Local tour company continues through pandemic

By BRANDIE BOSWORTH
Foothills Focus Staff Writer

Hunting scorpions after sunset, firing machine guns off of ATVs, and off-roading at the base of the Bradshaw Mountains with Tomcars are a few of the adventures guests can experience through Desert Wolf Tours.

Located in 85086, the business began in 2006 when the original owner started leading tour expeditions for tourists stopping at Jack Ass Acres, an old gas station off the I-17 and New River. The owner had two Tomcars and ran it as a one-man show. Fast forward 14 years, and the business has expanded to 16 Tomcars with more activities added to the mix.

Tomcars originated from off-road military vehicles and are durable, versatile machines that are designed to be safe and dependable in rugged terrain.

Hunter Corbier has been the general manager at Desert Wolf Tours for eight years. He said the tours are unlike any other, even for locals to experience.

“The biggest expectation would be to go out there without any,” Corbier said.

One of the more popular tours is the half-day Tomcar adventure. Guests 16 years and older with a valid driver’s license get to drive their own Tomcar, following a guide into the desert. The vehicles hold four people and all ages can be passengers, as there are car seats for the little ones.

“Our vehicles are very smooth; they are kind of like the Cadillacs of the off-road vehicles,” Corbier said.

This experience includes about two hours of drive time in the Tomcars. The rest of the time is filled with sharing knowledge about the surrounding area.

Corbier said, “We do have certain stops where the guide gets out with them and teaches about the plants, animals, history, desert survival and does some active demonstrations.”

One demonstration showcases the different cactus that are safe for consumption. To do so, they burn the needles off first. Another demonstration allows guests to try mesquite flour straight from mesquite trees and its pea pods.

The Tomcar “Scorpion Hunt” Sunset ATV Tour takes guests out to watch the sunset. Then, the hunt for scorpions begins.

“We flip on our LED light bars in the cars and head farther into the desert until we get to a spot we call Scorpion Alley,” Corbier said. “We get out with black lights, and you light them up with the black light like a highlighter; they are very distinct and bright.”

Guides will talk about the scorpions, and depending on the temperature, anywhere from 10 to 40 scorpions may be uncovered.

The ATV Tour Machine Gun Adventure lets guests use firearms at a permitted desert shooting range. One firearm, an M1919 machine gun, is mounted on an ATV that guests shoot from the top of the vehicle. The other guns are an AK-47 and a military grade M4.

Other packages include guns like a fully automatic 9mm Uzi. There are over 13 different machine gun platforms, and Corbier said the customer can customize the guns they want to try however they wish. Customers must be at least 13 years old to shoot.

Desert Wolf Tours was hit hard by the coronavirus, as have other tourism companies, Corbier said. However, to combat the virus, the company is having guests be in their own vehicles and not combining different groups of guests.

Additionally, dust gators are given to each guest before the tour, and they not only keep the dust at bay but qualify as a face covering. The sanitization of the vehicles is a little different, Corbier said, but the other aspects of the operation are the same.

In the summer season, tours run in the mornings and sunset to beat the summer heat. When it gets cooler, they run in the mornings and afternoons. Some of the tours are unavailable due to the fire ban and fire hazards associated with them.

Prices begin at around $150 per person and increase based upon the adventure and customer customizations.

The business has racked up several awards for its excursions since its beginnings, Corbier said, including being in TripAdvisors Hall of Fame.

“I know everyone’s been cooped up inside with not a whole lot going on, and the desert is a good way to get out of the house and have a change in scenery,” Corbier said.