Perfect. Perfect? Perfect!
That’s really the best word I can use to describe our big day of Jeeping in Moab, Utah.
Just to backtrack a moment, if you are new to this site or not fully familiar with our whole backstory, I describe myself as a “Jeepless Jeeper”. I’ve been around Jeeps since I was 9, owned them since I was 18, spent hundreds of hours working on them learning mechanical skills, wiring, welding, and painting, bought and sold a number of them that I never got around to fixing up, rolled one in Colorado, moderate a busy discussion forum for 1955 - 1975 CJ Jeeps, started the first discussion group for Bantam Jeep trailers, and built up what’s probably the largest amount of content around the Jeep CJ6 model. Yea, Jeeps have been a bit of an obsession…;)
When we started prepping for this trip it became clear that I needed to sell my Jeep and trailer both to finance this trip but also to set an example for the sacrifices we were asking our kids to make. It was the right decision, hard but significant. Freeing (loads of spare parts went with the rig freeing up half a shed and multiple shelves in the basement), but unsettling. Jeeps have been such a core segment of my being for so long that seeing it drive away forced me to start questioning who I am without a Jeep.
I don’t yet know the answer to that question. I do know that when I look back at my years of Jeep ownership I appreciate the skills I learned by working on them, but am disappointed that we didn’t use them more. Too many hours spent in the garage, not enough in the woods or dunes. I loved owning an older and more unique Jeep, but in the future - should I buy one again - I may get something newer and more run-of-the mill in hopes of balancing that working vs. driving formula with more time in the outdoors.
OK, off the couch. ;)
In Colorado and Utah there are a number of places to rent Jeeps, and most of them run about $150 per day. Compared to the costs of other family activities we’ve looked at this isn’t actually too bad. Since all the Jeep roads in SW Colorado were snowed shut yet we decided to swing around to Moab and rent one here instead.
If you aren’t familiar with Moab, it’s become the ultimate outdoor adventure destination over the last couple of decades. Mountain biking, river rafting, climbing, hiking, and off-roading are all available in this area. We were first here roughly 14 years ago on a Jeeping trip so knew the area held some of the country’s best Jeeping. We consulted our online Jeep community for trail ideas, and shopped at a couple of local rental places. I lobbied MsBoyink for a 2-day rental, in hopes that we’d have a better chance for good weather and not be rushed to get the rental back after a day on the trail. And, because I just wanted more seat time. My puppy dog eyes must have worked.
We picked up a new 2 door Jeep “JK” model on a Saturday night. It was equipped with an automatic transmission and a “locker” in the rear - a device that powers both wheels equally as a means to giving the Jeep more traction off road. It also had more aggressive aftermarket tires, and - I believe - a small lift (more ground clearance means you can get over more obstacles). After dropping off a not-feeling-well MsBoyink (who began preparing for the next day’s trail run), the kids and I went out for a drive. I wanted to get some seat time on roads and mild trails before hitting a tougher one the next day. We found our way to Hurrah Pass, a relatively easy trail leading to a modest 4700K feet pass. It was just the right road, twisty and turny, a couple of small water crossings, but with some spots to try out the Jeep’s 4WD. We made it up just at sunset, lingered long enough to snap a few pictures, then headed back wanting to get as far home in the remaining daylight as possible.
The next day we decided on the trail called “Fins & Things”. Fins is rated 3.5 on a 1-4 scale, but it was recommend both by my Dad and a few Jeeper buddies and we knew that many of the harder spots were optional, with easier go-arounds. We stocked the Jeep with food & water and made it to the trailhead around 10:00AM. We fell in behind two other rentals and made fast friends. They turned out to be a family from Salt Lake City, and the wife had owned Jeeps in the past. She and her mom proved to be good spotters (people who help you get over tough spots where tire placement is important but tough to see from the driver’s seat).
We soon caught up to a larger group of rigs playing around on a fin that had some optional ups and downs. We parked to watch, but also to get out and look over the paths to choose our route down. One option was a short drop so steep that you basically eased up and over, then allowed your Jeep to slide down a couple of feet until reaching the bottom. The other option was a less steep rock, but with a more technical path and greater risk if you did chose the wrong one. I had decided to do the shorter & steeper one but by the time we got our turn the spotter had left that route and there was still a spotter on the 2nd alternative. I’ll chose a route with a good spotter any day. MsBoyink and the kids opted to walk this one out, and MsBoyink took the photos you see (which don’t really show the true steepness and “butt-pucker factor”).
We finished the first half of the trail and bid the other rentals goodbye as they had to pick up some other family members. We caught up again with the bigger group, asked if they were doing the second half of the trail, and if so could we join them? Turns out they were a contingent from the Denver based Mile-Hi Jeep Club, one of the oldest and biggest Jeep club in the country. Half of the group was indeed going to complete Fins and Things and they agreed to let us join them. We couldn’t have arranged ourselves better Jeeping partners - Jeep clubs are by design open to newcomers, practice responsible off-roading, and travel in a prepared and organized manner. They welcomed us in, put us in the middle of the group (since we didn’t have a CB and so couldn’t communicate that way) and we left for the second half of the trail.
After a short time we stopped for lunch and had a great time getting to know them better. As always, I’m amazed at how well “Jeep People” click. We spent the next couple of hours moving through the rest of the trail with its sandy, very “Michigan dune-like” stretches intermixed with the classic Moab rock sections. We went up rocks so steep I could only see sky out the windshield (and tried to poke my head out the window to see the upcoming trail) and down rocks so steep we could only see the mud-hole we were slipping into. The rental did very well - there was only one climb over a ledge that I wasn’t able to make up, the Jeep hung up on the skidplate and I had to back down and take an alternate path. I’m happy to say that I never once “slipped a tire” - in the Moab slickrock the quickest way to lose traction is to spin a tire from using too much accelerator. This can cause both trouble (the minute you lose traction gravity takes over which can lead to dire circumstances) but it’s also just considered inelegant driving. What you want to do is just ooze over everything slowly, not spinning tires or revving your engine, not throwing sand or rocks with your tires, and using just enough horsepower to get over the obstacle. For not having driven a Jeep in over a year, and not having done any hardcore four wheeling in much longer than that, I think we did well at hanging with the club members and not slowing them down.
The pace was just right as we didn’t stop to play on all the obstacles, ate a friendly but efficient lunch, and took potty breaks at the right time. We completed the trail at roughly 3:30 - so figuring 4 hours of driving time to go 8 miles should give you some indication of the difficulty of the driving. We bid our Jeeping friends goodbye, and headed back for the trailer (with a small detour for some well-deserved ice cream).
For a day thrown together so quickly and taking a number of chances it couldn’t have turned out any better. The weather was awesome, the company was awesome, the trail was just challenging enough to be fun but not too dangerous, and we were back home before we were too exhausted.