BLM California News.bytes
News.bytes Extra, issue 518

King of the Hammers, 2012 

an OHV negotiates large boulders
Photo by Rusty Gates, BLM Barstow Field Office

In a world known as "Hammertown," off-road royalty enthusiasts gathered at Means Dry Lake inside the Johnson Valley OHV Area from February 5-11 for a tournament known internationally as "King of the Hammers." The weeklong events consisted of an "Every Man Challenge" on Sunday, Qualifier Courses on Tuesday and Wednesday, a UTV and Motorcycle Course on Thursday -- finishing up with the main event on Friday. Numerous staff from BLM's Barstow Field Office, along with BLM staff from the California Desert District Office, Ridgecrest, Needles, Palm Springs, Redding, Boise, Idaho Field Offices, along with over 200 event staff, and several local public agencies, were busy keeping both participants and spectators safe. (text continues below)

spectators and officials watch an OHV kick up dust as it climbs a rocky path
crews work to right a vehicle that has overturned while negotiating rocky terrain
Photo by Rusty Gates, BLM Barstow Field Office

The event in its sixth official year has become one of California's largest off-highway special-recreation-permitted events, drawing an estimated crowd of over 30,000 people. More than 100 vendors around Hammertown provided food and off-road memorabilia. The fascination with watching "Rock-Crawlers" traverse rocky canyons and then doing high speed racing through open terrain has spread across the globe. Participants and spectators travelled from all across the United States and from Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, and Italy to take part in the event. 

Much attention to detail went into planning and preparing to keep spectators safe. The four main spectator areas consisted of Chocolate Thunder, the Backdoor, the Jack Hammers -- and the main camp where spectators could enjoy the luxuries of Hammertown and watch the event on a Jumbotron. Three temporary microwave towers were strategically placed throughout the eighty-mile course. From a media helicopter, media personnel were capturing footage of the event in progress and posting live internet feeds. Each race vehicle was required to have a GPS and a satellite phone to ensure race participants can be tracked easily and contacted quickly if need be.   

an OHV passes behind a sign warning spectators to stay back
an OHV climbs a rocky slope
ohvs raise dust along a rocky track as spectators watch near their parked vehicles in the background

two rangers stand by their vehicle
BLM Barstow Field Office Law Enforcement Rangers Alex Trujillo and Kevin Maclean assessed the spectators at the Chocolate Thunder Area. (Photo by Rusty Gates, BLM Barstow Field Office)

two men prepare to drive off from camp in their off-road vehicle
Driver Fabio Manno and passenger Jeff Bergemann -- the Team from Italy -- said, "We just want to finish this year!"  Last year they completed all but the last twelve miles.   (Photo by Rusty Gates, BLM Barstow Field Office)

a person in a helmet and jumpsuit drives an off-highway vehicle in rocky terrain
Vicki Salazar, Operations Specialist with Barstow BLM Field Office doing a Course Pre-Check near the Hammers.

vehicles and people stretch to the horizon on the sand
Above and below: Large crowds enoying the event at the Chocolate Thunder spectator area.
crowds sitting and walking around on the dirt among tents

- Rusty Gates, outdoor recreation planner, BLM Barstow Field Office  (February 14, 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 518 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.