Build the rig to fit the trail!

Why is it so difficult for so many to understand?

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“Build the rig to fit the trail”. We have all heard this before. It’s a saying that has been around for a long time. Back to the days of the original Carbon Glacier Mavericks and a time when the Shoestring and Naches trails were tight and technical. Back to the time when the flat fender was king and 31” tires were unheard of.
Unfortunately the meaning has been lost. Although we hear it said all the time there are many that think it means: “Build any rig you want then reroute the trail and cut down trees so that you can get your rig through”. Putting full width, 1-Ton axles with 44” tires under a Jeep is NOT building a rig to fit northwest trails. For those that can’t get past the mention of 44” tires in the last sentence, pipe down this isn’t about tire size. Likewise, we wouldn’t build a sand rail with no articulation to run Area BFE in Moab either. So what exactly is so hard to understand in the statement “Build the rig to fit the trail”.


Our Jeeps here and NWJ will run any Jeep trail in Washington, however, we are not equipped for trails like The Hammers or Area BFE, but you don’t hear us whining and complaining that we can’t run our Jeeps in those places. That’s because we didn’t “Build our rigs to fit those trails”.


Recently the Naches Ranger district announced the imminent opening of the Little Rattlesnake trail that has long been closed and in need of repair to open. This trail has been lovingly restored and built to protect habitat and fish in collaborative efforts by many throughout the northwest and with much help from the PNW4WDA (Pacific Northwest 4-Wheel Drive Association)and is now ready to open. The only hitch? Because of the extremely tight nature of this trail there are strict size limitations of 95” wheelbase and 74” width for 4x4s.
Almost immediately the sniveling, whining and crying began by a segment of wheelers that rivaled that of an 8 year old on Christmas day that didn’t get the newest iPod on the market. These guys are PO’d and complaining publicly in forum groups about how they are being “shit on” by the forest service because they own large rigs. They point their fingers at the PNW4WDA and ask “why didn’t you guys protect us?” or “Where were you when these decisions were being made?”. All we can do is sit back and shake our heads and wonder just what the hell these guys are thinking. What about “Build your rig to fit the trail” don’t they understand? Are they so blind that they cannot see that here in the Northwest we have trees, lots and lots of trees, trees that in many cases grow very close together? Why is it so hard to understand that a full size rig, or a Jeep with full size axles will not fit between these trees? No one at the forest service or the PNW4WDA is responsible for these guys missing these facts or making the decisions to build their rigs this way. Their argument is “I’ve spent lots of time and money building this rig and I helped build this trail so I should be able to run it”.    Some have said there should be no restrictions on size for trails.  REALLY?  Are they serious?  So it should be O.K. for Bigfoot or Gravedigger to run any trail they want?  REALLY?  We know what happens when we allow any rig to run any trail, you get the Shoestring, Tipover and countless others that have no complexity any more for smaller rigs.  Is this fair to all of those out there that DID build their rigs to fit those trails?  This kind of thinking is what is destroying our trails and is just plain selfish!


Now if we were to apply their same logic then why shouldn’t we be able to run our 200hp bass boat on any lake in the state? Why are we excluded from some lakes that have restrictions of “no gas engines”, or “no engines over 20hp” ? After all, I spent a lot of money on my boat and fixing it the way I wanted it so why shouldn’t I be able to run it on any lake I damn well please?   Sounds petty and childish doesn’t it?

And now, despite our best efforts, despite the good intentions of groups like Forest Watch Volunteer Program and despite the warnings and efforts to educate by the PNW4WDA we are beginning to see the loss of more and more trails, size restrictions and seasonal closures to protect habitat and the environment.


What most off-roaders don’t understand is that we are dealing with a governmental agency, that despite their own viewpoints, are bound to act by the direction given them by public input and direction from higher above in government. Therefore, while the PNW4WDA is looking out for our best interest they are but one group struggling to get the attention of those at the forest service. They are greatly outnumbered by environmental groups, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, elected officials and a host of others that see what off-roaders do as destroying the land and the environment. So it doesn’t help when a group of 4x4 owners who do not understand “build your rig to fit the trail” start sniveling over restrictions put in place. The real key here is that if everyone did “build their rig to fit the trail” and we didn’t have people out there cutting down trees and rerouting trails to get their Jeeps with full width axles through then we wouldn’t be in this situation. I assure you, sniveling about it to a government agency will only get these trails closed for everyone.


Now before anyone tries to argue that it’s just the “irresponsible 4x4 drivers” that are the cause of all our problems I will point out that not building your rig to fit our trails IS NOT RESPONSIBLE! When it is clearly obvious that we have tight trails here in the northwest then building full size rigs or putting full size axles under a stock Jeep and then intending to run tight trails with them IS NOT RESPONSIBLE and this is part of the problem. When there are trails available for these types of rigs it is NOT RESPONISIBLE to try and run trails that aren’t meant for them. Problem is, over the years the tight and technical trails have all but disappeared because of these irresponsible types. Now that one is being re-opened and with so many other possibilities available we have this group complaining that they are left out. I have only one thing to say to them.


BUILD YOUR RIG TO FIT THE TRAILS, and quit your sniveling. Tread Lightly.