The 2017 Pony Express Event was the longest Raptor Offroad Community event as of yet. This three day epic run covered two states and approximately 850 miles, placing participants in the middle of the vast, open desert. Everyone made it to the end of the run and it proved to be one epic journey.
Since many of the participants were coming from Northern California, we put together a caravan to Salt Lake City, where the event would officially begin. Leaving early in the morning, we headed out on the 600 mile trip over the Sierra Mountains. Along the way, we had a number of additional Raptors join our caravan, some that were also headed to Salt Lake for the event, and some that just happened to be headed in the same direction and thought it would be fun to join us. For instance, we picked up one Raptor following our lunch in Winnemucca, Nevada, who was headed to Montana for a birthday party, and another later in the day that was headed home to Utah. While these trucks were not part of our event, we enjoyed the additional company and started to make a game out of picking up additional Raptors and other offroad vehicles along the way.
The long haul to Salt Lake City went smoothly, with the exception of the lead truck getting pulled over for sitting in the fast lane for too long while passing.
Chapter 1 – Journey Begins
The event officially started Friday morning. We all met up early in the morning and made the 30 mile trek to the start of the trail. Here, we aired down, filled up our tanks and cans, and got ready for the long trip. After the drivers meeting, we staged up and headed off for one wild adventure.
Everything started out smoothly, until about 30min. into the run. It was then that one truck ran into a ditch after missing a turn. Fortunately, both truck and driver were alright. The only injury was to the truck’s stock bumper, which was destroyed. After a quick trail repair to remove the bumper, we continued on.
The next section consisted of about 25 miles of tight twisties, which left some of us a bit car sick. We stopped to allow drivers a few minutes to recover. However, once we were ready to go, the oldest vehicle in the group, an ’86 Ford Bronco, was found to have a dead starter. It was decided one Raptor would stay behind with the Bronco to repair the starter, while the rest of us continued on to the first planned stop of the day. The Raptor and Bronco would then work to catch back up with us.
We finally made it to our first planned stop of the day, the Pony Express Station. It was already lunch time, and due to all the delays, we were only ¼ of the way through our planned itinerary. For this reason, we decided to make this our lunch stop, and then to skip the planned detour to an old min, in an effort to get ourselves back on schedule.
Following lunch, we made great time as we flew along the Pony Express Trail. Our next stop was an oasis spring. Here we were able to get out and dip our feet into this natural spring. A few more adventurous participants actually went for a swim.
The final leg of the trip was a fun winding trail, followed by a hill climb. Prior to starting the hill climb, the Tacoma drivers took over as group leads, as this trail was exactly the type of trail they are known for; fast, winding and tight. We climbed the trail until it reached the 8900 foot summit where we were able to take in a breath taking view of the valley. From here, it was all downhill. We all made it back down and into town. By this point a few of the trucks were running on fumes and relieved to be able to refuel before heading to dinner for a well deserved margarita.
Remember the Bronco and Raptor that we left at the start of the trail to resolve the starter issue? Well, after fixing the issue and chasing us all day, they, too, made it back to the hotel. They made great time, getting in only 30 minutes behind the rest of us.
Chapter 2 – Rough Ride
The trails for day 2 were all about fun. The first stop after leaving the hotel was at the Kilns. This was where charcoal was made for the mining industry. After a quick stop, we hit the trail again, making our way through the first of two canyons. The trail through this first canyon was fast and fun, with amazing views of fascinating rock formations. Breaking out of the canyon, we made our only fuel stop for the day and had a chance to use civilized restrooms.
After fuel, restrooms and a few snacks, we hit the fast section. This section got a little muddy, but any complaints about the mud quickly stopped once we hit one of the best sections of trail for the day. This section consisted of fast rollers, including a spot perfect for going airborne. We spent an hour on this section of trail as each of us took turns taking our trucks over the ideal ramp setup.
With the jumping out of the way, we headed to the second canyon section of the day, where we paused for lunch in an area with welcomed shade trees. After lunch, we headed down and out of the canyon onto a quick flat section before making the turn to the Luna Lake Bed and Luna Crater. Once at the lake bed, we took a group picture of all the trucks and participants, and then the high speed runs, drifts and desert donuts began.
Following the fun at the lake bed, we made a quick stop at Luna Crater, a dormant volcanic crater. As it was getting late in the day, we did not spend much time here before making our way off trail. Because of all the fun jumping and the lake bed shenanigans, we fast tracked two sections of trail so that we could still make it through the last section of planned trail and to the old Area 51 hangers.
As everyone was tired of having so much fun this day, we fast tracked on pavement the 15 miles to town for a well deserved beer and BBQ dinner. Everyone made it to town safely after the days long trail run. The only issues we ran into on day 2 were three flat tires, which caused little slow down as they were quickly changed.
Chapter 3 – Heading Home
The final day of the trip was all about speed. The trails leading out of town were all high speed trails, similar to a dirt freeway. Making quick work of these trails, we headed to the first stop of the day, which was an abandoned mine. At the mine, we were able to see several old structures and a few open shafts that were 100 feet deep or more.
After exploring the mine, we headed to a fun section of trail that led into the roughest terrain of the entire trip. There were large washouts and a few rocky sections, which provided a far different experience than we had earlier that morning.
We stopped for lunch at an old mine station, where we were able to take a moment to stop shaking after the rough valley floor trail. Following lunch, we hit a few more miles of rough trail before we reached the last of the flat sections. This was a two part trail past an open pit mine leading to the fuel stop for the day. A few people started falling asleep on this trail, as it was smoother and faster than California freeways.
The fuel stop was a welcomed chance to get a cold drink. A few people even bought fireworks. Yes, ironically this was a fuel station with a fireworks stand. Following the fuel stop, we headed out on a short pavement drive to the ledge trail. This section of trail was narrow and wound along the side of the mountain before dropping us down to the last pavement section leading to the final trail home.
As we regrouped before coming to this last section, a few people accidentally dusted out the local who lived right on the trail. Oops. Once we made it to the last trail, we hit the ground running. Making quick work of the flat land section, we made it to the last pass to end our epic journey. About half way through the last section, we ran across a local heading home. Fortunately for us, this individual was kind enough to pull over and let us all pass, as he could see we were able to drive faster than he was. Therefore, we all blazed on by. After 811 miles of trail, we arrived at our final stop of the trip. While we travel 60 miles less than originally planned, due to unexpected delays, all 21 trucks that started the event successfully completed the event.