Somewhere around the beginning of the new year, one of the folks (Robert Yates) in the rec.autos.makers.jeep+willys newsgroup put in motion the plans to have a Death Valley Jeep trip. It all came to be near the end of March, 2000. We had folks from Washington, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California show up. The actual get together officially ran from March 23rd through March 27th. Most of the folks arrived on the first day, while others filtered in over the weekend and stayed longer than others.
Most of the Jeeps were the later model TJs. We had a couple of YJs and a very nicely built up CJ-7. The TJs ranged from stock suspensions with 30″ tires up to about 5″ lifts with 35″ tires. I performed a quick calculation one morning and figured that we had well over $250,000 worth of hardware sitting at the camp. Speaking of camp, we stayed at the Stovepipe Wells camp ground in the park. Given the nature of Jeepers when they all gather together (i.e., they love to stay up late and talk Jeepin’), it was probably not the best place to stay. The price was OK….$10 per night for two vehicles, but overall, we weren’t very welcome by the local folks who wanted to go to bed shortly after the sun set. While Jeepin’ on Saturday, we found a nice little ghost town (still has an occupant and a little general store there) that told us to come there next time. He charges $3 per night and lets you use his shower for less than the campground charged! Staying up late was not a problem….he said we could have a kegger if we wanted to (probably should invite him and be the perfect host, eah?).
We were all looking forward to the infamous Lippencot Mine trail. We had read web site articles on it, about how awesome it was….4LO crawling with high pucker factor sections of trail, etc. Well, let me go on record saying it was the biggest disappointment I’ve ever ran as far as trails are concerned. It could have been traveled by any vehicle with some ground clearance. 4WD was nice but not required at all. I could have easily driven my wife’s Cherokee w/ open diffs front and rear and near slipped a tire. It appears to be regularly graded by the park service. Amazingly, these are the same folks that complain about the expense of road maintenance. I guess someone needs to explain to them that 4WD trails do not require maintenance and that those of us who drive them would appreciate them keeping their damn bulldozers out of there!
On Saturday, we left the park and found some BLM land and did some wheelin’ there. We went up through Pleasent Valley trail and climbed to 6,000’+ to the mountain top. We saw lots of old mining equipment, as this part of the Panamint Mountains saw a lot of mid 1800’s prospecting. We spent the entire day on the the trail (up and back) and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Lots of good switchbacks near the top end of the trail. It did not make me nervous, but several of the folks commented on the multi-hundred foot drops that started at the edge of the trail, just a couple of feet from your outside tire.
By Sunday morning, I was feeling pretty bad. I had managed to bring one heck of a cold with me. I decided to call it done and head for home. It was good that I did as I was in worse shape on Monday. At least I had that day to lay around the house before heading back to work on Tuesday.