by Dave Warner
Over the past two years I have taken an annual trip to Moab with a bunch of friends and am now happy to say that I have Moab in my blood. This year our little group of friends had come to the conclusion that we would not go to Moab because we were going to hit the Rubicon in September. All was going fine and dandy until Ben (aka dooboy) started asking me some questions about which trails to run in Moab. After talking about it, the idea to head down with Ben and Arnold crept into my mind. The only problem was how to convince my wife to let me go, since this was going to be a guys only trip. Well, after a few conversations, actually arguments, she let me go. Which means I won right?!?!
The next step was to convince my brother (Curtis) to come down in his rig. Well, all I had to do was mention it and he was in. I'm sure his wife swore my name up and down a number of times leading up to the trip though.
Pre-Moab Vehicle Preparation
The months leading up to Moab have always turned into a thrash-a-thon in order to get all the ideas in my head working on my truck. Curtis was suffering from the same affliction:
In the days leading up to the Moab trip both Ben and Arnold plus a few others had to back out. Because stubbornness runs in our family, Curtis and I decided we'd go anyway.
Except for a few issues with the LT1 overheating, the trip down was fairly uneventful. We arrived Sunday night and went to search for a buddy of mine named Dan Starc who has a Tan XJ with an exo cage and D60s front and rear. Dan is a member of the Red Rock 4Wheelers in Moab even though he lives in Seattle and makes the journey down to Moab at least once a year. Dan and some of his friends were staying at Joe's Garage. We made plans to meet there the next morning to run a 'secret' trail.
When we arrived at Joe's we got a huge surprise. Sitting out front of the shop were a couple of rock buggies and the mother of all tow rigs. Soni Honegger, the builder of the famous buggy, the Scorpion, happened to be one of Dan's buddies. His RV, at least that is how it is insured, was a modified ex US Army tank hauler. We literally spent hours ogling it. The Scorpion he had in Moab was the Diesel version and was nothing short of a work of art. I don't even know how someone would dream up the designs he has used. Also present was Greg (don't know last name) from a fabrication shop in California with a nice rock buggy running Super Swampers made of an extremely sticky compound but don't actually exist yet and a rep from Superlift/Black Diamond with a prototype YJ coilover kit. Chris (I'm bad with last names), a freelance writer/photographer for the four-wheel magazines, was also on the trip. If we are lucky, he'll sell the story to one of the magazines and we will get our photos in it.
The trail we were to run was called Killer Kane. Killer Kane is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights as it runs off camber up the side of a cliff with drop-offs over 600 ft straight down. My lower back and butt hurt by the time the trail was over because I was clenching to my seat for all I was worth. The way up is ok, but the way down is where it really becomes unnerving. Every single passenger decided to walk down the trail. The drivers doors and seatbelts were also left off by many in case the rig started to slip over the side the driver could then bail out. The benefit of this death-defying trail is a beautiful view over vast canyons and an old uranium mineshaft that goes a quarter mile through the mountain and out the other side. The trail does not have many really tough obstacles, but the cliff on the side amplifies even the easy ones.
Last year our group of friends ran Lower Helldorado and started into Upper Helldorado but had some breakage on the first obstacle so we decided to turn around. This year Curtis and I were determined to conquer Upper Helldorado. The trail is fairly short but with some really nasty obstacles that pitch your truck into the canyon walls and make you climb over boulders that rival the size of your truck. There are four main obstacles with a few other ones to keep you on your toes. The first one consists of driving through a fairly tight line where we had no problems. The second obstacle drives you off camber up a rock while slamming the roof/cage (lucky I built my exo) into the canyon wall. We both got high centered here and needed to winch as we stayed too far to the right trying to clear the canyon wall. The third obstacle is a series of large rocks with one large one referred to has Breakover Rock. As the first truck through and having a long wheelbase, I was having difficulties with these rocks. While playing around here a large group of onlookers wandered up behind us to amuse themselves. They turned out to be a crew from Avalanche Engineering. After messing around and following their spotting I ended up with my rear bumper on Breakover Rock and the front on another with all four tires in the air. Oh well, time to break out the winch. Curtis, with me spotting, managed to drive the through the obstacle but ripped out a front brake line. Then on to the fourth obstacle also known as The Waterfall. The Waterfall on Upper Helldorado has become famous. This is a very nasty 10-12 foot climb that goes completely vertical at the top. I know of only 4 rigs to ever have driven this obstacle and many have tried. So, instead of messing around and risking breakage we hooked up the winches and pulled ourselves up. While pulling myself up on the winch I found myself respecting those who drove the waterfall. It is scary enough on a winch cable let alone actually driving.
After Helldorado we drove back to camp and were greeted by our neighbours who had just rolled their Toyota on the first obstacle into Pritchett Canyon. Hmm, that was what we were planning on running that night for a little night time action. Around 8 pm we decided to head out to Pritchett, after asking our neighbours if they wanted to come (just to rub it in a bit). Pritchett Canyon is probably the hardest trail you will find in any printed trail guides of Moab. Once we got into the canyon we were greeted by very bright moonlight illuminating the entire area. We had to stop to just gawk at the beautiful moonlit scenery. The trail itself requires lockers front and rear, but is doable if properly equipped. The obstacles include Rocker Knocker, The Rock Pile and a canyon with a series of obstacles before you finish. Half way through the trail is a large step that gets larger and larger the farther right you go. We thought we'd be cool and start over at the largest part. I tried it and finally made it after a few attempts. Curtis came next and at one point was rolling completely over backwards before I jumped up on his front bumper. After getting to the end of the trail, it is a long rough road (~20 miles) out. This is where the Red Bull we were drinking helped keep us awake.
Today we had decided to take it easy and run the Behind the Rocks trail. The trail is rated slightly lower than Pritchett Canyon, but with the thundershowers that arrived just before we started the trail, it made many obstacles more interesting and slimy. The first obstacle was unnamed, but extremely slippery. After various attempts both the trucks made it up. The next obstacle was named High Dive and is a steep drop about 30-40 feet long. Driving down this obstacle made me feel like I was bobsledding. It was so slippery that you could only try to control your fall. Up Chuck is the next obstacle immediately after High Dive. I climbed it quite elegantly, but my brother used all 300 hp of his LT1 to literally bounce his truck up it. The rest of the trail winds through the desert with nice scenery. The rain had left large ponds and jokes were told over the CB about mudding in Moab and how funny it would be if we got stuck. Through the winding part of the trail we passed a bunch of trucks from Wagoneer Machine Shop (WMS) in Oklahoma. One of the trucks, a CJ on 44's with Rockwell diffs, is one of the few trucks to drive The Waterfall on Upper Helldorado. After passing them we moved on to White Knuckle Hill, which is a drop that is normally scary, but after the WMS guys had been trying to climb it, the drop had turned into a 90 degree 7 foot drop with a depression at the bottom. We had visions of doing nose overs onto our cages and decided that we still wanted our trucks in one piece as Dan was going to show us another secret trail the next day.
Dan Starc, who I now realize knows everyone in the fourwheeling world, promised to take my brother and I on a secret trail called Boulder Alley. The trail winds its way through a little canyon with some really nice obstacles. In the middle of the trail there is a steep climb that really tests your driving ability. While spotting Curtis I almost rolled him on this obstacle. After backing down and realigning himself he drove to the top and promptly blew a front axle u-joint. Good thing everyone in our group is good humoured and while Curtis and I change the u-joint, Dan and his passenger Big Dan made jokes about Canadians and how we talk. After fixing the broken parts Dan showed us another trail that will hopefully be opened next year called Skull Canyon. It will definitely be interesting, and if they'll have me, I'll go and help open it next year.
Vendor Show and Moab Town
Since we were there during Easter Jeep Safari, the town of Moab was infested with 4x4's. I have never seen anything like it. Every person who considers himself or herself a fourwheeler should go to Moab at least to experience the rigs in town during Easter Jeep Safari. The main strip is a sea of rigs with everything from stock SUV's to Rock buggies on 44's, 49's and 52's rolling through town. The vendor show is located just south of town in the Old Spanish Trail Arena. Think of this show as SEMA only for fourwheelers. Every vendor in the business seems to be there and everyone has a prototype of something.
I have intentionally left out details on the locations of these trails. The trails we ran that are public, can be found with a little search on the Internet. The trails that are 'secret' are trails that have been opened by a dedicated group of people and I have absolutely no right to share their location with anyone but those people who have put the hard work into them.
All of the rigs that ran the trails listed in this article were equipped with 35" tires or greater, lockers front and rear, cages, winches and other appropriate equipment.
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