Playing in the sandbox, it’s something we’ve all done since we were children. It’s just that some of us never really got out of the sandbox, and that couldn’t be more true for the MAXTRAX and Expedition Overland teams. We recently headed out on a mini-adventure free of any obligation—no filming, no maps, and no due dates.
Looking at the map, Phoenix is a bit of a concrete jungle, you’re either in it, or you’re in the middle of no where. We chose the latter and started our adventure by airing down. This increases the footprint of the tire and makes it less-likely for you to get stuck. It would be important for where we were heading: one of the largest dry river washes in Arizona—the Hassayampa.
Located about an hour’s drive west of Phoenix, the Hassayampa River is nearly forty miles of undisturbed Sonoran desert landscape. Aside from a few areas where you’ll have to hop out of the wash due to private property restrictions, you’re free to drive almost all of it from where it crosses Interstate 10, to Wickenburg, northwest of Phoenix.
Being a desert wash, it should be noted that you need to study the weather before heading out for about a week. The desert is unpredictable, and if it’s rained in the last few days, flash floods are possible. During the winter it’s less-likely to be a risk, but when the summer monsoons come, you should be vary careful, potentially considering this track a no-go.
The river crosses through several different cattle ranches, and while you’re free to drive through them, you should respect the environment, be mindful of the presence of cattle, and always leave gates as you found them. There’s one gate that could be an issue for larger, taller vehicles, for reference the Expedition Overland 4Runner is about 8 feet tall, when equipped with the Eezi-Awn Roof Top Tent.
You’ll encounter plenty of dust, which means you either need to space out your convoy, or be comfortable with a slightly earthy smell in your interior for the next few weeks. The MAXTRAX 4Runner opted for the latter; leaving the windows down the entire way. This was great, until a dust devil hit the exact location of the driver’s seat, pelting me with rocks.
Along for the jaunt was a 2012 Toyota Tacoma, outfitted with a variety of Australian-made 4WD accessories. As we were hoping to get some photos, we left it in two-wheel drive most of the way with the hopes that it would get stuck.
Eventually, it did get stuck in a soft patch of sand, though we’ll admit we exaggerated getting stuck a bit in the interest of scoring a few good photos for our archives.
Jeff Downer from Expedition Overland shows perfect form on how to effectively use MAXTRAX’s built-in shovel. We swear this wasn’t staged.
All said and done, regardless of the rear of the vehicle having a bit of help in getting stuck down to the axle, two MAXTRAX underneath the front tires were all it needed to get going again.
In a legitimate recovery situation, which this, uh…clearly was, placing the MAXTRAX in under the front tires will allow the rear tires to also benefit from the added grip as they roll over, giving the vehicle added momentum.
Rufio, the name of this particular 4Runner, is outfitted with ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 7 suspension, which meant it could go quite a bit faster than the rest of the vehicles on the trip. It seemingly floated over numerous washouts, corrugations, and random tire grooves. There’s no doubt that these are well-prepared vehicles that have seen plenty of adventure, including a trip to Panama and back.
Even in comparably stock form, with just a 2-inch lift, our daily-driven 4Runner, equipped with a BajaRack and a James Baroud Hardshell Roof Top Tent, made the trail into a piece of cake. The Hassayampa Wash isn’t just scenic, it’s quite fun too.
There’s plenty of opportunities to get a little bit roudy in the sand, but be careful to not harm any areas of living vegetation, these plants have it hard out here.
Cows also depend on the new growth of these plants for food, so please stay on well-defined trails within the wash.
As you reach Wickenburg, the Hassayampa continues to impress with solid walls of red rock creating a beautiful canyon. Unfortunately, due to some property restrictions, you can’t go much further beyond this point. We had hoped to make it to a scenic railroad bridge that parallels Highway 60, but about a half-mile before reaching it there is a gate with obvious ‘no trespassing ‘ signs.
You can catch the latest season of Expedition Overland on YouTube.