2002 Phoenix Easter Jeep Safari

It started, as is usually does, with a phone call from Robert, my SoCal buddy that still owed me a Jeepin’ weekend from the foiled 2001 Thanksgiving run that never quite made it.  Robert had taken some hard hits while doing Johnson Valley the month before last Thanksgiving and had to pass on what would have been the 2nd Annual Go To Stu’s Place and Jeep for the Weekend During Thanksgiving run.  Well, this phone call started with a promising question from Robert, “What ya doing around Easter time?”  With that as my cue, I quickly informed him that the spare bedroom would be available and we started kicking a Jeepin’ plan together.

About the same time, Jamie, aka., Wind_Danzer from JU, informed me that she was coming out to visit a Phoenix area friend of hers and would like to get together to do some Jeepin’.  Jamie was flying out so she needed a front seat for her and the camera.  Aside from that, her only requirement was some good rock crawlin’ with some pretty scenery thrown in for good measure.  As luck would have it, Jamie arrived a day or two ahead of Robert and was able to catch both days of Jeepin’ that Robert and I managed to squeeze in during the Easter weekend. We had exchanged a number of e-mails which included phone numbers, directions to the trail head and my house, and what ever else it is that is needed when out of town guests that you’ve never met before decide to come for a visit.

Robert arrived on the appointed day, albeit a bit later than planned, with another SoCal Jeeper from San Diego in two.  I had exchanged e-mail with Joe on a number of occasions as well as trading 4×4 comments on a couple of forums for the past year plus.  Joe brought his two rug-rats with him and stayed at a motel about 10 minutes travel time from my place.  He was also able to join Robert and I in his YJ with a recently completed SOA and a Ford 8.8″ rear axle.

I dropped some e-mail to a few of my local Jeepin’ buds to see if any could join us on the trail (we were starting the first trail on Good Friday morning) and also stop by Friday evening for an informal “meet and greet”.  Friday evening went well with a house full of friends enjoying each other’s company, watching some Jeepin’ videos, and generally telling enough Jeepin’ stories to keep anyone going all night long.

The first run was Lower Terminator.  A group of the local rock crawlin’ guys from AZVJC had gone through a couple of weeks before us and unstacked the trail.  There seems to be too many under equipped vehicles using the harder trails and they keep stacking the rocks before and after the obstacles.  So, with a fresh trail ahead of us, we decided to give it a try.

Joe came over to the house Friday morning and met up with Robert and myself as we headed off to the Table Mesa area.  Dion and his wife Paola joined us there and we all aired down and did the 10 minute drive to Lower Terminator.  Once at the trail head, the t-cases were slipped into low range and we headed single file into the wash.  We got to the first obstacle and immediately caught a good case of off-camber air.  Jamie was riding shotgun with me and her girlfriend was riding with Robert.  They both got their first taste of AZ style  rock crawling right off the start of the trail.

About a 100 yards down the trail, a light rain started falling.  It was just enough to cause you to hit the wipers once in a while and settle the dust.  But what none of us thought of was the affect it would have on White Line, as seen in the above pic.  White Line gets it name from the white quartz vein that runs through the bedrock that makes up this obstacle.  It is extremely off-camber, and as you work your way across White Line, it causes you to go even more off-camber.  With the little bit of rain, Dion would slide two inches off the obstacle for every inch he moved forward.  We finally opted to take the bypass.  Three of us helped Dion stabilize his YJ as he carefully backed it off of White Line.  It would be there for another day when a guaranteed roll over was NOT the main offering on the menu.

With Dion and myself through the bypass, Joe took a stab at it.  The bypass is nothing to be taken lightly.  In fact, my previous run on this trail resulted in a pretty good discussion among the 7 or 8 drivers that ran that day.  We weren’t sure if White Line or the bypass was the easier route after several had gone over each.  I can guarantee you that when there is a bit of moisture on the bedrock, the bypass was the better choice for safe passage.

 The trail gets its name from the Terminator obstacle, which is one of the two exit routes from the section of the trail known as the Z-turn.  Similar to the Z-turn obstacle found on the Moab Rim Trail, this one gets your attention and keeps it until you are safely through it.  Here is Dion taking the Terminator exit out of the Z-turn.  

The Z-turn sits a bit below grade level.  As you approach, you drop down into it while negotiating a tight right hand turn.  Here I am getting ready to exit the Z-turn.  The Terminator obstacle is that lump of rocks just out of my driver door (the route Dion took).  I am about to find that with the recent rock de-stacking, the pucker factor has increased a good amount.

Joe and Dion heep a helpful hand on my hard top as I get off camber a bit while coming out of the Z-turn.  Robert is spotting me.  I am about in the clear here.  This was the first time I was truly glad to have the ARB locker in the rear axle.  My driver’s side rear tire was trying to climb up a big rock that was throwing me way off camber.  There was no room to back up to reposition the rear end as I was already committed into leaving the Z-turn.  Every time I tried to inch forward, my hard top would roll over towards the rock face.  Finally, I disengaged the rear ARB and crept forward again.  The passenger side tire caught a bit of traction while the driver side tire slid down the rock just a bit.  It was enough, after again engaging the ARB, for me to get the line I needed to walk up the ledge and clear the obstacle.  

Robert gets lined up to exit the Z-turn, taking the same route I did.  You can see he is already starting to get some air under the front tire.  The rock next to the driver’s front tire is the one that your rear wheel wants to track over the top off (the problem I was describing above).  

Robert and Dion discuss the rock and the tire (been there, done that) while Joe keeps an eye on the passenger side of the Robert’s TJ.  Once Joe, Robert, and myself were clear of this route, we had a discussion about doing the Terminator exit the next time.  We all thought it just might be worth a try.

We continued down the trail and finally reached the end.  As Joe was exiting the wash, he discovered that his stainless steel front brake hose made for a poor limiting strap.  It broke loose right at the fitting where the hose connects to the steel line.  With some difficult, we were able to remove the broken fitting from the steel line and attach a spare TJ hoes I carry.  The hose was too short, which we knew before attaching it, but it provided us the ability to fold it over on itself and pinch it shut with a pair of ViseGrips.  We zipped tied the ViseGrips out of the way and headed back to town for some repair parts.  Joe had 3 wheel braking, which although far from perfect, is better than having your brake pedal bottoming out on the floor boards.

2002 Phoenix Easter Jeep Safari

After hitting the local 4×4 shop that I usually do business with, we ended up with a referral to a custom tube and hose shop that made new rubber lines (of the correct length) for Joe while we waited.  About 20 minutes later, we were headed home to do a quick repair and get cleaned up for the Friday night meet and greet.

Saturday morning had us meeting up at the Texaco station at Florence Junction.  I had told Jamie and Robert about the Martinez Canyon Trail.  On top of that, TJRon had chipped in with his comments on one of the Jeep forums about how pretty it was.  I had only ran the trail once, about a month ago, and decided it should provide our visitors with some nice scenery as well as a challenging rock crawl.  Robert and I met up with Jamie and Lisa again.  Joey and Jake were in Joey’s YJ, Steven joined us in his TJ, and Joe (from yesterday’s run) was in his YJ.  We got through the introductions and headed to Martinez Canyon via the Box Canyon trail.

The Martinez Canyon trail starts just past the Martinez Cabins, a couple of old cabins built some time ago.  They still stand along the small spring fed creek that runs past the beginning of the trail.  It is a very popular spot for weekend campers.  The shade of the big Cottonwood trees provide very nice shade once the weather warms up.  I wouldn’t camp there in the summer, but any other time of the year would be great.

We arrived at the cabins later than expected as the Box Canyon trail took a bit longer than expected.  I had never gone that way before, and while I had an accurate GPS track for it in my Garmin III+, it simply is the longer route to take to get from where we were to where we wanted to be.  We took 20 minutes and caught lunch and gave our guests a chance to run around and snap some pictures.

The beginning of the trail puts you directly in the wash for about a half mile or so.  Here is Joey working is way through the first rock garden we came to.  Joey had recently gotten an automatic locker in the rear axle and so was having some fun with it.  I’m spotting him here as he climbs through the rock garden.

This was the first trail I ran with Steven.  His yellow TJ was on 33″tires and had a LSD in the rear axle.  To Stevens credit, he did an outstanding job on the trail.  He had my vote for the best driver to spot (or put another way…..he followed the spotter’s directions to the “T”).  He made quick work of the rock garden.

Somewhere along the first part of the wash, Robert got himself hung up on a big old rock.  He was running tail gunner for the group and decided to try one 50 yards section of the wash that I inadvertently went around.  Maybe I was lucky I did!  A couple of us came back to help out.  Robert had to jack both sides up so we could slip a few rocks under the rear tires.  The rock was jammed between the back of the skid plate (he couldn’t go backwards) and the drive shaft (he couldn’t go forward without killing it).  

While we worked on Robert’s stuck, it gave everyone a chance to snoop around the Martinez mine buildings. which are in surprisingly good shape.  I wouldn’t trust that trestle that goes across the wash though.  Too many years of sun drying out the timbers.

We no more than got Robert clear of that big rock when it kicked off a whole bunch of getting hung up on the rocks.  Both Joey and Joe managed to get themselves in a bind and required some help from the rest of the folks.  Here the 4 of us work on holding Joey’s YJ in place while he tries to pull away from us (grin).  We finally let go so he could climb over the rocks and get clear of everything.

Here is Robert working his way through a section of the wash that is a bit past the mine buildings.  Joe managed to get a big old rock in this part wedged between the wheels of his YJ.  It took us a bit to get him free of that one.  Like I said, there were some good rock stucks in this part of the trail.

Steven’s LSD rear axle did a great job of keeping him moving forward.  Of course, everyone knows how well the TJs flex.  Steve kept all 4 tires on the ground and that kept him moving along very nicely.  He worked his way though here with no problems.

Robert works his way up the v-notch that marks the end of the wash.  From here, the trail slowly winds its way up and out of Martinez Canyon.  The scenery gets more beautiful as you rise above the canyon.  

Eventually, you are on top of the mountain ridge and the view it affords you is really wonderful.  We stopped at an old silver mine on the way to the top and let the folks grab their flashlights and hike into the mine.  This horizontal mine shaft is a hard rock mine and is still safe.  No rotting timbers to cause problems.  

As with all good things, the day finally had to end.  The sun was beginning to set in the west (those shadows are starting to get rather long) and everyone had gotten a pretty good coating of trail dust and an overdose of fun.  There were no casualties today except for my kissing my front drive shaft with a rock.  It didn’t become a problem until I hit 65 MPH on the way home….then the vibrations started in.  Since Moab was but a couple of weeks away, I ended up getting the drive shaft re-tubed.  No more vibrations.  Now I remember why I want to put in that front Warn hub kit!

Robert and I spent Sunday at the house.  We did some maintenance on the TJs and Donna cooked up a great Easter dinner.  After Robert had gotten his fill of her good home cooking, we loaded the TJ on his tow trailer and he headed back to California. 

Jamie came over later in the week, armed with a couple of good tasting pizzas and a complete set of prints from her two days of picture taking.  (the photos in this write-up were scanned from her prints).  We killed an hour or two that evening and the said our goodbyes.  It was time for her to head back to the East coast.

I always say that the worst day Jeepin’ is better than the best day at work.  The two days we spent on the trail with our friends were no exception, except that they were both great days.  We all had a good time with good friends.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  I look forward to the next Phoenix Easter Jeep Safari.  Hmmmm…..I wonder if they ever thought of doing something like this up at Moab?

Remember to TREADLightly!