For the first time, the Raptor Offroad Community headed to Southern California to explore the region near Salton Sea and Ocotillo Wells. This proved to be a worth while adventure, providing lots of excitement.
Day 1 – Salton Sea Loop
The first day of our adventure was a trail loop along the Eastern side of the Salton Sea. We left early Friday morning for a short drive from the hotel to the start of the trail. At the staging point, everyone aired down and we hit the trail along the California Aqueduct. Trails were fast and fun, but someone missed a turn on the map and somehow ended up on the other side of the aqueduct. Fortunately, after a few miles they were able to find their way back over and join back up with the rest of us.
Reaching the first check point, we regrouped before moving on. One of the members radioed they were hearing something clucking in the front of their truck. After a quick inspection, we discovered the lower bushing on the passenger side control arm was shot. Since we were near a main road, we decided to leave the truck near a large RV park and come back to get the truck after the day’s run. The driver locked everything up and jumped into one of the lead trucks and we were off again.
The next stop was Slab City. If you understand the reference, “welcome to thunder dome,” then you will understand what the place is. It is a location completely off the grid where there are no rules and there is every sort of oddity to be seen. Our group of 11 trucks made our way through Slab City in search of Salvation Mountain and Slabby Art Car. First we wondered through Salvation Mountain, where we were impressed by the artist’s dedication to his art. The next stop was Slabby Art Car, which was a little disappointing as it was recently burned by hooligans. Despite this disappointment, the area was still very interesting.
It was now time to move on and get out of dodge, so to speak. Our next section of trail was through a military bombing range. Yes, a bombing range. As we rolled up to pass through the range we ran across a group of Marines. After making sure we were ok to pass, we were off and running. Once about half the group was through the range, we received a radio call stating someone got a flat tire. Having the group pause so we could swap tires, we could hear the bombs going off in the distance. This made for one of those “WOW,” but “oh my,” moments. As soon as the tire was replaced, the group made it through the valley section. This slow valley section of led us to our lunch stop. At lunch, we checked on the tire that was replaced and were surprised to realize it was not a flat tire, but rather a shredded tire.
The first stop after lunch was one of two old ghost mines. We stopped for a little bit to explore the area and then headed off past the cliff trail, which was a narrow ledge with some “suck it in” moments. All the trucks, with the exception of the Tacomas, had to take their time through this area. The second mine stop was the Red Cloud Mine for a little more exploring before looping back to the hotel.
The final two stops for the day were Patton’s Bunker and the Paton Museum. The bunker was along an old rail line which we had following throughout the day. The line dated all the way back to 1948. We arrived at the museum 30 minutes before it closed, which unfortunately limited the amount of time we had to see the tanks that were on display. We saw what we could and then made the trek back to the hotel. The trail to the hotel was fast and maintained, and it ended only 3 miles from the hotel. After dinner, the lead truck took the owner of truck we left behind back to pick up his vehicle.
Day 2 – Ocotillo Wells
Day two was less about mileage and more about playing in the “home” of the Ford Raptor. Driving from the hotel, we stopped at the trail head to fuel up before the day began. We were not even 4 miles onto the trail when we received a frantic radio call stating something exploded followed by silence. After a long pause, we then heard laughter and some chatter about old faithful. It turned out that the gas can on one of the trucks exploded, and when it did, it looked just like a geyser.
With our morning hiccup out of the way, we continued on to the river canyon toward the Natural Arch. Once at the Arch, we took pictures of trucks driving under it. We then headed off to the Pumpkin Patch. In order to get to the Pumpkin Patch, we had to cross over some very tight canyon hill climbs, ridge transitions and descents, all of which were a fun change of pace from blasting all over the desert. Dale, from the Raptor Performance Group, joined us on the big climb. He acted as our quasi-tour guide for the area.
Once we arrived at the Pumpkin Patch, we took a moment to refresh and check out this odd geological formation. As we were departing from the Pumpkin Patch, we came across a group of ATV riders. One of the riders had fallen off their ATV. After providing assistance, one of our lead trucks took the rider back to the Pumpkin Patch so he could get services to help the rider. After dropping the rider off, the lead truck regrouped with the rest of us on the river road. This road was the “Raptor” promo road, and was a blast to run down.
Our lunch stop was at the end of the river road at the “Jump.” Here, the group parked and ate lunch while members took turns flying off the jump. Several groups of dirt bike riders stopped and watched us act like hooligans, competing to see how far we could hock 6000lbs of metal. With the jumping fun over, we headed off to the “secret” destination. Once we reached the stop, which is basically the stock yard for aviation parts, the lead truck talked to the owner of the property and was able to gain us access to see the sites. We then almost lost access, as the owner felt we were taking too long to meet up with him for his “DO NOT waste my time or touch my property” speech. Luckily, the owner still let us in to see all the cool things on display. This was a special treat that not many people get to do, per the owner.
By the time we left the aviation yard, it was getting late in the day and we were all tired. Our last stop was at the boiling pots, which were on the way back to the hotel. On the way there, the wind picked up and made for some crazy dust patterns. While the wind cleared the dust from each truck, it also made for some crazy sand drifts and made it difficult to just open the door of your truck. Braving the wind tunnel, we made it to the boiling mud pots. The interesting thing we discovered about these boiling pots is the mud at the “boiling” pot was not hot as you’d expect, but rather is cold to the touch.
With the last of our stops done, we all headed back to the hotel and then dinner for some good food and a cold drink. On the way back, one truck had a hose come loose on their power steering reservoir. Thanks to Forged Offroad, they fixed it in about 15 minutes and we headed to the hotel.