American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has just about become synonymous with high-end trail Jeeps thanks to their line of quality Wrangler accessories, their Hemi conversions in JKs, and of course, the world-famous Brute. AEV began as a senior project for owner Dave Harriton at the University of Montana back in 1997, but the company really hit its stride by 2002 with the introduction of the Brute, Dave’s idea of a Jeep-based truck that he had been kicking around for years. An extensive line of suspension, exterior, and powertrain components followed, along with AEV’s signature wheel line, and with the release of the JK came hundreds of Hemi-conversions, along with quite a few loyal AEV customers.
Because Dave and the AEV crew are one to give back, they have created a semi-regular series of events designed so they can hit the trails right alongside of their customers in all different regions of the country. One of the biggest of which is the Customer Appreciation Trail Ride at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. On Monday, the group set out for Black Dragon Canyon near Green River, Utah. This year, Truck Trend was also invited to grab our camera and join in on all the fun and scenic views.
Our adventure began at predawn-thirty at the meeting spot along the strip in Moab. While not super excited about the early hour, seeing the sun rise over the red-oxide mountains quickly put us in the right mindset. Watching the twenty-something vehicles drive up was a great AEV history lesson. There was every incarnation of Brute, as well as JKs that range from customers that run a handful of AEV components to brand-new projects that just rolled out of AEV headquarters. A couple fully outfitted Wranglers still had the window stickers on them, and one was clad in the new Amp’d paint color that Jeep was officially unveiling later that week.
We headed out of town on the highway for about 30 minutes in search of Black Dragon Canyon. It’s a bit different than the typical Moab trail ride. Dave chose it because it’s really off the beaten path; somewhere that the rest of us would probably not get to see otherwise and a unique place to tour. At no more than a four on the trail difficulty ratings chart at any point, it gave a lot of chances for stops, spectating, and picture taking. But before you go thinking we had a stroll in the park, we did complete over 50 miles of off-highway driving.
Black Dragon Canyon is a trip through a giant sandstone hallway, as one patron put it. This unique trail soon had us wheeling between vertical walls nearly 1000 feet tall. Black Dragon Wash features a surprising amount of Indian rock art artwork in the form of either painted pictographs or carved petroglyphs on canyon walls. They say there is some evidence suggesting that these images were part of an ancient calendar system. The canyon has pictographs left by ancient Fremont Indians, who inhabited the area from about 500 to 1300 AD. Black Dragon Canyon is named for one of the pictographs, which resembles a large winged reptile or pterodactyl. The GPS coordinates are N38 56’ 29”, W110 25’ 27”, if you ever want to take a look for yourself. And if you’re a fan of AEV’s products, you may just get an invite to check it out with them.