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General Articles - Trip Reports

High-Desert Boogie

Article written by Mo Hauguel and Mac MacKenzie

Date Added: 05/15/2007

It?s a genuine rock-grinding fest when dedicated ?wheelers head to Nevada for the annual Hump-N-Bump event.

Perhaps William Shakespeare said it best when he penned the oft-quoted phrase, ?What?s in a name??
Truly, it is a funny name, even a strange name. A name that may leave the mind to wonder just what goes on in the Nevada desert each November?especially given the event?s close proximity to Sin City. But it was at this year?s 26th Annual Hump-N-Bump off-road event that 250-plus enthusiastic four-wheel drive participants experienced a wild and scenic weekend of warm days, cool nights, blue skies and towers of crimson sandstone. Oh, yeah...and some phenomenal trail running.

To establish and maintain a successful off-road event such as this?particularly one which spans more than a single day of trail riding?it takes a team of devoted and eager volunteers to commit their precious time toward the common goal. For the 2006 Hump-N-Bump, these animated and loyal individuals came from several clubs across the Las Vegas valley, including Vegas Valley 4 Wheelers, Nevada Backroaders and Total Karnage.

With an offering of everything from scenic trails?taking in the vistas presented by Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park?to 5+ trails promising custom body work whether you want it or not, there was something for everyone. Trails and obstacles sporting names such as Rock Bottom, Matterhorn, Bronco Falls, Logandale Loop, 13-Mile Loop, Chitter Trail, Apocalypse and the Bowl Trail are some of the options drivers had to choose from over the course of the two-day event.

Here, we?ll focus on the Bowl Trail and take you along on a virtual trail ride.

This trail is rated a 2+, and it consists mostly of a scenic trail that follows a volcanic vein. There are several challenges along the way, upping the ante at the driver?s discretion. What?s most unique about this trail is that the seven to eight obstacles, stretched out every 20 to 30 minutes, are challenged at the driver?s discretion.

After driving several miles up a large wash (which changes with the infrequent but torrential rains that hit the area each year), the Bowl Trail begins by navigating a few rolling hills. Along the passenger side is a 15-foot vertical wall of brown volcanic rock and a five-foot-high section on the driver?s side. Out of this formidable and archaic rock juts extremely sharp barrel cactus, growing up to four feet tall and covered in thousands of spines.

After this half-mile corridor, the trail continues through the Mojave Desert, crisscrossing the volcanic vein several more times before encountering a steep descending hill and over the first obstacle. It?s all downhill, so with a foot on the brake, you drop over a three-foot ledge of dark brown volcanic rock. Without a lift of any kind, you high-center and scrape your way down on the tranny and transfer case skid plate. It?s a bit alarming for novices, but a good tool to measure their next step in modifying their rigs. Another 10 minutes down the trail is the first of many waterfalls to climb.

At its highest point this fall is about four-and-a-half feet high, and suggests at least one locker with 33-inch tires. In our dozen or so times on the Bowl Trail, we?ve seen this waterfall climbed by vehicles with open diffs running on 32s, but we?ve also seen well-built rigs locked with 35s snap axles and drivelines. Thankfully, on this sunny day, all who made the attempt met with success and no breakage.

Following the trail northward, we encountered the wide variety of flora in the area, passing mesquite only about four feet tall, but which have roots reaching up to 80 feet in length in their quest for water. The hallmark perennial of the North American desert, the creosote bush, is also well represented, and spotting the landscape are banana yuccas, a plant used in its entirety by the Native Americans who resided here so many years ago. The South Muddy Mountains line our eastern horizon, showing off its smaller but nonetheless magnificent arches.

The trail leads us up and down, some stretches of which are extremely steep, requiring ample amounts of the right pedal, twisting and turning, flexing out our suspensions. We encounter sandy, dirty and rocky terrain?sometimes all three at once. We follow this topography for about 40 minutes, taking in the serenity and peacefulness of the warm Mojave while inching closer to the most famous obstacle and challenge on the Bowl Trail: the S-Turn.

The S-Turn is unique in many ways, and here we encounter the real possibility of body damage. It?s actually more of a mirrored image of an S, shaped like a crooked number 2. For 90 percent of four-wheelers, this obstacle must begin in reverse. A 40-yard section of the rocky and sandy terrain needs to be driven backward, turning 90 degrees up a near vertical hill on the passenger side. It?s at this point that rigs begin to resemble the pose of a stink bug warning offenders of a forthcoming attack. Pointing downhill on a 60-degree slope, the driver sees the other two-thirds of the suspension-twisting S-Turn.

It?s a matter of trusting and following your spotter?s directions. The experienced spotter will keep your sheetmetal shiny and straight while the blood runs out of your steering wheel-clenched fists. It?s not a long section, just an elusive mix of sandstone and igneous rock presenting an extremely distorted and curvy rock face to negotiate. Some scraping of bumpers or skid plates is expected, and a little of both occurred during our run. About half of the rigs on the run found good fortune through this tricky part of the Bowl Trail.

The last of the more challenging obstacles on this trail is the triple waterfalls?a section about 80 yards long with three successive waterfalls. This rock is of the limestone variety, where the softer sandstone has eroded away to expose more dense rock. The first fall is relatively easy for the first several vehicles. After they pass the fine, sandy rock at the bottom, the fall becomes deeper and deeper as Jeeps continue to spin their tires over it. Some rock-stacking helps here, and it becomes a more desired technique for the approaching falls.

The second fall is taller, at about three to four feet, with another soft bottom. The third is not a straight vertical ledge like the previous two, but rather a series of smaller falls positioned perfectly for some fantastic three-wheeled 'wheeling. It was at this third waterfall that our group experienced its first breakage whe a hub let go on a CJ7. Not a big deal, fortunately, and with a winch the Jeep was pulled up and over with no problem.

Due to the time of day and the promise of a delicious chicken dinner ahead of us, it was decided to head back to camp to enjoy great food, share the day?s mishaps and accomplishments, and set our hopes up for hitting it big with a huge two-hour raffle to follow.

For those of you who have never experienced the Hump-N-Bump event, it is a wonderful weekend escape. Many of the participants came from California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada, among other states. It?s held each year on the Friday and Saturday following the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association convention in Las Vegas (the first weekend in November). You can check out the newest Jeep parts for the coming year, then get in a little four-wheeling before heading home.

Final Thoughts

For info on how you can participate in the 2007 Hump-N-Bump, contact the Vegas Valley 4-Wheelers at www.vv4w.org

Our Thank You's!

We apologize that our format does not have a place for crediting the photographer. So to correct this...

Thank you to William Rogers for the great photography work!


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