Getting Hammered with All-Pro Off-Road in Johnson Valley OHV
The Johnson Valley OHV Area has been getting a lot of press in recent years, both from the King of The Hammers off-road race and most recently from the proposed expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine Base that looms over this area. The military expansion would encroach on BLM land currently open to the public, taking away 108,530 acres of Johnson Valley OHV area. This expansion would also impact 3/4 of the racetrack currently used during the King of The Hammers off-road race, according to CORVA.
Many off-roaders and industry partners have come together to help save Johnson Valley, a testament to the power of the off-road nation. One of those people is Jon Bundrant from All-Pro Off-Road. Jon is an avid off-roader, rock-crawling champion and business owner that lives and breathes off-road. Bundrant is also very well known in the Toyota community for his quality metal fabrication and innovative designs. All-Pro Off-Road is helping spread the message to “Save Johnson Valley” in this tight niched Toyota 4WD community. They recently held a special event to help drive the point.
We joined All-Pro Off-Road for their “Get Hammered” customer appreciation event in Johnson Valley OHV Area recently. It was a great opportunity to enjoy some of the amazing trails and scenery the Mojave Desert has to offer. It was also a good way to get involved in the fight to help keep Johnson Valley OHV Area open to the public. All-Pro Off-Road encouraged customers and participants to support the California Motorized Recreation Council (CMRC), the group leading the fight to Save Johnson Valley and The Hammers. Check out their website at http://savethehammers.org/ for the latest developments and ways to get involved in the fight to keep Johnson Valley open to the public.
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The All-Pro Off-Road “Get Hammered” customer appreciation event was held in April, with base camp in the desert community of Johnson Valley. This little desert oasis offers a peaceful retreat from city life and is also a perfect springboard into Johnson Valley OHV Area, just across the highway. With ample room to camp on Jon’s property, numerous people brought motorhomes, trailers and tents. The All-Pro dirt tribe came together for a weekend of fun.
Participants arrived as early as Friday, allowing plenty of time to relax and play before the trail action on Saturday. A wide collection of Toyota 4WDs assembled for the event, including old school Hilux Pickups, Tacoma Trucks, 4Runners, FJ Cruisers and highly modified Toyota Crawlers. The weather was perfect and sunny in the mid seventies. The desert wind carried a nice breeze, with no dust or rain clouds on the horizon.
All-Pro sponsored a breakfast on Saturday morning, making sure each and every participant was well fed before a long day on the rocks. When Jon gathered the group for the morning driver’s meeting, everyone seemed very eager to get on trail and excited to be spending the day with fellow Toyota 4WD owners. People came from as far as Washington, Montana and different corners of the Golden State of California.
We hitched a ride with Sarah Caler, Manager at All-Pro Off-Road and organizer of the event. Her four-door Tacoma made our trip to the Soggy Dry Lake Bed a real treat. The plush 2nd Gen Tacoma is equipped with All-Pro long travel suspension, Walker Evans shocks and a full set of All-Pro body armor. We raced across the lakebed and up into the hills where Jon took the group to a large sand dune area. It was just too tempting not to play, so some of the rigs let loose, running hot laps up and down the face, kicking up sand and letting their engines rev as high as the limiter would let them.
After playing in the dunes, Jon led the group to the trailhead for Big Johnson. The extreme trail run group that Jon was leading required a minimum of 37-inch tires, body armor, crawl gears and lockers. A second group led by Sarah would go on a much more scenic and tame Fissure Mountain trail. A number of semi-stock and clean rigs followed Sarah for a full day of exploring Johnson Valley.
Big Johnson consists of two sections, lower and upper. Jon drove his heavily modified Toyota Tacoma up the rocks with great finesse, making it look almost too easy. This gave some of our trail buddies a false sense that they could also achieve what Jon had done. They learned soon enough that this was not the case. After getting stuck or hung up on the rocks, Jon was nice enough to jump out of his truck and help them out with a spot or a strap.
After completing Big Johnson, a small group of hard-core Toyota crawlers headed up Claw Hammer. Claw is the shortest of the hammer trails but it’s very technical. It was built by the Victor Valley 4 Wheelers, who are also responsible for the other world famous Hammer Trails in Johnson Valley. Claw Hammer has many large metal denting rocks, ledges and some gnarly obstacles. It’s rated 4, with an optional 5+ section at the top which requires front and rear lockers in addition to other rock-crawling essentials.
Jon and a few of the Toyota crawlers in our group took the harder 5+ section route at the top. One of the 4Runners got hung up on the rocks on the way up the ledge and ended up frying their winch during recovery. Jon had to strap him out of this predicament.
The trucks with double transfer cases definitely had the advantage on these technical rocky trails. The trail was so nasty that one of the Hilux trucks rattled the engine off the frame, breaking both motor mounts and bashing the radiator in the process. Claw is one rocky sucker. Nevertheless, everybody made it off the mountain and back on the flats.
We had a great time hanging out with the All-Pro Off-Road crew and other Toyota owners. Most of the group got away with minimal body damage, making it a good day on the trail. There was a big BBQ dinner Saturday night and plenty of downtime around the campfire to share stories and reflect on what makes Johnson Valley a special place.
Please get involved in Saving Johnson Valley and The Hammers at http://www.savethehammers.org/.