Spicy chilies are the specialty around Las Cruces, New Mexico, but 300 or so 'wheelers came out for a mix of mild-to-wild trail action at the annual Chile Challenge event, not the fiery cuisine. The trails around this sleepy little college town are situated in a series of canyon lands, which could be considered national treasures by any hard-core four-wheel enthusiast.
Trails such as Rocotillo Rapids, Habanero Falls, or Patzucuaro's Revenge brought out a large crowd of local spectators who love to watch event participants negotiate slabs of rock and waterfalls as tall as houses. Patzucuaro's Revenge holds extremely tough obstacles, aptly named Nemesis I, II, and III. Nemesis II is a 12-foot-tall rock waterfall that becomes more challenging as the rocks are shuffled by Mother Nature.
A few of the well-known trails are extremely popular and quickly fill up to capacity. The trail leaders did an excellent job wrangling many rigs and making sure no one got lost or left behind. One of those trails included Broad Canyon and the surrounding area with its Test Rock and many play areas.
Test Rock proved to be a challenge for many rigs, but most made it out under their own power. A few winch lines needed to be attached to keep the group moving in a timely manner. After lunch, the group moved on to another challenging obstacle. After a few attempts, the first bad luck of the day occurred and a vehicle rolled over after losing front-end traction. The spinning 37-inch Goodyear M/TRs hooked up, sending the TJ on its passenger side. Overall, Broad Canyon is very challenging for rigs with 33-inch tires and moderately challenging for vehicles with tire sizes of 40 to 50 inches.
Tabasco Twister is an extreme trail because it combines large and small waterfalls, rock fields, and tough stand-alone obstacles. Most drivers in a group of 30 participants had a rough time on this trail. The toughest obstacle, the Abyss, is an 18-foot-tall waterfall, and only two vehicles made it up without assistance.
All the trail heads in the area are accessible by truck and trailer and most have enough parking. It's not uncommon to see mounted patrols on the most popular trails, proving that the sport is embraced and supported by the community.
The Chile Challenge is part of the Southwest Four Drive Association's winter quarterly meeting. The club organizes and hosts the adventurous event, which has something to offer to 'wheelers of all levels. For information on next year's event, check out the club's Web site at www.lascrucesfourwheeldriveclub.com.