For the first Raptor Offroad Community (ROC) outing of 2017, we headed north of Reno, NV to explore the Black Rock Desert. The winter storms definitely took their toll on the desert trails, which made for some serious washouts to traverse and lots of mud puddles.
Day 1 – “Washout” for that Puddle
Upon arrival to Nevada, we were greeted with winds sustaining between 45-50mph. This caused some pretty bad dust storms, and made it almost unbearable to be out of your vehicle. We were a large group of 20 trucks, which included a Jeep, Tacomas, Ford F-Series & Super Duty, and of course Raptors. To get the day started, we all headed to the trail head 14 miles from the start point. Here, we aired down our tires and wondered what to expect for our day’s run, as the ground was still covered in snow and the soil was saturated. Fortunately, the beginning of the trail was manageable and only those who wanted to plow through the mud, did so. Soon, we found our first obstacles; large sections of trail washed out by flash-flooding.
Despite the challenges, at each obstacle, every truck found a way to keep moving forward. This also included several riverbed crossings, which made for some awesome photo ops.
After making it through the first mountain section, we hit the flat lands and gained some speed. Here, the trail became riddled with large puddles. This was where all the trucks became the same color…brown! After some directional confusion, a few of the Raptors got stuck in mud. However, to their delight, an attendee with a F-350 made pulling them out of the mud a piece of cake.
After lunch, we hit the longest section of trail leading to the Black Rock Desert. This trail started off fast and fun, but was then suddenly erased by an unforeseen body of water the size of a lake. Making a slight detour around the floodwater, we were back on track to the playa.
The trails were smooth again until we hit another section that had been devastated by flash-flooding. For the next 30 miles we had to concentrate on navigating through extremely technical washouts. We hit a section of trail that was completely gone, leaving a giant trench. We were able to find a safe passage around and continue on. A few trucks got stuck in a few washouts, but recovery was quick, as recovery crews were standing by.
Finally, we hit the playa and were able to gain some speed again. To our surprise, the hard dirt slowly turned into soft muck, getting softer and softer by the second. Radio instruction came through to give throttle and head up towards the mountain to harder ground. After a few miles up, we found a spot where we could regroup. All but 2 Raptors made it up to the regroup. Once again, recovery crews were able to pull the two stuck members out in under 10 minutes.
Departing the playa, we made the last push to the Black Rock Desert, home of the world famous festival called “Burning Man.” By the time we reached our destination, it had grown late in the day, and members decided to air up and head back to Fernley, Nevada for the night. This meant that after numerous slow downs due to the unexpected devastation to the trails, we only completed 65 of the 220 miles of trail planned for the day.
Day 2 – Weather Games
Day two we awoke to a snow storm hitting the west coast. We took shelter from the snow in the hotel lobby for an impromptu drivers meeting to discuss proceeding forward. Several people had long drives home, so a quarter of the group dropped out, and the rest of us made a plan to head to the abandoned mines. Leaving the hotel in Fernely, we headed up the highway towards Lovelock in almost whiteout conditions. To our delight, we were able to out run the storm and soon the snow was behind us. We turned off the highway and hit the 40-mile trek to the mine. This section of trail turned out to be the best trail of the trip, as the ground was smooth with rolling whoop sections.
We made it to “Seven Troughs Mine” and had a little time to explore before the snow storm eventually caught up to us. With trail conditions worsening by the minute, we opted to skip the next mine and start our long journey back to town. Taking a different trail back, the group went back to civilization for fuel and lunch before hitting the road.
The trails were not up to their usual standards for this first event of the year. Nevertheless, our large group of 20 rigs trudged on at a slower pace than usual. The upside to this slower pace was it gave us time to take in the beautiful sight of white peaks blanketed in snow all around us. The challenges it provided proved that Mother Nature can be relentless, and for this reason, everyone who attended certainly earned their offroad stripes.