Visitor # 12908 since 27.DEC.2002
Located about an 15 minutes south of Barstow, CA. on state highway 247, is the BLM Stoddard Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area
There are no fees to enter this area and correspondingly, there are almost no facilities. The SlashX cafe is just outside the OHV area and Barstow is only 15 minutes or so up the paved road.
Wow, I didn't think I would make it, shades of the missed Jambo last year. It was 12:45PM and I was supposed to meet up with a group to carpool down to Barstow at 1:00! I just finished installing my rebuilt rear driveshaft and still had 3qts. of gear oil to pump into into my new rear diff! Quick call to Scott Wilson to let him know I won't make 1:00 as arranged, but instead we'll meet at 2:00 in Morgan Hill. Great, clean up the oil, throw some junk in the truck and I'm off at 1:30. In spite of some road construction I manage to hook up with Scott and John Calvert and we are off. We make good time with an excellent tail wind down I-5 and over to Bakersfield, where we are hooking up with more 4Runners out of the central valley. Then with about 10 rigs, we head over Tehachapi Pass and down into Barstow where we roust the motel manager out of bed to get our rooms. We cram 5 folks per room and finally get to sleep about midnight.
We get up at dawn, and the spend about 2 hours showering, packing, finding a place to grab a bite to eat and gas up, then off to Stoddard Valley. Cresting a small hill, Scott slams on the brakes and everyone manages to stop and we make the right hand turn at a tattered pink "4R" sign. Its a bumpy few miles over the washboard until we see the gathering spot. A motley collection of trailers, campers, tents and most importantly, 4Runners, is gathered in the middle of nowhere. We find a flat spot, set up tents, unload our camping gear and then its time for the driver's meeting and airing down.
Jon led the group back towards the mountains and we dropped off the main road into a wash. The group bunched up at the first obstacle of the day, a narrow rocky climb off the main road. I made it up this one with both axles open, but at least a locker and 32" tires were recommended. Getting up and over the first rock pile is the hardest part, then you continue up and out of the side canyon before...
...looping back on to the main road where the stock vehicles got turned around and the modified ones came down off the side canyon.
The run continued back down the main wash, until we encountered the second obstacle. This one featured a loose rocky hill climb up the canyon wall, then a blind right hand turn as you crest the top before dropping back to the main road. This was also 32" and one locker, I did need to lock the rear end towards the top.
The group following the main wash down and out of the hills, the hooked around tot he right and came up the next major wash. Here, you can see the spread out group making their way up the trail.
At this point, there was a loose rocky clip up to the saddle or a more difficult route up and out of the canyon. Here most of the group gathered for lunch while we waited for some trail repairs and stragglers to catch up.
The finally obstacle of the day was named "Costly Canyon" and our trail leader told us this is where his (now very modified) 4Runner suffered its first trail damage while it was still nearly stock. Here Jon demonstrates the proper line up the canyon. 33" tires and 1 locker minimum for this trail.
John Skaggs was next, making quick work of the narrow rocky canyon. If you look real close, you can probably make out the shiny new blue paint on John's rear bumper and nerfs, what's up with that?
This was the 4Runner in front of me, making it up and over the large step at the bottom of the canyon.
And here he is going up through the narrow section. High potential for body damage, here if you get off your line.
Well, I made it up, but I didn't stop for pictures. I did have to lock both axles and only had to back up once, when I got a rock under my front axle after making it through difficult section, I hate it when that happens. Anyway, a steep climb out of the canyon takes you to the main road, I took it to the right and found an old mine at the top of the hill, where a spectacular view awaits. Then I went back down to rejoin the group, just in time to see...
Phil Johnson "crawling" up the canyon with his automatic 4Runner. Looks like he made it with ease.
Here's Drew Persson's rig trying to make the big step, after a few tries (Drew spotting, Adam driving?) they were able to keep the TrueTrac front end pulling enough to get the rear Detroit up and over the step.
Behind Drew was this neat looking 4Runner, appeared to be topless, save for the bikini top, doors were long gone, the floor was done in diamond plate and seemed to be tied into the nerf bars somehow. Seemed to do OK on the rocks, too.
Here's a shot of Steve (Mr. PowerTank) Sasaki, in the lower part of the canyon. He had broken a driver's side steering arm earlier in the day and now was fighting the steering as his drag link was hitting the spring u-bolts in right turns. Between the and a front locker he needed a few multi-point turns.
Here Tim (Mr. DOA) Jenkins walks right up the canyon, must be that engine, of course the 35" Swampers help a bit, too.
Luke Miller followed Tim, sporting a shiny new blue front bumper. I guess blue is the new trend for 4Runner paint, basic black is out. Parts of my frame are blue front my original paint job a few years ago, but all the new mods are basic black.
After getting everyone that wanted to up Costly Canyon, it was getting late and we were all getting hungry. Since Jon and crew were cooking dinner, we made a beeline for camp. We made a fortunate wrong turn and got to enjoy one more obstacle, up one side of the canyon, with a steep drop followed by a steep and narrow climb out the other side. Here you can see some folks lined up for the initial descent. The climb out was made more difficult with the sun directly in you eyes on the way out. We made it back to camp, cleaned up a bit and then feasted on an excelled tri-tip BBQ put on by the organizers. Very tasty and there were only a few hot dogs left over at the end.
A few folks headed out at about 10PM for a night run, but I was tired and went to bed (we were losing an hour of sleep with the change to daylight savings time). We got going next morning, initially planning to take a run out to the Calico Hills area, but instead decided to start the long drive home, instead. Our group stayed pretty much together until Bakersfield where we stopped for gas before splitting up. Pictured from left to right are the 4Runners of Steve Sasaki, John Calvert, myself, Scott Wilson, and Ken Okuhara. We said our goodbyes and headed off in various directions.
I really enjoyed the event and appreciate all the work the organizing crew did. Lots of good stuff at the raffle (I never win anything), fun to wheel with so many of the various vendors, too. It was nice to put some faces with names from e-mail and the web. There were a few folks with Jamboree shirts form the very early days, hopefully the tradition will continue.
Here are some links to other sites with more information on this area:
===>> <<=== Photographer and author