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We gathered about a mile from the trail head to air down, swap stories, and see who had installed something new on their Jeep. It was a small group today, with two TJs and two YJs making up the gathering. Several of the other guys I have wheeled with were catching up on things around the house or had arranged to hit another trail. As 9:20 AM rolled around, we headed down the gravel road to the trail head.
There had been sporadic rain in the Phoenix area over the past few weeks. Some of Raw Deal is on exposed bedrock with small pools that collect the water run off. With the temps being only in the mid-60s for the past week, these pools were not evaporating off very quickly. So, we were able to get our tires wet and actually find an obstacle or two that actually had a little bit of mud (or was that just dirt mixed with wet sand) around it.
We dropped off the road into the wash that signals the start of the trail. Steve was leading the run in his YJ and I was in the #2 slot with my TJ. Larry was in his TJ too, and Dion and Paola were doing tail gunner duty in their YJ.
I paused on the trail just as Steve rounded a turn. My coffee cup was empty and I wanted to fill it before we got to the first obstacle. After messing with my thermos, the cup was filled and I slipped it into 4LO and headed off. What I missed was Steve taking an easy line around a rock ledge. (OK...so this was only my 2nd time on the trail and I didn't remember all of the details). I edged my TJ up to the ledge and let the front tires ease down the rock. I knew right then I was going to hit the rear coming off the ledge. TJs have the curse of a low hanging gas tank. Hard as I tried, the passenger corner still landed pretty hard on the Tomken skid. Ouch!
After some boulders and stray rock shelves, we got to the first major obstacle, the "Great Divide" as Steve calls it. We took turns spotting each other through this obstacle. It takes a couple of times to learn the best spot for tire placement, and we had to stop once or twice and carefully back the driver up a few feet for a shot at better placement. A slipped tire while crawling over this wide and jagged rock crack and will give your sheet metal a really bad rash. The wet tires don't help either, but the aggressive tread on the BFG MTs and the Goodyear MT/Rs held solid and kept everyone in place.
Next was the "air hole". As the name implies, it provides those who try it an off-camber opportunity to test their low altitude air grabbing abilities. I had opted around this obstacle the last time but decided to try it this time. Steve got good air through hole and gave me an idea of the necessary line I needed. After a couple of shots at getting lined up just right, I was able to get what was to be the best air of the day. Everyone was a bit worried that my TJ was going over, but she held in there and we made a good showing.
After a few more rock out croppings and boulders, we came to another rock ledge. This one provides a variety of different lines, ranging from a 1' bump to the impossible. Dion and I discussed a line that Steve said he was willing to try. It was an extremely off-camber crawl over the highest section of the ledge. He made it but not without first giving everyone there money's worth for an impressive display of rock crawling.
Dion and Larry both took hard lines also and managed to get over with just a rocker panel or t-case skid making their presence known. Me....well, I opted for what looked like an easier one and almost got myself hi-centered.
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