Photo by Courtney Bohnert
Wait for rain. Drive to rugged terrain. Plow car through mud. Examine browned exterior of vehicle. Repeat.
Such is the springtime after-school and weekend routine, known as “mudding,” of students who own vehicles built for off-roading — namely, Jeeps. Existing for the sole purpose of recreation, mudding involves driving a vehicle roughly through the mud, creating tracks and reversing the effects of any recent car washes all the while.
Once arrived at a mudding hole, junior Katie Burke said there is virtually no technique to mudding in her 2014 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition.
“You just have to get that Jeep mentality and go for it,” Burke said. “The first time I went, we just played trap music and had so much fun. It’s a huge adrenaline rush.”
According to the 36th Code of Federal Regulations 261.13, operating any vehicle on State or County roads “in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs the land, wildlife, or vegetative resources” is illegal, and perpetrators may be fined up to $5,000 for failure to comply. Tickets may be issued for reckless driving while mudding if law enforcement can prove neglect on the part of the driver. In addition, a person who goes mudding on property that they do not have direct permission to be on or that they do not own may face trespassing and destruction of property charges.
Junior Cole Griggs, who drives a 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sport, said the hefty regulations surrounding the activity make finding a local, legal mudding hole difficult, but not impossible.
“Around here, [mudding] usually involves trespassing,” Griggs said. “But there’s places that are heavily gone to, like a lot of parks, that aren’t illegal [to be at]. The police, one time, were down in Bonner and they just say, ‘hey, make sure you’re not tearing anything up.’ Most of them are pretty cool.”
People can go mudding in any car, Griggs said, but the threat of getting stuck in a vehicle other than an off-roader makes it a rarity among non-Jeep owners. The activity’s popularity, however, is much greater within the so-called “Jeep Fam.”
“You can’t suggest [going mudding] to others with Jeeps because they already know about it,” Griggs said. “It’s a Jeep thing.”
Although they are specifically built with capabilities for off-roading and are shielded against most wear and tear from outdoor activities, Jeeps may still need enhancing to prevent damages and avoid getting stuck while mudding.
Multiple types of additions to the car make the hobby safer and more convenient, junior Logan Schmidt, who drives a 2002 Jeep TJ, said.
“Getting different tires that are meant for mudding helps because they have deep and wide tread, allowing you to grab more mud with it, which prevents you from getting stuck,” Schmidt said. “A lift kit will raise your Jeep’s suspension, which allows you to go into deeper ruts and not bottom out. Off-road lights help you see in the dark better than just regular headlights. A winch can be put on the front of your Jeep so that if you ever get stuck, you can attach it to a tree and it will pull you out.”
Junior Avery Kilgore, who doesn’t own a Jeep but often goes mudding with friends, said both the minor and major consequences of mudding in one’s vehicle make it convenient to simply ride along.
“I don’t have a Jeep, so I don’t have to worry about the aftermath, like if something happened,” Kilgore said. “Sometimes people will text me and be like ‘wanna go mudding’ and I’ll be like, ‘I’ll be ready in five minutes.’”
While the threats of getting stuck and of damaging the car loom, the adrenaline rush and the anticipation of a muddy car exterior, often caused by just one drive through the mud hole, actually made mudding more enticing to Griggs.
“Honestly, if you leave [the mud on the car], it looks so much cooler, like amazing the next day,” Griggs said. “I [usually] wash the underbody, but leave the rest [dirty], because this gets the rep at school.”
Ultimately, Burke had clearer-than-mud instructions for all those wishing to try mudding.
“Get a Jeep and then come with us. It’s definitely more fun with more people,” Burke said. “Come join the party. Actually, come join the Jeep Fam.”