|The Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle area
is located about 12 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. This OHV area
borders Sunset Crater National Monument. Sunset Crater is a 1000 ft. high
volcanic cinder cone where the Apollo astronauts practiced with their Lunar
Rover. This area is a favorite of mine during the scorching Phoenix, summer.
Temperatures are usually 20-30 degrees cooler at the cinders than they
are in Phoenix and afternoon rain storms are common. Traction is actually
enhanced by moisture in this terrain as it helps compact the loose cinders.
The rain that does collect drains quickly through the porous cinders.
Kevin's Explorer at the cinders
Our group thought that the Cinder Hill
OHV area would be a great place to get together and meet other Explorer
owners who have their trucks featured here at "Off the Beaten Trail". On
May 9, 1998 Rick Horwitz, Glendale, AZ, Jack Lobdell, Placitas, NM,
Kevin Kocher, SanDiego CA, Jeff Treder, LaCrosse, WI and Lee and Gloria
Zimmerman, Gilbert, AZ met for some four wheelin' fun.
When we arrived at the Cinders Saturday,
everyone aired down their tires to help increase flotation and traction.
I aired my B.F. Goodrich M/T's down to 12 lbs. The lower pressure really
makes a tremendous difference in this terrain. When we finished airing
down and locking the hubs we headed out on the trails. Our first stop was
a deep red cinder bowl which didn't give anyone trouble. It did provide
a very nice photo opportunity though.
After we all climbed the first bowl we
proceeded to climb a very steep and loose section of trail. This section
of the trail was full of very narrow gaps between the pine trees, our mirrors
needed to be pulled in to avoid contact. When we got past the trees the
trail became steeper and looser. The two Explorer's with M/T's made it
through with no trouble, but Jack's A/T's got bogged down in the cinders
when he lost momentum.
The group who had made it to the top left
their trucks there and walked downhill to Jack. Lee found a patch of ground
that was a bit more firm than the surrounding area and Jack was able to
get moving again, he was able to gain enough momentum to make it up the
hill. Much of the group especially myself, found the climb back up the
cinder hill very strenuous. The altitude was about 8000 feet and the loose
cinders made foot climbing very difficult. From atop this hill we had a
great view of our next destination, Double Crater.
West bowl of Double Crater.
Double Crater is just that, two craters
in one volcanic mountain. The deepest crater is probably 500 to 750 feet
deep. There is a trail that runs along the rim of the craters and the 360
degree panoramic view is just incredible. The Painted Desert lies to the
East, Sunset Crater and the San Francisco Peaks lie to the West and cinders
and pine trees are all around. On a previous trip I saw 5 or 6 prong horn
antelope leaping across the trail on their way out of the crater.
Rick, Kevin and Jack's Explorers Double Crater's rim.
After we ate our lunch at Double Crater
we continued to check out more trails in the OHV area. Late in the afternoon
we found another cinder bowl to play in, we all made several attempts at
a very steep and loose section. The cinders got the better of us in this
area as none of us climbed all the way up the hill. Even so it was a blast
to give it a try.
The Cinder Hills OHV area is not a place
to be driving around at night the black cinder trails are virtually indistinguishable
in the dark. We aired up and left shortly before sunset.
Cinder Hills OHV area at sunset
After the ride we had an excellent dinner
at the Horseman Lodge a great steak house on the way back to Flagstaff.
We had a great time discussing the days events.
Sunday morning Jack, Jeff, and the Zimmerman's
went back out to the cinders. I unfortunately had to drive back to Glendale,
because my wife needed a ride to work. Kevin had driven back to Cornville
Saturday night to stay at his Uncle's house.
In all the weekend was a great success.
I enjoyed meeting everyone who I had corresponded with for some time. Seeing
all of the modified Explorers first hand was a great opportunity. I can't
wait until our next outing wherever it may be. Next time we hope to have
many more Explorer's in attendance. The Jeeps and Four Runners have
their jamborees now it's time for an Explorer Jamboree!