Read along as I take the plunge into Last Chance Canyon.
With a lot of guidance and encouragement from my new found friends, the Victor Valley 4 Wheelers I managed to take the plunge into Last Chance Canyon, a “moderate” Jeep trail through the desert.
What began as a light trail drive to see the Burro Schmidt Tunnel and the colorful past and characters of EP15 in the desert near Ridgecrest became a full fledged off-road excursion down “Last Chance Canyon. Little did I know what was in store for me ! Let me explain. I have had “some” off-road experience, and I have driven my Jeep in some “tight” places. But this is not something I would try alone. And truthfully didn’t think I would ever do.
I had not done this level of difficulty, off-road, until now.There is more to this story, but for now this is my take on plunging down into Last Chance Canyon. Here is the brief story of my first genuine “road block” we will call it.
As I approached the stopped Jeeps ahead, it seemed like another picture taking opportunity. But after getting out and walking up to the group, one of the guys told me, “Your going to have to pick your line”. My line? What the….?
And then I saw it. A sheer drop in front of us, with no seeming way to go down. And these crazy people were talking about driving over it. I looked around the base of the cliff and found no road around the base. And after further conversation, one by one the drivers began to head over the drop, making it look easy. Of course I rationalized that they were driving more capable Jeeps, and had years of experience. My heart sunk. My spotter Cliff went over it with his wife and dog on board. And as He reached a point mid way down one wheel came off the ground. I knew then that I was doomed.
Cliff calmly parked his Toyota Forerunner, and looked up at me. All of the drivers started encouraging me to drive on down. But I was frozen in my place. There was some sort of moisture in my boxers and I wasnt sure if I had urinated on myself or there was just such a tremendous amount of sweat running off my body. The sun was burning a hole in the back of my neck, and I knew I had to learn this. I knew that I had to get down that seemingly impossible grade.
After what seemed like an eternity of getting up my nerve, Cliff (my spotter) hiked half way up the hill and told me “You have two choices. I drive it down, and you are the passenger, or You drive it down and I will spot you.” I opted for the spotting. Based on my pride, me driving it down seemed like the best option and I justified that I needed the learning process as well. After all if it was going to roll over and tumble down the hill, it probably should be me that went down with the ship.
So I brought the mighty Grand Cherokee to bear at the edge of the “cliff” and started down with Cliff’s brilliant spotting. Needless to say my butt puckered and I think suctioned me to the leather seat. I was literally inching down.
From my vantage point I could no longer see the ground in front of the Cherokee, and I was totally trusting Cliff’s judgement, while seeming to be aware the whole time that one false move would send me to the canyon floor below. My anxiety seemed to be rising, and my knuckles had turned a brilliant white. My new friends below seemed quiet and observant, as if they secretly knew I was going to die. (Really they were abuzz below, I just couldn’t hear them.) And before I knew it I was “Wheeling” right over what seemed to be a drop off of substantial height. Even though it wasn’t as bad as I had thought, or my mind had made it out to be. Each crunch of rocks beneath the tires sent a shiver up my spine. But I had had good traction. And then I realized; I am driving a Jeep. And I started to calm down, calmly reacting to Cliff’s expert guidance. And then I got the thumbs up and I was down.
After reaching the bottom, I was real excited. Primarily that I really had not messed my pants, and that I was in one piece, but mostly that I had just mastered this obstacle. I had new respect for these club members, not to mention my spotter, Cliff, who would go on throughout the day to guide me through more seemingly impossible obstacles for “my skill set” I was having a blast. And let me just say, what an incredible opportunity to roll out with these guys. And yes I will be heading out with these guys again for what I am sure will be more hair raising adventures and rock crawling.
Me Going Over (Video Courtesy of David Worcester)
View From My Cherokee Wheels
Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen