Morning comes early on Jp Dirt ’N Drive. A quick breakfast while the sun is rising, pack the Jeep, then there’s the driver’s meeting, and we’re off and running. Or I should say driving, as that’s what the event is all about. One hundred Jeeps of all vintages, models, and builds, and their occupants, join us for a three-day drive through the beautiful backcountry of America on as many dirt roads as possible.
The 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep event began in the Phoenix, Arizona, area and took a route that was made up of about 50/50 dirt and pavement to Moab, Utah, for the start of Easter Jeep Safari week. The setup was similar to past years, beginning with a check-in/on-site registration day during which participants could check out each other’s rigs, make new friends and connect with old pals, and meet with sponsor representatives to talk about new parts and accessories for Jeeps. The first trail day saw our caravan climb through the central highlands of Arizona on the way to Flagstaff. For the full story on Part 1 of 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive check out: fourwheeler.com/jp-dirt-n-drive/2018/1805-2018-jp-dirt-n-drive-three-day-jeep-adventure.
An area called The Cinders (Cinder Hills OHV Area) was the first of many destinations on our second trail day. The landscape is made up of numerous volcanic cinder cones and craters with a ponderosa pine forest thriving in the volcanic soil. Although it looked like black sand from a distance, it’s much more coarse and abrasive. There were wide-open expanses of cinder to play in, and tall hills of it to climb. It was a fun place for a mid-morning Jeep play break. You just had to watch out for the trees.
The route to our next stop took us through mixed forests, chaparral, and grasslands (and some highway) to Grand Falls on the Navajo reservation of northern Arizona. Grand Falls is a waterfall system with multiple steps totaling 185 feet in height, taller than Niagara Falls, and during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt the falls are at full flow and make a thunderous roar. However, it’s dry much of the year (as it was when we visited in late March) and reduced to a trickle. This was our midday lunch break, and the view out, over, and into the waterfall and the deep gorge created by it was spectacular.
Once our bellies were full and lots of photos of Grand Falls had been taken, we got back on the trail and made the 70-mile trip to the Hopi Cultural Center. The Hopi reservation is located in the middle of the Navajo Nation and in the general direction of our eventual destination. It was the perfect stop for snacks, coffee, restrooms, and there were historical and cultural displays. The nearby gas station overflowed with dozens of Jeeps for the next 30 minutes. We had already come 130 miles (mostly dirt) and there was another 80 miles to go that day. Stocking up before heading on to the Kayenta Monument Valley Inn for the night seemed like a good idea.
Our last trail day of the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive began with a short highway cruise to Monument Valley. At this point, some participants chose to stop and enter Monument Valley Tribal Park (there is a park fee) for close-up views of the Mitten Buttes (commonly called “The Mittens”) and Merrick Butte, sandstone towers soaring as high as 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Guided tours that get you even closer can be arranged. Even if you’ve never been to Monument Valley, you’ve seen it. It has been the backdrop for countless movies, in particular many of director John Ford’s Westerns starring John Wayne. We chose to stop and take a look from what has become known as “Forrest Gump Point.” It’s not close up, but it was a grand view, and it was free.
Not much farther up the highway, the primary route veered onto dirt. Soon we were in Utah, although there were no signs on the trails we were traveling. The next few hours were spent exploring a combination of roads, open rolling hills, canyons, creeks, and red rock sandstone country, all of it dotted with remote ranches and farms. This was one of those areas in which careful attention to the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive route book with its mileages, GPS coordinates, and turn-by-turn instructions created with assistance from CartoTracks really came in handy.
There were breaks of highway in between spans of dirt road, and plenty of scenery and Poker Photo Challenge locations along the way. After stopping for fuel tank top-offs and refreshments in places like Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff, we finished the last leg of the day from Blanding, flying the highway north to Moab, Utah, where the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive arrival dinner and raffle was held at Canyonlands by Night.
As always the event was crowned Sunday night with a complimentary BBQ dinner spread, and the exclusive opportunity to check out some of Jeep’s Easter Jeep Safari concept vehicles—this year it was the Sandstorm and Wagoneer Roadtrip concepts. By the time people were heading back for seconds, the raffle for prizes donated by the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive sponsors had begun. At the end of the evening, everybody was happy, bellies were full, and goodies ranging from tires to hats to a 2018 Jeep JL grille autographed by the Jeep design and engineering team had been handed out.
If you missed this year’s Jp Dirt ’N Drive, stay tuned to jpmagazine.com and fourwheeler.com, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Application period for the 2019 Jp Dirt ’N Drive opens around the first of the year.
We would like to thank the following sponsors for their support and active participation in the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep.