Grand Slam West Review – GSW 2015 Part 2
It was a dark and stormy night. (Ugh, yeah I know. But it actually was, so….)
Early the first morning we drove through downtown Moab to Swanny City Park, with not a single swan anywhere in sight. The parking area was lined with a mix of rigs ranging anywhere from completely stock to highly modified, representing every generation of the Grand Cherokee. Well almost every generation; the WK2 was notably absent from the mix. The crowd was a generous mix of men and women of all ages, children, and several dogs. Once everyone had arrived, there was a bit of time for meet and greets, then the event planners started the introductions followed by trail etiquette and guidelines. There are a multitude of trails to explore in Moab, and the GSW organizers had picked a few different trails and trail leaders for each day of the event. Some drivers wanted some really hard core wheeling, while others, despite their highly modified and very capable rigs, just wanted to relax and run an easy scenic trail. The really cool thing was that it didn’t matter what you were driving, there was something there for everyone, even the stock rigs. It was obvious that this event was not for “Hard Core Only Jeeps”, but rather an all-inclusive family event, and that the GSW planners didn’t want anyone to be left out. Nicely done guys! Once the morning announcements were said and done, everyone located their trail leader and split off into their respective groups to go over the day’s game plan.
For this first day, Kevin, Ally, and I opted to join the group for the easy trail, which was Onion Creek. The thought was that it would be easier for the bike, and that we could just have a nice relaxing first day, get some cool shots, and get back before the other groups. Oh, the irony. With a rig count numbering 15, our crew headed out of town up Rte 128 which runs up a canyon and parallels the Colorado River for a good little ways. The River looked to be a bit high and was of a “chocolate milk” color, both indicative of the rainy season. We passed quite a few rafters who were out enjoying Willy Wonka’s magic chocolate river as it wound its way through steep cliffs of various colored rock, masterfully sculptured by nature. This was yet another new stretch of road that I was just giddy over; there would be many more before the event was over. We started to encounter pockets of very light rain before reaching our trailhead at Rose Garden Hill Safari Rte (BLM 100). In front of me, the mountains rose straight up from the desert floor, backed by an almost black sky, with low hanging grey-white misty clouds enveloping the peaks. Breathtaking! I had a decision to make here. It had rained in this area the night before, and though the ground I was standing on was mostly dry, I didn’t know the road conditions further up the canyon, and I could see that it was indeed raining where we were headed. I was not at all looking forward to a grueling day of wrestling this 450lb Dual Sport through slick mud and clay. This beast had already broken one of my legs, and I had no desire what-so-ever to repeat that experience. A couple miles back, Justin and Jess, a nice couple from Tucson, had parked their truck and trailer for their WJ at our exit point on La Sal Mountain Loop Rd. I made the decision to take the bike back there and leave it chained to the trailer. As I turned back towards the bike, I saw that another storm had been sneaking up from behind us. And I don’t mean, “Oh hey look, there’s a storm way over there, it’ll probably be over here in a little while”. This was a solid white wall of falling water coming at us so fast that I had just enough time to hop on the bike, fire it up, and pull onto the road before BAM! I was soaked! I was already wearing the top of my rain suit, the jacket, but there was no time to pull the pants out of the cargo box and put them on, and really there wasn’t any point to even try by that time anyway. Ugh. With the bike locked up, my soaked riding jeans greedily clinging to every nook and cranny below the waistline, and myself no longer in the giddiest of moods, I climbed into Kevin’s WJ and we headed back to the trail head to rendezvous with our team; heading into what was for me, the unknown. It was just about 10:30am. 10:30, remember this, this is important.