NAXJA Celebrates 35 Years of the XJ


Photos and Story By: Matt Rowland
Originally published in Issue 24, December/January 2019

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Celebrating 35 years of the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) the folks from North American XJ Association headed back to Moab. If you are someone who enjoys being outdoors and taking your 4×4 on a trail and actually using 4-low, what better place to do it, than the Mecca of off-road.  With the not-so-slick red rock and views that a camera can’t do justice, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Moab.  Since 2003, the club has been hosting an Anniversary event every 5 years in Moab.  The club, which turns 20 years old in 2019, isn’t celebrating the start of the club, but more celebrating the introduction of the Jeep Cherokee (XJ), that was first introduced in 1983 for the 1984 model year and the vehicle that forms the foundation of the club.  Every 5 years, October finds the members of the club making the trek from all over the country, some 24 states were represented in 2018, with California and Indiana leading the way. The farthest traveled this year came from Australia, some 6,000 miles away.  As the Jeep Cherokee has aged (the original made from 1984-2001), the club has changed.  4×4’s of all makes and models are a part of NAXJA these days.  Of the 80 rigs that participated in the event, besides the Cherokee, there were Wranglers, Grand Cherokees, Comanches, and even a Geo Tracker that participated in daily trail runs.

The official event ran from Tuesday to Saturday.  Each day the club offered 3 to 5 guided trail runs, depending on the day.  On Tuesday night, the club offered a Meet and Greet where the Northwest Chapter of NAXJA bought everyone pizza for supper.  On Wednesday night, the Midwest Chapter of NAXJA provided food and hosted the show and shine.  Friday night offered a dinner, raffle, awards, and a guest appearance by Spencer Gilbert the executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition.  NAXJA, which has prided itself over the years for donating to land use causes, presented a check to Gilbert at the Friday night event.

Guided trail runs completed the event on Saturday.  As a member of the Board, it’s sometimes harder to get on the trail, we were fortunate enough to get out for three days of the event.  We did the popular Hells Revenge trail which offers some of the best views that Moab has to offer, along with infamous obstacles such as Mickey’s Hot Tub, Hell’s Gate, and Escalator.  We also ran Fins-N-Things, a trail that offers a slew of Moab fins to drive on, and a great overlook that doubles as a great place to have lunch.  We finished up the week by running Gold Bar Rim, which offers the Gold Bar Rim waterfall and we took it to the Golden Spike trail far enough to do the infamous Golden Crack.  We turned around at the crack, in the interest of time, and went out the way we came to finish our trip on the Red Rock of Moab.

Our trip home was spent thinking about the great trip that we had and planning to return to Moab in 2023.

NAXJA offers several events around the country each year.  For more information on an event near you, or to find out more about NAXJA, visit:

John Bjorum and Bob Loose bought their respective Jeeps brand new. John, seen in escalator, still runs his 1996 Jeep Cherokee, these days it’s on 37s and has an LS motor in it. Bob, waiting for his turn, still wheel’s his 1998 Jeep Cherokee, these days it’s on 35s and has a 5.2 Chrysler motor swapped into it.
The attending members of the NAXJA BOD presented a check to Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) to help with land use efforts. Pictures left to right, Tom “Anak” Franks – NAXJA Director-at-Large (DAL), Ben “Jeepguy91” Evilsizor – NAXJA recorder, Spencer Gilbert – BRC executive director, Matt ‘macgyvr’ Rowland – NAXJA DAL, David “David_Bricker” Bricker – NAXJA treasurer, G. Sequoia “GSequoia” Armstrong – NAXJA president, Al “Nimrod” Gordon – NAXJA DAL
Trophies provided some of the best-looking trophies we’ve ever seen at the Show n Shine.
Despite the rain, we found that slick rock is still not slick when we ran Fins-N-Things.
Goonie Bird
The gooney bird shows the way back to town after a great day on the trail.
Jason Manuelito hangs a tire on Hell’s gate.
Pat Matterson poses with his mini me axial remote-control rock crawler.

Photo Oct 12 08 52 46 XJ XJ1 XJ2 XJ3 XJ5 Hellsrevenge XJ4

The 33 inch tires, 4 inches of lift, hybrid cage and Warn winch on Pat Matterson’s 2001 Jeep Cherokee don’t look as big from 100 feet in the air.
Hells Gate exit
The exit of Hell’s Gate provides a great place to watch the action. Here Kevin Ramirez pilots his 1998 Jeep Cherokee with 33-inch tires, IRO 3 link, 6 inches of lift, and locked rear 8.8. No photos can do it justice.
Casey Groves hangs a 33 inch tire in the crack on his 1988 Jeep Cherokee. The group turned around and ran the crack both ways in the interest of time.
Matt s LJ
After 14 years in an XJ, Matt Rowland’s been wheeling his 2004 Jeep Wrangler LJ on 35’s, with 4.56s gear, zip lockers, and MetalCloak fenders for the last 5 years. Here he works the Gold Bar Rim waterfall.
Golden Crack
Eric Zappe shows off the flex of his Jeep Cherokee on one ton axles crossing the infamous Golden Crack on the Golden Spike trail. Another Jeep Cherokee with a full custom array of modifications over several years of ownership.
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