Valley Of The Moons
One of the hallmarks of a club is its signature trail. Careful consideration and time are spent picking a trail truly representative of a club. Trails are chosen for various reasons: obstacles, scenery, etc. For the San Diego Jeep Club(SDJC), there is no trail that checks all of the boxes like Valley of the Moons. Valley of the Moons was adopted by the San Diego Jeep Club on April 28, 2018. The trail is located on the border of Imperial County and borders Mexico; just steps from the San Diego County line. The area was formed by a massive layer of granite created by San Andreas fault that has eroded over thousands of years giving way to the surreal cliff and border formation that provide the backdrop for the outstanding views and hiking and four-wheeling trails. High desert animals including mule deers, wild horses, and bighorn sheep can be seen in the area. Some remnants can be found of the mining that occurred in the area such as Elliot’s Mine. Smugglers Cave is another hidden gem that can be seen with a short hike. Smugglers Cave received its name from stories of smugglers hiding out in the cave after heists as well as the smuggling of Chinese laborers across the border. The area also has a rich history with the Kumeyaay Indians who inhabited the area for some time. Evidence of divots in rock for food grinding can be seen in various spots if you keep your eyes open. While the trail can be run in either direction, most run it from west to east with a fun start alongside the border fence. The trail truly takes shape at TV rock where the trail starts to wind and hug the side of the mountain as you soar above the valley below. It is this section of the trail that is not for the faint of heart. Much of this portion is at a slight off-camber providing a heart-pounding ride as you climb your way to the first obstacle amply named Axle Breaker. It is here that line choice is key. Axle Breaker is one of the more technical spots on the trail requiring disconnected sway bars and for most lockers. The trail forces you to climb up rock and squeeze past a large bolder all while on the side of a ledge and rounding a corner at the same time. This is truly a make it or break it moment. The trail gives you a small breather just in time to bring you to the next opportunity for carnage known as Bumper Humper. While there is a bypass, I do not recommend that you use it. Traverse a series of rock shelves to overcome this obstacle if you dare! Here again a good spotter and some skilled driving will allow you to overcome this hurdle. The trail continues lulling you into a false sense of security, winding along crossing extremely close to another border fence. During late February through March enjoy the desert bloom on this section of the trail which adds a whole new layer of beauty to the otherwise unworldly scenery with large patches of beautiful purple blooms. Just when you think the trail will be easy until the end, Q’s revenge begins. Q’s Revenge like its namesake is always challenging but so loveable. Q’s Revenge is a rock garden that is not as well known, but one of my personal favorites. It features larger than life granite slabs to cross over and multiple paths to choose from. This is one area that you can choose to drive based on skill and thrill level. Be careful when exiting Q’s revenge. If you are not attentive, this obstacle will have its way with your bumper. Caldwell Crunch is the next area that you encounter traveling through Valley of the Moons. This branch of the trail is one that you can get a few scraps on your undercarriage or rock rails if you are not careful. Articulation is tested as portions of this section can have you stuff a tire while fully dropping on the opposite side of your Jeep. Caldwell Crunch is also one of the few sections that you must run through in both directions as you explore the trail and also happens to be the longest obstacle. Chappy’s Hill will take you up to Elliot’s Mine which sits atop Tahe Peak. You can either walk or drive up there but there are few spaces for vehicles up there. The hill is narrow with large drop-offs as you traverse the hill. Elliot’s Mine was owned by a local prospector mining for gold who later sold the mine where Tungsten was retrieved. The mine was operated from 1953-1958. There has been some discrepancy as to what county the mine falls in. In 1977 and 1983, the mine was determined to be in San Diego County while the USGS determined that the mine was in Imperial County. Tahe Peak also features spectacular views of Valley of the Moons, but on a clear day, you can see the Salton Sea as well as the Ocotillo Wind farm. Valley of the Moons approaches the border of the Jacumba Wilderness area. Please pay special attention as you near these borders. Vehicles are prohibited in the Jacumba Wilderness area and are only accessible by hiking. Please be sure that you do not accidentally cross into this area and help keep access to the trails open. Since the entire area of the trail is BLM land, dispersed camping is allowed. There are many great places to camp, but my most favorite area is on the way to Elliot’s mine. The area is open and in the center of large outcroppings of granite. At night the area turns into a lunar landscape which transports you to another world. Valley of the Moons trail truly has something for everyone. The trail has hard and easy obstacles, wonderful views, and a rich history to explore. If you are looking for a great trail to spend the day on and are in the San Diego area, be sure and check out Valley of the Moons Trail. You won’t be disappointed.