Moab Survival Guide
Moab has a rich history of Indians, outlaws, Spaniards, and slaves. Battles between the settlers and Utes forced ranchers and Mormon pioneers to flee. It wasn't until the skirmishes ended that the land was finally settled, and in 1880 the town of Moab was officially established.
Agriculture ruled the area until the 1940s when uranium was discovered along the Colorado Plateau. The U.S. Government offered miners cash incentives to find new sources of uranium, and surplus military Jeeps filled the streets. Bulldozers created roads through the canyons to the mines, and Jeeps took to the red rock hills. Prospectors continued to fill the land until the 1950s, when the government stopped paying for uranium sources.
Tailings were cleaned up, and the mining roads became a challenge to the locals as erosion took its effect, making them more and more difficult to pass. The sport of four-wheeling was born. It became so popular that the mayor decided to create a Jeep Safari to bring more tourists to town.
The first Easter Jeep Safari took place in 1967 on one day and on just one trail. It grew from there. With the Easter Jeep Safari now lasting nine days, each trail has a limited number of Jeepers, and the slots get filled very quickly. Many participants are experienced Jeepers, others are new to the sport.
"Four-wheeling is a slower sport, and if you do it right it's fun. If you do it wrong, you end up breaking something and that's not fun. You'll be stuck out on the trail with a broken rig," says Brad Knight of Cliffhanger Jeep Rental. "The main mistake is people don't know their limitations."
Often, limits are learned on the first trip out when one Jeeper sees another take an obstacle and decides he can't be outdone.
"Jeeper see, Jeeper do most of the time as long as you've got a guy in front of you who's reasonable and sensible and who's got a vehicle equivalent to yours," says Dan Mick, a professional guide based in Moab. "But just because you see somebody do something that you don't feel comfortable with, you don't have to go do that. You can ask for an alternate or a bypass and they'll always point them out to you."
It often takes unnecessary damage to learn that lesson. On Knight's first Jeep Safari, he rolled his Jeep when he tried to take a hill in two-wheel drive. Many people roll their Jeeps because they go too fast or are unfamiliar with the terrain or the vehicle, he says.
Professional rockcrawler Troy Bailey learned his lesson the first time he took his stock Jeep Cherokee up Pritchet Canyon Trail six years ago. He ripped his rear bumper off right away and took out the entire rocker panel on the right side. The Dump Bump later claimed his front axle, but he and his family also had the time of their lives.
On our latest trip to Moab we witnessed a similar fate. Standing on the rocks above Dump Bump, Mick, Knight, and I watched as first-time Jeeper John Forsythe broke his driveline.
"Instead of using a little bit of 'Moab Bump' to get the rear tires up on the rock and carry him to the top with a little momentum, he came up, kissed it, dropped the clutch, hit the throttle, did about three bumps and jumps and took out the rear driveline," explains Mick. "I like to tell people that are first-timers out here that speed is the enemy and momentum is your friend. The difference between the two is the void your credit card will fill when you go to town to get your vehicle repaired so you can go on the trail the next day."
John jumped in with Mick and we headed up Hell's Revenge. On the trail, Mick taught us all the proper way to do the Moab Bump. You pull your front tires onto the rock, and just before your back tires "kiss" the rock, you give it about one-third of the throttle and take it smooth to the top, letting the momentum, not the speed, carry you. The advice was well received, and there were no more accidents on the trail that day.
Having a guide is an excellent way to start your Jeep'n experience. They can direct you on the trail and be your spotter on the obstacles, all while keeping you at ease and building confidence in you and your vehicle.
"If you're not going to go with a guide, make sure you have a map and be prepared to four-wheel," says Knight. "A lot of people think, 'if I can drive on the road I can drive anywhere.'"
Moab's terrain is unique, with slickrock and sand. It takes time to become familiar and learn the limits of your vehicle in those conditions.