2012 Jeep Wrangler: Rookie Off-Roading
March 11, 2013
Prior to starting to work for Edmunds, the only time I had spent off-road included a few dirt bikes rides (no jumps), some time on a quad, and a trip to Lake Havasu in college where my buddies and I had ingloriously ran a Jeep Wrangler out of gas. So when an opportunity came up to take our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and leave the pavement behind with a local group of Land Cruiser owners, I jumped at the chance.
Don Swertfeger, a friend and fellow Edmunds employee, convinced me to join a group of all-Toyota off-road enthusiasts for a day on the dirt. After some morning coffee and gassing up the trucks, we headed east from Los Angeles to Cleveland National Park where the trail was located. We reached the trailhead and to our dismay it was closed.
Don enjoys turkey and cheese, but not as much as he enjoys climbing hills. We broke out the trail mix and discussed our options.
After we conferred with the maps and acknowledged that no one really knew other local roads worth mentioning, we simply carried on. We happened upon a second road that was thankfully open, and put the trucks in four-wheel drive. For a novice like me, this became quickly exhilarating.
Being with a group of capable drivers gave me confidence and encouragement and it made finding the right lines up the trail easy. Many times I found myself giving the Jeep Wrangler nothing but steering inputs, keeping my feet completely off the clutch, brake and throttle altogether.
This trail was like child's play our Jeep, but for me the experience was like playing with the Tonka Truck I had as a child. Its simplicity brought me great joy with minimal effort.
Don and I both laughed constantly as we bounced up and down in the stiff seats, like elated children with a new toy.
Despite a small starting issue with one of the trucks (which turned out to be an easily fixable relay), the trip went great. As someone who typically spends the weekends on the beach or cruising the canyons, this is a motoring hobby I could definitely get used to.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 27,900 miles