Imagine a life where you wake up with the sun, have breakfast on the tailgate of your truck, air down your tires, lock in your hubs, and wheel a wide variety of terrain all day long with a group of people from all across the country. Then you head back to camp and repair any broken bits on your or your new friends' 4x4s, have dinner and a brew, and listen to some tall tales around a campfire before crawling into your sleeping bag late just to get a few hours rest before repeating these steps the following day. Sounds great, eh? That's what Ultimate Adventure is all about, and that's why we do it every year.
The goal of Ultimate Adventure is to eat, sleep, and breathe four-wheeling, and to do it from the seat of your trail rig. There are no trailers around to haul your open-topped, deep-lugged, granny-geared 4x4 from trail to trail. Rather it's load up, hit the road, find the trails, wheel hard, and live a week with dirt behind your ears, under your fingernails, and in the lugs of your Krawlers. This year was no different, but it was in a new place, and with a bunch of new four-bys wheeling the trails with us.
For 2006 our valiant leader and magazine editor Rick Pw found us some extremely challenging trails in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Never heard of anything from those parts other than dirt and potatoes? Well that is another goal of our UA trip, when at all possible: Run those trails less traveled, and let the locals show what their neck of the woods has to offer. The world is a big place and there are still plenty of untamed rock canyons, wooded two tracks, enormous dunes, and shoulder-deep mud holes waiting for wheelers like you and us to come play in. So follow along to see where the first half of the trip took us, and tune in next month to see where we ended up and how you too can come along on Ultimate Adventure 2007.
Day 1, Saturday: Boise, Idaho
This year Ultimate Adventure began with a roundup at the Doubletree Boise-Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Readers, sponsors, and magazine folks alike knew it was the place to be since the big red, white, and blue BFGoodrich Tires support trailer was in the parking lot. We have been lucky to have BFGoodrich Tires not only be the title sponsor of this event the past few years, but also send one of their semis out as a mobile repair shop for everything from gear changes to airing up tires. It may seem a bit plush for a wheeling trip, and it is, but remember that they are only there as support. If anyone breaks on the trip he still has to repair his own ride, and though the BFGoodrich Tires semi was at many of our nightly stops, they can only get so close to the trail, so most trail days require carrying spare parts and tools, as well as whatever food or snacks you might need.
Pretty much every trail day is just like when you're at your home trail.Before our posse of big-tired trucks even hits the dirt, everyone has to get through tech inspection. We do tech inspection to help eliminate stupid trail carnage, time-consuming repairs in the dirt, and accidents. It's all really basic stuff like do you have two lockers, do you have a fire extinguisher, do you have seatbelts, and have you prespooled your winch cable so that it's ready to drag your ride up 15-foot waterfalls?
Before some trucks could even go through tech inspection they had some final repairs, or shall we say, pre-pairs that needed doing. Yep, in the parking lot of the hotel we had CBs and rock sliders being installed, toolbags and camping gear being packed, a ring-and-pinion being replaced, old stickers replaced with new UA 2006 decals, and of course the obligatory first testdrive around the parking lot in the Ultimate FJ, since we barely got the rig done before we threw it on the trailer and headed to Idaho. Situation normal, Ultimate Adventure 2006 had begun.
Day 2, Sunday: Rattlesnake Alley, outside Boise
Our first day of trails took us to a hidden rock canyon not far from Boise that our local trail leaders, Howard Shields and Bill Taylor, refer to as Rattlesnake Alley. The Idaho Off-Road 4x4 Club hosted our team of 20 vehicles and took us to one of the toughest trails in their neck of the woods. Now there weren't a lot of woods where we went but rather a deep canyon surrounded by acres and acres of prairie grass. It was pretty wild because had you been on one of the local two-lane roads you would never guess that there was a world-class rockcrawling trail just behind that pasture full of cows. If you want to try this trail for yourself, you'll need to contact the locals at www.idaho4x4.com, because it's not the easiest place to find.
Once you find the trail it is anything but easy. As with any trail, this canyon shouldn't be attempted alone, or in an unqualified vehicle. One reason for this is that the name Rattlesnake Alley refers to the many reptilian residents amongst the lava rock. Though we were lucky to only encounter one such rattler, he was as big around as a grown man's arm, and was armed with eight rows of rattles telling us to bug off. However, even if your personal body comes out unscathed from any slithering snakebites, it doesn't mean your 4x4 is going to be free of bites from vicious rocks. The volcanic boulders reside in a bed of loose sandy gravel, and though some seem attached to the center of the earth, many are as loose as marbles and move continuously about under tire treads.
The trail consists of boulders ranging from basketball to hay-bale size that continuously shift under the weight of vehicles, with even larger ones hiding in their midst ready to claw at clean paint jobs and virgin rock sliders. Then just to make sure that Warn, our Official Winch sponsor, didn't think we had ignored them, the trail concludes with not one but two extremely steep and extremely tight rocky wedge climbs that had most attendees pulling and double-pulling cable. Of course it only got more exciting when the scorching hot day was relieved in a chilly thunderstorm to make the remaining obstacles just that much more difficult. It was a trail worth the long trip there, and the perfect way to break in any Ultimate Adventure newbies.
Day 3, Monday: Road Day--Boise, Idaho, to Elko, Nevada
The on-road days of Ultimate Adventure could be pretty boring, but usually aren't. Imagine 20 very capable trail rigs that now must convoy more than 200 miles to their next destination, and they have to do it under their own power to prove the Ultimate 4x4 can get you to the trails and home again. On top of that they just spent a very long day prior hammering through an abusive rock trail, and you can see where trouble could arise. Plus every fuel stop is easily an hour-long "chitchat, snack food, check that funny noise" session, not to mention the ongoing practical jokes that get passed around every few hundred miles. Then throw in both a photo and video crew asking the group to stop and line up along with various mechanical issues and what should be a four-hour trip quickly takes all darn day. Oh, and let's not forget the infestation of Mormon crickets that covered the highway for a mile or so and were squashed by the millions as our troop rolled through, leaving gobs of bug guts in everyone's wheelwells. But hey, it's a thousand times better than being in the office. In addition to the task of leading this group, which is on par with herding cats, Editor Pw also enjoys taking everyone along the back roads to better experience what the locales we are passing through have to offer. And, of course, to better hunt the elusive old flatfender Jeeps he already has too many of but still wants more. Nope, road days of UA are never boring. Long, but not boring.
Day 4, Tuesday: Outside Elko, Nevada, Wheeling Gas Tank Alley on the 4th of July
Our fourth day of Ultimate Adventure had us waking early after a night of camping. Some folks may balk at the idea of living out of a tent for days on end, but reality is that fresh air and breakfast cooked over a Coleman grill is a thousand times healthier for you than stale air conditioned air, free cable, and room service at whatever chain hotel you might find. Plus, since the entire group was camping, none of us noticed how bad we all smelled--until much later in the week.
After crawling from our tents we went in search of more rocks to crawl on. Of course this wasn't without yet another hour-long gas and cooler refuel on the way. This day was lead by the crew from Bangin Bones 4x4 club (www.banginbones.com), and it was the epitome of a long day on a short trail. A short trail that never ends, that is. The Bangin Bones crew had us exploring their backup trail since the initially planned trail was shut down due to extreme fire damage. This had everyone extremely cautious to keep any and all flames--whether cigarettes or trail repair welding--away from the dry grass lining the rocky course we eventually wheeled on.
The Gas Tank Alley trail was named after a previous wheeling trip resulted in a gas tank being torn out from under a Bronco by one of the many sharp lava-rock boulders. Luckily we kept all our fuel-carrying containers on board during this trip. Our group of 20 vehicles, plus five or six club members, worked our way through this trail that didn't have any crazy winch hills or death-defying climbs, but tons of bouldering obstacles offering multiple lines and driveshaft, body, and tip-over challenges. Again it was a hot day with a late afternoon thunderstorm to help cool down hard-working 4x4s, but also slicken the large stones. However, nothing was better than our convoy of hammered trail machines heading back to camp after dark with the sound of BFGoodrich Krawlers slapping asphalt underneath, while Fourth of July fireworks lit the sky overhead.
Tune in next month for part 2 of our Ultimate Adventure 2006 coverage when we leave the rocks behind to explore deep mud holes and the largest dunes in North America.