del Sol 4WD Club of San Diego, this desert-badlands tour reaches epic proportions in Jeep vehicles of all varieties and vintages. Other vehicle makes are well represented, but the massive amount of Jeeps from stock to full-bore hard-core is a sight for sore eyes. We’re talking more than 1,000 vehicles, 80 percent of which are Jeeps, and with three trail routes to choose from, there’s literally a Jeep around every corner.

The trail is a single-file affair, which makes it take a while for things to get going in the early A.M. But alternate routes from easy to awesome split off and then rejoin the main trail every now and then, meeting back at major checkpoints. Tall hillclimbs in soft sediment, twisty notchos that tweak the body panels, and sandy river bottoms for the speed demons all help to create a full day run that can be negotiated by even the most mildly modified Jeep.

New this year was a manufacturer’s midway, which brought many of the famous industry names to one area to display their wares. Currie Enterprises, Power Tanks, Rick Russell Videos, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Off Road General Store, and more were out in force, much to the delight of the participants. Combined with a heady assortment of raffle prizes, this was one of the club’s best events.

For more information on next year’s run, contact the Tierra Del Sol 4 Wheel Drive Club of San Diego, Dept Jp, P.O. Box 437, San Diego, CA 92164.