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Taking Recreational Rockcrawling to the Next Level In Johnson Valley

Posted in Features on June 24, 2015
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Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the country, covering over 188,000 acres. Included in those acres are the infamous Hammer trails, known as some of the hardest in the country. For the lunatic fringe of rockcrawling, even these trails are not hard enough to get their adrenaline pumping. This group is constantly searching for the hardest obstacles and canyons on the planet. We ran into Kevin Carroll of Red Dot Engineering at the 2015 King of the Hammers, where he and his friends were more interested in trying to surmount impossible obstacles than watching the race. In this group there is no sheetmetal, and rear steer is mandatory to complete the trail without winching.

Rear steer is mandatory to complete the trail without winching

Do you see the line through here? Johnson Valley contains several mountain ranges, each with rocky canyons carved by past storms. These range from easy to impossible and are seemingly endless.

Jeff McKinlay came all the way from Idaho to go wheeling with his friends. His buggy was built by CBI Offroad in Idaho Falls with an LS engine and Spidertrax Spider9 steering axles front and rear.

Bo Brennon has taken lightweight as far as it can go, with a 1.3L Suzuki engine powering his tiny tube buggy. Toyota axles at each end use full hydraulic steering and turn 42-inch Super Swamper Boggers. This rig is so light that Brennon tows it on a trailer behind a Nissan Frontier!

Jason Jordan was happy to be out on the trail with all of his friends, enjoying his newly rebuilt Dung Beatle. Even though he was running the smallest tires in the group, Jordan’s buggy is extremely capable.

Justin Keilman added rear steer to his Ecotec-powered tube buggy over the winter to keep up with the likes of Kevin Carroll and Alec Yaeger. Keilman, no slouch behind the wheel, has adapted to the addition of rear steer quickly.

We featured Alec Yaeger’s crazy Green Rock Dawg buggy in the Apr. ’15 issue of 4WOR. It features an adjustable wheelbase, 50 degrees of steering front and rear, and forced articulation at each corner to provide the perfect combination for nearly any obstacle.

Justin Keilman competes in the W.E.Rock series, with Jason Jordan as his spotter. While he enjoys competition, Keilman’s true love is recreational wheeling with a group of friends who push each other to try increasingly difficult obstacles.

Loose rocks that move under your tires mean that these canyons are most difficult when they are first run. Kevin Carroll was the first vehicle up this climb, and the line had completely changed for the next rig. His Red Dot Engineering buggy has Gearworks 10-inch third members in Spidertrax housings and uses 18-inch-travel Fox air shocks at each corner to control the 42-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers. Johnson Valley is a giant playground with endless options to challenge everything from stock 4x4s to custom-built rock buggies. In fact, this area is where we perform part of our annual 4x4 of the Year testing on the rocky hillclimbs and high-speed dirt roads.

Kevin Carroll was our trail leader for the day. His Red Dot Engineering buggies have been making quite a stir in the 4WD community lately by completing trails that many people thought were impossible.

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