FARMINGTON >> Every Sunday morning you will see a line of four-wheel-drive vehicles heading out from the Piñon Hills Bypass into a recreation area for a day of rock climbing.
The drivers are members of the Cliffhangers Four Wheel Drive Club, a nonprofit organization that has been operating since 1978. The club, according to its Facebook page, was formed to promote and encourage interest in the serious operation and ownership of four-wheel-drive vehicles and to promote good fellowship and social activities among its members and their families.
Allen Elmore one of the group's organizers says people are welcome to join them and don't necessarily need any experience in rock crawling.
"A big thing our club does is teach you how to four-wheel responsibly." Elmore said. "For example stay on the trails and don't abuse the areas."
The group mainly uses the Glade Run Recreation Area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The area is comprised of 19,000 acres of sandy arroyos, slick rock and rolling terrain and is split into two off-highway vehicle-use zones. About 3,800 acres on the south end are managed as an open "Off Highway Vehicle" area. It contains challenging slick rock and wide sandy washes for off-road enthusiasts.
Gary Torres, Field Manager for the Farmington Bureau of Land Management Field Office, explains that the area is designated for OHV use and is managed for sustainability.
"We have to still keep the land healthy. We can do that when we designate trails and routes for different uses. We've taken into account impacts to the surroundings. When we do that and people honor it, it really makes it sustainable for everybody," Torres explains.
Janelle Alleman who is in charge of Outdoor Recreation for the Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office says when people use the areas as they are designated they can increase everyone's recreational opportunities and experiences.
Make sure you're prepared for the trip
A number of factors — many of them preventable — can derail a fun day of four-wheeling in the Four Corners. Of course, you can't guard against everything, but here are a few things you should keep in mind before you hit the road.
· Fill up the tank: Make sure you have a full tank of gas so you don't have to stop your adventure to refuel.
· Don't go out alone: But if you do, make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will be returning.
· In case of an emergency: Equip your vehicle with a first aid kit. It's better to be safe than sorry.
· Just in case: Bring a spare tire, tow rope, tools and a shovel. You never know when you might need it.
· Also recommended: If you're looking at a longer trip, bring along a high lift jack, extra water, fuel and engine oil, two-way radios and a fire extinguisher.
"Our goal is to provide a safe manner of recreation experiences for the public. Protecting sensitive species and resources in addition to providing recreation opportunities," Alleman said.
Jeeping or rock crawling is an extreme form of off-road driving using vehicles — varying from stock to highly modified — to maneuver over very harsh terrain. Rock crawling is slow-speed, careful and precise driving. Rock crawlers drive up, down, over and across obstacles that would appear impassable to the average person and vehicle.
Torres explains that rock crawling is compatible with mountain biking because it is pretty low speed and technical in nature.
Terry Hopper of Aztec said some days they can spend the whole day out and only really travel about 5 miles. He says he enjoys going out with the group because it is a family affair and everyone looks out for each other.
"Jeeping is a sport and it's always different. I do it because it is calming, a good stress relief and just a blast!" Hopper said.
Andy Valdez has been rock climbing with the group since 2005 and has a custom fabricated buggy he uses to climb.
"I like to climb the insane climbs and make it look easier than it really is. " Valdez says.
IF YOU GO
The Cliffhangers Four-Wheel Drive Club encourages vehicles that wish to come out with the club to have larger tires, lift kits and locking differentials, although anything with four-wheel drive capabilities is welcome.
For more information on the group, go to facebook.com/groups/cliffhangers4x4.
To access the Glade Run Recreation Area from Farmington, take Piñon Hills Boulevard and turn north onto the main Glade Road, County Road 1980.
Travel north two miles to the Glade entrance and the open off-highway vehicle area.
For more information on the area, contact the Bureau of Land Management at 505-564-7600.