CRC Joins SHR At Las Cruces, NM
By David Schumpert & Paul Trotochaud

An alternate title for this article may be, "Is a CRC (i.e., Carolina RockCrawler) a CRC in Las Cruces?" Well-- the title doesn’t matter much as what is important is that my good friend, David Schumpert, joined me and other SHR members for four fun-filled packed days of off-roading at the Chile Challenge in New Mexico.

My family and I were introduced to the world of off-road adventure through our membership with the Carolina RockCrawlers 4x4 Club located in Spartenburg, SC about four years ago. Now, we are fortunate and quite happy with being members of the Southern High Rollers Club. Like many others, we have a special perspective of the fun and friendships that develop with associations through other 4x4 clubs. And—for David Schumpert, he’s had the experience of 4x4 adventure with SHR members that made it to Las Cruces, NM for the Chile Challenge during February 24-27th.

Our adventure started on Monday night, February 22nd, with David leaving from Charlotte, NC and flying halfway across the United States. He landed in Houston at 7:45 PM, helped with the loading the Jeep, and other typical "get ready" tasks before the two of us headed West. We left Kingwood at 4 AM and traveled via RT59 and 10W to a destination point of Fort Stockton, Texas. Interesting points of interest and of many points of non-interest along the way. But hey, does anybody know who Annie Riggs is? We decided at 3:00 PM Fort Stockton time that Fort Stockton was not a place for us to spend the night, so we trekked onward to El Paso with thoughts of Marty Robbins and Rosa’s Canteena babbling to pass the time away. Driving through El Paso was easy because we were refreshed with the reality of Mountain Time at the border of New Mexico, and our 14+ hour trip was now going to be 13+ hours. Failed logic…yes, but,… incentive to make it all the way to Las Cruces. It was 15 and half hours pulling into the Super 8 Motel in Las Cruces (real time, and not as Swede would say, "Their time, or our time?"). A late steak dinner near the motel and phone call from Swede to our room energized us to be ready for an IHOP breakfast early in the morning.

David met Swede and JJ for the first time at breakfast, and it was evident that Swede and JJ stories would be plentiful during the next four days. Since David and I had not originally planned to run the trails on Wednesday, we were without a trail assignment until we got to the fair grounds. Luckily, the last position for the moderate trail known as "Hopping Jalapeno" was available for us to sign up. Unlike some of the experiences David and I have had with trail rides at Tellico, these folks were ready to deal with the masses of 4-wheelers at the event. Each of many scheduled rides had very definitive staging areas with Trail Leaders and Tail Gunners that assured each ride started within plus or minus five minutes of the leave time. We were never disappointed with the organization of the event, and here on our first day… we were off to the Hopping Jalapeno trail at 9:00 AM. (… as an aside,,,, if you want a good place in the vehicle line-up, then get to the staging area at least 20 minutes before the leave time. Most rides had at least 10 vehicles, and some had about 15 or so vehicles.) 

The Fairgrounds are some 20-30 minutes ride to most of the trails in Las Cruces. The start of the Hopping Jalapeno Trail is no different. You enjoy a picturesque view of mountains along the way, and you also get traditional dust clouds to drive in from the other vehicles in the group. Once on this trail, the dust dies down. What remains is pure rock (a.k.a. "Las Cruces Gold") and other desert terrain including flesh-piercing foliage. You know the stuff… cactus…all kinds and plenty of it. David had one sneak up on him on the trail, and I was able to locate where he was from the trail of blood he left. Band-Aids come in handy.

Hopping Jalapeno is rated as a moderate trail, but by lunch… we had lost half our number due to cut tires and a few other problems. Swede decided that this was an appropriate trail for replacing a brake line, and the red Grand Cherokee from Tennessee wanted to find the quickest way out. On this trail you go out the way you came in. For some of us… yes, this included David and myself in the red CJ-7 (also known as the "Little Red Engine that Could")… we decided the afternoon shouldn’t end so early. So, we remained with about half the group to do the trail in reverse. This meant that we got to go up most of the stair-type ledges that we came down. FUN…. Major Fun. It was a definite locker front and rear experience. At the end of the ride (approx. 5PM), daylight was still plentiful. We headed to the car wash, visited AutoZone for some extra supplies, and this "Little Red Engine That Could" (for short is L.R.E.T.C.) was ready for Dona Ana Mountains on Thursday… we thought.

The Dona Ana Mountains are very picturesque. There are many trails with no trees, but of course-- there is plenty of flesh-piercing foliage. You can see for miles and miles. The trails in these mountains feature steep loose climbs and descents. On one of these long (let me say, very long) climbs, the L.R.E.T.C. (i.e., the CJ) decided it couldn’t. The carburetor that started to act up earlier was not going to cooperate. We pulled the winch cable and attached it the winch cable of Swede’s Scrambler (Swede had made his trip to the top on the hill seem uneventful). Joining the rest of the group meant a break for lunch with a fantastic view from all sides. This break point also put the "Eye of the Needle" rock on the next hill in view. Those vehicles without Lockers didn’t make it to the top for lunch, so they took an alternate route for lunch and to a rendezvous point later in the trail. We never got to the "Eye of the Needle" at the top of the next hill climb. The carburetor decided to take the rest of the day off (so we thought). After starting back, it seemed that the engine ran slightly better when pointed down hill, we found the clutch linkage in competition for attention. It was not pretty. The pedal to the floor… no…not the gas pedal, but it was the clutch linkage that came apart. This was fixable. A delay in the action, and some experimentation after fixing the clutch revealed a whole new CJ. A new L.R.E.T.C. The air cleaner was clogged. The Jeep loved no restriction, and we left the air cleaner off for the rest of the day. Did I mention we were left alone? Yes, the tail-gunner had stayed to help us fix things, but after we started back, the tail-gunner proceeded to catch up with the rest of the group on the other side of the Eye of the Needle. We decided to meet everyone in route to Sally’s Rock.

The group met up on the trail a short ways from the obstacle known as Sally’s Rock. Here, some of the group decided to head back for the day. Sally’s Rock presented an off-camber opportunity that some didn’t care for. The official ride was essentially at an end. Sally’s Rock as well as the area known as the "Good, Bad, and the Ugly" were optional play areas. Sally’s Rock got its name from a lady who got the opportunity to drive down the mountain with no power steering and no brakes. Not recommended. This area requires you to pay close attention to your spotter as the off-camber ledge is where you see plenty of sky and your hood in front of you. Not straight up or down, but a sideways kind of sky. Fortunately, an uneventful task for the CJ (i.e., L.R.E.T.C.). 

The "Good, Bad, and the Ugly" rock is an area of redemption for L.R.E.T.C. This multi-faced ledge has three areas in which to attempt an accent. The length of the ride up is about three Jeeps length, if you make it. Then, at the top is a treat to attempt a turn around for heading back down the backside through a very narrow pass. Wild. And, --Fun. Well, several made the Good section of the rock; including yours truly. Then the Bad… increasing difficulty, but the L.R.E.T.C. did it. And, it did it more than once -- in fact twice. The three that made it to the top of the "Bad" were a flat-Fender (which was not locked), the trail-leader in a buggy-type Scout vehicle, and this CJ. It was a full and fun day on Thursday despite some earlier troubles.

Our Friday trail was a new trail called "Off-Broadway". This trail features a narrow shallow canyon with continuous rocks and tight squeezes. It is a rated hard trail with back to back challenges. It’s a definite 2-locker trail. You need ground clearance and some familiarization with the sound that metal and rocks produce when each touched the other. Our group had fun, and no one needed to buy any special parts at the end of the day.

Saturday included the famous Broad Canyon Run. This canyon is very deep and wider than "Off-Broadway". It’s a very pretty canyon. The rocks are not as numerous or as close from one obstacle to another as you find at "Off Broadway". However, the rocks are larger and the ledges are higher. An interesting ledge known as the "Snake Pit" is nearly vertical six feet high and off-camber at the top. This little rock climb is a lot of fun. The Broad Canyon trail has both hard and moderate challenges to pick from, and at the end of the trail, there are a few large play areas where you can break stuff. This was the last trail on the last day, so I broke stuff. Taking a line through a series of rocks that no one else does, a place where I was … I’ll say it… Stupid… I stupid broke a left-front axle u-joint and bent a nerf bar. The same joint I once broke in Tellico. Instead of a trail fix, it was a two wheel drive home. 

Did the adventure end on Saturday? No. There was a ride across Texas on Sunday to find home in Houston. Or, to find whatever on the way. Just on the other side of El Paso, David decided to get gas in a small Texas community in the dessert. No problem, just get gas and get on the highway. But… what highway? Paul and David were reminiscing of the experience when Paul noticed that the highway did not seem quite right for the trip home. It wasn’t. --- It was the wrong highway about 2 hours off course. Had we kept going we would have visited Fort Worth, Texas. Not a good idea on this trip. David had gotten on I-20 instead of I-10. Needless to say that this added some time to our trip home. Well… this was Ok. We got to see some of Texas that most don’t get to see. We also got to eat lunch at the City Café in Sterling, Texas. Here we learned of Leroy and Snake (two local boys) who out-smarted some other more highly educated folks in town that couldn’t get a couch moved from one house to another. Yes… this was an exciting story if you had been there. If you have ever been to the City Café in Sterling, Texas you’d know what I mean. 

Monday morning found us tired. We got in at midnight on Sunday. We decided to get the last of the film developed, and we decided to go trailer shopping. This trip taught us that a trailer is the best way to go. Fifteen hours in a CJ would have been brutal. The six cylinder Explorer provided comforts that we didn’t expect as well as a safe and enjoyable ride through Texas. It pulled Ken’s trailer well. I am very grateful to Ken for his sharing of his trailer to me. I now have the experience to know what to look for in a trailer and to know that the "Little Red Engine That Could" can do it in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Next time .. T-18 transmission and another year of experience. . .

Perhaps then, success !

--- Broad Canyon Trail 2/27/99