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Parker Four Wheelers Lead Jeepers Through Wilds of Arizona

Desert Splash

Jim BrightlyPhotographer, Writer

The Parker Four Wheelers’ Desert Splash event offered a total of 16 trails during two days of wheeling, with trail ratings varying from a flat 2 to a challenging 5. While we don’t have the space here to talk about all 16 trails, we will detail the two very challenging trails we hit hard, but rest assured there is something for everyone and every 4x4 at the Desert Splash.

The club rates trails on a 1-to-5 scale. A trail rated 1 can be done in a stock 4x4 without modifications. A 2-rated trail requires a slightly modified rig with two tow points and a minimum of 31-inch tires. A trail rated 3 is for moderately modified vehicles and includes 2’s requirements, plus a suspension lift, one locker, and 33-inch tires minimum (body and equipment damage is possible). The number 4 trails are for highly modified 4x4s with all of the gear for a 3-rated trail, plus a front locker and 37-inch minimum tires (a winch is highly recommended and body/equipment damage is possible). Then there the 5s for extremely modified rigs and experienced drivers only (expect body and equipment damage). We’ve didn’t try a level 5 trail at this event because our Jeep’s tires are only 35 inches in diameter, so we still have something to look forward to next year if we choose to go bigger and badder with our 4x4.

Having attended the Desert Splash before, this time we decided to see what the Snake Bite trail (4) had to offer and revisit the President’s Choice trail (4+). Snake Bite, which is in a state vehicular play area on the California side of the Colorado River, was much tougher this year than President’s Choice, especially in what we nicknamed Carnage Canyon on the Seven Steps. Everyone knew we were in deep kimchee when Denny Barron, the trail leader, began stacking rocks at the first step so he could make it over with his propane-powered rock buggy. Even with the “road building,” several of us had to be tugged over Steps One and Two on the Seven Steps, and Carnage Canyon ate a CJ-7’s hub and right-side fenders, a few side mirrors on other rigs, as well as a Cherokee’s track bar mount. In addition, the canyon caused untold undercarriage collisions. The challenges and scenery, however, were well worth our efforts.

Speaking of challenges, after successfully completing the entire President’s Choice trail without a breakdown or a tug needed—including the infamous Launch Pad—Ted Palfreyman and Dawn Watts launched their own new life at the top. Both are members of Kingman’s Walapai 4 Wheelers, and Ted asked Dawn to marry him. She said yes! We’ll have to tie tin cans and plastic water bottles to their ’91 Cherokee rock buggy following the upcoming wedding.

We followed Ted’s XJ and our trail leader, Larry Crawford, through President’s Choice with our ’05 Rubicon Unlimited. President’s Choice shows its guests what could be the best of Arizona wheeling. It’s highly challenging, very scenic with many canyons and dry washes, and is just good old-fashioned fun!

Aside from the 16 runs on Friday and Saturday, the Desert Splash includes a “car” show, 50/50 raffle ($979 given away this year), preregistration raffle (the lucky early registrant won $840), some balance contests, and over $6,500 in raffle products. Havasu Springs Resort (just up the road from Parker) hosted Saturday night’s dinner of roast-beef sliders, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and Caesar salad. Although you could stay at nearby Blue Water Casino Hotel or camp in a close-by canyon, we highly recommend staying at the La Paz County Park campground. It’s right on the river, offers hot showers, and RV pull-through campsites. If you don’t feel like cooking after a dusty day on the trail, stroll on down to the Pirate’s Den Resort and enjoy a superb dinner while watching the Colorado River flow by.

The Desert Splash’s trail runs cover the technical gamut from easy to “expect body damage,” so rigs of all categories can negotiate one or more of the routes. If you want to challenge yourself and your Jeep, take the opportunity to see and enjoy the trails surrounding Parker, Arizona. The easiest way to do that is to attend the 2016 Desert Splash (November 10-12). Log on to the club’s website at parker4wheelers.net for more information. We’ll see you there!

Former Marine John Wood lent a hand to stop this YJ from going over against the rock face. Trail leader Larry Crawford spotted all the Jeeps through without a scratch.

Each trail day, everyone lined up behind his or her trail leader. It gave us the opportunity to examine some really nice Jeeps.

Our dogs, Jamboree and Keno, are ready to go and explore some backcountry.

At each trailhead, the group stops to air down. Depending on personal preference, tire pressures ranged from 10 to 18 psi.

With barely enough room for the Jeep to squeeze through, several obstacles threatened body damage.

Longer-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimiteds lifted their frontends higher but still crept through without touching anything but rubber.

One of the most experienced wheelers around and a member of the Bullhead City 4 Wheelers and the Arizona Association, Joan Beck, guided her venerable CJ-7 through without a hitch.

Wheeling through another President’s Choice obstacle, Jason from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, mentioned how much he was enjoying the Arizona weather.

Turning lemons into lemonade, Ted Palfreyman had converted his rolled-over XJ into a very capable rock buggy.

Launching a new life, Ted and Dawn became engaged at the Launch Pad, which is at the top of the last obstacle on President’s Choice.

A Willys CJ-5—80-inch wheelbase—which had been completely restored, was unable to climb the Launch Pad. The available traction didn’t match up well with its wheelbase.

At the base of each obstacle, a line forms. It gives us all a chance to meet some interesting folks while awaiting our turn.

Each trail had its own billboard, which doubled up as a sign-up board. On it were plenty of photos showing the trail’s obstacles.

We found this cool ’68 Jeepster while in line for the second day’s trail. There were plenty of well-built Jeeps in the lines.

On Snake Bite, after a quick tour through downtown Earp, California—named by and for one of Wyatt’s brothers—a very steep hill started our hearts and the trail.

Deeper into Snake Bite, the trail “disappeared” into what we called Carnage Canyon.

On our way through Carnage Canyon and toward the Seven Steps we kept wondering “who in heck was the first one through here?”

Before this CJ-7 blew a hub, broke off both side mirrors, and scraped up its side, trail boss Denny Barron stacked rocks at this first step so he could make it over with his propane-powered rock buggy.

I had to be strapped over the first two steps in the Seven Steps section of Carnage Canyon. The dust-covered boulders defeated the Rubicon’s lockers.

On the seventh step of the Seven Steps, this very clean XJ broke its factory track bar mount and had to be repaired before it could be driven to the trailhead and loaded on a trailer.

Devil’s Elbow—on the Deliverance trail—almost defeated this JK Rubicon Unlimited, although he did make it through.

A TJ’s driver became momentarily distracted, took a slightly wrong line, and ended up leaning his top against the cliff face. We snatch-blocked off another Jeep, attached the winch cable to his rollcage, and managed to save his soft top.

An “extra credit” obstacle on Deliverance—a bypass off the regular trail—almost ate a few challengers.

The renowned Desert Bar. It’s huge, mostly outdoors, and very popular with off-roaders in the Parker area. It’s a bit difficult to find, but any local can give you directions.

The Pirate’s Den Resort is a short stroll downriver from the La Paz County Park. After a full day of trail riding, it feels good to stretch your legs on the way to a fabulous dinner.

Each year, the Parker Four Wheelers collect nearly $10,000 of raffle prizes that they give away following the wonderful Saturday night dinner. With a list of charities too long to repeat here, they give 90 percent of the Splash’s proceeds to those charities.