It's been a long time coming, but well worth the wait. A couple of weekends ago, Steve Koenig who is one of the dad's in Pack 621 organized a bit of an offroad trip to the desert. His co-pilot was Brett Alexander - another Scout dad. I didn't have a wingman, but two energetic boys in Etho and his friend Josef. Good crew.
We first highway'ed it out the Interstate eastward ho until the little town of Ocotillo. A sharp left on to S-2, and we were off! Steve's got a sweet Hummer H3 which looked as though it could climb like a Billy goat - we found out later it could.
After ending lunch, somehow I ended up in the front of the Hummer as we came through the Volcanic Hills, but soon came to a narrowing of the arroyo. I knew I was in trouble when I saw a plaque riveted to a rock.
Anza-Borrego State Park, CA
N32 47.003, W116 08.567
Elevation: 1469 feet
The plaque was a memorial to Mark Piepkorn who died there on Nov. 1, 1996. We got out and scouted a bit, finally coming to the conclusion that we could in fact make it through 3 different ever-narrowing drops.
We had to be careful not to scrape doors, and there was a little jockeying, but mostly a straightforward drive (easy to say now that I've done it once!). Here's a video of some other folks going through the same place: Piepkorn Slot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNu7VSs5_d4
Once through though, we only had about 150 yards of joy until an uphill scree field followed by a wicked descent into Mortrero Wash. I'm not ashamed to admit we spent a good 20 minutes moving rocks into the wheel ruts to enable our trucks to NOT high-center. It was very steep and made for some exciting "wheels-in-the-air" action on the downhill side. Yes, the children walked down the hill!
Here's a video of some trucks going down the hill - I have to say that it's a bit more gnarly now than in the video: Wicked descent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkM_sbW62ME&feature=related
As we cruised through Canyon sin Nombre, I finally took Etho's bluff. He's been begging me to drive the truck. I figured I was in for a "pop-the-clutch-and-stall" debacle, but the boy made me proud. He was able to let out the clutch, ease on the gas, shift into 2nd, and steer all at the same time (with a little coaching from Dad).
Onward to Julian and home. We did have a quick dinner stop at a BBQ joint in Julian just on the other side of the 4-way stop (really creamy Butternut Squash soup!), then headed down the hill.
All in all, a very successful trip for all involved: the trucks performed admirably, we hiked and got dusty. Just what the Desert ordered!