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Back to Hi-Desert Roundup, 2010

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One of the things that we love about Hi-Desert Roundup is that the even offers a cornucopia of runs at all levels of difficulty, with runs such at the Blue Moon, which is suitable for any low-range transfer case equipped S.U.V., all the way to the Pumpkin Eater, which requires double-hard lockers, large tires, maybe a winch, and a whole lot of courage.  My truck is a 1997 Ford F-250, with minimal modifications, so anything harder that a 2, or a 2.5 was out of the question for me.  If I broke something, it would be a long way back to Roseville from Stoddard Valley, so the choice of run was quite logical for us:  Blue Moon, which is rated a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5.  So after completing our registration, we signed up for the Blue Moon run, which was to be held Saturday morning, May 29, 2010, at the 39th Annual Hi-Desert Roundup, sponsored by CA4WDC.

Photo:  The trail boss of "Blue Moon Run," Jesse May of the Dirt Devils, to the right of the photo, explains the run to a few of the participants.

Photo:  We're near the end of the line, and it gets mighty dusty on Stoddard Wells Road, as we head toward the trail.

This year, as in years gone by, Blue Moon was led by friendly and capable Jessie May, of the Dirt Devils 4WDC, and the run lined up on Stoddard Wells Road, adjacent to camp.  The line-up and driver's meeting was held at 0830, as the run was scheduled to leave at 0900.  Jessie explained the usual stuff prior to a CA4WDC run, stuff like the CB channel being used, don't drink on the trail, be safe, and watch out for critters, such a scorpions, rattle snakes and, especially the desert tortoises.  Tortoises are protected by law, and if approached, and be easily spooked and loose their water, condemning the animal to death by dehydration.  Stoddard Valley is B.L.M. land, and the rules are simple:  If you run over, injure or endanger tortoises, Hi-Desert Roundup could be history.  

Photo:  We're stopped at the first major hill climb, as a yellow Jeep nears the hard part, where Jesse acted as spotter.

Photo:  Jesse watches a well-built Jeep negotiate the climb.  The Jeep has just about reached the rocky, loose spot that gave many participants trouble, but this Jeep made the climb without any spotting from Jesse.

The run left base camp promptly at 0900, passed camp on the dirt road just west of it, and headed a mile or so to the north, past the vehicle games area, where it rejoined Stoddard Wells Road.  After climbing up and over the saddle, we paused on the side of dirt road, locked hubs, and shifted into low-range four wheel drive.  Then, it was four wheelin' all the way, through a couple of scenic canyons, before we crossed paths to the participants of the Achy Breaky run, and paused a few moments to watch them climb a steep, loose hill, with a few off-camber spots thrown in for good measure.

Today's Blue Moon run was the perfect size, with about 30 vehicles, which was enough for lots of camaraderie, but not enough to unnecessarily bog things down.  The weather was perfect, sunny, warm, and NO WIND!  (The day's high reached only about 90...)  Driving through the first canyon, thanks the unusually wet winter and spring, that the desert vegetation looked more like the beginning of April, rather than the end of may, as the greasewood and sagebrush was still a vibrant green and there were lots of colorful wild flowers.  The Mojave Desert is so beautiful...

Photo:  Matthew slowly and carefully drives the truck up the hill.

Photo:  Jesse spots Matthew at the steep, loose spot, near the top of the hill.  You have to be careful to avoid the sharp rocks, and not scrape your sidewalls on the rock at the left front tire of the truck that Jesse is motioning Matthew to avoid.

The first major, and the most "technical" hill climb is reached after about the first mile after leaving the dirt road. This hill is the only climb on the Blue Moon run that requires spotting for stock vehicles, and it does require precision placement of your wheels, and it helps immensely if you're aired down, as it is quite steep and loose, especially near the top.  Our run leader, Jessie was the first person up the hill, then he parked and provided spotting assistance.  As each vehicle conquered the hill, the occupants got out and cheered and took photos of others climbing the hill.  Naturally, there were many good-natured jokes and jeers... that's part of the four wheel driving experience when wheeling with a group.  We were second from the tail end, and Robert decided to get out and ride with Joel, the Dirt Devil who was the official tail end of our procession.  I turned to Matthew and offered to let him drive... hey, he's a chip off the old block, and it was about time that my son cut his teeth on the trail.  He readily accepted my offer, so I jumped out to climb up the hill to take photos.  Before leaving him to the capable spotting of Jessie, I offered him this advice:

*  Do not think about anything
*  Do exactly what Jessie directs you to do
*  Take it slow and easy

Photo:  Matthew scrapes the rear differential on a rock that isn't even in the trail!  He was so proud of himself for negotiating the steep hill climb that he lost his concentration for a moment - and a moment is all it takes!

Photo:  This stock Grand Cherokee had no trouble climbing the second hill climb.

I figured this hill would be a good classroom for Matthew, as it wasn't particularly difficult, yet it did require a spotter for a basically stock vehicle, and by conquering this hill, it would give Matthew a lot of confidence.  I got out to take photos, but I also though it would be good for Matthew to be by himself, and to trust Jessie's spotting.  Sort of like your first solo flight when you're learning to fly an airplane...  Anyway, I scrambled up the hill, positioned myself behind Jessie, who was acting as spotter, got out my camera, and waited for the action to happen.

Photo:  I've been attending High Desert Roundup for nearly 20 years, and this is the first year that I've ever seen snow in the San Bernadino mountains this late in the year - thanks to a very wet spring, 2010.

Photo:  Just before stopping for lunch, we took a break after the third hill climb.

Matthew had plenty of time to watch the other vehicles climb the hill, as were just in front of Joel, who was acting as "Tail End Charlie."  He also got the chance to watch a bone-stock Grand Cherokee negotiate the hill, with very minimal wheel slipping.  When it was Matthew's turn to climb the hill, I saw him drive the truck slowly, methodically and very carefully, up the hill; it was quite apparent that he was in a gigantic state of concentration. When he reached the steep, loose spot, near the top of the hill, where Jessie was spotting, I could see that his eyes were on Jessie - good boy! - and he was being guided by Jessie.  On his first try, he mis-judged a rock, and butted against it with his left front tire.  He could have climbed over the rock, but there was no point in doing that, as there was plenty of maneuvering room on this hill climb, so Jessie simply had him back up about twenty feet or so, and yelled at him just to follow his motions, and Voilą! - He made a perfect hill climb!  The funny thing was as soon as he crested the hill, in his jubilation he failed to notice a rock in the middle of the trail, and proceeded to give the rear pumpkin a rock bashing.  Myself and the others in the peanut gallery got a huge laugh out of that. Since I wasn't driving, I had the opportunity to catch the whole sequence on camera.

Photo:  Mr. and Mrs. Chuckwalla bask in the sun and allow me to get close enough to snap their photo.  Mr. is to the left, and the more colorful Mrs. is the large lizard to the right of the photo.

Photo:  Robert talks to Joel as we break for lunch on top of a low ridge.

We took "ten" at the top of the hill before continuing the run.  Since Matthew did so well on the hill climb, I asked him if he wanted to continue driving, and he wanted to, so I let him drive.  So now it was down the gentle east slope of the hill, around the hill, across an alluvial fan, before crossing Stoddard Wells Road, and heading east into the hills.  Before stopping for lunch, we paused at a fork in the trail for a 10-100, and while we were paused, Matthew and I had the pleasure to observe a female chuckwalla lizard, basking among the rocks.  As I approached her to take a photo, she stuck her tongue out at me, and I stuck mine out at her; that must have been more than she bargained for, as, despite her ungainly appearance, she deftly jumped on to another rock, but she must have felt quite at home on this rock, as she allowed me to approach to about ten feet from her and snap a few photos. This is the first chuckwalla that Matthew has ever seen.  A bit of trivia is in order:  The chuckwalla is the second largest lizard in the United States, next in size only to the Gila monster, and the males can reach 18 inches in length.

Photo:  Meanwhile, Matthew finds three lovely ladies to entertain...

Photo:  After lunch, we did another hill climb, negotiated a box canyon, and headed east through this wide canyon.

After two more hill climbs, it was time to break for lunch, at the top of a small hill with a nice view of Barstow, in the distance to the north, and rocky Stoddard Mountain to the south.  Since we'd enjoyed breakfast at Chef Andy's, and were anticipating the Saturday night barbecue, neither Matthew, Robert or I had packed lunch, but we did take the opportunity to power-down a few soft drinks, and socialize with other four wheelers.  While Robert and I chatted with fellow four wheelers, and admired their fine rigs, Matthew took the opportunity to entertain three young ladies - gee, he's a chip off the old block, as if I was 30 and single, I'd do the same thing too!

Photo:  Near the end of the trail, this was the last hill we climbed, and it was actually quite easy.  Don't even think of driving this trail in your dad's Bravada, as you need a low range transfer case.

Photo:  Going down the hill, along a steep, narrow trail that clung to the hillside, and followed the contour of the land.  This part of the run was especially fun.

After lunch, we slowly wound our way back to camp, negotiating a few more hill climbs and along the way, before coming to a ridge south of base camp, with a panoramic view of base camp to the north.  Then, it was down the hill, on to Stoddard Wells Road, for the short couple of mile drive into camp.

Blue Moon run is a lot of fun!  It's suitable for any stock S.U.V., provided that it has a low-range transfer case.  No, your dad's Forester or Bravada won't cut the mustard, but your uncle's stock Grand Cherokee or Explorer will do just fine.  Except for the first hill climb, you won't even need a spotter, as all you have to do is to take it easy, follow the guy in front of you, and have a wonderful time.  Blue Moon is definitely four wheeling, but if you follow the guy in front of you and take it easy, you'll have a wonderful time, and you won't dent anything on your truck.

Photo:  End of the trail, as we join Stoddard Wells Road and make a left turn back to base camp.

After I let Matthew in the driver's seat, I couldn't pry him out with a crow bar - not that I tried to - and he had a wonderful time driving.  Blue Moon is fun, scenic, and will definitely give your low-range transfer case a work out!  I highly recommend you run this trail when you visit Hi-Desert Roundup!

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