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200 Miles of Dirt: Day 1 of the 2016 Jp Dirt ‘N Drive Adventure

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2016 on May 2, 2016
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When the editors of Jp decided that our loyal Jeep fans had waited long enough to have their own event, we cooked up the Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep. Sure, there were other special events for readers put on by our sister publications, but none that were exclusively for Jeep owners. With that in mind, the wheels began to spin to create the inaugural Jp Dirt ’N Drive. The concept was simple: Invite anybody with a Jeep-brand vehicle to an off-road adventure beginning in Las Vegas and ending in Moab just in time to connect with the 50th annual Easter Jeep Safari. The fact that 2016 was also the 75th anniversary of Jeep made the Jp Dirt ’N Drive all the more significant.

The inaugural Jp Dirt ‘N Drive presented by Jeep officially kicked off on Saturday, March 16, at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas. The day was spent finalizing participant registration, getting goodie bags from Jp and Jeep, as well as from the other event sponsors Bestop, Daystar, and Voodoo Ropes. For Jp Dirt ’N Drive participants, it was also a day spent meeting the dozens of other Jeep fans that drove in for the event and making new friends, swapping stories, trading Jeep upgrade tips, and checking out all the other Jeeps parked in the huge lot set aside by Sam’s Town exclusively for Dirt ’N Drive participants. Nearly every generation of Jeep was represented. There were plenty of JKs ranging from mild to wild, classic CJs, Cherokee XJs, a beautiful Forward Control (brought in by Daystar), and even some staff vehicles such as Fred William’s tricked-out Jeep from the 2015 Ultimate Adventure. If so inclined, you could also get in some gambling or take in a show that evening.

Sunday morning began early, as Day One of the Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep saw the parade of nearly 100 vehicles led by Jim Chick of Bestop (waving his Grand Marshall’s scepter out of his Jeep’s window) winding its way out of the Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall parking lot at 7:00 a.m. The first leg of the 2016 Jp Dirt ’N Drive was a highway cruise to the town of Mesquite, Nevada. Not far from town, we aired down and began the first of three off-road sections that would take participants into the boonies that day.

The first stretch of dirt took us from the pucker-bush desert, up and east into the Virgin Mountains in the northwest corner of Arizona. The first dozen miles followed a trail that climbed high into the peaks with spectacular views of the desert behind us. Before too long, we were in cool crisp alpine air and skirting the edge of the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument with creeks trickling through the pines. The trail then led over the Hurricane Cliffs and down onto the mesquite- and juniper-dotted Uinkaret Plateau, finally turning northeast toward the hamlet of Colorado City on the Arizona/Utah border. Fuel and snacks were on the menu at this rest stop before we continued forward.

A couple of miles of pavement were all our tires saw before we were at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park where Jp Dirt ’N Drive participants took some time to play in the giant pink-ish sand box. The 1,200 acres of shifting sand dunes offered a nice midday break from the trail, during which our party of Jeepers enjoyed a roosting good time. Smiles were everywhere. We just had to remember to keep the windows rolled up to keep the sand out of our teeth.

A short jaunt down the highway brought the parade of Jeeps to Kanab, Utah, for another fuel top-off and snack stop. The adventure then continued onto Johnson Canyon Road through the Vermillion Cliffs and up onto Waygaret and Skutumpah Terraces, both beautifully scenic high-elevation plains populated with juniper. At about the 25-mile mark, we veered right onto Skutumpah Road. On the way north to the final bit of highway for the day, we came across the thin, but deep slotted, canyon called Bull Valley Gorge. The bridge is no more than a pile of rocks jammed into the gorge with a gravel road built on top, but if you stop and take a good look, you can see the remains of the 1954 pickup truck that crashed into the gorge back in the late ’50s and was then used to build the base of the bridge.

A left turn onto Cottonwood Canyon Road took us to the pavement at Cannonville, Utah, within a few minutes. Everyone stopped to air up tires and admire the last glimpse of wild dirt road we would enjoy for the first day of the 2016 Jp Dirt ’N Drive. The sun was getting low on the dusky horizon, and we had about 15 miles of highway to travel before reaching Ruby’s Inn at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park for our second night’s stopover.

Ruby’s Inn is a historic lodge (with modern expanded accommodations) built on the present site in 1923. Reminiscent of the log lodges in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks, the Inn was built by Reuben C. “Ruby” Syrett, who brought his family to the wilds of southern Utah in 1919 and established a ranch near the lodge’s present site. It was the perfect place to finish our first day on the trails. Good food and a soft bed were welcome as we looked forward to our next day’s journey. We had come almost 200 miles, about 90 percent of it on dirt. In a few weeks, we’ll continue the adventure with Day Two of the 2016 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep.

Jp Dirt ’N Drive Must-Haves
Of course there were some requirements other than your vehicle being a Jeep. It could be any model or vintage. It could also be a bone-stock Jeep right off the showroom floor. However, no matter what, it had to be equipped with some important safety and trail equipment. At a minimum, it had to be four-wheel drive, street legal, and currently licensed, and you had to have a CB radio, recovery rope, properly secured tow hooks front and rear (drawbars, receiver hitches, or bumpers with clevis or D-rings were acceptable), fire extinguisher, fullsize spare, and a roll bar (if it was an open or soft top).

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