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Imagine driving across the highway through the more desolate parts of Utah. Very few cars pass you by, each gas station requires a stop because who knows how far away the next is, and perhaps the worst of all is the zero cell phone signal which keeps interrupting your music playlist. Expectedly in this remote terrain, a Jeep passes you by. Then another. Then a small group. You cruise down a stretch of mountain going into Moab, Utah and suddenly the highway, every side street, gas station, and campground is filled with Jeeps of every model. You’ve arrived at Easter Jeep Safari 2022.
From full-blown rock buggies to stock Jeeps, everyone is welcomed.
For those who aren’t heavily involved in the Jeep world, Easter Jeep Safari is an official event hosted by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers Inc., which is a club that is local to Moab. There are strict rules for joining the event to ensure your vehicle is reliable and capable of surviving the trails. That last part is an understandable concern, as a single vehicle breaking down can delay the entire group for hours. Speaking of trails, they are extremely busy and likely need to be booked ahead of time. Just outside the town of Moab you will find the ionic slick rock trails which are well documented on YouTube. Further on, trails are more desert style with plenty of rocks to go around.
Participants are encourage to have everything packed up in preparation for the unexpected.
For the Jeeps who “break the rules” (also known as being vintage), EJS is a similar yet entirely different experience. Each year a group of flat-fendered Jeeps from circa 1941-1964 make unofficial plans via thecj2apage forum and notably the Flatfendering Aficionado Monthly group on Facebook. The plan is simple: show up to Moab, and collectively they’ll figure out the daily schedule from there. For this trip, we arrived with a 1947 Willys Jeep, which is truly a mix mash of parts between 1941 and 2022 which essentially fit right in.
Participants verify that the vehicle in front of them is clear of the trail before proceeding.
We truly enjoyed this no-plans route, especially on a vacation trip. During the evenings, a group text goes out deciding which campground all the vintage Jeeps were going to meet at the following morning. A dedicated trail may have been included in this text, or it was decided the following morning while everyone walks around with their coffee. All you needed to do is simply show up ready to ride with all necessary tools and spare parts. While the official EJS event is in action, the vintage crowd checked out the website to see which trails were booked and which were open. A typical decision was to traverse the non-booked trails, or drive upwards of 30 minutes outside of town to find one that was not on the radar.
No matter how difficult the obstacle, everyone pitches in to help guide.
Once the plan was decided, the Jeeps, with a raging 60 horsepower each, made their way to the trails at the breakneck speed of about 50 mph. We checked our mirrors to ensure no man was left behind. Once we arrived at the trails, everyone dropped their tire pressure between 6 to 10 psi for traction on the rocks and a comfortable ride across the rough terrain. Then we continued towards the first major obstacles.
Only in Moab will you find a vintage M38 being followed by a CJ3B on a rocky trail.
Some of the group was completely new to Moab and rock crawling in general, while others had a few prior experiences and spent way too much time customizing the Jeep to perform on said landscape. Truly seasoned veterans of the sport typically drove first to showcase proper technique and the best route to take over the rocks. Even with guidance, it can be difficult climbing over boulders and steep grades that the engineers likely never dreamed their vehicles would traverse. The key was to always watch and listen to the veterans who explained the direction to aim the front tires, and notify if a part of the Jeep, such as the leaf springs, transmission crossmember, or whatever were caught on the rocks and holding back the entire vehicle.
Spotters are indispensable when crawling across the rocky terrain around Moab.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic of this motley crew was their eagerness to help at all times. Being a vintage Jeep crowd, we experienced a few minor inconveniences, such as tires de-beading from the wheels, and trail damage like crunched brake lines and clutch linkages. In any instance, you could see multiple people offering their help, tools, and potential solutions. We witnessed ingenious trail fixes that would rival even the most seasoned engineer. Similar to the highway, no man is left behind on these trails.
De-beaded tires were a common problem on the trail. Luckily, plenty of people were on-hand to fix the problem.
The biggest event of the week was the Friday Flat Fender Fun Run. It’s an unofficial-official event for all vintage Jeeps to mark an end of Easter Jeep Safari. According to a rough head count, 51 Jeeps attended the ride. We drove through an isolated trail far outside of town which provided a route free of traffic, and a unique experience of traveling on roads which many never see due to the popularity of other trails. Overall, it was a fresh experience that wasn’t too challenging for the everyday stock vintage Jeep enthusiast who travels just for this event alone.
Lining up the Jeeps for the day's trail ride.
Once we finished the day’s trails and drove back into Moab, our group would either meet for dinner at a restaurant or split ways into each of their respective campgrounds. Dinner with the group is a great experience of swapping Jeep stories and teasing one another. At the campgrounds, it’s an entirely different scenario. Some people have hoods popped and are wrenching away, others are grilling up food, and the rest are walking around with ham sandwiches just chatting with other enthusiasts. One individual at my campground brought scale remote control Jeep rock crawlers, and we spent hours climbing rocks in the parking lot.
These remote-controlled Jeeps are detailed far beyond anything you can find out on the market.
Reflecting on our time at the vintage EJS, we can say that it was an eye-opening experience. The Jeeps, the people, and the stories were second to none. By simply showing up ready to ride with no preconceived plans, we found a group of people eager for any adventure thrown their way.
Heading up another mountain to another adventure...