Grow­ing into a ma­jor event

Four Wheeler - - Contents - By Ed Helmick ed­i­ Pho­tos: Ed Helmick

THE CITY OF GRAND JUNC­TION, IN WEST­ERN COLORADO JUST A FEW MILES FROM the Utah state line, is an amaz­ing lo­cale for the off-road en­thu­si­ast. Within an hour and a half are some of the most scenic and most chal­leng­ing 4x4 trails in Amer­ica. The Grand Junc­tion–based Grand Mesa Jeep Club is one of the most ac­tive in North Amer­ica, and with the play­ground it has, there’s good rea­son for that. Since 2008 the club has show­cased the trails in the area with its an­nual Rock Junc­tion event. It’s al­ways the Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day, and Fri­day be­fore the first Satur­day in June. Satur­day is al­ways re­served for a huge Off-road Expo and ve­hi­cle show.

For 2017, the club leased 22 acres west of Grand Junc­tion near Fruita, Colorado, to stage the event. For the first time, camp­ing was in­cluded with reg­is­tra­tion for out-of-town off-road­ers. Ev­ery evening a free BBQ was part of the so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties. This year, 131 peo­ple and 75 ve­hi­cles pre­reg­is­tered for guided trails that were rated easy, mod­er­ate, dif­fi­cult, or chal­leng­ing (for rock­crawl­ing bug­gies only). Ev­ery morn­ing 15 trail rides de­parted be­tween 7:30 and 9:00. This year the weather was per­fect, with blue skies and mild tem­per­a­tures.

21 Road

We had heard a lot about the Grand Mesa Jeep Club’s ef­forts with the BLM to keep what is lo­cally known as 21 Road open, so it was the num­berone trail ride on our list. Al­most all of the driv­ing had us ne­go­ti­at­ing a boul­der-strewn creek bed. It was nearly constant tech­ni­cal driv­ing, chal­leng­ing driv­ers over, around, and be­tween boul­ders. We did en­counter one sec­tion of creek bot­tom that we had to climb out of to avoid the habi­tat of the Great Basin Spade­foot Toad, known lo­cally as the 21 Road Toad. The club had erected sig­nage and bar­ri­ers to guide us, and be­cause of these ef­forts the road/trail re­mains open. It took us six hours to drive 10 miles to the large cove at the end of the road. For some rea­son the trip back to camp seemed to go faster than the drive up the canyon, and soon we were swap­ping sto­ries with other par­tic­i­pants.

Peach Val­ley—gun­ni­son River Gorge

This was an easy and scenic trip for our sec­ond day of Rock Junc­tion trail rides. We started south of

Grand Junc­tion near the com­mu­nity of Mon­trose. This road was suit­able for stock 4x4s, and one of the par­tic­i­pants was a wo­man in a stock Ford F-150 bear­ing a hand­i­cap per­mit, re­mind­ing us that what we do also pro­vides ac­cess for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. The road was a twisty climb up to the west­ern edge of the Gun­ni­son Gorge Wilder­ness Area. The view of the gorge and moun­tain peaks from the top of the ridge was clas­sic Colorado eye candy. It was an­other won­der­ful day and ended with an­other de­li­cious Rock Junc­tion BBQ.

The Calamity Mesa Loop Road

Our last trail ride of Rock Junc­tion 2017 fol­lowed old ura­nium min­ing roads near the tiny com­mu­nity of Gate­way. Af­ter the ura­nium in­dus­try died in the 1970s, the min­ing roads were aban­doned and left to na­ture’s ero­sion. In 2008 mem­bers of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club worked to re­open this road. We’re glad they did. The mesa top pro­vides a view of the San Juan Moun­tains to the south and the La Sal Moun­tains to the west. The trail has 11 named ob­sta­cles and a few un­named ob­sta­cles, giv­ing it a dif­fi­cult rat­ing and caus­ing the driv­ers and pas­sen­gers a lot of emo­tion along the way.

The Fri­day Evening BBQ

The Fri­day night meal was a spe­cial event spon­sored by Bestop. It was dur­ing this so­cial hour that Bf­goodrich and its part­ners—4 Wheel Parts, United Four Wheel Drive As­so­ci­a­tions, Blue Rib­bon Coali­tion, and Off-road Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion—an­nounced the Grand Mesa Jeep Club as the re­cip­i­ent of the 2016 Out­stand­ing Trails Award. An over­sized check in the amount of $4,000 was pre­sented for the club’s work to keep 21 Road open. It was the sec­ond time the club has won an Out­stand­ing Trails Award, and ev­ery­one was pretty ex­cited.

The 2018 Rock Junc­tion event is sched­uled for May 30, 31, and June 1. Keep this in mind when you are scout­ing around for 4WD events to at­tend. The Grand Mesa Jeep Club web­site is

<- Dave Adams tried a route that did not work out very well. How­ever, he was able to back out of this awk­ward sit­u­a­tion un­der his own power. <| Here are the six Jeeps that suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated the chal­lenges of 21 Road to ar­rive at the cove near the...

|> 21 Road trail leader Christina Sul­li­van demon­strated the axle ar­tic­u­la­tion of her Wran­gler JK.

The 21 Road trail ends in a huge cove that is a re­ward­ing con­trast to the creek bed.

-> The high point of the Gun­ni­son River Gorge Trail Ride pro­vided panoramic views. Note the Ford pickup with the hand­i­cap per­mit out en­joy­ing the trail ride. <- This is a bar­rier put up by the Grand Mesa Jeep Club to pro­tect a known habi­tat area of the...

<| The West Elk Moun­tains from the top of the Gun­ni­son River Gorge Trail is clas­sic Colorado scenery. <| A line of ve­hi­cles is shown de­scend­ing the Gun­ni­son River Gorge ridge to com­plete the day’s trail ride in this scenic area.

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