2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Yes, It Rains in the Desert
July 16, 2012
Ocotillo Wells sees very little rain. On average just 3.69 inches of the stuff falls all year long, spread over the 15 rare days when measurable amounts are observed and recorded. In reality the bulk of that falls during 4 or 5 days, and a good chunk of the total comes down in the form of "monsoon" events, mid-to-late summer thunderstorms that boil up throughout the day before drenching the landscape in late afternoon.
Sharp-eyed desert veterans will notice that the sand here in San Felipe Wash is much damper and firmer than its usual silty self -- our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is not sinking into it one bit. And then there are the thunderclouds, wannabee echos of the ones that spawned heavy rain and flash floods the day before my visit.
It was still humid and swampy when I arrived, but no one was saying, "yeah, but it's a dry heat," like they were three or four days previous, when the weather report talked of 121 degrees (with a wind chill "feels like" temperature of 120 F) and 11 percent humidity.
And so I found myself doing a most ironical thing in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler: mudding in the desert.
It may not look like much, but persistent flowing water in Tarantula wash some 18 hours after the rain let up suggests one helluva storm. Nearby highway 78 was closed several hours while road crews scraped rocks and mud from the asphalt overnight.
Shell Reef Expressway, a "main" artery in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area is usually covered with deep silty whoop-de-doos. But it's now a pond in some places, a mud bog in others and burnished smooth everywhere else. To follow the road I had to play connect the dots with signposts.
I never had to use our Superwinch, but then again I was just one vehicle with no one and no thing to hook it up to, so I played it safe. This was after all, a post-storm desert sightseeing trip.
The Jeep's door handles make excellent mud collection devices. Squish.
OK, so this ain't Mississippi. But I still fed $5 worth of quarters into the high pressure wand at the local DIY car wash to make it presentable again (one could argue it's just getting presentable now,) and even at that I ran out of coin before the job was 100 percent done. The stuff was much more like cement than the easily-dissolved sandstone I picked up in Moab, and presenty there are still a couple of persistent hunks of desert hidden up in the fenderwells that should crumble back into sand in the coming days.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 17.985 miles