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60 APRIL WHEEL & OFF-ROAD

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There was no deep mud. no death-defying rocky climbs. No high-speed jumps. No days on end without civilization. But there was four-wheeling, low range, and a good time had by all.

We're talking about the inaugural White Truck Road Trip. While assembling our Project White Truck Dodge 3500 we've noticed that guite a few of our friends also own white 4x4 pickups, so

Our '10 Dodge 3500 Project White Truck* was on hand with its new Caravan Campers off-road shell, which is perfect for two people and one dog to sleep in. Find out more about it and the other upgrades In

IOur troop of four white fullsize trucks met up in Ridgecrest, California, the day after Thanksgiving and then convoyed out to Bal-larat, California. Ballarat is a blip on the map and the last place to find any supplies before heading into the western side of Death Valley National Park. We opted to skip DV and instead explore the mining areas west of the park for easier camping.

2 Our first night was at the base of Surprise Canyon. This is the site of the Chris Wicht/ Novak camp, a mining camp that burnt down a few years prior. Surprise Canyon was one of the preeminent rockcrawling trails 10 years ago, with many technical waterfalls that required extensive winching leading up to an old mining site known as Panamint City. This trail was shut down due to misguided environmental concerns.

3 We got up the next day and hiked up the old trail. The brush was so overgrown and the rocks so clean that you would never believe a 4x4 had been up this trail. People will argue that vehicles do lasting damage, but it's amazing how quickly the desert takes back its surrounding.

4 We did find an old mining truck up the canyon and began debating how much time and money it would take to hike in parts and drive the old 4x4 out of the canyon. Hmm, we wonder if the Bureau of Land Management would want to hire us for vehicle removal.

5 John Reynolds is a semiretired fisting trumpet player who also dabbles in desert race buggy fabrication. His '99'/? Ford Super Duty had the biggest camper in the group, so we sent him up the trail first. John's truck is a bare-bones XL model with rollup windows, manual transmission, firestone air bags, and a Power-stroke diesel spruced up with chip, exhaust, and KSN air filter.

"Everyone could use a long weekend out in the dirt"

6 Brett "The Barbarian" Porter came on the trip with his '04 Dodge 2500 diesel truck (also running manual transmission). Brett and family Desiree, Kaeley, and Austin all packed into their new low-buck SixPack camper for this inaugural trip. The Dodge is fitted with 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires, a Banks Six Gun kit, and a Pacific Truck utility bed.

7 Harry "The Gunslinger" Rawlins was our lightweight scout truck. His '02 F-250 was equipped with the only gas engine of the group (a V-10) but was also the best equipped for wheeling with a Warn 16.5 winch, 4.30 axle gears, 35-inch BFG KM2 mud tires, Bilstein shocks, a Detroit rear locker, a TruTrac up front, and diesel-snow-plow-equipped front springs for added clearance and support. Harry didn't disappoint; he also has six-speed manual transmission.

8 On the second day we headed up Pleasant Canyon, and our big trucks quickly began squeezing their way through thick brush. We sent John in first, figuring that if his big camper could fit, we all could. He quickly tore one of the camper jacks off the side.

9 We eventually camped at one of the deserted mining camps where ages before they had dug for gold. It was getting cold and windy as we circled up our white-truck wagon train.

1 /™\ These areas are very interesting, with JL L/ lots of dilapidated historic buildings and old equipment. For example, check out this old thing that was either a homemade power generator or the start of some age-old rock buggy.

U John's camper had a little issue where it started to slide out the back of his truck on the steep climbs. But with the one busted jack, we had to improvise. We used a Hi-Lift atop a precarious stack of rocks to raise the camper enough for him to back the truck under it and resecure it for the drive home.

1 Mining areas are very interesting, but cau-x c— tion should be used when exploring them. The campsites have lots of broken parts and boards with rusty nails sticking out. The mines themselves are not to be entered without good reason, as a collapse could happen any time.

We didn't have to winch, barely needed low range, and other than one camper jack and a CB antennae, had no carnage. It may not have been the most extreme trail ride, but it was still an adventure andoneanyof you could do in your 4x4. So round up your friends and go have your own white, red, blue, green, or whatever color truck road trip. And don't forget to send us your funny hat photo.O

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Stay on designated trails. Be courteous to others you encounter. Leave a good impression. It's up to you to become an ambassador for your sport and the great outdoors.

To become a member of Tread Lightly!, go to www.treadlightly.org or call 1-800-966-9900.

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IEAVWG A GOOD IMPHESSiON

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