Shakedown Cruise: Four Wheeler’s New Staff Editor Takes His New JK on a Whirlwind Moab WeekendPosted in Features on October 17, 2017
Editor’s note: Jered Korfhage recently joined the Four Wheeler staff, moving from New Mexico to the Los Angeles area. Days before he was to depart New Mexico his Jeep TJ was totaled by a drunk driver. Jered was uninjured. He replaced the TJ with a new two-door Jeep JK. Over the 2017 Labor Day weekend he got to wheel the JK for the first time during a three-day thrashfest that took him from Los Angeles to the trails of Moab and back. Here’s his story.
“So, you traveled 1,500 miles in a weekend to drive your car over rocks?” Guilty as charged.
My goal was simple. Drive to Moab, Utah, to test out my new 2017 JK Wrangler, squeeze in a mountain bike ride, and make it back to Los Angeles before work on Tuesday. After 13 hours of L.A.-to-Vegas traffic and caffeinated beverages, I rolled into Moab Saturday morning, ready to play. After a rest, I had my sights set on the Poison Spider Mesa trail.
Let’s set the scene: My two-door Wrangler is bare bones and unmodified, save for the LED headlamps I scavenged from my wrecked TJ. The tires are smooth and highway-friendly, and the only automatic feature on the Jeep is the transmission.
Before the tires touched red rock, I engaged my manual sway bar disconnects—and by that I mean I dug out the ¾-inch socket wrench and zip-tied the links up and out of the way. Now that the suspension was free to stretch and flex, I lathered up with sunblock and started crawling.
The Poison Spider Mesa trail rises abruptly above the Colorado River via a series of rocky switchbacks and ledges, offering picturesque views and steep pucker-inducing cliffs. Getting up is straightforward. Point the Jeep at the ledge, make sure the oil-containing parts won’t touch the rock, then give the famous Moab Bump to get the rear end up and over.
The real fun came near the top of the trail. I followed a rental two-door Rubicon to an alternate ledge, something that appeared to be suited for built trail rigs. There was an easy bypass, but the gentleman ahead of me wanted a challenge. His lockers were engaged and the lifted Jeep crawled halfway up the ledge before backing down. Ego might have taken ahold of me here as I approached the ledge. I heard the trail reshaping my tailpipe as the Jeep’s grille pointed skyward. There was the unmistakable crunch of the transfer case skidplate meeting slickrock. The tires began to smoke as they spun, grasping at friction. Stuck? Not yet.
Wheelers know this choice all too well. Back down with your tailpipe between your legs in defeat, or hit the go-pedal once more. Choosing the second option, I gently spun the tires and cranked the wheel to and fro until the rubber heated up, eventually grabbing the slickrock with enough force to drag the skidplates across the sandstone, and my white-knuckled self to the top of the ledge.
After one last check underneath to make sure the Jeep’s vital organs were unscathed, we moved forward. The remainder of the trail ascends the mesa giving a panoramic view of Moab below, before looping around and directing you back down the ledges that you previously struggled to climb.
I spent the rest of the weekend crawling through other popular trails including Hell’s Revenge and Fins ’n’ Things.
As I reattached the sway bars Monday afternoon and prepared to end my Labor Day excursion, I surveyed the damage. Both my bumpers had signs of love from the red rocks, the skidplates on the transfer case and gas tank were scarred and dented, and the tailpipe sported a freshly redesigned opening. Not to worry, it would be more shameful if the Jeep stayed parked and never got intimate with the rocks.
Later that night as I sat sweating in Vegas traffic, I was able to reflect on what I learned. This is what can be done with a stock Wrangler and 72 hours of freedom. The Jeep may not have air conditioning, giant tires, or a lift kit, but it can certainly crawl through some of Moab’s most famous trails, so long as you are willing to scrape a few Jeep parts across the rock.