This contributor experienced life as a modern American adventurer at Jeep Experience 2015 in Moab, Utah.
The Cherokee Trailhawk band “rocked and rolled” over Moab’s landscape.
THE Jeep brand is renowned for its go-anywhere, all-terrain sports utility vehicles. But most local Jeep owners are unlikely to take their prized vehicles off - road, unless kerb-mounting or “ponding” encounters occur. It was a real treat for a suburbanite like me to be invited to Jeep Experience 2015 in Moab. If you haven’t heard of the place, Moab is a very small town in the American south-west state of Utah, with a population of just over 5000 residents (excluding cattle and horses).
In fact, more tourists congregate in Moab annually for the natural attractions in the Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Both are popular bases for mountain bikers, and are meccas for the participants at the annual Moab Jeep Easter Jamboree Safari. I spent the first night at the Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, which is beside the Colorado River. This place got me into the “wild west” mood, for I saw horses grazing in the green pastures and rust-red mesas in the distance. I half-expected the Lone Ranger and Tonto to ride in and join our jamboree But instead of the fictional heroic duo, we were escorted by the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) posse, with rugged Jeep Wranglers at the front and rear of our convoy. Our personal “steeds” consisted of a dozen Jeep Cherokee Trailhawks – the more rugged, trail-rated sibling of the Cherokee Limited. The Trailhawk is even more suited to off -roading, thanks to its higher clearance and low-speed transfer case with a locking rear axle.
Thankfully, this was neither a nerve-wracking speed event nor a timed treasure hunt, but a This contributor experienced life as a modern American adventurer at Jeep Experience 2015 in Moab, Utah. leisurely drive on rugged trails. Or so we thought. The first course we tackled was the 10.5km-long Hell’s Revenge Trail. At the entrance to this stark, barren and rocky trail, there’s a sign that reads: “Steep climbs require steel nerves and advanced driving skills.” Uh-oh.
Fortunately, we had experienced guides who told us to select Rock mode on the Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain system for maximum traction. We then gingerly followed the lead Wrangler in a single file up the rocky outcrop. It was initially unnerving to navigate slopes with angles exceeding 45 degrees and narrow trails with sheer drops on either side. It felt like a rollercoaster ride on the rocks.
But with more practice and FCA crew members on hand guiding us past more treacherous obstacles, I became more gutsy and realised that the Cherokee was very much up to the task of keeping up with the Wrangler. We then proceeded to Castle Valley Peak. It was a bumpy climb up the Porcupine Rim 4x4 trail, but once we reached the end, we got a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the Castle Valley plains below and the snowcapped peaks of the La Sal Mountains in the distance.
Navigating steep slopes and trails with sheer drops on either side felt like a roller-coaster ride on the rocks!
The rest of the journey took us over sandy flats and a former gold rush trail to our pit stop for the night beside the Wind Caves. These caverns are literally large holes carved into the steep sandstone cliff s caused by erosion over the centuries. To complete the countrywestern experience, we were given a barbecued dinner with a singing cowboy for entertainment. We then spent the night in tents, bundled in sleeping bags.
The Willys Jeep-inspired Staff Car wouldn’t look out of place on a WW2 battlefield.
At the crack of dawn, I resumed the off -road journey with more confidence. I reckoned the guys in the Wranglers were having a bumpier ride than we were. Ride comfort is a strong forte of the Cherokee, be it onroad or off . This time, I left the Selec- Terrain function in Auto mode. The rest of the drive in the Cherokee Trailhawk was easypeasy. This is undoubtedly a mid-size sports utility vehicle for all off -roading skill levels.
The reward at the end of this two-day journey was an even more spectacular view atop the 1750m Dome Plateau, which overlooks the meandering Colorado River. It’s no surprise why the stunning red-rock canyon landscapes of Moab have become a favourite setting for Hollywood films, from classic John Wayne flicks to more recent movies like Need for Speed and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Back at the Sorrel Ranch, we were shown a quintet of Jeep concepts from the 2015 Easter Jamboree. Once a year, the Jeep designers showcase inspirational concepts representing the spirit of freedom and adventure embodied in all Jeeps.
The Red Rock Responder concept is equipped to get offroaders out of trouble.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander, for instance, is a unique camping proposition because it is kitted out with a roof-mounted pop-up tent. The star attractions, however, were the Jeep Chief and Jeep Staff Car. Based on the Wrangler, the Chief is a retro tribute to the classic 1970s Cherokee in ocean blue and white, deckedout in Aloha Hawaiian trim, complete with a jiggling hula girl on the dash. The Staff Car, on the other hand, pays tribute to the original Willys Jeep with its military-inspired design cues. It even has a “hand grenade” for a gearshift knob!
Don’t get your chequebooks out, though. These concepts are one-off creations and are not for sale. However, I expect that some of the ideas and parts found on these vehicles might find their way to production models. This was a road trip like no other. I got to appreciate the all-terrain prowess of the Jeep Cherokee while soaking in the rugged adventure lifestyle that’s pure Americana. Now that’s what I call a rocky mountain high!