On the Trail: Odessa and Duran Canyons
Many of us know Barstow, California as a place to stop for lunch on the drive from LA to Las Vegas but there's more to the place than that. It's also a major railroad hub for SoCal and it's also near Odessa Canyon and Duran Canyon, which is great if you're into off-roading (which we obviously are).
Our destination lies just northeast of Calico Ghost Town. Austin Stobaugh of Carbon Off Road, his fiancee Courtney Shipper, and Jeremy Ricks of Disciple Off Road tackled the canyons together. The area packs not only canyons but also desert race courses as well, giving you some variety from which to choose. Odessa and Duran canyons also have a little of everything for the intrepid desert off-roader. Ledges, big rocks, and crawling are among the many challenges offered.
For today's excursion, the team brought along Austin's fully-built Jeep JKU on 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers, Courtney's 2002 Jeep TJ with 37-inch Trail Grapplers, and Jeremy's 2014 Jeep JK four-door with EVO coilover and 37-inch Trail Grapplers as well. All three of these Jeeps are highly modified for off-road work and should do pretty well here. That said, we'll see; the trails here get pretty narrow and these Jeeps are on the wide side.
Gear-wise, you'll want the usual basics: food, water, and sunscreen. A spare tire is a good plan, too, but if you don't want to pack one, you can do what Austin and Courtney did and bring all the tire plugs in the world. All three of our Jeeps also carry winches, which is a good idea here as well. Jeremy also points out the merits of a tool bag with basic spare parts.
On the Trail
Having geared up, the trio went for it on the trail. You can travel either direction but we chose north on Duran and south on Odessa. Just be on the lookout for traffic rolling the other way.
Early in the day we came to the biggest hurdle of the trip: an old dead waterfall. As Jeremy points out, if you can make it here, you should be able to conquer the rest of the trip without too much hassle. The team got out and planned their path of attack, noting the darker main line as a guide to going up the rocky terrain. Austin went up first and then spotted Courtney and Jeremy through it. But not before realizing Jeremy's lockers were on the fritz. For you kids who aren't familiar, lockers in this instance doesn't refer to little stinky closets in high school. We're talking about the parts that lock up a differential, making sure equal power goes to all four wheels regardless of traction. That's kind of important in this situation. Busted lockers aren't a deal breaker here, though. They just up the difficulty level.
Winch Way Do We Go?
After some tight spots, Jeremy found himself stuck. This is where having winches proved quite useful. Austin hooked Jeremy's Jeep at the highside corner of where it was stuck. What proceeds from that is a how-to in winching a stuck Jeep. You'll want to avoid pulls longer than two minutes; going longer than that in one shot can damage the winch motor.
Next it was on to Pucker Pass. With its 20-foot washout, Austin and Courtney decided to bust out the tape measure and compare whether the washout line or the bypass was wider for passing. The washout wasn't wide enough for Austin's Jeep so he and Courtney took the bypass while Jeremy drove the washout line. Jeremy had to shimmy the wheels at one point and actually ran into the issue of tires having too much grip at one point. Not that the loose shale of the bypass was any easier; at one point it looked like Austin was pinched but good in the rocks. Despite second guessing herself, Courtney beat the pass like a champ.
From there it was on to lunch at the old Calico Mines. Barstow had its own gold rush in the 1800s and the mines are leftover from that time. Now it was on to Duran Canyon. And it was all downhill from there.
No, really, it was. This portion of the trip was all about obstacles and challenges on a downward slope. At one point, Austin got out to scout a narrow path between two walls on foot, just to make sure it was wide enough for our Jeeps.
I am the Gatekeeper
"If you're not cool with body damage, use the bypass to get around this obstacle." Not the nicest endorsement, is it? Yet that's how we'd advise you at the Duran Gatekeeper. Most trails have a make-or-break obstacle near the beginning. In this case, it's the Duran Gatekeeper. We aren't okay with messed up body work, so we avoided this part.
Allow Me to Sum Up
The high walls, sometimes hundreds of feet above, were pretty cool. The area is beautiful if you're into the desert as well. And navigating the narrow canyons was lots of fun too. Watch the video for the full story.