Rockin' Choke Cherry Canyon with the 667 Rockers
2100 miles one-way is not too far to drive for two days of wheeling, right?
Story and photos by Nolen "the Rock Midget" Grogan
[ PHOTO GALLERY ]
We rolled into Farmington, NM, late Friday afternoon beaten up from driving in thunderstorms all afternoon. Loren Healey and the 667 Rockers were our hosts for the weekend, so we headed over to his house that is literally a stone's throw from Choke Cherry Canyon. As soon as we arrived at the house, Scott Maiden of the BTG Crawlers (out of Phoenix) announced we were going to do a night run, so we unloaded and off to the trail we went.
This trip was the result of the inevitable "trash-talking" on Pirate4x4 in the old "Impossible Obstacle" thread. Going back and forth between the AZ guys and the 667 guys, it was decided that Labor Day was a great time to show up and see what the 667 guys had to offer.
The 667 crew for the night run was Loren, Josh, Jeremy, Jeremiah, Rodney and Glenn. BTG was represented by Scott and Jack Adams, Fred of the AZ Undertakers, and Carl and myself. The final light of the day was seeping out of the canyon as we skirted the edge of the first trail, Intimidator. It is not very comforting passing the cross that marks a spot where two fellow wheelers lost their lives on this precarious trail. There is a sick undercut ledge at the end of the trail that gave a few folks in our group a hard time. Generally this ledge has lots of stacked rocks that allow non-buggy types to make it up, but tonight it was devoid of those, so it was our first taste of the "Farmington Bump" that would become the standard driving style of the weekend. Intimidator Trail comes out at the bottom of what was one of the sickest obstacles of the old UROC courses I watched back in the early part of the century. B5 was the course. As I sat facing that wall in the dark, all I could think of was Craig Stumph doing a pirouette and landing on his radiator. Of course, most comp buggies back then weighed a lot more, and only Tracy Jordan was sporting "Sticky Mickies"
Carl attempting his first big ledge on Intimidator
A couple of rigs went left and opted for the technical climb, but most of us shot the middle wall. The "Farmington Bump" is a modified version of the famed "Moab Bump." In Moab, you need a little throttle to get started, but generally the rock is steep yet smooth, and once momentum starts, a nice smooth throttle will get you to the top. The problem with Farmington is that the sick climbs the 667 guys do are steep with ledges that often require you to bump it up the first ledge, stop, then bump up another ledge while stopped mid-way up a 50' climb. It takes practice, and at 11:00 pm after a 21-hour drive, it seemed a bit crazy, but we all survived. Our tail gunner Glenn put on a nice show and rolled off the hill. Luckily, no one was hurt.
The next morning we all participated in the Choke Cherry Canyon cleanup. The 667 rockers showed up in force and we quickly filled up the supplied dumpster with the craziest crap people leave in the desert. From a box of bras to a floral couch, it was out there. It was a great turnout, yet it really only scratched the surface of the trash that irresponsible people (non-wheelers) have left out there.
About 11:00 on Saturday, Josh started our crew off on the Highway Trail while most of his crew and the BTG guys were at Loren's house welding up JackA's spider gears. The Highway Trail has an immediate gatekeeper obstacle that is the most vertical thing I have ever driven up. We will have to get the math geeks to put a protractor on that one some time and let us know what the exact angle is. Most of the 667 guys are sitting at 108" wheelbase. The BTG guys tend to run a bit longer at 110-113". I have a 106" wheelbase, Carl 103" and Jimbro runs 102" on his Sunray Buggy. Since Jim had missed the night run, this gatekeeper was his first thing to drive since arriving in Farmington, and it plain denied him. This was not a good way to get started!
Josh on Highway Trail
Jimbro testing the waters with his 102" wheelbase
The Highway Trail snakes along Pinion Hills Road up and down the canyon, giving you a great feel of the awesome traction that Farmington offers. By the time we got to the top of the first series of climbs we were joined by the rest of the group, and the 667 "Old Man" Jerry in his rear-steer buggy. There are a few optional lines up there on the hill. Most would result in certain death with the wrong rollover, as there is a 70' cliff below the start of the climbs. Josh was the first one to jump in and show us what's what. He strapped on his helmet and powered his CJ-5 buggy right up. I decided it was time to pull out the string and get with it. I followed, and after a couple of failed attempts, I joined him at the top. The "Farmington Bump" was getting more natural. As I said before, one extra roll in the spot and it is 70 feet+ to the bottom.
Jerry's first attempt at the climb sent him rolling to the bottom.
Around the other side of the hill, Scott Maiden became the first non-rear-steer rig to crawl "The Crack". It was crazy. Jimbro followed him up and redeemed himself nicely from having to pull cable on the first climb.
That is a LONG way down!
Jimbro with Carl on deck
After everyone had his fill of the option on this part of the trail, Rodney led us down to a new climb. This climb is hard to get a grasp on in pictures, and even harder to get your head around in person. It is 45-50' up with 3 separate ledges that want to send you bouncing to the bottom with the slightest mistake. If I has not witnessed the first 3 rigs go up, I would have laughed and driven around, but they went, so I was up. The technique to climb these hills is like none other than I have ever seen. Hard throttle in the transition, and stop and hope your tires hold you on the wall. Roll back to the edge of the next ledge and mat it again mid-slope. Repeat. Of course Scott tried this and was denied, then backed down to the bottom and shot it all the way to the top. It was awesome.
Scott lining up
Carl came down the hard way and made a great save
Jack Adams shooting up BTG style.
The bypass is not easy, ask Jim!
After we got everyone either up or around, we made one final crazy climb out of the canyon. It was an off-camber deal that ate everyone's lunch a bit.
This little climb was the hardest for me for some reason
Glenn gets way tippy!
[ ** PAGE TWO ** ]