What A Trip! The ORXtreme JL Makes It To Easter Jeep Safari And Back

Moab, Utah is amazing! As one who had never been to the scenic destination, I had dreamed of going for a number of reasons. At the top of that list was Easter Jeep Safari. 

For EJS 2022, it looked like the stars had perfectly aligned. I consulted with Nick Ashby from Rockstar Garage about my desire to go and cover the event. Rockstar Garage specializes in high-end vehicle builds, as well as organizing world-class 4×4 trail runs. He agreed to take me under the team umbrella and haul out our ORXtreme JL 2021 Project Vehicle to Moab and back since I had a limited window of travel.  

The next day, I was able to schedule a decently priced round trip flight to Moab’s Canyonlands Regional Airport with one connection in Salt Lake City. The travel and logistics were now locked in. And after ORXtreme JL Part 1 and Part 2 of the build, our Jeep was relatively prepped for the trails. Let’s just say, I was extremely excited to be heading to Moab for the first time.

ORXtreme JL Gets Decked Out With Body Armor Protection And MEK Panels

The Plan: ORXtreme JL At Moab

I made a loose schedule of things I knew I wanted to do in Moab and even made reservations for several trail runs. I could only be in one place at one time, but I made a conscious effort to make the most out of this trip. Scheduled to arrive in Moab on Monday late afternoon, I figured I could go check out the Jeep Concept Vehicles and then grab a nice dinner. Tuesday, I was signed up for the Warn / Fabtech trail run. And on Wednesday, I would hook up with Rockstar Garage for one of their trail runs. Since I had a 7:07 PM flight out of Moab on Thursday evening, I figured I would play an audible to check out the Moab 4×4 Expo and the Red Rock 4-Wheelers official Easter Jeep Safari Expo. Perhaps maybe even attend the SEMA TORA/SBN Council Meetup.

If I could do all or most of these things, it would foster a lot of content for Off Road Xtreme, and I figured I could find some vehicle features along the way.

Fast forward several weeks later, I packed my gear into the Jeep and delivered it to Rockstar Garage for transport. With white-glove treatment, they trailered our ride over 730 miles and parked it up in front of the team condos waiting for my arrival. 

On my end, everything was going according to the schedule and had made it into SLC Monday afternoon. I navigated my way out to the remote gate for the puddle jumper heading to Moab. After boarding the small aircraft, I found my seat, popped on the Bose headphones, blasted off some emails, and anxiously waited for takeoff. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. 

Travel Woes: ORXtreme JL At Moab

The flight from SLC to Canyonlands is maybe forty minutes. We sat on the tarmac for thirty before the Captain reported the situation. Moab and the surrounding area were getting heavy winds which questioned the probability of a safe landing. Advising the seriousness of the situation, our pilot was hoping to be allowed to take off and make the connection for us. Only one Karen, and one Becky asked to be let off. After another twenty minutes, the Captain got word that our flight was grounded due to foul weather.

The disgruntled and deflated passengers offloaded, boarded a shuttle, and ferried back to the terminal. They all shuffled to the counter to wait to hear of options the airline would provide. The first report was that they were scheduling a new flight for the following morning. They also noted no hotels would be comped since the flights were canceled due to weather conditions.

I knew there were no other airline flight options for that evening and began to assess my situation back on the plane the minute I heard that our connection was not going to happen. Knowing that most people on the flight were headed to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari like myself, I figured teaming up on a car rental was a good possibility. I recognized a few of my industry colleagues and overheard another introducing himself. Immediately familiar with the name as a contact from email and phone conversations, we started considering our options. 

That is when the storm set in around Salt Lake City. At the same moment, the airline clerk made the announcement that our “delayed flight” scheduled for tomorrow was canceled and there would be no flights available. It also became clear that there were no one-way car rentals.

Do Not Ever Give Up

Knowing that I was almost 250 miles away from where I needed to be, the feeling that I might not even be able to get there began to sink in. It was at this point, I was absorbed into a group hoping to Uber or Lyft it to Moab. That is also when we heard of a snow storm moving in. With a group of five exploring the possibility, one traveler worked the app to hail a Lyft and deliver us to our destination. By the time everyone in our band had retrieved their luggage and made it to the pickup outside the airport, only two of us remained. 

The first Lyft driver arrived and declined our trip when it was revealed we were heading to Moab. The second Lyft driver arrived and after a convincing hustle on our part, we loaded up in a brand new AWD Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV. Normally the trip from Salt Lake City to Moab would only take around three hours and forty five minutes. But as soon as our driver filled up the gas tank and got on the road, the rainstorm quickly worsened into a snowstorm.  

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back

White Out Snow Storm: ORXtreme JL At Moab

Our driver pushed through the mountain pass with great care. It was incredibly difficult to see through the thick and fluffy flakes. We traveled at speeds between 10 – 20 miles per hour, and most of the time with our hazard lights flashing. There were not many vehicles on the road at all besides a few daring truckers. Even making out the painted lines marking the lanes was basically impossible. My nerves were shot as a passenger. I could only imagine what our driver was thinking. Once we dropped down into the Price Canyon area, we had passed through the snowstorm with great relief. 

About five hours after our alternate journey had started, I was dropped off at the Rockstar Garage Condos. After all of this, I arrived to see the Jeep looking pretty great. The Moab skies were all clear and it appeared to have missed the storm. It was almost 1:00 AM and feeling exhausted, I woke up whoever would hear my knock on the door and crashed on the couch. 

It was later reported that over 100 vehicle accidents had occurred in the mountain pass area due to weather conditions. I believe it!

Tuesday Morning: ORXtreme JL At Moab

A few tosses and turns later, it was 5:00 AM on Tuesday. I had already submitted an RSVP to attend the Warn Industries/Fabtech Motorsports trail run but had not received the latest details on where to meet up. One early morning text message got me the time and location for staging. It was at that point I figured I had better open the onX OffRoad App. I downloaded most all the trails in the area for offline use in case I had no cell signal. This would let me access all of the onX trail information as needed. It was time to go, so I got my stuff together, found the keys to the ORXtreme JL, and hit the key FOB’s remote ignition. 

Outside, I discovered the Spring storm we beat to Moab had caught up and left us a few inches of snow. The brand new clean Jeep I had seen the night before was now dusted in frozen dirt water. With a shrug I hopped in and headed to the nearest Mavericks to fill up on gasoline, Red Bull, waters, and a few snacks to get me through the day. 

At the rendezvous, the folks hosting the trail run greeted the participants with some hot coffee. After signing in, I was treated to a grab bag of loot, a sack lunch, and some more snacks. I aired down the ORXtreme JL’s 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T Tires to 12-psi. This allowed for enough tire to keep our Dirty Life 17-inch Enigma wheels secured around the bead. I then perused around scoping out other rides before the safety briefing started. Everyone went around and introduced themselves at the end before heading out to the trailhead.

Metal Masher Trail: ORXtreme JL Makes It To Easter Jeep Safari And Back

We arrived at Metal Masher right about 9:00 AM. With the group size capped at twenty vehicles, we moved from obstacle to obstacle quickly. Being a Warn-led event, they did invite the most daring and well-equipped vehicles to attempt the more difficult challenges. Most of these quagmires also offered a bypass. A few winch lines got pulled and there was one slow-speed rollover.

For my first time to Moab, hitting Metal Masher was a great introduction to the dozens of trail systems. Red Rock 4-Wheelers rates this trail as a Level 7 out of 10. Being the very first time off-roading the ORXtreme JL, I was having a blast. My favorite part of Metal Masher was making it out to the perch lookout on top of the mesa. This was a spectacular experience that offered a glimpse of Arches National Park, Moab Valley, and the La Sal Mountains. 

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back

This was an ideal spot for lunch and the group hung out for an hour before going on to the trail conclusions. We will touch much more on this trail and the others we adventured on during EJS 2022 at another time. 

As part of Off Road Xtreme’s Easter Jeep Safari event coverage, we will present comprehensive in-depth trail reviews in more focused and stand-alone articles. Here in this piece, we are merely touching on a few highlights from the entire event’s day-to-day happenings. 

Downtown: ORXtreme JL At Moab

After a full first day on the trails of Moab, and the exhaustion of little sleep setting in, I was anxious to unwind a little bit. I had made it back into town about 4:00 PM and settled in for a top shelf hamburger and some craft beer at The Moab Brewery.  

With dinner down, I wandered around town and found the Jeep Concept vehicle pop-up display. Unfortunately, they only had prior year concepts and not the latest builds. Still, I was thrilled to be out and about and taking it all in. I was able to meet up with a few friends from Best Off-Road.com which was a lot of fun as they went around town looking to give away some seriously cool prizes. 

Also, feeling the crash coming, I eventually made my way back to the condos for some real R&R. 

Cliffhanger Trail: ORXtreme JL Makes It To Easter Jeep Safari And Back

Wednesday provided the opportunity to run the Cliffhanger trail with Rockstar Garage. After doing some research on this trail, I became concerned that our Jeep was under-built. Ashby assured me that our mild ORXtreme JL would manage the Level 8 trail just fine. Arriving at the Kane Creek Recreational Parking area overlooking the Colorado River, I could see the high-level vehicles that Rockstar Garage had invited. There were also a handful of similarly built Jeep JK and JL Wranglers comparable to what I was running. My nerves were subdued for now. 

After a briefing on the trail ahead, Rugged Radios were passed out to those that did not have one. We dialed into the designated channel and made final preparations. This group numbered over twenty five rigs, so everyone was adamant to get moving on the trail. But first, the obligatory group photo. 

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back Cliffhanger Trail

Next, before heading down towards the Kane Creek, the first and second ledges offered just a glimpse of what Cliffhanger had in store. After each rig maneuvered through these precarious rock staircases, we crossed the stream and began our assent up the canyon wall. The trail wrapped around this scenic gorge, with huge iron red rocks on all sides. It was an amazing postcard view everywhere I looked. I felt like I was in a massive stone walled city amongst the natural skyscrapers.

The group climbed over and around each obstacle working our way out of the canyon. We reached the top, but our journey continued around to the famous No Left Turn hanging on the sheer cliffs edge. This one obstacle had me choking in disbelief. It was then I learned the one way out would be our trail back in. It definitely upped the fear factor and trail technicalities leading to more adventures. Stay tuned for the rest of our Cliffhanger Trail Review coming soon.

Behind The Rocks: ORXtreme JL Makes It To Easter Jeep Safari And Back

Later that evening, back in town, I ran into my good friend Mike Hallmark from Hellwig Suspension. I mentioned my availability for Thursday and that I had submitted an RSVP for the SEMA TORA/SBN meetup. Mike advised that they were going to do a Behind The Rocks short fun run which would allow for me to get back in time before my flight out of Moab.

Thursday morning we met up at the Moab 4×4 Expo Compound for yet another safety meeting. Wendy Miles from The Shop Magazine primed everyone with some ice breakers and then introduced Matt Caldwell from Tread Lightly, and Brian Harris from Bronco Off-Roadeo Moab. Matt and Brian dropped the details on the plan for the day and then we headed out to the Behind The Rocks Trailhead.

This trail was a total 180 degree opposite change in terrain and scenery from the prior two days. The route we ran consisted of mostly flat wide open spaces, a few obstacles, and lots of sandy trails. It was way more fast paced and I was having a blast flying down the single track twisty roads. Red Rock 4-Wheelers rates this trail as a Level 7 out of 10, if you stay on the designated trail. Stay tuned for our Off Road Xtreme Trail Review on Behind The Rocks coming soon. 

Can The ORXtreme JL Handle Moab?

Eventually, I was bound to find a breaking point. The ORXtreme JL only had 4,354 miles on the odometer and maybe 100 of that was after it was lifted with the Fabtech suspension system. So, let us just say I wanted to work this thing in and make sure it was up to snuff. The breaking point was the steering stabilizer bracket mount. The bolt mounting the shock to the machined aluminum clamp had ripped the threads clean out.

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back Behind The Rocks Trail

I had no idea that this had even happened until we parked for lunch at the landmark hole in the rock also known as “Picture Frame Arch”. Before I had even climbed out of the Jeep, there was a team of dudes already underneath to help sort this out. Hallmark hauled out the very essential Boxo KOH Tool Bag and Tool Roll and Dawson Druesedow from 4 Wheel Performance had the stabilizer off in no time.

The Jeep really had no problems the entire trip besides this small issue. Not having a steering stabilizer was hardly noticeable and still allowed for full operable function on and off road. In Fabtech’s defense, they brought in the Jeep after EJS and acknowledged a bad batch of steering stabilizer clamps. It was buttoned up and I have no reservations going forward.

Moab Easter Jeep Safari Vendor Expo

No trip to Easter Jeep Safari is complete without heading to the two vendor expos. With the clock ticking before my flight, I exited the Behind The Rocks trail area and jumped on the 191 to head back into town. I hit up the Moab 4×4 Expo since it was the closest destination, unfortunately they were not scheduled to start until after 3:00 PM. I perused around a little, and then scooted out towards the next one.

2022 Easter Jeep Safari Vendor Expo

Red Rock 4-Wheelers Jeep Club’s Vendor Expo has been a long established component of Easter Jeep Safari. There were many vendors with product displays, and some wild vehicles to check out. I was able to work through half the show before calling it a day. Both of the EJS expos are worth attending, you just have to get the schedule right since they operate at different times.

The End Of The Trip With A Twist

I headed back to the Rockstar Garage condos to pack up my luggage and hand over the keys for the Jeep’s transport home. With just a little time to burn, I kicked it up on the roof top deck trying to grab a snooze. Drifting off in the afternoon sun gazing up at the red rock mountains that guard Moab’s Spanish Valley, I received a text alert notifying me of a delayed flight out. It was not a significant delay, so I shrugged it off pondering that it could be worse.

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back

When the afternoon burned into the evening, my new friend Dawson dropped me off at the Canyonlands Airport in proper EJS style. As I walked into the small community airport, my phone rang, and without looking I answered. It was then that those prior thoughts of “it could be worse” burned into my skull. I received word from Ashby that all flights had been canceled. Seeing the emotions on the fellow traveler’s faces said it all. My heart sank since my mission was to get home to my new 3-month old baby. Nick instructed me to wait there as he devised a plan. I did not even attempt to collect any details from the airline counter and exited the building.

Apparently there is a nationwide shortage of pilots. The airline offered travelers accommodations in a local hotel and were scheduling a new flight the next morning. I had other plans and about an hour later as the cold was setting in, the ORXtreme JL showed up as my ride home.

2022 Easter Jeep Safari And Back

At about 9:00 PM, we jammed out a midnight mission for the 737-mile trip to Southern California. We arrived at the Ontario International Airport about ten hours later to collect some cars and continued homeward.

The ORXtreme JL Makes It To Easter Jeep Safari And Back

What a trip! The ORXtreme JL made it to Easter Jeep Safari and back. Minor logistical challenges and travel woes excluded, the Jeep was a champion and surprised me in all of its capabilities. Really, it was the Wrangler Rubicon that did most of the work with help from Fabtech Suspension, Dirt Logic Shocks, Mickey Thompson Tires, Dirty Life Wheels, Body Armor 4×4, Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders, and 4122 Hitch Slider.

My favorite part of the trip has to be just experiencing Moab, Utah for the first time. What a natural treasure! I recommend everyone must come see this place. Secondarily, building out the ORXtreme JL from stock to trail ready and then climbing it all over this place was an awesome highlight. I cannot wait to continue modifying and testing the vehicle. I also loved being at Easter Jeep Safari to explore and hang out with the off-road community. Meeting all sorts of like minded enthusiasts, hanging out with my industry friends, and seeing all the different vehicles is what it is always about.

Off Road Xtreme owes a special thank you to Rockstar Garage for helping us get out to Moab. And thank you to all of the readers for sharing in our adventures. Stay tuned for our EJS trail reviews, expo interviews, and vehicle features.

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About the author

Micah Anderson

Micah is a 20 year authority in the off-road industry with extensive experience founded on marketing, events, and racing. Professionally skilled in all things creative, Micah is passionate about faith, freedom, and anything powered by adventure.
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