4-wheeling enthusiasts go beyond the road

If you like exploring in off- road locations, riding on rough unpaved roads while having fun, then you should “hitch” a ride with the Pahrump Valley 4 Wheelers.

All you need to become a member is a four-wheel drive vehicle and the love of traveling to some parts unknown.

The group started as a bunch of friends getting together socially and enjoying a hobby they all liked, according to club Secretary/Treasurer Mike Zamen. Some members used to be part of Jeep Junkies, which merged with the current Pahrump Valley 4 Wheelers. The group has close to 90 members and continues to grow.

“It’s a lot of fun and adventure, hair-raising activity, sometimes and a lot of good people,” said member Gwen Callahan, whose husband Jim is also a member. “We see a lot of different things, a lot of mines and different things. Sometimes we go to petroglyphs and see those. It’s quite interesting.”

Don Rogers and wife Teri joined the group about a year and a half ago. He used to live in New York and California, but didn’t get involved with four wheel off-roaders until he moved here.

“I love the scenery and the wild animals,” Rogers said. “We see quite a bit when we go out there. This is a great bunch of people. We have over eighty vehicles in the club, so we’ve met an awful lot of people.”

The club usually makes two runs a month to places such as Death Valley or longer overnight trips to Ely, Laughlin and Arizona where they investigate old mines and ghost towns like Goldpoint. Other remote trips have included Mengel Pass, Goler Wash and Barker Ranch in the Panamint Valley.

Speaking of old mines, Jim Schaller had quite a mine experience last year when his four-wheeler went headfirst into an abandoned mine shaft in Death Valley and he had to be pulled out. Part of the shelf road on the side of the mountain was covered with wooden platforms. Other club members made it across, but the platform broke as Schaller attempted to drive over it.

“I put an MD unit on my jeep, it’s called a mine detector,” Schaller said.

Fortunately, he was not injured and his vehicle only suffered minor damage. Schaller’s wife Lucy was glad that she missed that trip.

“On some of the runs, I really enjoy the scenery, mostly. And some of them are a little challenging, but I still like them all,” she said.

Another jeeper, Jerry Hahn, is a tour guide for Farabee’s Jeep Rentals in Death Valley. He was the trail coordinator for the club, planning all the runs in Death Valley.

The group provides a “nice social get-together”, but it’s more than that.

“When you go off-roading, it’s always good to have at least two or three people along with you, especially here in the desert. It can be dangerous to break down. So, it’s a safety net too,” he added.

Does his wife Wanda ever get behind the wheel?

“No, only in town,” she laughed. “It’s too rough for me.”

Carolee Werner has been with the Pahrump 4 Wheelers since 2009. She rode along as a passenger with Jim Schaller, who turned the wheel over to her so he could to assist another member with their vehicle. Once Werner got in the driver’s seat, she was “hooked.”

“Being a passenger, I wouldn’t have joined just being a passenger. But, being a driver, yes,” Werner said.

The jeepers don’t fuss if their vehicles get scratched or damaged from the rugged areas in which they travel. That is known as “desert pinstriping.”

“Desert pinstriping is better known as ‘bragging rights’,” Debbie Zamen said.

Jeanne Allen said she and her husband had been members of a jeep club in San Diego.

“There’s more to do here, we have our mountains, we have our deserts,” Allen said. “We were really limited when we jeeped in San Diego. We have more trails here.”

The club is community oriented and has helped in cleanups for the BLM, the town and along Highway 372.

“And by cleanup, we go out and we’ll pull trailers out, pick up refrigerators that people have dumped out there,” club President John Allen said. “In one case, we pulled out the body of a car, two boats and hauled them to the dump.”

Mike Zamen added that they offer similar assistance to the forest service.

“We’ve adopted all the trails on the west side of the Spring Mountains to go up there and maintain, let them know if there are any issues to be corrected, sign replacements, trash pickups, trimming trails,” Zamen said.

The group is a member of the Nevada Four Wheel Drive Association and the BlueRibbon Coalition. According to their website, the coalition is a national non-profit organization “dedicated to protecting responsible recreational access to public lands and water…”

Zamen said the associations “try to maintain the trails being kept open throughout the nation, actually. But, we’re more interested in our local area too.”

“There’s a big push by the government, the environmental side of it, and they want to close a lot of the roads that are out there and we’re just trying to protect our own by assisting the forest service and being good stewards of the land,” John Allen added.

Debbie Zamen takes photos of the club’s thrill runs and posts them on their Facebook page. More information on the group is available at PahrumpValley4Wheelers.com.

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