This two-track dirt road to some springs up a side canyon in the Egan Range of eastern Nevada is, at first glance, innocuous looking, although the deeply ditched entry from the main road gave me pause, and the ruts were deep enough in places that I wondered scraping bottom. But the road is smooth and relatively well-traveled overall.
After a while, though, you will come to this rocky zone, right where the road cuts through some volcanic outcrops. Looking closely at this picture, you will see that I have already driven through on the way up: the tracks of my right tires have missed the large rock in the right-center of the photo. My white truck - a full-sized half-ton 4WD pickup - is in the upper left, about to come back down. I had little problem dodging the rock on the way up, but...
I can't even see the large rock when starting back down, so MOH goes on ahead to scout out my path. The problem will be dodging the large rock in the shadow on the right-hand side in this wide view. After an unsuccessful first attempt followed by backing up and swinging wide to the left - thereby putting me into position to hit the first large rock now lurking around the corner - I dodge both rocks successfully.
The rock: this is a rock well worth getting out of the truck examine carefully, especially if you are by yourself. The white scrape marks with steely metal near the top of the rock were created when someone, or several someones, tried to dodge the rock by putting their right front tire to the right. Who knows what they hit - axle? That would have been the first thing under my truck to hit this rock had I not dodged by putting my right front tire to the left of the rock. As it was, the right rear tire hit the rock, stopping me dead in my tracks. The truck then sloughed to the left when I carefully tried to ease the rear tire over the rock. I was in Low in Low Range (4L) during this entire episode.
I would not consider this a particularly bad road. I've traversed roads that were miles of dodging these kinds of rocks, up hills and around corners. If I did this all the time, like I used to, I would get slightly taller tires than the ones Chevy sold me when I bought my truck in 1992. Lots of SUV-type four-wheel drives would easily get their side panels bashed in on roads like this, if they didn't get holes knocked in their differentials. It's hard to go very far after the differential fluid has leaked out a hole. Trust me on that one!
For more about driving off road and about trucks and vehicles in the field, see this post by Maria, and this post by Short Geologist (along with several others). Also, see this post at Highly Allochthonous, by guest blogger Anne Jefferson, and this post by Short Geologist, on backpacks.
Update: See some more road photos at Ordinary High Water Mark.