We test this handy little off-the-grid power station for overlanding, camping, and more.
The Best Routes to Off-Road in the Naches Trail System | On the Trail
East of Mount Rainier lies the Naches Trail System. It's a smorgasbord of everything from super tight dirt trails to super aggressive rock crawling that's too much for some vehicles (and drivers). Some of these trails are so constricting that you'll find yourself backing around corners. They're a real exercise in technical maneuvering like that. Oh, and the ridges with their breathtaking scenery and equally pretty trails don't hurt, either.
The Naches Trail is a rugged beast that follows the same route pioneers and their covered wagons used back in the mid-1800s to find new opportunities in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, it moves through the same mountain range that modern drivers now cross via Chinook Pass on Highway 410. Obviously the trail gives you a good idea of the difficulties those folks in the far less off-road capable wagons faced. Moreover, wild life spotting opportunities abound here. So this should be a pretty fun day.
Our crew for this excursion consists of our own Mike Sabounchi, Nitto Tire's Chris Corbett, and Luke Shuman of Hazzard Fab Works (@thelukeofhazzard). This isn't either of our guests' first run at the Naches Trail System. That means they'll have some great insights into it that you'll find in the video of the trip. In fact, for Chris coming out to the Naches is a return to the beginning; this is where he got his off-roading start way back in 1998. His weapon of choice was a Jeep Cherokee that "set the stage for many years after that," he says.
Two Jeeps, One Lexus
Our heroes tackled the Naches Trail System with a blend of Jeeps and a Lexus. Chris brought out his wife's 2019 Jeep Wrangler with Ultimate 60's, ARBs, and Synergy Suspension. It rides on 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers in KMC beadlock wheels. It's not an extreme off-roading machine but it has a few upgrades for the job.
Luke's Jeep on the other hand, IS a purpose-built beast made to beat big bad opponents into sweet oblivion. At one point it was a stock`91 Jeep Wrangler. Not it packs a Jeep CJ nose, is powered by a LS engine, and rides on TR Beadlock wheels in 40-inch Trail Grapplers. It also runs Jeep's manual transmission and fabricated 10-inch housings. Mike's machine is his trusty 2009 Lexus GX470 with an Eibach Lift and the brand new 35-inch Nitto Recon Grapplers. Not only are we covering a lot of ground in the terrain department but also a pretty fair range of vehicle customization this trip.
Uphill. Both Ways. In the Snow. And We Liked It.
The first wagon train made it through the Naches Pass in 1853. As you watch our crew take on these obstacles with their modern off-road tech, imagine cutting this trail with covered wagons and lowering them down the steep trails and rocks with ropes and only actual horses for horsepower. They were also low on food and other supplies. It's the ultimate, "Well back in their day..." thing to hit your kids with when they complain about slow wi-fi at the house. Regardless, the first leg of our own journey started with one of those narrow trails with walls of trees on either side. The ground itself was smooth sailing. But it didn't stay that way, as you'll soon see.
And yet those settlers still weren't the first ones through here, of course. Ancient native American trade routes between the Yakama and Salish peoples pre-date the pioneers, of course. The two groups traded nice, tasty fish from the ocean for horses.
Chris' own four-wheeling history also started here as well. He was already a car guy at the time but a good buddy that he looked up to hipped him to off-roading a CJ 7 at the Naches and got Chris all pumped up to take the Jeep into the dirt. That saw him buying the `91 Jeep Cherokee we mentioned earlier. Over the years he built it up better and better, spending up to five days a week running around the trails with it. Exploring the unknown and the tales from his mentor sparked that interest and now he lives for it.
Funny Not Funny
Seeing as how Central Washington lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range, the land tends to be drier on the Naches Trail. Winters can be downright frigid while summers can hit over 100F. You'll want to be prepared accordingly. Once the forest widened out, we came to Funny Rocks and the first real big obstacle of the day. You could see the black lines from other drivers' paths through the winding rocky tiers ahead. While Chris and Luke assessed potential lines up and over, Mike summed up the situation in one word: "Wow!"
It may be named Funny Rocks, but that may be just because whoever came up with that moniker had a sense of humor. If you make it out here yourself, as Chris points out, the far right line up is the easy one but there are several others that are more challenging depending on what your feeling. Hit this place on a weekend, and you'll see all kinds of four-wheeled off-road vehicles here playing and having a good time. That's part of the beauty of this place. One reason the crew chose the right side line is because it looks harder than it actually is; that also makes it a potential confidence builder.
That's why Mike, being the first-timer here, hopped into the passenger seat of Luke's Jeep for a test run to the top. Once they were up there, Luke went back and gave Mike some tips and strategy insights for attacking the rocks. After agreeing on some hand signals so that they were all on the same page, Chris and Luke spotted Mike and his Lexus through the climb up.
School of Rock
More open ground greeted the guys and they ran through it to the next rough patch: the Moon Rocks. It's the quintessential crown jewel of the Naches Trail, at least as far as obstacles go.
Translation: it's big, bad, and not for everyone. It's also optional. Unlike the big bad boss at the end of a level in a video game, you don't have to beat it to keep going. You also don't have a magical pause button to hit while you look it up on Wikipedia for the best way to attack it, either. So either bring a buddy who knows what to do or be sure of your own abilities before starting the encounter. At this point, Luke and Mike stopped to get out and assess the Moon Rocks before getting their climb on. Think steep incline rock face with more twists and turns than a soap opera. That's kind of what the Moon Rocks are like.
What followed was a series of lessons for Mike taught by Luke in the fine art of rock fu. They took on the Moon Rocks in Luke's modified mutant monster of a Jeep and while they made it up without incident, you really see just how gnarly the place is in the video. As Luke observes, it's a very tough line and you're almost guaranteed to take out or scratch something along the way. Although Chris took an easier line for his Jeep, that just means "less difficult" in this case.
The trip itself got easier at this point, too. Mike took the time to snag some photos as the group made its way through some very pretty open terrain. One thing to keep in mind on this trail is that it's part maze, part honeycomb. Either bring a friendly guide who knows it or make sure you've got a map and a plan before taking it on. After they reached a very cool little hunting cabin in a meadow, the guys decided to call it a day. Time really can slip away from you on the Naches Trail so plan your trip accordingly, complete with exit strategy. One great resource for a place like this is the local four-wheel drive and off-road club, like the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association.
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Ford and BDS Suspension Unveil the Fire Command Bronco Custom
BDS Suspension just showed everyone at SEMA what happens when kids grow up, get into customs, and build the fire truck they always wanted as children. Which is a fancy way of saying that when Built Wild Bronco brand made its live debut at SEMA, BDS's 2021 Bronco here (aka Fire Command) was front and center at the Ford booth for the occasion.
Built Wild showcases a gallery of customized two- and four-door Broncos and Bronco Sport SUVs across a wide range of terrains to tackle. As we speak, there are four Broncos and two Bronco Sports gathering all kinds of attention in Las Vegas at the SEMA Show, made by some of the biggest and brightest off-road builders in the industry. Not only does each one sport a Christmas list of Genuine Ford Parts, Ford Licensed Accessories, and Ford Performance upgrades, they're also chock full of aftermarket enhancements and custom pieces to boot.
With Fire Command, that meant transforming a Ford Bronco Black Diamond Edition into a half-cab truck that's all about fire and rescue. BDS Suspension, a subsidiary of Fox Shocks, created the off-road first responder as the ultimate off-road fire truck. Naturally it packs plenty of gear in and out for rescue personnel to tackle terrain and get the job done. The company equipped the ultra-capable vehicle with a BDS 4-inch UCA System, utilizing Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, and swaybar disconnect. But the fun doesn't end there. Here's a more complete break-down of what went into making Fire Command a reality.
BDS Suspensions Fire Command Ford Bronco Specs:
- Hypertech React Offroad and Speedo Calibrator
- Ford Performance by Borla Catback Exhaust System
- BDS 4-inch DSC Coilover Lift System
- FOX 2.5 Performance Elite Series Coilovers with Remote DSC Reservoir
- BDS Uniball Upper Control Arms
- Adjustable Rear Upper/Lower Control Arms and Track Bar
Wheels and Tires
- Half Top Conversion (modified OE MIC hard top) – colormatched race red
- Lower Half Top Bulkhead
- Drop Tailgate Conversion
- Crawltek Modular Front Winch Bumper
- Crawltek Rear Winch Bumper
- Dual (Front+Rear) Warn VR Evo 10-S Winches w/ Epic Hooks
- Crawltek Fender Trim Kit
- Fabricated Tonneau Cover
- Yakima LoadWarrior basket w/ misc accessory mounts
- ARB Jack w/ custom mounts
- Axe, Shovel, Chainsaw, First Aid, PPE, Emergency Comms
- Rigid 360-series 6” LED lighting (red backlit) for roof (custom mount)
- Rigid 360-series 4” LED lights on cowl
- Rigid SR-M LED Lights on bed rack
- Rigid A-Series LED underbody lights
- LED Emergency Flashers
- Katzkin Leather Seats (black and red with embroidered headrests)
- Ford OE Upfitter Switches to control lighting
- Rescue Siren/PA System
- Garmin Overlander GPS Unit and Camera
- Fabricated rollcage to tie into factory rollbar
- Ford Performance Door Sill Plates
- Ford Performance Floor Mats
- Ford Performance Fire Extinguisher
- CargoGlide Trailslide Tray System
- Ford Performance by Warn Recovery Kit
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On the Trail: Logandale Trail System
Usually when I think of off-roading near Las Vegas it involves The Mint 400 or Joe Pesci's speech about holes in the desert in Casino. But the Logandale Trail System waits just north of Las Vegas for your off-roading enjoyment, too. You don't even need burying a mob snitch as an excuse to go, either. So there's that. In this edition of Off the Trail, Austin Stobaugh (@carbonoffroad), Cortney Schiffer (@justagirlandhertj), and Jeremy Hicks (@discipleoffroad) experience the Logandale Trail System firsthand.
Leaving Las Vegas
With a 45,000 acres, the Logandale Trail System has plenty of real estate for your off-roading pleasure. The system lies about 40 miles north of Las Vegas, near Fire State Park, and packs a little something for most types of off-roaders. Over 200 miles of designated off-road trail give you everything from dirt roads, sand dunes, and hiking to rock crawling and Moab-esque landscape tackling. On top of all of that the scenery gets pretty spectacular as well.
If you're looking for something remote, though, this is not the place. Being located so close to Sin City makes it a popular destination with your fellow dirt enthusiasts. Supplies for the trip are also near at hand in the town of Logandale.
However, if you are looking for some socializing in the dirt, the annual Hump 'N Bump Jeep festival is held here every fall. Jeep owners from all over the country invade Logandale for the three day event.
Our crew wasn't one hundred percent sure which sort of obstacles they were going to face here so they erred on the side of caution by bringing three very capable rigs to the challenge. They weren't afraid by any means; they just wanted to make sure they could handle whatever obstacles awaited them on the trail. Austin brought his 2009 four-door Jeep JK to the table. Locked front and rear, it packs high performance suspension, it's wide, and it rolls on 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers. Courtney is piloting her 2002 stretched Jeep TJ. It's also locked front and rear but also packs body armor, skid plates, and 37-inch Trail Grapplers also. What really sets her rig apart from the other two is that she's rolling with a stick shift. Like a badass. She'll have to spend more time consciously thinking her way through tough terrain because of the manual transmission, but I don't think she'd have gone OG like that if she didn't know what she was doing. Finally, we have Jeremy's 2014 Jeep JK four-door with EVO bolt-on coilover suspension and 37-inch Trail Grapplers, too.
Gear-wise the trio brought in the usual bare essentials that we always recommend: food, water, sunscreen, and spare tires. Beyond those basics, you'll also want clothing appropriate to the weather; deserts love to run hot or cold. The only middle ground you'll find here is made of dirt. If you're not running lockers, having recovery gear is a good plan here as well. Familiarize yourself with that recovery gear beforehand so you don't have to learn it during a bad situation. Basic tools and spare parts are also a good idea.
We decided to hit Bronco Falls and Shedder Trail first: two separate trails known to be the hardest parts of the Logandale Trail System. Shedder Bowl was the first major obstacle of the day and after scouting it on foot, the group chose to take the middle path through it. It meanders a bit going in and out which should be fun. Even though the Shedder Trail is only a mile long, it's not for the timid. It's an obstaclefest and you'll want at least 33-inch tires and a lift for it. Jeremy didn't have lockers so he adapted by using the Double Foot method (left foot on the brake, right on the gas to stabilize the vehicle and engage both wheels). Without lockers, Jeremy paid more attention to his trail lines along the way and took his time.
Fear and Off-Roading in Las Vegas
Okay, not exactly fear; we exercised caution at this point because we ran into a problem. The steep climb out of Shredder Bowl exacted a price in blood. Not from our drivers but from Austin's shocks. He noticed one of his shocks was leaking fluid and that meant a field repair once all three vehicles were on level ground where doing so would be much easier. After a little field work, Austin tested it out on a small patch of hill and decided to soldier on instead of limping his Jeep back to the trailer. To her credit, Courtney's enthusiasm for the whole situation lacked, well, enthusiasm. But who can blame her? No one likes a repair job fifteen minutes into a trip. Austin's in-field repair work passed the test, though, so onward we went!
Some more rock-tackling later, it was lunch time. With full bellies and energized spirits, the trio planned the next leg of the trip. All of that blood loss from the shock incident precluded us from our original plan of taking on Bronco Falls. After the team scouted it they decided it was just too much rock climbing for the wounded Jeep to take.
Instead, they hit Rock Bottom. Not the kind where you go on a daytime talk show after rehab; this would be the trail section of the same name. It wouldn't be an easy path, however. Bronco Falls carries a rating of eight but Rock Bottom is still a seven.
Viva Rock Vegas
Much like Shredder Trail (or my childhood), Rock Bottom is short but action-packed. Having someone along who knows the obstacles and lines for it is highly recommended. Austin took his Jeep through a very technical climb first to get a good feel for it then guided Jeremy through it. Once he was through, though, Jeremy scouted a different line for Courtney's turn because what they'd thought was the best line through might not have been the case.
After Courtney was through, the group ran down into the sand dunes near Logandale. Red rock formations surrounded them and made for a beautiful backdrop to the recap at day's end. And no one had to bury a body. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for the full lineup of On the Trail adventures.