OGDEN — The golden rule of the Wasatch Outlaw Wheelers club based out of Ogden is to help each other out and never leave anyone behind while on a trail ride, as evidenced during their off-road wheeling adventure this past weekend in the Northern Utah mountains.
Headed up a hill on a creekbed of rocks, the line of 25 off-road vehicles came to a foreboding rock wall they could either drive up, or bypass by driving around and using an easier section. Several drivers took the challenge head-on as they navigated their way over the large boulders, but one driver struggled to get the right angle over the rocks as he kept sliding and getting stuck.
At the top, other drivers shouted out instructions and encouragement as he continued the attempt. Eventually, he was pulled out with his Jeep’s winch hooked to another off-road vehicle.
As Bob Cutright, of West Point, watched the procession of Jeeps make their way up the rock incline, he said the challenge is why wheeling is fun.
“It’s why you build the Jeeps, to go up obstacles,” Cutright said.
He said it can be scary sometimes, especially for his wife riding shotgun, but he noted that the sport is accommodating of all experience levels, as evidenced by the trail of vehicles that bypassed the difficult section.
More important than the exhilaration of conquering challenges is the heart of the group, where a deep sense of camaraderie resides. Yes, they share the same love of the sport, but the friendships they’ve developed while pursuing their passion are really meaningful.
It’s the first thing the members mention when they talk about what they love most about the group.
“It’s the camaraderie and friendships you build, because they help when you break down or roll over,” said Matt ‘Big Sarge’ Westrich, of Roy, who admits it is something he could do by himself, but said it’s sometimes dangerous on your own without friends to help if there’s trouble.
Andrea Graves, of Layton, who has been wheeling with her husband for many years, said the experience can be eye-opening. During one trail ride while her husband was driving, they went down a steep hill and were literally hanging by their four-point harness seat belts while a friend guided them down.
“We could have gotten hurt, but you know who your people are and trust them with your life,” Graves said, “because if they call out the wrong direction, you could get yourself in harm’s way.”
Yes, the sport has some risks, but as Roger Arave describes it, drivers just need to be mindful of those situations.
“As long as you know the risk is there and choose that balance of knowing your own ability and your vehicle’s ability, then it’s really a lot of fun,” he said.
The Wasatch Outlaw Wheelers club has been around for 15 years, and many of the drivers have been wheeling for a longer time. The group is facing an uphill battle, however, as it fights to keep public lands open.
According to Westrich, “We’ve lost a lot of area from public lands being taken, and then people want it to be walk-in only, but being a disabled vet, I can’t walk in, so I need to drive in.”
The group can understand the concern and they are firm believers in letting the public enjoy their public lands. They take numerous precautions to make sure they do not go off the trail and destroy grass, and they take time to pick up garbage along the way.
“We all feel responsible to go out and clean up the land while we’re wheeling,” said Jeff Graves. “Wheelers are a kind of different breed. They tend to be helpful with forestry service projects.”