When I became a member of Idaho Off Road, I bet 80% of the members were into rock crawling. There were tons of lifted, locked Jeeps and buggies with V8s and it seemed that everybody enjoyed it. All I wanted to do was get my Jeep ready for rocks.
Now, 12 years or so later, there are only a handful of people in our club that want to run rocks. I get it; it’s hard to put $50,000 JKs and JLs on rocks where they could get scratched. But I still want to get people hooked on the rock like I did, so each year I do a “trail cleanup” of a couple introductory rock trails. I try to get people addicted to the rock.
The cleanup part of the run is always pretty easy: I think I picked up a handful of beer cans, some broken tail light and plastic where somebody got too friendly with a rock, and 84 cents where somebody flopped over and spilled their ashtray. Luckily, even though Lost Trail gets pounded by traffic, there doesn’t tend to be a lot of garbage on it.
We did have to unstack a bunch of rocks at the first waterfall on Two Headed Dragon, which is almost a given anymore. However, dipshits driving off trail in quads and side by sides is another story. There are tracks around almost every obstacle where there did not used to be. I hate seeing so many people running off trail. It will eventually get land shut down to us.
But I digress. Rocks. I like big rocks and I cannot lie.
Lost Trail and Two Headed Dragon are cool because the trails come together, and people can watch the harder rocks if they want. It’s good for people to see what other rigs are capable of and what modifications they might want to make to theirs. This is how we keep improving the global economy, one way-too-expensive Jeep at a time.
Lost Trail gets a bad name because everybody is running it lately. It’s like the town bicycle — everybody takes a ride. However, I was shocked the day we were out there. It was 75 degrees, bright, sunny skies, and we didn’t see another Jeep or side by side on the trail.
Lost Trail is still a cool, introductory rock trail. An open/open stock Jeep can have a lot of fun and can learn what they are capable of. People are always surprised how well their Jeep does after they climb the first rock face they didn’t think they could. The requirements for running Lost Trail are stock Wrangler or better. I say Wrangler because I don’t want to say stock and have somebody end up out there in a 2020 F-350. They won’t be happy with how it looks at the end of the trail.
We took three new-to-rock rigs down Lost Trail and the smiles were huge. I love watching people get hooked on rocks. I kept hearing comments like, “Uh oh. You guys are going to make me spend a lot of money on my Jeep. This is awesome!” It happens. It happened to me. I completely remember the feeling. Soon, lockers, gears, big tires, and different axles are in the realm of possibility.
The three drivers listened well and got hung up a few times. They backed up and realigned. At one point, one of the drivers wanted to ride with me in my Jeep. He asked questions like “How far can it go over before it rolls over?” I think I only really scared him once, coming down a steep rock face. He tried to crawl out of the seat belt and suspension seat and was visibly happy once at the bottom. But I think he had fun.
I have seen a lot of people break stuff on Lost Trail because they confuse rock crawling with rock racing. Speed and “send it” are not your friends or the answer on stock axle shafts, u-joints, or drivelines. We walked everybody through and ended almost unscathed — one JK caught a stock rear bumper on a rock and bent it up pretty good. I tried to spin it for him and explain how this was the chance for upgrades.
This is The Way — every time something breaks or bends on a Jeep, replace it with something bigger and cooler.
Two Headed Dragon is a step up in rocks and is a perfect mid-level rock trail. The trail splits and is named for the two ways to finish- the harder right-hand side or the left-hand side. Two people came up the trail with us who were not sure if they should or could do it.
Last year, one YJ came up the trail who wasn’t sure and he was back again this year. This is proof my addiction to the rock is working. The requirements for running 2HD are 37” tires and two lockers. You can do it with 35s, but you are taking a chance on breaking and body damage.
The first obstacle on 2HD is a waterfall that has gotten easier over the years. Erosion has worn it down and broken off a piece of rock that threatened to puncture every JK’s driver door. Now, it is fairly easy to climb. Even the first-time guys — with long JKs that get hung up on breakover points — were able to pull it without winching. It is a good first obstacle of the trail. It looks worse than it is, so when guys get over it, the smiles are huge.
The right-hand side is the hardest. Harvey and I went that way and then looped around the top. It took me three attempts to find the line, which is farther to the passenger side than I think it is, but once I got on the line, I didn’t spin a tire until I got to the v-notch on top. The v-notch has killed me the last couple of times: I keep falling in it sideways. I did it again this time and scratched up my newly powder-coated corner guards. Such is life. I didn’t need to winch but was able to wiggle around and get out.
The left-hand side is easier than the right but it isn’t a slam dunk. There is a good vertical climb that turns back to the right with lots of rocks to hang up diffs. The YJ tried to roll over at the very top when it got caught on an axle tube and pivoted funny. Luckily, he listened well, got it stopped, and I sprinted to the top of the hill, grabbed my Jeep, brought it down, and threw a winch line around him like a steer roper. There is a video of it posted on the club Facebook page, and I am not lying by much. It got exciting all of sudden, and once we got him to the top, I had to rest from the massive adrenaline dump that went through my body.
God, rocks are awesome.
For people who are new to rocks, the key is going slow and listening. Luckily, both of the first-timers on 2HD had these skill sets. We worked up the trail very slowly and didn’t spread out. I think they were worried the bigger Jeeps were going to just leave them in the dust. They had to back up, realign, figure out how to run three pedals at once, and how to trust that bad seat feeling that they weren’t going to roll over. Harvey and I also promised to run winch lines if needed. A lot of guys put $500 winches on the front of their rigs and then act like they never want to use them. We only needed to winch somebody once but everybody was ready to if needed.
When I watch shows or movies about the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s in America, and people are addicted to the rock, I understand. That’s how I am with Jeeps. I love running rocks. I enjoy getting other people addicted, as well. I like watching people figure it out for the first time and figure out what their rig is capable of and how to drive on them. Running rocks is different than almost any other type of wheeling. Even though we don’t have a lot of rock rigs in our club anymore, I’m hoping I got four or five more people slightly addicted last weekend and our time was well spent.