If you ever find yourself driving through the southwest, you’ll notice how mountainous it is. While most will look around and say, “Beautiful!” others might see the terrain and think, “Adventure time!” Both were the case for my boyfriend and myself as we were driving around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
The drive began on a whim to head closer to the biggest mountain we saw by following dirt roads which eventually led to a big park. It only took a few minutes of taking pictures outside of the car for us to realize that there were some pretty big tire tracks running through the river in front of us. Looking at each other, and looking at the Jeep Cherokee, we decided to try something new and literally follow in other off-roaders footsteps. From this experience, I have compiled a list of dos and don’ts that I think could be useful to a newbie heading out for an off-roading expedition. Here it is:
1. Do look for other tire tracks before you decide to roll out into unknown terrain. Especially in the desert, there are spots of ground that are much softer than you anticipate and have the to potential to trap your car.
2. Do take a good look at the tire tracks you see. Were the tracks made a while ago? Are there any signs of struggle? If the answer to these questions are “yes,” it might be best to avoid.
3. Don’t head into a river without taking a walk through it first or poking a stick into the water as you jump rocks. Even if you see other tire tracks on the other side, you have no real way of knowing when they were made, and the river may have been at a much lower level when your predecessors crossed.
4. Don’t stop in the middle of the river to take pictures. Yes, it’s pretty cool to be there and you want to show it off on Instagram, but even 30 seconds can make the difference between getting stuck in the mud and driving through it. (Also, if a GMC flatbed truck drives right past you in the river, splashing your car, you’re going to feel very dumb. Not that I would know…)
5. Do follow your gut. If there’s a spot that looks iffy to you, maybe it’s a little too steep or the trail is a little too narrow for your comfort, then don’t go. You’re out in the wilderness, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
6. Don’t panic if you get stuck. Screaming and hyperventilating never helped anyone get anywhere, especially out of a soft side of a mountain in the middle of the desert. Sometimes the vehicle just needs a little rocking back and forth to get out of the deeper moguls.
7. Do pray for cell service if you get seriously stuck. Pray for it.
8. Do have fun! And take pictures along the way! Off-roading is an exhilarating experience and, whatever happens, a great story when it’s all over. YOLO.