It’s rather convenient to have friends who have built an entire off-road fun land on their home’s property!
Through the wonders of social networking, my husband became acquainted with Andrew, a young man who lives just 85 miles south of us in Trinidad, Colorado. As it turns out, Andrew grew up on over 70 acres of heavily forested land that he and his dad have turned into a private man-made off-road park for friends. Rock gardens, deep trenches, steep, loose dirt/rock hills, and mud pits challenge even the most experienced driver with the most capable vehicle.
A few months ago, Andrew invited us and several others to his family’s homestead to eat supper, survey the land, and enjoy a time of fellowship. Last Saturday, we finally had the opportunity to actually wheel it – and it did not disappoint!
We met up with Andrew and 13 other wheelers at the Safeway parking lot in Trinidad – making fifteen vehicles in all. It was a fun surprise to see two of our down-the-street neighbors there when we pulled up, too! We were an eclectic bunch with four TJs, three XJs, two ZJs (one stock), one YJ, one Toyota, a Suzuki, three ATVs, four little kids, two pregnant ladies, and a partridge in a pear tree. The off-road park is just five minutes from town, so we aired down and disconnected in the parking lot.
Once we reached the land, the fun began. We followed Andrew up a moderate first hill climb where we experienced the first of seven breakages: The one Suzuki Sidekick broke its front passenger CV shaft. The day was over for the zuke, but while a few of the guys helped to tow it up the hill, a rough-and-tumble ZJ took a crack at a rock pile, and a couple of the kids got to know one another better.
The park is a fascinating maze of interconnected hard obstacles, moderate challenges, and easy bypasses. Andrew led us all through deep, soft-dirt arroyos, then up and through a three-way obstacle course – one easy line for stock rigs, one tough rock pile that had not been attempted before, and one moderate part with deep trenches to pass through. Skot went first, choosing to tackle the rock pile.
After a few tries, he busted a bead on the front passenger tire. Easy to fix, a high-lift jack, an air compressor, and a strong arm were all that was needed.
He eventually made it up the obstacle, but meanwhile, the others were having fun running the other two lines. And here is where more breakages and one of the two flops occurred: One of the XJs flopped on his side, the YJ broke the driver rear axle shaft, and one of the ZJs spilled gas, broke a tail light, and knocked loose a battery cable.
Moving on, we continued through a steep, twisty section of arroyos where they had added obstacles with a back-hoe. Within minutes of getting back on the road again, Andrew broke a hub and a track bar while navigating a flexy section of the dug-out trail. But it made for great pictures!
Andrew’s dad, Terry, took the lead, but with the carnage building up, the group decided to head up to the house for some lunch and a good break. On the way out, the driver of the Toyota heard a strange knocking noise and discovered a bent tie-rod. He was able to drive up the easier section of the trail, though, and soon we all pulled into the driveway of Andrew’s childhood home.
The magnificent property features a large, beautifully decorated coy pond that fascinated little eyes and begged little hands to come play in the cool water. Peanut and her new friends were happy to oblige, and the ladies with child were happy to rest.
After lunch, some of the group called it a day, and a couple needed to head out to repair damages that couldn’t be fixed at the house, but the remaining hardy band of wheelers hit the trail once again. With Terry at the helm, we started down a steep, loose dirt hill, and mayhem hit once again. One of the ATVs slid sideways and rolled down the hill, thankfully not harming the rider.
Moving along, we came to a large mud pit that lured a few of the guys – and one of the expecting girls – into it and made for a fun show.
While a couple of the rigs stayed to play in the mud a bit more, a few of us headed up a long, steep, rocky section bypassing an extreme obstacle they call Little Moab. While technically a bypass, it was an exciting climb that required going up and over a tippy spot where, if mishandled, could easily send you tumbling backward. Skot and Andrew made it up without mishap, but another Jeeper broke a front axle shaft as he climbed. Thankfully, though, he was just past the dangerous section!
Skot, Peanut, and I headed down the trail to meet up once again with those who were playing in the mud, and came upon one of the XJs stuck in a second, deeper pit.
Terry and others were working to retrieve the Jeep from its sticky spot, and we figured that since we had avoided the majority of the carnage thus far, we weren’t going to risk any more than our broken bead, so we called it quits! Though an amount of breakage is to be expected, the events of the day certainly underlined the need for careful and responsible driving.
I am looking forward to getting back there and continuing to explore the land and its challenges. Many thanks to Andrew and his family for their generous hospitality, good leadership, and patient work to help out those of us who broke.