Written by event attendee Mark Burrup
TeraFlex Customer Service
Waking up to cold snow-covered landscapes is what most of us are used to in the later end of January. The warm inviting atmosphere of St. George, UT brought a welcomed change with beautiful red rock and sand-caped dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. A morning chill still nipped the air, but as the sun rose over the mountains with a stunning red glow, it warmed up fast as we waited in line to meet the others. Together, we would spend the day facing the ultimate test of man vs. machine.
An event like no other, the Winter 4x4 Jamboree gets bigger each year. 300 vehicles was this year’s attendance goal. However, with the overwhelming response and excitement, the hardworking organizers Gill Meacham, Dixie Four Wheel Drive and Larry H. Miller decided to keep the registration open, receiving over 400 vehicle registrations total. Those numbers could have resulted in logistical nightmares, but not here. The staging process was clear, quick and easy with cones and signs that divided each row of Jeeps. Safety was also kept in mind as regulations required that each member sign a safety waiver before embarking on some hair-raising trails.
This two-day event included an assigned trail guide, mid-gunner and tail-gunner at every trail. Their help and guidance lead drivers up canyons, over rocks and through narrow passages that tested the capability of every Jeep. All 24 trails were rated by difficulty, starting from a 2 (county dirt road w/infrequent or light maintenance after rain or snow, 2WD high clearance with low gears, or otherwise light duty 4WD) up through a 10 (extreme and beyond). Vehicle damage is likely, excellent driving skills are required and rollover is common. Winches, spare parts and tools are recommended. Be prepared to spend the night on the trail. Beyond the capability of most modified stock vehicles, this is buggy territory. Don’t expect a bypass or easy way out of a high-rated trail, as they were true to the rating. Luckily, when signing up, each Jeeper could choose the trails that fit them best.
All of us from TeraFlex split up to enjoy different trails and meet new people. I had the pleasure of running West Rim and John’s Trail. West Rim was rated a 4. There were incredible 360 degree vistas of Sand Hollow Reservoir, Zion Park, snow-capped Pine Valley mountains, Warner Valley, the Arizona Strip, Hurricane cliffs, and Hurricane sand dunes. The wheeling was fun and the views magical. John’s Trial was rated a 7, and accurately challenging! We almost had 2 rollovers. One Jeep’s front dropped in a hole and was about to roll on the driver’s side down a steep rocky hill. The driver’s father who was helping spot, jumped over and grabbed the rear passenger tire which was pulling up sky high, and hung on. He added just enough weight to stop the buggy from a terrible roll. Great save, Dad! Also a Razor blew out its front differential and snapped a rear axle, but was quickly pulled out of the way so the fearless group could push on. The final climb was up a steep long winding ravine. The only way out was up. A front and rear locker was required and anything smaller than 37” tires meant you were scraping your way through a few spots. However, at the end we were justly rewarded. Not only from the satisfaction of conquering that which seemed impossible, but also a breath-taking view of the Virgin River Valley in the Washington Dam area, views of Sand Hollow Reservoir, and Zion Park in the distance lined with peaks of the Pine Valley mountains.
After some good off-road adventure, most trails ended at the top of the mountain where we found a worn out dirt road that lead to the sand dunes. Miles and miles of open desert awaited to test the power beneath our feet. We proceeded carefully, as the endless dunes have claimed their share of overheated motors, blown radiators and fired transfer cases. Despite our precautions, this is where most of the bigger accidents happened over the weekend. A good friend of TeraFlex had a spot of bad luck launching his Cherokee off a sand cliff unintentionally. Upon landing, his front axle housing snapped in two and ripped out from under the Jeep completely. The air bags deployed, a ball-joint press flew out of the rear and smashed through a front window, barely missing some heads. Luckily no one was injured. Heroes Dennis and Curt from TeraFlex consoled the poor driver and his wife. A plan was formulated quickly and a friend at local body shop was contacted, where they acquired a new Honda Civic hood. Perfect for a broken Cherokee’s sled. They pulled the poor Jeep back to safety and loaded it up on a trailer. Dennis and Curt were unable able to wheel as this took most of the day, but of course they never complained. In that moment I realized why I love working with this company. It’s not just the quality product, the smooth riding springs, the cutting edge design or the absorbing power of speed bumps, but the caliber of employees and their willingness to help that makes TeraFlex stand out above the rest.
At the end of the day, most participants met up again at the state park where the vendors showcased their products. A large raffle was held, prizes were won, and on the last day feast was served. But why was this whole event held? Was this just an excuse to go wheel around the desert? Maybe. But I saw so much more. Thanks to Gill Meacham who organized the event, Sarge who did the announcing, and an army of volunteers, this important event was about land usage and keeping trails open.
The 2016 Winter 4x4 Jamboree had over 290 registered vehicles, over 700 participants, plus 90 volunteers. As a result of the success, over $14,000 was donated to land use, primarily to keep trails in Utah open and to raise awareness about respecting the land and what each of us can do to help. I had a great time. But what really mattered was helping to ensure the future of Jeeping and that open lands will remain for generations to come. From talking with Gill and others, I know the 2016 was a huge success, smashing the record set in 2015. I looking forward to 2017 being even better.
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