Common raven with California desert tortoise hatching in its beak

Raven danger: The Desert Tortoise is Just the Beginning of an Ecosystem in Jeopardy

The common raven (Corvus corax) is one of the most intelligent birds — and even one of the most intelligent animals in the world. It is protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, and it was once a traveling bird that flew from Canada to Mexico following the best of the weather throughout each year.

Regrettably, this once migratory bird has become a permanent resident in the California deserts, and it has led the desert ecosystem into a great imbalance. Some ask why an entire species of bird would no longer be migratory. It is a form of classic economics. There are possible risks involved in such great travels: unsafe locations, new predators, changes in water availability, less food, and harsh weather conditions; plus, flying is tiring.

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Father/Daughter wheelin'

I grew up in the back of my family's Bronco, starting in a car seat. In September 2018, I revisited the Rubicon Trail, this time behind the wheel. My dad, Larry Stockton of the Joaquin Jeepers, is the best spotter I know and could guide me through anything day or night – which is what happened as we drove into the Rubicon Foundation property by headlights.

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An opportunity for a quick lesson in finding township and range.

Be a trail leader

You’ve driven the trails numerous times. Have hundreds of hours of 4WD experience under your belt (some of which, of course, is spent outside of the vehicle). You’re good with people, and feel your managerial skills are top notch. You’d like to be Trail Leader for an upcoming excursion. What’s next?

First, I commend you for wanting to take on a leadership role. As a certified professional 4WD Trainer with more than 40 years of off-road experience, I know the value of a good Trail Leader. Our hobby could use more people willing to step forward and fulfill this role.

Being a Trail Leader is not an easy task. It involves skills, personality and patience. Here are my Top 10 qualities of a great Trail Leader.

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Newbie says thanks for Niagara Rim Poker Run

I just got back from the Niagara Rim Poker Run and wanted to share some of the lessons this newbie learned. But first a thank you to all the blue shirts for running such a wonderful event.

If there is a social, try and make it I got there late (my bad), so missed a good chance to meet my fellow drivers.

If most people are going to camp I strongly suggest camping.  Again, a chance to socialize and allows you to relax after the run, at the socials or dinner without having to worry about driving. It also would have saved me time in the morning as I could have aired down the night before and not faced an hour’s drive. I stayed at a hotel, which had its bennies: a bed and a hot shower vs an inflatable mattress (unless Jackie decided otherwise sharp claws) and a cold shower if any. Maybe next time will investigate renting a trailer.

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Impressive base camp selection

How to choose a perfect basecamp

Because many 4WD excursions last two days or more, there’s usually the need to select a campsite arrangement. You can elect to go with a base camp, or set up camp at a different location each night (what I call a cruise or a moving camp).

Another option is a hybrid variety. This is handy for really long excursions, say in excess of seven days. Use a base camp for a few days, then a moving camp for other days in your trip.

There are no hard and fast rules. Select the arrangement(s) best suited to your trip, its location and the needs of your guests.

Before going further, we should review some fundamentals of campsites. Regardless of the style you select, it should:

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Hemet Jeep Club goes for a ladies' run

The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and we had eight brave women willing to follow me into who-knows-what-we-would-find on Saturday, April 8. Although this was a “women’s run,” we graciously allowed men to trek with us. We staged at the corner of Florida and Fairview and, after a brief drivers’ meeting, headed south: Anza or bust! We made it to Anza and didn’t bust; always a good sign. A shout-out to the Dairy Queen for opening early to those of us seeking restroom and ice cream — not necessarily in that order. Donna DeVore and Cari DeVore willingly traded off as TEC (Tail End Charlee-n)! Great job, by the way!

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hemet jeep club

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Vehicles in snow

Off-Roading 101

Off-roading takes many forms.

It can be a remarkable adventure into the outback, or a simple drive to your favorite backcountry picnic spot.

It can be a hair-raising crawl over mountainous rocks or a family camping trip in the Sierras.

Wherever your 4x4 takes you, there are many important shortcuts and tips that can help make your adventure all the better.

That’s why land use warrior Del Albright and I wrote and published 102 Off Road Tips.

driving techniques

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