SWFWDA @ Chokecherry Canyon
by Ken Womack

We had a small group of Southern High Rollers make the 1100 mile trek to Farmington New Mexico for the Summer Meeting and Run for the South West 4-Wheel Drive Association. 4-Wheelers from several states joined with Farmington's Cliffhanger's 4-Wheel Drive Club to make this event a truly fun and successful one.

Runs were scheduled from Thursday July 31- thru Aug. 2. Our group consisted of Swede Garpne and his girlfriend Arlene, and J.J. Long and myself. Swede and Arlene had been there for a few days prior, checking out the area attractions, while J.J. and I got there Thursday afternoon.

Friday morning registration had about 100 or so vehicles line up on several trail rides to enjoy 4-wheeling in an area known to the locals as "The Glade" or Chokecherry Canyon. Trail difficulty rated from 1-4, there was a trail ride for everyone, from "Mild to Wild". Runs rated 4+ required minimum of double lockers and 33" tires. Both Swede and I had decided to run "Ballhanger" for Friday. This trail was rated a 31/2 and proved to be a good mix of some hard core wheelin' with bypasses if you so desired to use them. We ran "The Stairsteps" downhill and snaked thru canyons and dry washes, climbed steep slickrock hills and rocks. Our group had about 15 vehicles, and had a great variety of good people and 4-wheel drive rigs, from early Bronco's, Scramblers, a home built CJ-6, Wranglers, and several Scouts from a club in Oklahoma. Our trail leader was Scott Elmer, who lives and works in Farmington, and knows his trails like the back of his hand. He showed us a great time, spotted us thru the tough spots, and explained the fight to keep the trails open. Seems there was an effort to close the area at one time to motorized vehicles.

The Cliffhangers and many other fine folks worked hard with the BLM to keep this area open. It is now designated an ORV area. The Cliffhanger's also have a good relationship with private land owners . Cleanups and trail maintenance are only just a few of the many things they do for the community.

The "Ballhanger Run" ran very smooth with a couple of minor breakdowns: a broken hub, broken brake line, a switch on an ARB compressor, a broken fuel line. Most of the items were fixed on the trail, or made to finish the day out til more permanent repairs could be made.

The obstacle known as "Ballhanger" was a steep climb up a slickrock cliff face with a large crack right in the middle of the approach. Swede and a few of the other well-equipped rigs crawled right up with little trouble. "Jeep Thrills" got the wrong approach the 1st time and slid right in the crack, with the right front wheel high in the air ( 3-feet!). The second try slid us hard to the right and close to a 10 foot drop off. This is where J.J. decided to get out to take some pictures. The usual line for this hill just wasn't working for me without a front locker. With some help from Scott, we tried a slightly different line to the left. This time I was able to scramble up the hill, albeit with tires spinning, looking for traction. Many others decided to take the go around, content to watch the others tackle this one.

We finished our ride in the canyon with plenty of time to rest and visit with good old friends and to meet new ones. A old-fashioned ice cream social was held at McGee Park and allowed 4-wheelers to get together and visit. I think we all had a great time.