57th Annual TDS Desert Safari


Verne SimonsPhotographer, Writer

Every year we await the end of winter with baited breath. Not because we yearn for the heat of the summer (we live in Phoenix, and no one yearns for summer here because it can hit 120 in the shade!). Rather, we yearn for one of our favorite Southwestern off-road events, Tierra Del Sol’s Desert Safari (sometimes called TDS for short). The event is the world’s oldest, continuously held off-road event put on by the aforementioned historic four-wheel-drive club. While it may not have the best rockcrawling, the biggest mud holes, or the world’s best off-road trails, TDS is still one of our favorites. Why? We get to hang out with friends and wheel one of the most unusual areas in the Southwest.

Nestled on the western shore of Southern California’s Salton Sea, in areas known as Ocotillo Wells and the Truckhaven Hills, Tierra Del Sol affords off-road action like no other. With eroding sandstone and mudstone hills, the mostly open off-road area (you can range where you want, except where fenced) is decidedly unique. Without much vegetation and slow but steady erosion, the dirt is like kitty litter and offers fun without the risk of too much body damage. The eroded spots between hills allow for suspensions to flex to their max, causing tires to lift and or rub.

Following along, either with friends or during the yearly organized trail run, pushes just about any 4x4 to its limits, whether it be a stock rig or a fully built crawler. Lockers, tire clearance, and flexy suspension rule the day.

We like to head to TDS early on Thursday in order to ensure maximum fun and adventure. From there the event just grows over Friday and Saturday, ending with an organized trail run before a raffle like no other. See what adventures we had and see what we saw along the way.

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