Fantastic Jeeps & Where to Find Them

AND SO IT BEGINS…

Hey everybody! It’s Brandon, back in the blog saddle to bring you another look into the Jeep life. By now you have probably asked yourself where this addiction to Jeeps comes from. This blog was created in order to chronicle our honeymoon adventure, not all this Jeep stuff. The origin of this addiction is a longer story than I had realized originally but I’ll sum it up quickly.

My first taste of driving was at roughly 10 years old when my family had a Jeep Cherokee Laredo. At the time, we lived in Dugway, Utah with plenty places to go play near home. We left the pavement, ran some dirt roads and I got to cut my first donut in the desert! Needless to say, I had a blast and couldn’t wait to drive legally. Fast forward a few years and you’d find me in central Texas. My family has 250 acres between Austin and Houston. My grandpa had stumbled upon a really cool old jeep and acquired it, much to my delight. That beauty was a 1968 CJ-5 with a Buick V-6 Dauntless edition engine and the appropriate amount of “patina” to call it a real Jeep. Crazy fast for a vehicle with manual steering and brakes! It wasn’t long before I had tested the strength of this Jeep. The mechanical math equation goes as follows: Jeep + teenager + 250 acres + swamp on property = blown transmission. I still regret killing that rig; it’s one of my favorite vehicles to date. Little did I know, that was not the end of my Jeeping.

When we decided to live a nomadic lifestyle it became clear we needed a tow vehicle. Jeep seemed to offer the best vehicle for the job. Jeeps are lightweight, equipped to flat tow, and, of course, four wheel drive. So I sold a big bad black diesel pickup and went home with a vehicle that didn’t even have a hitch. Even more embarrassing was having to return to the dealer in Jenny’s hatchback to retrieve the soft top because I didn’t have the cargo room. I was totally out of my element. All of a sudden a Mazda became the utility vehicle in our life. I was in a awkward place to say the least. Our Jeep has changed immensely since then, but here’s a look at it before I got my way with it.

I needed a way to learn more about my new car. I also knew there was plenty of off-road fun to be had in our area but didn’t know anyone in that mindset. I took to social media and found a Facebook group called Jeep Nation that was based in my area and fairly new to Facebook. This page showed me just how friendly and knowledgeable the Jeep community is. This page in particular was very well managed, and a corner of the internet that wasn’t full of trolls and negativity. All questions are good questions and the page focused on how to have fun on the local trail systems and give advice to those who asked. After some modifications to the Jeep and some time spent studying the local’s idea of fun, I wanted in! You can see that maiden voyage into the woods here.

Life is funny sometimes. One of the reasons we sold our house was to relocate near friends and family. Oddly enough, while planning to leave the state of Oregon, I gathered more friends through Jeep Nation in the final months than I had in the five years I’d been there. It was bittersweet. On one hand, we were going on a grand adventure but couldn’t believe we were leaving after meeting so many people through the the Jeep community. On the other hand, none of that would’ve even come to fruition if we hadn’t planned to leave and get into RV life. So now we will have a life of revisiting the beautiful state of Oregon that we called home for half a decade. Cool by me! I love reconnecting with my buddies!

So all these pre-game paragraphs are to help explain how drastically we changed our plans and ended up in Moab mere days before we had Thanksgiving with family back in Texas. It all started when a couple of Jeep Nation’s finest  members inquired about our whereabouts around that time. They knew damn well that we lived the RV lifestyle and roughly the route we were taking to get home. Luckily they asked if we would like to join them in the Moab area at the perfect time. They were celebrating an early Thanksgiving with their family in Moab and asked us to tag along. We hadn’t booked anything past the time they had in mind. It was a very easy decision. The Mecca of off-road play was a mere 220 miles from my current location, couple that with Jenny’s childhood love of Arches National Park, it was a no brainer, we were Moab bound!

So… what’s next? After planning it out we realized  we would get there about four days before the party that had invited us. Shucks darn right? We were more than willing to get there early and get the lay of the land before our buddies showed up. Since I knew this was my off-road haven I was itching to get on the trails. However, I won’t hit any major trail without another rig or two. It’s a matter of safety and convenience. As a younger lad on 250 acres I got stuck plenty of times by myself and knew just how shitty that could be, and I had a tractor on the property to pull myself out! So I needed to find or form a group to run the trails before our friends arrived. We found a BLM campground that was right in the heart of the Moab slick rock Jeep trails. One of which you saw on the last post , Little Lion’s Back. I must’ve hit this trail more than a half dozen times while camped there.

So I needed some fellow Jeep peeps to take on the tougher trails, just where in the hell was I going to find them? Worry not my faithful readers, I had a plan. Once again social media answered the call of duty. Moab has been the go-to place for wheelers long before I was born . It came as no surprise they had a bustling Facebook page dedicated to the area. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers have a very strong network for finding trails, people, and advice pertaining anything in Moab and the surrounding areas. It’s full of very knowledgable and friendly people eager to hit the trails with anyone who came along. So I put out a post to the local Moab page to see if I had any takers to hit the trails.

I didn’t have to wait long. Before I knew it,  I had made a plan with some guys who were not new to Moab but for the most part were new to the  trail we had selected, the Kane Creek Canyon trail. For some reason or another Jeepers are very trusting of their fellow Jeepers. Without knowing each other from Adam, a group of Jeepers of various life skills and Jeep builds met up at the McDonald’s in downtown Moab. Once everyone was fed, CB radios checked and a game plan for the day was made, we took off for the trailhead.

In total, the trail consisted of 38 miles of mixed dirt road/trail. The first ten miles are spent meandering through a canyon that was formed by the Colorado River, a stunning way to start the day.  We picked a spot about six miles in to stop and airdown for ride quality. We’d need to do it anyhow and the road had turned to washboard. So we picked a pretty spot and started releasing that pesky highway pressure.

As you can see, we had a good variety of rigs for the day. The drivers were just as diverse. The guys in the red jeeps were friends that worked in different areas of the hi-tech industry, the white one was a charming retired veteran who had essentially organized this little run. Unfortunately, he had to turn back towards the beginning of our run due to some family needs. Then there was us, earth-roaming young people who currently write about their travels in hopes that others find it entertaining. With the team assembled, let’s get into the canyon!

The red Jeeps were a lot of fun to photograph. Their bright colors made for great contrast with the landscape. I love my golden hell-sled but it can blend in with its surroundings. And I like red, so they get a nice chunk of blog post real estate. Not to mention that’s one badass 4-door rig sitting on 40″ tires and one-ton axles. It was a beautiful build. The following blurb is for my Jeep guys (and gals) who love the scoop on what’s under all that sheet metal. Some of the goodies on that bad boy: Dynatrac 80 rear axle, Dynatrac 60 up front, King coilover shocks, PSC ram assist, long arms, bead locks, one-ton steering, all wrapped in Evo armor, and a damn fine driver!

img_1765
From left: Brandon, Matthew, and James

It was about this point in the trail that the white Jeep had to turn back. I am forever grateful that he arranged this. He was a charming guy who I enjoyed talking with. One day I hope to finish a trail with him. So the young guy who made sure it was ok for a couple of Moab newbs to tag along for the day ended up as trial lead for the rest of the day. The trail was a straight shot, with no connecting trails or intersections for the most part, so I figured, why the hell not?  We had the maps and a GPS so we felt equipped for the task at hand. So after we said our goodbyes, the three of us continued on.

This trail was amazing! Everywhere you turn your head, abundant beauty. The red rocks and soil make this my favorite desert landscape. We rolled down into the base of the canyon and spent several miles zig zagging and splashing through Kane creek. The creek was surrounded by trees and shrubbery so at times were were in very tight narrow wooded corridors that always had a splash through the creek in the middle. Somewhere along the way it was just time to stop and soak up some of the beauty. We found a giant boulder resting near the banks of the creek to stop and stretch our legs, and by that I mean flexing the hell outta our Jeeps on whatever materials presented themselves!

We could have stayed here all day playing on these rocks, but we had plenty of trail left. The trail continued through the canyon, snaking through the trees and creek. At one point we drove straight down the creek for quite a while. As any kid or full grown man-child will tell you, water is meant for splashing! We did just that, picked up the pace and pushed a wake in front of us. It was a blast! Most of the day was spent traversing the canyon floor… but I knew at some point we would have to crawl our way out.

Before we left that morning I decided to look at some YouTube footage of the trail to check for obstacles that could be problematic. I found plenty of videos, one titled “Hardest Section of Kane Creek”. After I checked out the video I felt pretty confident that it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. ‘Twas a very misleading video…

The shelf road that led us up and out of the canyon was fairly narrow with many large boulders that were unavoidable. Climb you must! There were splendid views over the side of the cliff to that pretty little creek. I tried not to pay attention to the mangled heap of steel that at one time was a Jeep lying far below us. It was time to grit my teeth, tighten my grip on the wheel, and give it hell!

Just a wee sketchy!

Follow the tire tracks!

I loved watching this Jeep work. Obviously he had a much easier time than the smaller rigs. Jeep never broke a sweat. But what was truly impressive was the small red Jeep. It has “open differentials”, which means that the tire with the least traction will break traction if the opposite wheel is under a heavy load. Myself and the monster Jeep are equipped with locking differentials. This allows both tires on the axle to spin at the same speed regardless of which side is under a load. Since the little red Jeep didn’t have lockers it took more driver skill and some hands on help. I physically pushed, pulled, and bounced on his Jeep to help gain traction to get over the large obstacles. But he made it!

Since I’m often in a new area and rarely know my way around, plus I’m always wheeling with more experienced drivers than myself, it was a real treat to play trail lead and spotter for the guys behind me. You can learn a lot about the technical aspects of rock crawling by watching other rigs travel over obstacles. It gives you a much better idea of what your suspension is doing when you’re in the driver seat.

This spot on the trail was without a doubt the tallest and most awkward shelf we had to climb over. They call it Hamburger Hill. Jagged rocks and deep holes caused you to ride the rim closer than any of us would have preferred.  There was no turning back either. The sun was beginning to set, temps began to drop, not to mention, where would we turn around? It was 36 miles to backtrack and only 2 to finish the trail.  So we pushed on. I attempted it a few times, doing my best to stay away from the cliff edge and remain focused. Eventually we resorted to stacking rocks to help make the crawl. Time for another shot at it!

I made it! It was quite a rush. The climb out was adrenaline filled. With every large obstacle conquered there seemed to be another a car length ahead. It was slow going. Plenty of hiking ahead to formulate the best approach for the group. But by damn we made it out! We were all ready for some pavement and a cold beer. It was time to finish up and get back to town.

The very end of this run had one last obstacle to conquer. We approached a tall wall that we had to climb to go home. There were three different lines to choose from. Your choices were mild, medium, or nutty in difficulty. Obviously, the big boy had to try the nutty line. He attempted it a few times before switching lines. None of us were about to break something a half mile from the highway. It had been a great day and no one had anything to prove.

So there you have it, another badass Jeep trail in another badass location. The day was capped off by a gorgeous sunset and a few laughs before we all parted ways. I’d hit trails with these guys again in a heartbeat. We got along great, worked very well as a team, and just had a wonderful time. Tip of the hat to you gents!

JUST GOTTA KEEP ON JEEPIN’ ON…

I’ll bet you thought it was over, not quite. BUT… I’ve already got you here so you might as well enjoy the rest of the ride. It’ll be considerably smoother from here on out, well, for the most part. I was still waiting on my Jeep Nation buddies to show up. They were arriving in town about the same time I wrapped up the run though Kane Creek Canyon. I was eager to visit with and thank the awesome family who asked us out here. And luckily I hadn’t damaged anything critical to hinder any future fun. Well, I did crush my tailgate on Kane Creek but I’ll get to that. Don’t worry, Gunner took his hits like a champ.

We finally got to meet up with our friends Becky and Jason over dinner with their fam. What an amazing family, everyone was just delightful. We laughed a lot, and talked Jeeps for a good while. Jenny and I were reeling from our run and were eager to share the day’s events. I’m sure they could tell how pumped we were. Mainly because I damn near insisted we hit some sections of the same trail. Not the difficult long section, but definitely the canyon floor. They had just driven Becky’s Jeep from Oregon and had to drive it back. No way in hell was I going to be responsible for ruining their vacation because we hit that crazy ass shelf road and broke something.

Along with Becky’s Jeep they had a stock 4×4 Nissan Frontier that her dad brought to Moab. After meeting the whole family I knew I wanted to do something all of us could enjoy. I’d had plenty of excitement already and didn’t want to risk any breakage so close to Thanksgiving. Becky just happened to run into a local Jeep tour guide at the grocery store and got some advice as to where we should go play that day. Thanks Jeep guide! He suggested we try out the Monitor and Merrimac trail. A very scenic run through incredible rock formations. Sounded like a good time to us! So we convoyed out to the trailhead and aired down for ride quality. The picture below is of the amazing family we had the privilege of sharing our time in Moab with. Thanks again y’all, we really enjoyed ourselves!

From left to right: Anthony (Becky’s brother), Dave (Becky’s dad), Susan (Becky’s mom), Renee (Becky’s sister), Jason (Becky’s husband), Ethan (Jason and Becky’s son), and Becky. The little brown dog was named Dottie and the big white dog is Zander.

The terrain we faced wouldn’t be anything like what Jenny and I saw on the last run. It started out on a nice gravel road but eventually we turned off and got into the sand. Sand is a lot of fun and easy to drive. The trail went from dunes to slick rock with plenty of stream splashing along the way. We all had a good time.

The whole idea was to go see some amazing countryside that was stock vehicle capable. For the most part it was, but there were a few tricky spots. The red pickup had fairly low ground clearance for Moab, but they did awesome! I love watching Jeeps put in work but it was absolutely hilarious watching this truck run the trail. Long wheel base, all terrain tires and a couple of great drivers allowed the truck to make the day’s trail successfully. I got to do more spotting on this run and to my surprise the truck survived the day with all its parts and plastic mud-flaps. That’s a win in my book!

THE FUN CONTINUES!

The next day Jenny and I got to meet up with Jason and Becky to go and hit the first 10 miles of Kane Creek Canyon. I enjoyed that trail so much that I was eager to share it with them. The rest of her family went to Arches National Park to go see some of the places we had visited days prior. This allowed the two Jeeps to go out and have some fun. It would NOT have been fun for the truck so it really couldn’t have worked out any better.

We definitely got our Jeeps off the street. That’s the Jeep Nation motto. We like to keep things classy.

Remember that little info nugget about open differentials?  Well Becky doesn’t have lockers yet… and I stress the “yet” part. This badass Jeep girl has the bug bad and will out wheel us all in due time. Open diffs, soft sand, and trying to climb a rock ends with wheel spin.  So her husband played Hercules and I added a little traction control. Their dog Xander was in attendance for moral support.

Earlier I mentioned I that my tailgate took a beating. The obstacle pictured below is guilty for the body damage I received. It’s a deep V-shaped channel that’s only big enough to get flat before you start climbing the other side.  About halfway up the the other side I misjudged my location and depressed the clutch. I rolled back faster than prices at Walmart, right into the wall behind the jeep. The spare tire took the hit but it shoved the tire carrier into the tailgate leaving a nasty kink in the sheet metal. No hope of hammering it out but thats ok. What’s a Jeep without a few scars? Honestly you can’t even see it with the tire carrier closed.  AND the tailgate still closes and holds a seal! Another win! Below is my second attempt at it. I didn’t plan on making the same mistake twice. We chose this point to turn around but before we did I wanted another crack at this crack. You’ll notice I probably used more throttle on this attempt! It was under full control but I did get some great reactions from my audience. All I could see was sky up front and red rock in the rear view mirror, what a rush!!

Here’s a little video of the action.

You made it! Thanks for sticking with me through all this mess. It was a very looooong post but this was our last stop and we crammed a lot of fun into our week in Moab. To our friends Becky, Jason, and Family, many thanks! This is a trip I will never forget! You have an amazing family and I look forward to the next adventure with you all!

That’s it for now, you are relieved of duty. After this we hauled ass back to Texas to be with friends and family for Thanksgiving. But there’s no sleep for the wicked. We almost immediately started the planning and packing for our next adventure… THE BAHAMAS!!! Stay tuned for a major change in color. We are going from red rocks and red sand to turquoise water, tiki drinks, and golden sand beaches!!!

Cheers mates and thanks for reading along! Because you were so diligent I’ll give you a sneak peak into the the next adventure. Fair winds!

One thought on “Fantastic Jeeps & Where to Find Them

  1. I’m not much of a long post/story kind of guy but I really enjoyed this. I will deffinately share you post with other. Maybe we can wheel again. You and your lovely wife were so easy to get along with and you two made my first trip to Moab very enjoyable. I hope that I meet more great people on my next adventure. As my wife always says “Safe travels and have fun”
    James
    Aka. Red Jeep, open diffs.

    Like

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