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51st Annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari

Posted in Moab Experience: 2017 on May 14, 2017 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Verne SimonsTrenton McGee

While Moab may be considered old hat to some veteran off-roaders (it’s easy to become jaded after attending 20 or more Easter Jeep Safaris), the truth is Moab is the event we most look forward to every year. Whether it’s your first year or your 50th, and whether you are coming into town from the north or the south, you are bound to get excited at the first sighting of red cliffs on Highway 191. Moab is a year-round mecca for off-road enthusiasts (not to mention hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, and others), and the Easter Jeep Safari represents the annual pilgrimage to this sacred four-wheeling ground. We said it before and we’ll say it again: No matter your dirt sport affliction (sprockets, boots, or 4x4s), Moab needs to be on your bucket list.

We have marveled at the unique topography, formations, and color of the terrain in and around Moab, but we know very little about it. We decided to do something about that and take part in John Mear’s 3rd annual Geology Run. Mear is a geologist who travels the world, and he gave us lots of insight into how and why Moab looks the way it does. Near the site of an enormous potash mine a few miles outside of Moab, Mear explained how we were standing on top of an enormous salt dome that is very slowly pushing the surrounding rock out of the way, as evidenced by the layers of rock sloping away from the site in every direction.

After all the fanfare and hoopla that marked the 50th anniversary of the Easter Jeep Safari in 2016, this year’s attendance seemed just a little bit down. Nonetheless, the town was overflowing by midweek and vehicles of every type and description could be seen running around town and out on the trails. That’s actually one of our favorite parts about Safari week: Even though the event is dominated by Jeeps, virtually all makes and models are well represented. Fullsize trucks, Toyotas, Land Rovers, Suzukis, and just about anything else can be seen. Moab is also a great place to get build ideas and talk shop with other enthusiasts regardless of which emblem happens to be on the grille of your rig.

EJS happened a little later this year, and as such the weather was pretty cooperative, even reasonably warm toward the latter part of the week if a bit windy too. As usual we had the chance to attend several runs organized by various companies in the off-road industry, but we also had the chance to break away and check out some trails on our own with smaller groups, plus spend some time out at Area BFE.

Our friends at Diesel Power Products have created some interesting builds over the years, but the most recent is also one of the coolest. Dubbed the Howitzer, this brand-new Ram is a standard-cab shortbed with a Cummins, even though it did not leave the lot like that. Cooper Rasmussen took the hard line down High Dive on Behind the Rocks, then proceeded to make Upchuck look easy. Rumor has it the DPP folks were using Moab as a shakedown for Ultimate Adventure 2017.

All in all, it was another great time in Moab. If you haven’t made the pilgrimage, you better before you are too old and ornery to enjoy it. It’s easy to plan, as the Easter Jeep Safari takes place each spring the week prior to Easter. For more information and how to register for next year’s event, go to rr4w.com.

We are surprised not to see more ZJs on the trail. While they have a few questionable drivetrain bits depending on the year, they can be picked up for almost nothing and were available with V-8 power while having a bunch of aftermarket support. This one is piloted by Steve Roberts, who makes all kinds of drivetrain swaps happen at his day job with Advance Adapters.
Have you ever wondered why a lot of the rocks around Moab have ripples that look just like the ripples in the sand at the beach? That’s because this rock was beach sand millions of years ago. It has petrified with the same ripples you see at the beach.
We joined Dynatrac and Falken on their 10th annual Bunny Run, which this year was a trip over Flat Iron Mesa. There are quite a few unnamed obstacles on the trail. One of the more memorable is Easter Egg Hill, an off-camber spot that requires precise tire placement to avoid massaging passenger-side sheetmetal on the enormous egg-shaped rock. A few rigs left some paint, but all escaped serious damage.
It’s no secret that JKs dominate the off-road market at the moment, and it’s also no surprise that JKs were everywhere in Moab. This was annoying to some of the grouchier old-time editors, but those guys were saying the same thing about TJs 15 years ago. Most of the JKs in Moab were decidedly more trail-rated than the mall-crawling equivalents in your hometown, even if there were plenty of light bars and “angry grilles” on hand.
Though in the minority, quite a few guys were running around on the trails in fullsize rigs. This truck was spotted early on in Behind the Rocks. The wheelbase made most obstacles look easy. Although tight spots have their challenges, there is no shame and a lot of advantages to having a fullsize truck in Moab.
We were hanging out at Area BFE one afternoon when we ran across Sam McIntyre and his perfectly patinaed J-truck. He hit most of the big ledges in the playground just below the parking lot like they weren’t even there, and seemed to tackle anything he pointed his well-built truck at with ease. Look for a feature on McIntyre’s truck here soon. While you’re at it, put Area BFE on your Moab must-visit list.
With all of the JKs running around town it was hard to stand out in a crowd. Ultimate Adventure veteran and crony Chris Durham managed to do just that with his freshly completed “rhino” conversion that grafts the nose of a 1963-1971 Jeep Gladiator pickup to a JK. The center part of the grille is original, but the rest of the grille, hood, and parts of the front fenders are custom. Durham is tooling up to sell these conversions, which are surprisingly easy to do.
Warn is one of the oldest and most respected brands in the off-road industry, thanks in part because a number of dedicated off-road enthusiasts work there. Clifton DeWitt is one such enthusiast. He made both High Dive and UpChuck look easy during the Warn run on Behind the Rocks.
Ever wondered what Escalator looks like from the cab of a Willy’s pickup truck? Now you know. Senior Editor Verne Simons snapped this just before walking up the obstacle like it wasn’t there. Escalator is intimidating, and the line has to be perfect, but with the right wheelbase and driver it’s not too bad.
Besides Hell’s Revenge, Moab Rim may be one of the most iconic trails in Moab. The trail offers amazing views on the Colorado River while being off-camber and sometimes uncomfortably close to the cliff’s edge. It is a must-do, provided you have a well-equipped rig with lockers and some lift. Some of the ledges on the trail are not friendly to short wheelbases, and the trail traffic can get intense during Jeep Safari since it’s an in-and-out trail, meaning you have to go back the way you came.
If ever a trail were aptly named, it’s Cliffhanger. Just across the canyon and down a little way from Moab Rim, Cliffhanger has several pucker-worthy obstacles. One of them is the Cliff, a difficult little climb where the wrong move can send you tumbling over the edge. A good spotter and light throttle is the best recipe for success here.
While Moab is best known for Slick Rock, there are a few dune areas. One of the lesser-known dune areas is at White Wash, northwest of town. Skyjacker hosted a run at White Wash this year, which offered an interesting mix of dunes and slick rock. Here the Fab Fours’ crazy Lymera build is romping through one of the open dune areas. Full-throttle dune assaults and technical rockcrawling all in one place—what could be better?

Moab Trail Etiquette

We owe a big thanks for the Easter Jeep Safari, and for much of the continued trail access in and around Moab, to the dedicated volunteers who make up Red Rock Four Wheelers. What started as a typical small club run has grown into an enormous event that takes over the entire town for more than 10 days. The club organizes dozens of guided runs throughout the week and is responsible for ensuring that thousands of off-road enthusiasts have a safe and enjoyable time.

Red Rock Four Wheelers has also fought tirelessly against trail closures sought by a variety of special interest groups, a few of which may be well meaning but very few of which have an agenda that includes fair access and use of public lands. The side effects of some of these outside pressures, along with just the sheer size of the event, have caused a little discontent within the off-road community in recent years. One such side effect is exclusive use permits, which close certain trails to any users other than the Red Rock Four Wheelers and the club’s official organized runs during EJS week. While slightly frustrating to those know the trails well enough to go out on their own, the fact is that we should all respect the exclusive use permits as well as the organized runs. Getting mouthy with either the people posted to enforce the permits or the volunteers who are leading or tail-gunning the organized runs only makes you a jerk and annoys the very people whom you should be thanking for helping to organize the event you.

Exclusive use trails and days are published in the Jeep Safari paper, which is available for free all over town. If you want to go out on your own or with a small group of friends, look up the trail you want to run. It takes less than a minute to see if it’s open or if it’s being run that day, and you can plan accordingly. Always yield to the organized Red Rock runs, even if it means you will be behind them and delayed.

While the trails are there for all of us to enjoy, common courtesy dictates that the organized Red Rock runs have the right-of-way. Better yet, join one or more of the runs taking place during the week. Your registration fees help keep the trails open, and even Moab veterans can use the organized runs to explore the trails that are outside of their norm.

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