Written by Brian K., a member who joined the club recently
January 29th – 31st, 2021
I bought my Jeep Cherokee WK2 as an entry into off-roading. My photography was begging to get away from the heavily traveled roads and explore the back country where soft core campers and Prius drivers would never be found. This was the impetuous in joining on this trip. I could learn about the off-roading and see how others vehicles handle different terrain.
Surprisingly, the group wasn’t just men and their toys. A few females and even a teen joined. Everyone seemed cool and Brent was great to lend me a radio so I could listen in and be part of the chatter. I stayed quiet expect for an occasional poke about how my jeep was getting over 30 mpg driving so slow in the highway convoy.
The first night, we were getting to know each other. The preconception of loud and obnoxious off-roading types was disappearing quickly.
In the morning, everyone began to settle in a bit more. We were ready to go by the 9:00 am anchors up plan. At 9:15 we set off . Easy graded roads lie ahead for most of the next 8 hours. We just needed to get to the trailhead.
It was a wide wash with severe wash boarding for what felt like 8-10 miles. The Jeeps rattled and shook violently back and forth. Dick had his Dodge with a camper shell and I could have sworn we would be picking the pieces up after the non-stop swaying and slamming of the unforgiving road-way. Finally, after an hour or so of this relentless shock absorber work out, the road smoothed and flowed east. It was an easy ride in the magnificent beauty of the Colorado Desert.
Occasionally, a jeep would jump out of the convoy and dart back and forth through the wash around us. The need to play was palpable. These roads were boring and we needed excitement. It briefly came with a small water hole left on the road from the recent storms. Most of the jeeps dashed through it while staying in formation. I could see from my position there was a fair amount of water and Emily hit the puddle at a good clip. Water cascaded up and over her jeep covering it with the muddy soup. I had just enough time to close my sunroof before I hit the puddle. I’m glad I did. On the radio, Emily expressed her surprise to the sudden not so clean shower.
It was Dick that spotted the dragging plastic splash shield loose from under my WK2. I pulled over to assess the fix. Brent had the ratchet and we were back on the road in 10 minutes.
In the afternoon, we pulled off to explore a trail to Chuckawalla well. I Wish I would have followed. It was the only side trek we would take on the trip. A missed opportunity.
As the sun began its slow decent to the west and the shadows growing ever longer. We set off to find the evening campsite. The turn off was about 10 miles to the east. We slowly worked across a dry wash into what seemed to be an ancient cinder cone lava field. The path was rough and I was worried about the tread on Cherokee. The other Jeeps easily advanced up the rough terrain but there was no way my tires would take the jagged rocks for long. Luckily Dick called it and we made the decision to back track.
The dry river bed we crossed looked promising for a place to camp. It was a ravine with a good 6-15ft wall around it. The camp would be protected from the desert winds and we would have plenty of space to spread out and have a big fire.
Camp was set up quickly. Each person broke away to make their dinners and beds before the blanket of night was pulled over the sky. Slowly each camper drug over a chair to feel the fire’s warmth and talk of the days events. The night was cloudless, the moon full and the wine flowed freely. It was a lot of fun to laugh and here stories of these new friends.
There is so much I don’t know about off-roading but I’m intrigued and look forward to learning. It’s more about building confidence. I don’t imagine myself doing super technical courses but having the skills to get in and out of tight locations as well as the GPS and Comms. is exciting.
The next morning, everyone was cleaning their camps and cooking breakfast. The sunrise was beautiful. The wind had kicked up during the night and was whipping through the desert scrub. It sounded like a highway even though we were miles from the nearest paved roadway. After a cloudless day on Saturday, we finally had some beautiful wispy clouds to diffuse the light and give some texture to the sky.
We broke camp and were back on the road by 9:00am. Joe and Bobby fell into formation behind my truck. It was baffling how Joe stayed standing in the sunroof for the many hours the day before and now again this morning. However, It did make great photo opportunities. Unfortunately, we only had a couple hours of easy road left before we hit highway 78 at the far end of the trail.
At the highway, the caravan pulled over to re-inflate tires and straighten up their cabs. Summer and I decided to head south and spend Sunday exploring the sand dunes, Salton Sea and Palm Springs.
It was a great beginners trip. No major incidences. An easy way for me to dip into a world Im not familiar with. I wish we had more time. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and look forward to going further into this world.