Jeep Adventure: 2019 Jp Dirt ’N Drive Part 2

    The 4th annual Jp Dirt ’N Drive Presented by Jeep

    Stuart A. BourdonAuthorTraci ClarkPhotographyTrenton McGeePhotography

    The last time we talked, 100 Jeeps filled with a couple hundred or so Jp Dirt 'N Drive participants, and a dozen or so Jp staff and sponsor Jeeps, were all moving in a northerly direction in a big hurry. We had left Cortez, Colorado, at the crack of dawn (well, maybe a few minutes later) and needed to cover the nearly 200 miles of highway to Montrose, Colorado. There were plenty of pleasant distractions along the way, including some awe-inspiring scenery as well as a number of Poker Photo Challenge stops, but the bottom line was getting to Montrose, where we would meet the Western Slope 4 Wheelers for an afternoon of spectacular Jeeping on their favorite local trails.

    This was the third day of the 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive Presented by Jeep, during which 100 Jeeps, their owners, and some of their family and friends were invited to join us for an off- and on-road adventure through the scenic backcountry of America on our way to Moab, Utah, for the annual Easter Jeep Safari. The first day had been filled with final registration, tech and safety inspection of participant vehicles, checking out each other's rigs and engaging with fellow Jeep enthusiasts, and getting the goods on new products from our Jp Dirt 'N Drive sponsors that included Jeep, General Tire, JKS Manufacturing, KC HiLites, and Rugged Radios. An enjoyable and sometimes challenging (most big obstacles had go-arounds) day of Jeeping with the CliffHangers 4-Wheel Drive Club in their Farmington, New Mexico, backyard off-road trail network had filled the morning of our second day.

    Montrose Trail Moments
    Arriving at the Montrose County Fairgrounds and Event Center, Jp Dirt 'N Drive participants lined up behind the leaders for the different trails we were to explore that day. Trail choices had been made the night before based on the type of Jeep, its build, and the level of its driver's skill and experience. The trails ranged from 2 to 9 on a scale of 10, and most high-rated trails (6 or higher) offered route options for major obstacles. Some had grip-clenching names like Calamity Canyon (6-9) and Die Trying (8-plus) that came with warnings for overzealous drivers like "tow rig recommended" in the trail descriptions. Other trail options had scenic signatures such as Escalante Canyon (2) and Smith Mountain (3) and were easily handled by almost any vehicle. Tabeguache Trail (5) was a good combination of high-elevation assorted pine country, canyons, and open range, with a few solid challenges to test driver and Jeep. Participants were sure to get whatever they wanted—a roller coaster ride or a nice little run through the hills.

    With Jeep limits set at 15 or 20 per group to keep things manageable for the members of the Western Slope 4 Wheelers, who were guiding Jp Dirt 'N Drive participants that day, the entire group split up and went their separate ways for a handful of hours. Some had clean runs all day; some had troubles and others helped out (that's Jeeping). In the end, every single Jeep made it back. Most importantly, everyone had a great time. After a long afternoon on the trails, participants met back at the Montrose County Fairgrounds and Event Center, checked in with Jp event staff stationed at the Four Wheeler Network trailer, and enjoyed unlimited amounts of pizza courtesy of the City and County of Montrose, and beverages courtesy of JKS Manufacturing who was kicking off its 30th anniversary celebration. Full of food and sustenance, everyone headed to nearby hotels to get ready for the next day.

    Headed to Moab
    Those who have been on Jp Dirt 'N Drive know about early mornings. It's not like "going fishing" early mornings, but daily morning drivers' meetings are at 6:30 a.m., and we're out of the parking lot at 7:00 a.m. And as we like to remind participants, "No whining" is the first of Jp Dirt 'N Drive's three rules. Two and three are "Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate" and "Have fun!" With another 5:30 a.m. wake-up call and 6:00 a.m. breakfast behind us, we waved goodbye to Montrose, Colorado, and headed northward again on the highway (State 50 this time) toward Grand Junction.

    Just before reaching Grand Junction, our group dodged acute left onto Scenic and Historic Highway 141. This winding backcountry byway offered numerous historic, cultural, and geologic treasures (and more Poker Photo Challenge photo ops). It took us over mountain passes, into pine forests, past farms and ranches, and through towns like Gateway (named for the pillar formation at the canyon entrance—a gateway to adjoining country to the south, west, and north) and Uravan (which got its name from URAnium and VANadium, the two key minerals extracted from this once bustling mining town) on the way to Naturita, Colorado.

    Naturita was our short-term goal, as it was a good gas stop and the point at which the route got even more interesting. Not far from town was the turnoff to Y-11 Road (dirt) that follows the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers through high-walled canyons for more than a dozen miles until it pops back onto Highway 90 near Bedrock. This deep, cool river canyon is where we saw one of the wonders of human ingenuity (and another Poker Challenge Photo location), the Hanging Flume. Built in the late 1880s to take water from upriver to wash the gold from gravel beds downriver, all that's left is but a fragment of the flume system that was hung from the sides of the canyon. Using 1.8 million board feet of lumber, the open wooden water chute was 6 feet wide and 4 feet high. It was suspended by supports attached to the canyon wall with bolts driven 18 inches into the rock, anywhere from 100 feet or more above the canyon floor.

    From Bedrock, our route took us through Paradox (a town with a shady Old West reputation created by water rights squabbles a century ago), over the southern spine of the La Sal mountain range, and into the lower Spanish Valley, where Highway 191 led us north to Moab. We rolled into town just in time to clean up and then meet up with everyone at the Spanish Trail Arena in Moab for a (100-plus) Jeep parade through town on the way to the BBQ/party/raffle at the Canyonlands by Night & Day event center.

    Trail's End, BBQ & Prizes
    Like all Jp Dirt 'N Drives, the 2019 event was capped off with a party. We had enjoyed a good deal of fun, friendship, and adventure during the last few days, and now we had arrived in Moab. It was time for a BBQ feast, ample beverages, and prizes. Bellies were filled, and goodies ranging from Jeep accessories of all sorts to full sets of tires from sponsors Jeep, General Tire, JKS Manufacturing, KC HiLites, and Rugged Radios were handed out to lucky raffle ticket winners.

    Throughout the entire trip, there were both clues and exact locations listed in the route guidebook for dozens of photo sites that could be explored, photographed, and then posted to social media by participants with the hashtag #jpdnd19poker. These Jp Dirt 'N Drive Poker Photo Challenge posts were shown and traded for poker cards each night at the Four Wheeler Network trailer during check-in. The best poker hand this year was held by Austin Hartnell, who received free registration and a reservation for the 2020 Jp Dirt 'N Drive. However, maybe one of the coolest prizes a Jeep enthusiast could ever want, a front grille autographed by the entire Jeep development team, went to luckiest raffle ticket holder Lee Hurlbutt.

    The 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive Presented by Jeep covered a little more than 600 miles in three days on highways, byways, dirt roads, and off-road trails. We had been the guests of the CliffHangers 4-Wheel Drive Club in Farmington, New Mexico, and the Western Slope 4 Wheelers in Montrose, Colorado, and been shown some truly epic Jeeping by both. All along the way, new friendships had been formed and old friendships were revisited. There had also been beautiful scenery; historic, geologic, and cultural sites; and interesting small towns, farms, and ranches—things most people never see on their 70-mph all-interstate thrash getting to Easter Jeep Safari. Jp Dirt 'N Drive arrives in Moab on the Sunday prior to Easter every year, making it easy to plan for. If you're interested in the 2020 Jp Dirt 'N Drive, stay tuned to jpmagazine.com and @jpmag on Facebook for application announcements. And remember, there's no whining.

    Sponsors

    We would like to acknowledge the following 2019 Jp Dirt 'N Drive sponsors for their support and participation in this unique annual Jeep adventure.