The rain didn't break until Thursday and had been nonstop for nearly two weeks before that. We'd done the Safari in heavy winds and blistering heat, but weren't looking forward to experiencing it in a downpour. Especially considering that the Borrego Badlands, aka Truckhaven Hills, is highly prone to flash floods, and the silty earth turns into a virtual quagmire with nary a rock to perch upon to dry your feet for a moment or two. But we made the haul regardless, thinking we'd be turned around the second we got there, not wanting to set camp in the mud. The 4x4 gods were with us, however, because the sky cleared and the sun began shining as if on schedule for the 39th Annual Tierra del Sol Desert Safari.
We filed in Friday morning, hoping to take advantage of the weather that had many wondering if it would last. Though the official trailruns didn't get underway until Saturday, plenty of 4x4 junkies were already in attendance, with more of the same pouring into the staging area in droves. A manufacturers' midway served as the center of activity, with local and national merchants situated to pitch their products and rub elbows with familiar faces from years past. Later in the day, we caught up with a small convoy of vehicles heading out for a little scouting run, so we hopped on board, hoping to locate some of the hot spots for photos the following day. Besides, the rain had been pounding the stark desert landscape for so many days previous, we were curious to see how it had affected the trails. Amazingly, the sun had dried much of the surface dirt, leaving a minimum of mud holes to attack the weary. We saw plenty of muddied vehicles and bodies, but we never did come across any impassable sinkholes or tank traps. Not to say there weren't any out there, of course, we were just lucky enough not to get caught up in one.
As night fell, fires lit up campsites for a square mile or more and headlights crawled through the dark sky as countless numbers of 4x4s joined in impromptu night runs. Saturday dawned with even better weather than the previous day, and the convoy of vehicles moved out single file to their prospective trailruns. We opted to skip around in order to catch the best action and met up with different vehicles at each of the obstacles.
The Tierra del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club did a great job of laying out the trails, with plenty of range of difficulty. The event attracted mild to extreme vehicles from sticker-still-in-the-window SUVs to vehicles that participated in the Goodyear Skyjacker Rock Crawling Championships the month prior. All in all, it was an enjoyable, easygoing event and a favorite for folks such as ourselves.
For information about the 2002 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari, visit the club Web site at www.tds4x4.com or write to: TDS Safari Registration, Attn: Ken Osborne, Dept. 4WDSU, P.O. Box 81304, San Diego, CA 92138.