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2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive Jeep Adventure Explores New Trails!

Posted in Jp Dirt N Drive: 2018 on May 23, 2018
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Photographers: Trenton McGeeTraci Clark

Now in its third year and stretching its legs a bit, Jp Dirt ’N Drive is becoming a household word. Well, maybe not that well known, but it is nonetheless growing in popularity. The 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep reached the maximum number of registered vehicles allowed quicker than ever before; and there were more returning participants than in previous years. Even more satisfying was the fact that once the event had arrived at its destination in Moab, Utah, for the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari, word of the year’s adventurous event with 100 Jeeps rapidly spread through the town’s suddenly swelling 4x4 enthusiast population.

Let’s start at the beginning. As part of the original concept that became the Jp Dirt ’N Drive, the destination of this event remained the same—Moab, Utah, the crown prince of four-wheeling towns. However, its starting location was changed for 2018 to the Phoenix, Arizona, area. It was the We-Ko-Pa Resort and Casino in Fort McDowell, just a 30-minute drive east of Phoenix, to be exact. Where do you think we should start next year?

We-Ko-Pa provided luxurious accommodations, including a fine-dining restaurant, multiple casual-dining cafés, and a buffet for those feeling very hungry. The casino entertained those feeling lucky. Perched on the edge of the open desert with big sky all around, and a number of large parking lots, it was the perfect place to begin the four-day event.

The first trail day took us through the rugged backcountry of central Arizona. For those who think of Arizona as only dry and hot, a trip into the central highlands offers transitions from the low-elevation Sonoran desert landscape to mid-elevation juniper and oak trees to high-elevation pine forests with streams and lakes.

Thursday (Day 1) was check-in, during which participants took their Jeeps through final registration, met or rejoined other participants, checked out everyone else’s Jeep, and browsed the event sponsors’ booths to get information on (and in some cases purchase) the latest and greatest new products for their Jeep vehicles. By the end of the day, new friends had become old friends, old friends became better friends, parts were swapped, tools were borrowed and returned, and rigs were made ready. Oh, and a coyote and some wild horses wandered through the property. You know, a typical Thursday night.

Every trail day began with an 8 a.m. driver’s meeting. The basic outline of the day’s route, weather updates, options, and procedures were discussed. Each registered driver received a copy of the entire event route book. We developed the maps and route book information containing turn-by-turn directions, mileage, and GPS coordinates in cooperation with CartoTracks. A digital route map was also available for download. The choice was up to the people in each Jeep. Participants could follow the leader (who, barring any road closures, travels the primary route) or take their time on the primary route. They could also travel one of the alternate routes already mapped out in the route book. In any case, we always highly recommend participants stay in groups instead of running solo.

Day 2 got onto dirt pretty fast. Within 10 miles we entered a sandy wash heading northeast into the mountains. The evening’s destination was Flagstaff via Payson, and our primary route consisted of about a 50/50 mixture of highway and dirt. In between was spectacular scenery as we climbed out of the low-elevation Sonoran desert of the Phoenix area, through the central highlands, and onto the high plains of northern Arizona. We ventured across the Tonto National Forest and the Coconino National Forest on our northbound trek.

It’s always cool to see flatfenders on Dirt ’N Drive, and this year Joe Beadenkopf came all the way from Maryland with his 1953 CJ-3B. Joe wasted no time in trying some of the hilly playgrounds we encountered on the first trail day.

Those unfamiliar with anything other than the low and hot deserts of Arizona may have thought they had entered another state. The central highlands average about the same elevation as Denver. High-elevation pine, spruce, fir, and aspen forests transition back and forth to slightly lower-elevation hill country forested with piñon, juniper, and oak. The farther north we traveled, a landscape of wind-blown high-plains rangeland covered with a mix of chaparral and grasses became the norm.

Ghost towns and old mines dotted the entire region, and long-homesteaded ranches and farms marked the map like a checkerboard. Near the end of the day’s route we reached one of these ghost towns, Two Guns, about 40 miles east of Flagstaff. Two Guns began as a railroad town in 1880. The unrecovered loot from an 1889 train robbery is said to still be buried somewhere nearby, tantalizing treasure hunters to this day. A store, restaurant, and gas pumps were built in 1925. A modern gas station came in 1963, and in the late ’60s a motel, tavern, and campground were added. The decline of the site began in the ’70s, but many of the structures are still standing in some form or another, and they provided a couple of the many Poker Photo Challenge locations that could later net the winning hand a prize.

That Friday we had driven the 190 total primary route miles making up the first leg of the event’s three trail days. Almost 100 of those miles were on dirt. We went places most people never see. When the first trail day was done, a blazing Arizona sunset greeted participants as they got settled in for the evening at Twin Arrows Resort and Casino about 30 miles outside Flagstaff. The next day was to be an early start, with many miles of adventure through sacred Navajo and Hopi lands ahead. But that’s another story. Stay tuned to Jp Magazine and for more of the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep.

The We-Ko-Pa Resort and Casino in Fort McDowell, Arizona (about 30 minutes east of Phoenix), was HQ for the start of the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep. Luxurious accommodations, a large swimming pool, multiple choices for dining and beverage service, and a casino were all on-property.
Jeep Wranglers, including JKs, TJs, and YJs, with many being Rubicon models, made up the majority of the registered rigs. That’s no real surprise because among these three generations of Wranglers are some of the most capable and popular off-road vehicles ever built.
Some classic gems showed up for the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive, and one of our favorites was this primo 1966 CJ-5A Tuxedo Park owned by Lynn Hunter. We loved that it was in such great shape and that Lynn wheeled all the trails on the primary route in this beauty.
One of the best parts of check-in day for Jp Dirt ’N Drive participants was the opportunity to interface directly with knowledgeable representatives from the event sponsors to learn all about new products being offered and developed for their Jeeps.
Periodic stops to play on obstacles such as this hillclimb area along the first trail day primary route made the sometimes-dusty trek to get there more than worthwhile. The trail-carved hills were more challenging than expected due to their loose and grainy composition.
The XJ seems to only be getting more popular as a base to build upon. Among the seven attending the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive, the sturdy 1999 Cherokee owned by Tyler and Sarah Donaldson was one of our favorites.
At one of our gas stops that first trail day, we spotted this bus in the back parking lot of the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino in Payson, Arizona. The bus had been converted into a rolling kitchen serving a small selection of tacos and burritos, as well as fry bread. Fresh, warm fry bread drizzled with honey, along with a cold soda pop, made a great lunch break.
That white stuff along the sides of this Arizona central highlands forest road is snow. Yes, snow. At elevations similar to Denver, Colorado, this part of Arizona can see significant amounts of snow into late spring.
As we traveled farther north during the first trail day, the landscape became primarily high-plains chaparral country. Along the way we got a closer look at Casey Dimmit’s 1957 Willys Wagon he transplanted onto a 2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ chassis. We gave Casey’s creation a unanimous thumbs-up.
Ghost towns and old mines dotted the entire region, and long-homesteaded ranches and farms marked the map like a checkerboard. Two Guns was established as a railroad town in 1880, and while only a handful of structures survive today, it was fun to explore—it also provided a couple of Poker Photo Challenge locations.


We would like to thank the following sponsors for their support and active participation in the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep.

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Official Tire Sponsor

Official Suspension Sponsor

Official Lighting Sponsor

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