Welcome to our blog

Us at Arcadia Beach

Welcome all who have found their way to our family blog.

We have been working on this for about a week, testing links out, etc and now feel ready to make it available to everyone.  I’m sure there are going to be issues that we’ll work out as well as things we’ll add as the blog progresses.  I’ll probably add more links, pages and categories as things progress.  But for now, this should be fine.

Shelley and I hope to update the blog regularly, but not sure what that really means.  Daily?  Weekly?  At least weekly.  Maybe more often once we get into the swing of things.

Feel free to offer recommendations or things you would like to see added that Shelley and I may be missing.

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Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part 2)

Part 1 can be found following this link.

We awoke on Day 5 outside Echo Canyon to cool temperatures and overcast skies.  We left the trailer at the campsite for our travels this day.  After breakfast Ralph and Joene decided to move into the RV park a day early.  We followed them down to Furnace Creek and got some good info for ourselves since we were going to move in the next day.  

We then all headed east on Hwy 127 to Zabriskie Point to the overlook.  This was quite an amazing spot to stop and see.  I would have loved to hike over to Golden Canyon and back if we would have had the time.  Since we had our dog with us, hiking was out of the question this day.

From there we continued east to 20 Mule Canyon.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this little drive but it was interesting.  Not a lot to see or do but there is a hike from this road if one has the time.  We would have checked it out had we not had our dog with us as they are not allowed on the trails.

We came back up Hwy 127 and headed south to Golden Canyon.  We hiked into it about 20 minutes or so and checked it out.  Not as spectacular as Zabriskie Point but worth the visit. This is the other side of Zabriskie Point, by the way.  You can start at either end and hike from one to the other.

Then we headed south some more to the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin.  Shelley and I have stood on top of the highest point, Denali, in 2011.  Now we have stood at the the lowest point as well.  We walked out into the salt flat to check it out as well.

If you look closely in the photo above, inside that red circle you can see the marker denoting sea level.  We thought that was a nice touch from the Park Service to put that up high on the cliff.

As we drove back north, we stopped at the Devil’s Golf Course.  There are a number of places to see the Devil’s Golf Course.  There is the tourist spot just north of Badwater Basin.  We did stop there.  But there is a better spot to see it off of the West Side Road.  We saw this spot off West Side Road the day before when we drove out to our failed campsite.  So we went back there again, this time to stop and see it better.  Less tourists and less trampled areas of the ground.  There was a water pipe under the roadway here which was full of salt.  You could see how the water ran down this valley, through the pipes under the road and continued on.  But when it dried up, it left behind this white salt where ever the water had flowed.  Very cool area.

The above photo shows the tourist area with all the rocks making up the “golf course.”

The above photo is off of West Side Road.  That white in the background is the salt strip where the water had ran down the valley.  I’m standing on the road way with the pipes below me allowing the water to flow under the road.

We saved the best spot for last.  We wanted the afternoon light to be on Artist Drive so we saved it for last.  It didn’t disappoint.  I only included four photos here, but really this place is spectacular.  You can stand back at the overlooks and take all of it in and you can also walk down into the slot canyons and walk around among the rocks.  After we went back to our campsite, Ralph came back later in the evening and took more photos of the area as the sun was setting.

After Artist Drive, Ralph and Joene headed back to their camp and we headed back to Echo Canyon.  We got in early enough to relax with some tasty beverages, a fine cigar and just watch the sun go down.  

The next morning it was our turn to move into the RV park.  After moving in and dropping our trailer, we wanted to get a couple other sightseeing stops in before it got too hot.  So we drove north up to see the Salt Creek Boardwalk and the Harmony Flats Borax Works.  

Death Valley just kept surprising me.  I would never had guessed that there were fish living in some of the creeks that flowed year around in Death Valley.  But, there in front of me, were little pupfish swimming around in the creek at the Salt Creek Boardwalk.

I could not image working the Borax flats for $1.37 a day in Death Valley 10 months out of the year.  The work shut down in July and August.  Still, that’s pretty awful work if you ask me.  But 100’s of men did so.  And did it for a couple years.  I kind of like to think that once word got out about how terrible the job was, workers simply stopped showing up for work after the 2-month long summer break.  But who knows.  

The 3-car wagon train on display is an example of what was used to take the Borax to market.  That set up was pulled by 20 mules and became a symbol of the borax industry.  That wagon car was for the mules.

We stopped by the visitor center as well.  Did some reading of their displays and spent some cash along the way.  It was a very nice visitor center.

Then it was back to the RV park for refitting.  It was now May 3 and this would be our first showers since April 27.  Along with showers, we needed to do laundry.  This RV park was the only one nearby that had a laundry facility, which is why we chose it.  Across the street was a RV dump station and fresh drinking water.  So we dumped our toilet and filled our trailer’s water tank and all our water jerry cans in preparation for the Mojave the next day.

This little resort was stayed at was pretty nice.  The diner was okay, nothing fancy, but the grounds and services were good.  It also has the lowest golf course in the United States.  And the sunsets were pretty spectacular.

By dinner, we were all set.  Ralph and Joene joined us for one last meal back at Stove Pipe Wells.  They were going to head off in another direction and not follow us into the Mojave.  

It was great traveling with them.  We talked about when and where we would be in the Mojave and hoped to cross paths at one of those over night stops if it fit with their time table.  They were eventually on their way to Escalante.  It was great they took a week out of their trip to meet up with us and do some traveling together.  

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The next morning, Shelley and I had an early start.  Up at 0530, breakfast at the RV park’s diner at 0600 and on the road by 0700.  We knew it would be a long day and wanted to make sure we built in enough time for any contingencies.

First, we had to head to Barstow for groceries and gas.  There just isn’t a whole lot of choice or options in Baker for either, so we went to Barstow.  Our starting point for the Mojave was that direction so there wasn’t much in the way of back-tracking.  As a bonus, Barstow has a Starbucks. 

We stopped at Starbucks, filled up the Tundra and the four jerry cans with gas and then hit Walmart for groceries.  While Shelley stayed with the trailer in the parking lot, I collected the groceries. 

Then it was back onto the Interstate to start the Mojave Road.  We pulled out of Walmart around noon on May 4th and headed east on I-15 and took the Harvard Rd exit (206).  Then took Yerma Rd to Alvord Mountain Rd and turned right into the dirt.  We may have gotten lucky here.  Yerma Rd was completely closed beginning at the intersection with Alvord Mountain Rd.

Our plan was to spend our first night somewhere in Afton Canyon.

 

 

 

 

Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a 4-part trip report from our week in Death Valley and our week in the Mojave National Preserve back in May.

Planning for our Death Valley – Mojave National Preserve 2018 Trip started in the fall of of 2017.  I wanted to complete the Mojave Road after getting cut short in 2017 but didn’t want to travel all the way to Southern California from Boise for just 5 or 6 days in the Mojave.  So I came up with a 2-week trip and included Death Valley at the start and the Mojave at the end.

Using Beatty, NV as a kick off point for Death Valley allowed us to travel from Boise to this starting point in one day.  

Once those initial logistics were taken care of I put out word of the trip with other Moby 1 Trailer owners to see if anyone wanted to join us for part or the whole trip.  Initially, two other couples were going to join us, but one had to pull out due to work commitments.  The other, Ralph and Joene from Connecticut, were already planning a months-long trip out west and decided to join us and fit the two weeks into their plans.  

We met them in Beatty, NV on Friday, April 27.  We picked the Beatty RV Park where we could fill up all our water and fill up in Beatty with fuel.  The Moby 1 carries 36 gallons of water, but I added 20 more gallons to that with four Jerry Cans.  Our Tundra carries 38 gallons of fuel, but I added 20 more gallons to that too with four Jerry Cans.  

On Saturday morning, we made breakfast and headed west towards Death Valley.  

We made two short stops before entering the park.  First, we stopped by Rhyolite Ghost Town.

Then we went down the road a few hundred feet to the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  Both were interesting and worthy of a visit if you are driving by.

Then we headed off to the park. 

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Our entrance to the park was going to be via Titus Canyon.  I had read a great many good things about this route and thought it would be a great way to get into the park.  It was very scenic with lots of places to stop and check out the sights.  Along this route is the Leadfield Ghost Town.  This was a nice place to pull over for lunch and a short rest.  We didn’t walk out to the old, run-down buildings.  There was some signage and foundations around the pull outs for vehicles stopping.  

This road is 1-way westbound only.  And I think that may be for good reason.  The west end of the road was spectacular.  You finish the drive through a narrow slot canyon and then you come around a corner and see your first views of Death Valley through the opening in the canyon.  An absolutely stunning end to this road.  

After exiting Titus Canyon, we drove north to our first campsite at Mesquite Springs.  We needed to pick up a 7-day park pass at the kiosk here as well.  This is a nice campground.  Like all of them in Death Valley, there are no amenities other than a bathroom.  No water, no power, no sewer.  There are very few hook-up sites in Death Valley and all are in Furnace Creek or Stove Pipe Wells.

But we were fine with this arrangement.  The bathroom had a dish-washing sink and we were able to dump our gray water there, which is all we need.

Shelley and I hiked up to an overlook behind the campground and took in our first views of the valley we were in.

On our way back down to camp from this overlook, we took some photos of the moon rise coming over the hills behind us.

We were lucky on the weather.  It was really mild.  Not much over 90 degrees.  Very comfortable.  We ate dinner, hung around our fire pit with Ralph and Joene and made smores before going to bed.  

On day 2, we continued north to Ubehebe Crater.  This was the last of the pavement for us for a few days.  We did a short hike to the crater overlook before airing down our tires and heading down Racetrack Rd to our first sightseeing stop.  

This section of road isn’t all that bad, really.  It had its moments of scenery, but overall it was just a nice drive down to Tea Kettle Junction.

Our first stop along Racetrack Road was Tea Kettle Junction.  Just some sort of funky “thing” that was made many years ago by someone and now it’s this icon of Death Valley that one needs to get their picture taken with when they visit.  We did just that.

As we continued on south we got our first look at Racetrack Playa from the roadway to the north.  An interesting fact about Racetrack Playa.  It is one of the flattest places on earth with just a 2″ rise/drop from one end to the other over a 2-mile distance.

First, we stopped at The Grandstand at the north end of Racetrack Playa.  It’s a short walk out across the salt flat to a rock formation growing up out of the the sand.

Then further south we came to The Racetrack itself.  We walked out into the salt flats to check out the rocks that appear to be racing around the Playa in some mysterious fashion.  It wasn’t until just recently that scientist uncovered how these rocks move along a dry salt lake bed leaving tracks and appearing to turn simultaneously.  Follow that link above to the National Park Service and the story behind the solution to the mystery.  It was very cool to see and follow the track.  

I really like this photo of The Racetrack with The Grandstand in the background.

By the way, this section of road between the Grandstand and the Racetrack was just absolutely horrible.  Just terrible.  Worst washboard I have ever seen.  Three miles of just sheer hell.  I guess if you can go 45 mph over it you might be okay, but you’re not doing that while towing a trailer.  

Further south from the Racetrack was our camp for the next two nights.  Homestake Dry Camp.  Just a simple pull in spot with some fire rings and room for a dozen or so vehicles.  Pretty nice views looking at the mountains to our east and the old Lippincott Mine up above us in the mountains.  We would base out of here for the next two nights as we drove around the area seeing various sights.

The next day, Day 3, the four of us drove over Lippincott Road.  We had wanted to take our trailers over it the next day on our way out of this area but weren’t sure if we could.  So we had pre-planned on driving over Lippincott Road with just our trucks to check out how bad it would be.  

It was pretty bad.  Except for two spots, a trailer would be very easy to take.  But there was no way we were going to risk it.  It is definitely not a trailering road at our skill level with our size trailers and trucks.

At one point we had to build a portion of the road with rocks and boulders it was so washed out.  This photo was taken above the area that was washed out that we had to do some building.  You can see a group of vehicles stopped at that spot as they try to negotiate their way through it as well.  Just as we got down to them, the last one in their group went through, so there wasn’t any waiting around for each other.  

In all, it took us about 2 hours to drive over.  I read a trip report from 2014 where it took that party just 30 minutes.  Pretty sure the road has gotten worse since then.  Maybe if you’re in a rock-crawling Jeep or small wheel-based vehicle you can do it faster.  You might even be able to pull a trailer with you if it’s short and light.

Once out into Saline Valley, we headed south towards Hunter Mountain Road.  Just before pulling over to take our lunch we got buzzed by a low flying F-18 headed to Star Wars Canyon (The Jedi Transition), I’m sure.  I mean, right over the top of our trucks.  It came from behind us, so we didn’t see it till it was past us and only then did we hear it.  It couldn’t have been more than 300 feet above us as it climbed up over the ridge and dove back down again.  

I jumped out of the truck hoping its wingman would be next, right behind it, but no luck.  It was all by itself.  My guess is its wingman was in another valley nearby.  

We took our lunch not far from this spot and could hear jets all around us, but never saw another one that close.  We saw four other F-15s flying in formation way above us, but that was it.

After coming out of Lippencott Road, we were greeted with great views of Saline Valley.

After lunch we continued up Hunter Mountain Road when, again, we got buzzed by a jet in the canyon.  This time it was a Harrier.  It was super low, less than 300 feet again, and banking over us as it rounded the corner of the canyon.  And again, no wingman following behind.

It was pretty cool to have two jets buzz over us so low like that.  Our own little 3 second air show.

We continued up Hunter Mountain Road till we came to the Lost Burro Mine.  This was a very cool ghost mine.  We found an open mine shaft and duck-walked in about five feet just to peek around the corner.  It was very cool.  Lots of old mining rigging and stands and a couple, fairly intact, buildings and structures.  A very cool stop along this road.

Death Valley is full of old mines.  Many of them have still open mine entrances, such as the one below.  It went back a good distance, but we only peeked in to look around the corner.  Maybe about five feet.  I can see how people can get tempted to crawl down these things.  They seem very cool to explore.  But we both like living, you know.

Hunter Mountain Road comes out at Tea Kettle Junction and then it was back down south to Homestake Dry Camp again for the evening.

We relaxed around the camp fire watching the moon rise over the hills to our east.  It was pretty spectacular watching it rise over the ridge.  Shelley got a pretty good shot of it too.

On Day 4, it was off to the south end of the park.  Since we couldn’t take Lippincott Road we decided to drive back north up Racetrack Road to Ubehebe crater and get back on pavement.  Once there, we air’d back up and drove all the way south to what we hoped would be a good spot along West Side Road.  

Even with the extra fuel I was packing, I could see we were going to run out gas.  Ralph had a smaller gas tank then we did, so we detoured over to Stove Pipe Wells were I heard gas a bit cheaper than it was at Furnace Creek.  It turned out to be $0.30 cheaper. 

We decided to take in a nice lunch at the saloon as well.  Then it was off south to the West Side Road.  

On this day, the weather began to worsen as rain clouds came in and we even got some drizzle now and again.  Our plan was to camp a few miles off West Side Road and base out of that campsite for two nights while we drove around the valley checking out the sights.  Pretty quick, we realized that West Side Road is all washboard and the road to our campsite was even worse.  We estimated we would end up being about an hour, 1-way, from pavement to our sights if we camped up at the spot we were shooting for.  We didn’t want to waste two hours a day just driving back and forth from our campsite on more washboard.    

We turned around and were on the verge of checking into the RV park when Shelley found Echo Canyon Road on her map.  Most everything around this area is off-limits to primitive camping and we had very limited connectivity.  We headed to the Visitor Center and Shelley asked a park Ranger about Echo Canyon and they said it was fine as long as we were one mile off the pavement.  Great!  We headed to Echo Canyon.

Just a short 3 miles off the pavement and we were set.  Much better than West Side Road.  We set up for, what would be a 2-night stay and settled in with dinner with Ralph and Joene.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Totality in Stanley and the Idaho BDR

We became aware of the total eclipse sometime in the summer of 2016.  When Shelley bid her vacations last October, we set up our annual week vacation in Stanley to coincide with the eclipse.  We reserved two camp sites for our family gathering, which only happened thanks to Courtney who managed to be “the one” who got through on the website for the reservation.

We traveled up to Stanley on the Saturday before the eclipse and got some good mountain biking in over the weekend.  Luckily the weather was clear with little to no smoke in the area and no chance of rain till after the eclipse.

We rode the Elk Mountain Loop on Saturday which was really nice.  Pretty easy ride overall.

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Elk Mountain Ride

Just after we started we ran into a hiker who told us she saw a black bear moving off the trail ahead of us some ways.  We rode a bit more gingerly for a while after that but once we ran into other bikers and hikers coming from the other way with no signs of a bear, we felt better about the rest of the trip.

Hawk and his son Orion tried their hand at sailing in their make shift sail boat with a tarp.  They put in on the south side of the lake and came all the way across the lake.

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Monday was the eclipse and Shelley took some really spectacular photos of the event.  Shelley came prepared for the event with a great camera and the tripod.

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The gang just hung out and waited.

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I had never seen a total eclipse and had no idea what to expect, other from pictures.  I was pretty surprised that it didn’t really get that dark till the last few minutes, nor did it start getting noticeably colder till about 15 minutes from totality.

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Then totality was absolutely incredible.  Watching the last glimpse of sun disappear while wearing the eclipse glasses then taking them off to see totality was unbelievable.  I just couldn’t believe how big the event was.  Pictures just don’t give the event scale unless you see it in person.

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The other thing that was really cool was looking to the north and seeing the glow of a sunset…..to the north!  That was the only horizon we could see being surrounded by hills and mountains.  But that was just really interesting.

Bats came out.

Our dog, Ripley went to sleep.  She began laying down about 30 minutes before and at totality she was out.  Sleeping.

We weren’t too far off the center line so we had well over 2 minutes of totality.

We did watch the whole thing.  Including the sun coming out from behind the moon as well.  Took in the entire event in from start to finish.

Just absolutely spectacular.

On Tuesday, we did some more mountain biking.  We drove over to Potato Mountain and did a really difficult ride.  We had to do quite a bit of pushing the bike up hills as well as a lot of natural obstacles.  From wash-outs to stream and creek crossings.  It was a real, true mountain bike trail.  It did have a mixture of cruising too through meadows and traverses.  But when we were finished, we were whipped.

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Potato Mountain Ride

As we drove out of the trail head and back to our camp site, we saw a concerning site.  A small billow of smoke rising from the area of Stanley Lake.  The local authorities spent the whole weekend concerned about someone coming up to watch the eclipse and starting a wild land fire, and now, the day after eclipse, we were looking at one not far from our camp site.  On top of that, Ripley was in our trailer and the doors were locked.

We hauled ass back down the dirt roads from our trail head to Lake Stanley.  As we got closer, we realized the fire was in our valley, but then upon arriving at the camp ground, we saw it was at the south end of the lake and was pretty small.  Some forest service guys were in our camp telling us the fire was being worked and there was no evacuation in effect.  They told us resources were on their way to combat the fire and two crews were already on the ground working the fire.

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Along with other campers, we hung out at the lake shore watching it as we couldn’t see what was happening on the ground.  Shelley and I started to break our camp down a bit in the event the authorities ordered an evacuation.  We wanted to be close to pulling up stakes and getting out if things came to that.

A few hours later, the firefighting air force showed up.

First, a couple small firefighting planes arrived and did three runs on the fire.  Then a lone helicopter showed up and started collecting water from the lake and dropping it.  Then another helicopter showed up.

Then another.

Then another.

Pretty soon there were five helicopters in the flight pattern picking up and dumping water on the fire.  This went on for hours.  Till just before dusk.

But the star attraction was when the Sky Crane showed up.  Oh man.  Jack pot!  Only 31 were ever made and very few are even still flying.  And the Sky Crane was picking up just about 300 feet off the shore from our camp site.  Yeah, I watched it for some time.  Took lots of video too.  Very cool.

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Sky Crane picking up water

The air show went on for hours and when it ended it was hard to see what the condition of the fire was.  With all the rotors beating the smoke for hours it was tough to see the fire’s condition.  We were told by the forest service that we were in the clear for the evening and the fire presented no more threat to us.

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We roasted some s’mores that night in peace.  You can see the smoke from the fire in the background on the far side of the lake.

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We were going to do another mountain bike ride the next morning, but the fire burned up the area of the trail.  So we went into Stanley and just hung out at a coffee shop for a few hours to catch up with email and the rest of the world.  The camp ground has no service at all.  With no ride on the schedule, we took Ripley too.  Which she enjoyed.  Then we drove down to Red Fish Lake and she got to fetch in the lake and go for a good walk.  We ate dinner there and then listened to their live music on their lawn.  It was a pretty chill day and relaxing.

Perfect.

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On Thursday morning, we started the second half of this trip.  We packed up the trailer, hooked up and headed for the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR).  If you’re not familiar with the BDR system, you can read about at the above link.

Back in April we did part of Section 1, from Jarbidge NV to Bruneau ID.

We left Stanley to pick up the BDR south of Lowman where FS384 comes into US21.  Due to the Pioneer Fire in 2016, lots of the area SE of Lowman is closed to allow the area a season to regrow.  The main road the BDR uses (FS385) is closed so we used a detour which starts SW of Lowman.

Once on the BDR, we headed south to Trinity Lake (43.62481, -115.43186) for the night.  Arriving there mid-week it was nearly empty.  We set up at a real nice spot overlooking the lake.

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At Trinity Lake we got to try out the newest gadget we bought for the backcountry, the Outland Fire Bowl.  With all the fire restrictions in place all around the Northwest, we wanted a way to have a camp fire and not be in violation of the fire restrictions.  While at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff in May and the NW Overland Rally in Plain in June, we saw different people with these and everyone seemed to like them.  It seemed a smart way to have a camp fire while in the back country.  We didn’t know how fuel hungry it would be, so we brought a second 5 gallon propane tank we had laying around, but we didn’t did one.  We carry a 7-1/2 gallon propane tank on the Moby and that would have been plenty for this trip.

It did work very well.  We roasted s’mores on it and hung out around it at Trinity Lake and at Anderson Reservoir.  We did notice that it doesn’t perform nearly as well at altitude.  Trinity Lake is over 7,000 feet and on full, the flames were decent.  But at Anderson Reservoir, we had it at 1/2 power and that was more than enough.

The other thing I would recommend is buying the extra carry bag for it.  The fake rocks in it rub together while in transit and create dust.  I saw this while getting it ready in the living room at home so we put the bowl in a 33 gallon garbage bag.  A garbage bag is cheap, but it got torn up too and was only good for one trip.

The next morning we went for a short hike around the lake and up the ridge to explore the trail system and see what’s around the area.

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We really enjoyed Trinity Lake.  We found two really great hiking trails we want to come back to some day.  If you are reading this for information on the BDR, Trinity Lake is a must stop for an overnight camping stay.

From Trinity Lake, we continued down the BDR to Pine and then on to Anderson Ranch Reservoir.  We arrived at Evans Creek Campground (43.399409, -115.413954) in the area later in the day on Friday and the camp sites along the reservoir was starting to fill up.  We did find a decent spot and found a nice quite, private spot in the trees along the camp site to spend the evening.  Even though some of the camp sites were full with large groups, the spot we had in the trees made it feel a bit more private.  Those that were around us were really nice too.  It wasn’t Trinity Lake, but it was pleasant.

The next day our trip was over.  We continued down the BDR, passing through the remaining area of Anderson Ranch Reservoir and headed to Glens Ferry and finally on to Bruneau to meet up with where we left off in April.  That link up completed, for us, all of Section 1 and parts of Section 2 of the Idaho BDR.

Then it was back to Boise for a long weekend of refitting, cleaning and catching up with friends before our next adventure started the following Monday.

The Magruder Corridor and the Lolo Motorway

On July 21, after we got off work, we drove up to the area about an hour west of Elk City and met up with a group from Northwest Overland (NWOL) to drive the Magruder Corridor and the Lolo Motorway.

Some months earlier I had seen a post on the NWOL forum talking about the trip and the leader of the group, Steve, welcomed us when we inquired about joining.

We met most of the group at the South Fork Campground (45.826150, -115.961490) west of Elk City.  Steve and his daughter, Angelo (from Portland) and Richard/Dolores from Seattle.  The next morning, the actual start of the trip, we were met by Britzen and her boyfriend along with Brad and his daughter.  Britzen and her boyfriend are local to this area and had spent a great deal of time around the trails we were going to driving.

We formed up for a team photo and off to Elk City we went to check in at the Ranger station.  After a short safety briefing, to make sure everyone was on the same page with the radio frequency and such, we hit the dirt and headed east on the Magruder.

We stopped at a couple different fire overlooks on the way to our first night’s camp spot.  Being fire season, the first was manned and the views at both were spectacular.

The first one, Green Mountain fire overlook (45.771140, -115.076090), was easy to get to and had a large area at the top for maneuvering around.  With six vehicles (plus us pulling a trailer) it was important to be able to turn around.  Plus, the forest service fire watchers were there with their vehicles.  But we had lots of room and stopped for lunch too.

We moved on from this overlook to the Burnt Knob fire overlook (45.702770, -114.991310).  This one was very difficult to get to.  Steep, rocky and very slow going.

It was a very short drive, but took about 90 minutes to negotiate.  We had to get out of the truck a number of times to spot along the way.

The top was very small too and making a three point turn with a trailer up there in such a tight space was taxing, but doable.  The yellow and red UTVs in the photo came up after we arrived.  They were with another group.

We arrived at our first camp ground, Observation Point (45.664972, -114.809139), later in the afternoon.  It was spectacular.  Angelo set up his 4-Runner right on the edge of the cliff, and his kitchen even closer.  Shelley and I set up on the opposite side of the turn around, but not quite as close to the edge.  None of us had ever had dinner in quite such a spectacular location.  The after dinner fire was at Angelo’s spot.  The chair in the below photo on the far right is Angelo’s.

The forest fires were starting to make their presence felt around this point.  We couldn’t really smell the smoke, but as you can see, the smoke was starting become more pronounced in the views.

This was a really dusty drive.  Angelo had a small broom he used before he opened any doors on his truck. We’ve since copied that idea and have added a small broom to our travel kit.

The next day we took a side trip to Paradise Guard Station and Campground (45.861020, -114.738990).  This side trip cuts off at Magruder Crossing (45.735174, -114.758030).  There is camping at Magruder Crossing as well as all along the drive up to Paradise.  This was a super easy drive and was a very nice campground.  Easy river access and a wide open space.  Ripley even got a chance to play on the beach and in the water a bit.

Shelley and I, along with Brad skipped the next overlook, Hells Half Acre (45.645740, -114.628420).  Brad had gotten stuck on the trail to Burnt Knob and needed to be pulled along a bit to get to the top.   He is the Subaru you see in the photos.  The literature on Hell’s Half Acre stated it was as difficult.  After Burnt Knob, I just didn’t want to do another climb with the trailer.  So we bypassed it and headed to our next camp ground on the Montana side of the border, Fales Flat.

Bailing on Hell’s Half Acre allowed Shelley and I time to set up at the next campground, Fales Flat (45.746020, -114.443140), and get showers too.  By the time the rest of the group arrived, we were pretty relaxed.  Britzen and I smoked some cigars, she is a CAO fan as well….great minds think alike….and we had a nice relaxing time just to hang out for a while.

Around the dinner camp fire that night we got a surprise treat.  The ISS flew by overhead.  Shelley and I had seen it before, but not out in such a remote area.  It was the brightest we had ever seen.  And the duration was all the way across the night sky.  Very impressive.

The next day was spent refitting and refueling as we came off the Magruder and cut through Montana to Lolo to start the Lolo Motorway.  We stopped in Hamilton, MT for water, gas and a refill of our growler at the Bitterroot Brewery.  Good beer and good price point…$7.00 for a growler fill.  The gas station we stopped at had free potable water as well, you just needed your own hose or container.

Also in Hamilton, Brad left the group for the rest of his own trip and Britzen and her boyfriend split off as well.  So we were down to four now.  Britzen would rejoin us on the west side of the Lolo.

From Hamilton stopped at the visitor center on the Idaho/Montana border then headed east to pick up the Lolo Motorway.

Continuing on, we stopped at Rocky Point fire overlook (46.582200, -114.665690).  This overlook was manned by a nice woman who gave us a tour of the place and showed us how she spots and locates fires. From the deck of the lookout we could see five separate fires burning.

Our campground for this night was full.  A group of forest service firefighters had moved in.  After looking over a map and talking with them, we aimed for a different campsite at Cayuse Junction (46.598780, -114.854360).  After getting set up, Steve worked on firewood for our night’s camp fire.

We arrived there early in the evening and had lots of time to relax around dinner and the camp fire.

We ended up with a special guest this night as well.  Well after the sun went down, a black bear skirted our campsite.  We could just make out him/her scratching on a tree about 150’ feet away, but its eyes looking back at our flashlight was enough of a confirmation for us.  The bear never did come into camp that night.  It was hard to get a photo of the bear’s eyes looking at us, but here it is just the same.

When it comes to ‘sights’ to see, the Lolo has many more.  The Magruder had lots of spots to look at views, but the Lolo had more Native American sights to stop and see.  The Nez Perce Indians used this area to reach buffalo hunting grounds on the Great Plains.  It was also used by Lewis and Clark on their return trip in 1805.

We stopped at the Indian Post Office (46.546330, -114.988606) and tried to hike down to the Lonesome Cove Camp but the trail was terribly marked and never found it.  We came to the conclusion that the trail crosses another foot trail and we missed the markings of this intersection and took a wrong turn.  But really, this was terribly marked.

Shelley and I and Angelo stopped at the Devil’s Chair (46.517230, -114.080590) but the main group continued on.  Angelo made the short walk out to the sight, but Shelley and I continued as we were the slowest of the four vehicles in the group and didn’t want to fall behind any farther.  We also tried to find the Smoking Place Camp (46.483650, -114.158050), but it wasn’t very well marked on the roadway and only found the historical marker.  After reading the sign, there may be a reason you can’t find it now.

We stopped at Horseshoe Lake (46.548680, -115.067090) for lunch and Horseshoe Lake lookout (46.570140, -115.067670) as well.  The lookout is now abandoned and just small remnants of a structure still exist.  But the views haven’t changed.

This was a difficult spot to get into with a trailer as there was a sharp, hairpin turn at the top of a steep incline.  Once in the campsite, the location was great.  We ended up staying here for some time just hanging out and eating lunch along the lake shore.  This would be a great spot to stay longer and camp.  Not sure how the bugs would be, but it was such a nice camp site and as difficult as it was to get into, you probably won’t have too many guests.

After lunch we continued on to the Castle Butte lookout (46.434100, -115.219910).  This overlook is no longer used for the forest service and it rented out to campers.  It was an easy climb up to it but not a lot of room to maneuver around with a trailer.  While doing this, our Chevy broke.  I lost all my power steering and my brakes.  And I was at the top of a fire service overlook.  My power steering pump had failed and that pump is associated with the truck’s brakes.  I got the truck and trailer turned around and kept it in 4- low and 1st gear to get me down the trail and back onto the Lolo.  This wasn’t terrible, but we had to go slow as I couldn’t really slow down quickly for the sharp turns as we moved along the Lolo.

We didn’t get into our next, and last, campground till 2130 hours.  Our final night was spent at Rocky Ridge Lake (46.441160, -115.491900).  I was really tired.  Shelley and I made a quick dinner and we discussed our options with Britzen who rejoined us.  She recommended a garage in Kamiah where we could get a new power steering pump and suggested the easiest route to town to avoid the steeper route that the BDR followed.  After taking notes and making a plan with the group, we went to bed.

The next morning we headed out to Kamiah.  It was a slow crawl for us in 4-low and 1st gear.   The below photo is us stopped as we return to pavement and air our tires back up for the rest of the trip.

When we finally got close enough to get cell service, we called the garage Britzen suggested, Perfection Tire.  They were booked till 1400 the next day and couldn’t get us in, even if we had the part.  That was too bad.  That also killed the rest of our trip.

We then called Napa Autoparts who had the part, without a reservoir, but we couldn’t get it installed till the next day.  Napa told us they could have a pump with reservoir by 0800 the next morning.  Since there was no way to get the truck fixed this afternoon, we opted for the pump with reservoir.

The group ended up having lunch together in Kamiah and then Angelo went on his way to finish out his trip and Richard/Dolores and Steve all took off their own ways.  We, well, we called the local KOA and moved in there for the night while we waited for our appointment for the garage the next afternoon.

The next afternoon we sat around waiting for our appointment.  Once 1300 rolled around I called him to see if anyone had cancelled and they told us to come on in.  90 minutes later we were good to hit the road again.  But the damage to our trip had been done.  We weren’t really in a position to finish out our trip at this point.  Losing the previous day and now entire morning and afternoon, killed any chance we had to drive back down to Elk City and pick the BDR back up again and continue south.

So we just headed home.

The Magruder Corridor and the Lolo Motoroway was a great backcountry trip.  Doing them back to back was a lot of fun.  The group we had was fun to hang out with and Shelley and I learned a lot about our truck/camper and about backcountry travel.  We also learned a lot about our equipment.  Every trip we learn more and more and, with this probably being our last long backcountry trip of the year, we hope to apply these lessons next year as we begin talking about where we go next.

The Idaho BDR and NWOL Rally

For our second backcountry adventure we chose to do Section 1 of the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route.  This section starts in Jarbidge, NV and goes north to Pine, ID at the north end of the Anderson Dam reservoir.  It’s hard to see in this photo, but the end of Section 1 is that dark purple icon with the bed on it.

We weren’t planning on going all to the way to Pine, however.  We were going to come out at the south end of the reservoir (that first light purple icon along the green line) and head to the Northwest Overland Rally in Plain, WA.  We didn’t want to back track down the BDR so we were just going to come off the BDR early and that would make a good place to restart it another day.

On Saturday, July 10 we headed to Jarbidge to start the BDR.  We followed the guideance of the BDR map and took the more difficult route to Jarbidge instead of the more direct route that Google maps suggested.  Besides, the idea was to be in the backcountry.

So we exited I-84 in Mountain Home and took ID 51 south to Rowland Rt Rd.  Since we had a vehicle breakdown on our last trip, in which we took a pre-trip photo, Shelley wasn’t very excited to do the same on this trip.  A bit superstitious, I know.  But also foretelling.

We took that all the way to Nevada where it changes to NF 37.  NF 37 was heavily washed out.  We managed to get through it, but it took quite a while as we had to get out on foot and walk the route to make sure we were going to be safe.  It took about 90 minutes to go 1 mile.  From there we took various backcountry roads east eventually passing through Diamond A Ranch (and some private property that the road has an easement through) and eventually onto a narrow, steep windy road that led down to NF 62 (which become Main St in Jarbidge itself).

I don’t know if we took a wrong turn, or read the map wrong or what…but the narrow, steep windy road we took after we left the Diamond A Ranch led down to this at the bottom.

There was no such sign at the top.  The road wasn’t that difficult to navigate either.  It was just narrow and steep with a tight hairpin turn that, with a trailer, took some pre-planning but we did it without having to back up.  I don’t know why the road was closed.  NF 37 at the Nevada/Idaho border was in far worse shape and it had no signs at either end.

While traveling down Rowland Rt Rd at the start of our way to Jarbidge, we suffered a major failure on the Moby.  The weld on the bottom seam of the water tank burst and we lost all our fresh water.  We had to leave Boise full as none of the camp sites in this area of Section 1 were going to have water so we had to bring it with us.

This was quite disappointing.  Especially after the shock failure in the Mojave just a few weeks prior.

Luckily, I brought a 5-gallon water jug with us but it was empty.  When we got into Jarbidge we found a general store that had a well out front and we were able to fill the water jug.  That would get us to our second camp site where we could refill again without any problem.  After arriving in Jarbidge, we did a bit of sight-seeing.  They have a really nice little city park in the center of town and a cool monument as well.

After visiting around Jarbidge and buying some ice cream from the store we headed up to our camp site for the night and the first few miles of Section 1.  We stayed at the Juniper Campground (GPS 42.03577, -115.37305) just across the Idaho border.  The red star is the approximate spot where we camped on day 1.  Juniper Campground is next to a nice river edge that was running fast due to the heavy snow fall we had over the winter.  There were even steps leading down to the water that were well under water from the high flow.

On Sunday, we headed out north up the BDR.  This section of the BDR isn’t difficult at all.  It was mostly dirt with some pavement, but the dirt roads were all in good shape and wide enough for two vehicles to pass with out issue.

There also wasn’t much to stop and see except for the Bruneu Canyon Overlook.  But to get to that overlook, you have to leave the BDR route for a detour.  We didn’t mind.  We knew we weren’t missing anything on the BDR and I was surprised this wasn’t the actual route in order to take advantage of this overlook.  You can see how the BDR (green line) turns NE and we sent NW to the overlook.  Well worth the detour.  Photos can not possibly do the overlook justice.  It was pretty spectacular.

After stopping there, it was on to our next camp site at the Bruneu Sand Dunes.  The campground was pretty empty.  We took Ripley for a walk over to the dunes, but didn’t climb them ourselves as it was too hot to leave Ripley in the truck or trailer and our camp site didn’t have power to run the AC for her.

We spent a leisurely evening until a storm moved in and ripped down the kitchen awnings.  We had to do an emergency take down of the awnings to keep them from being damaged.  The Moby’s side awnings were fine.

The next morning, Monday, I started making phone calls to various places in Boise to see about getting the water tank repaired.  We found a place who told us if we got it to him that afternoon he could fix it quick and keep us on the road.  So, instead of making our way to Anderson Dam, we headed home with our backcountry trip over prematurely.

When we pulled into our driveway, we dropped the water tank and I ran it up to Tim’s Job Shop who cleaned up the seam and welded a new bead along the bottom edge.  All in all, it took him about 30 minutes and I was headed back home.  We re-hung the water tank and we were back in business.

Tuesday morning, we head off to our next stop outside Baker City, the Union Creek Campground.  This was just a pit stop on our way to Leavenworth.  This stop in Baker City was pleasant and quite.  The weather was great and we just took Ripley for a walk and relaxed.

On Wednesday, we moved up to Leavenworth and stayed at a KOA to make sure we could top off with power and water before heading to the Northwest Overland (NWOL) Rally in Plain.

We were glamping it in Leavenworth.  We picked up a growler of beer from the local brewery and had a real nice dinner at our favorite restaurant in Leavenworth, Pavz Cafe.

Thursday we moved up to Plain and moved onto the Rally grounds.

The NWOL Rally is much smaller than Overland Expo in Flagstaff.  But it had the same idea.  Venders selling new products, classes on various aspects of overlanding and backcountry travel, equipment demonstrations, vehicle courses and lots of free beer.  NWOL also had pre-determined trail runs for each day.  We didn’t participate in those, however.  Also, the overwhelming percentage of participants here are from the Northwest and western Canada.  So, in a sense, it’s has a local flavor to it that the Expo did not.

We took a class on trailer maintenance and learned how to service our trailer’s ball bearings.  We did attended some presentations on the UT backcountry and the ID backcountry.  The UT one wasn’t that great as the main presenter didn’t show up, but the ID one was nice as the presenters knew a lot about northern UT and shared that information with us.  We also attended a Leave No Trace presentation by a local Idaho rafting company and they brought along…..free Idaho beer!  I think one of the best classes we took was on mountain biking techniques.  It was one hour and we were two of three that showed up.  After the class, it was just Shelley and I and the instructors hung around another hour talking about bike maintenance.  It was really pretty cool of them to do that.

Someone took a drone up and took a photo of the entire area.  We are that little orange spec that the green arrow is pointing to.  The trees in the bottom left are where the off road courses where held and the upside down “L” shaped clearing on the right are where all the venders are set up.

The organizers had a big bonefire every night (it was kinda rainy the first night so no fire) and did a raffle drawing for a bunch of swag, mostly, but there were some really nice things given out too.  We got nothing.  Bummer.  Venders, like Rugged Overland below, did their own raffle giveaways too.

A member of NWOL put up a post on the forum about meeting for breakfast on Saturday.  So we went over to his camp on Saturday morning and met other NWOL members there for breakfast.

There was also plenty of time to wander around the site and check out other people’s rigs and set ups to look for ideas.

It was a really fun time.  Very relaxed.  Very small and easy to get everywhere.  In fact, there were things I wanted to buy, but didn’t know if things would fit on our set up.  The venders were more than happy to “loan” it to me to walk over to my truck/trailer and check the fit before buying.  No one ever asked for ID or collateral in case I didn’t bring it back.  It was all very friendly and low key.

Saturday night was the end of the Rally and Sunday morning we finished our packing and headed home around 7:00 am for the long drive home.

The Mojave National Preserve

This is part 3 of our road trip we took back in may.  You can find Part 1 – Fruita, CO here and Part 2 – Overland Expo here.

We left Flagstaff, AZ and the Overland Expo bright and early on Monday morning, May 15, 2017.  We packed up nearly everything the night before and were on the road by 0700.  Our destination was the Mojave Road for our first truly 100% off grid 4×4 trip with our truck and trailer.

The Mojave Road starts about 10 miles SW outside Laughlin, NV (35.052000, -114.676210) but because of where we were traveling from, I decided to pick up the Mojave Road where it crosses CA Hwy 95 (at 35.113020, -114.829520) instead.  The stretch of the Mojave Rd from Mile 0 to where we started takes a few hours and we didn’t have that time to spare on Day 1 because we were coming from Flagstaff.  One can drive the Mojave Road in about 2 – 3 days, but we wanted to take it slower and stop and see as much as we could.  There were also a number of hiking trails we wanted to try.  So this wasn’t just going to be a drive across the desert.  Instead of 2 – 3 days, we were looking at 4 nights and 5 days and we still couldn’t see everything we wanted to.  To really see the Mojave, I think one needs about 6 nights and 7 days, if not longer.

We left Flagstaff fully charged and full of water in our trailer’s 21 gallon fresh water tank.  Plus we had an extra 15 gallons of water and 20 extra gallons of gas in Jerry cans.  We stopped in Laughlin to top off the truck’s fuel tank and hit the Safeway store for provisions, then it was off to our Mojave Road trail head.

We pulled off CA Hwy 95 at our trail head to get our bearings, air down tires and take our ‘start of our trip’ selfie.  Yes, I did buy a new hat for this trip.

We made good time from Flagstaff and got started earlier then I expected.  However, this section of the Mojave Road we started on was terrible.  It took us 90 minutes to drive the first 7 miles.  I knew it would be slow, but that was real slow.

Our first stop was going to be Fort Piute (35.114844, -114.985142) but after getting to the turn off to it, we calculated how long it would take to get there and still make it our first night’s camp site and decided it would take too long.  The problem with Fort Piute is that the road beyond the fort is impassable to everyone except for the best equiped off-road vehicles (so we’ve heard).  We weren’t going to try it.  This makes the side trip to the fort an out and back route instead of a route that passes through.  We just didn’t have enough time now.  So, unfortunately, we had to cancel our stop to Fort Piute.

Further, there is another wash-out I was aware of on the Mojave Rd (MP 27 – MP 30.5) that creates a 14 mile detour.  The park service wants people to take a 29 mile detour, but there’s a shorter one I found in my research and we took it instead.  It was very driveable.  We met some Overland Bound members at the Expo who had driven the Mojave Rd in March and confirmed my research.  Plus, they said even the section that is “closed” is passable.  A number of their group took it and beat them to their first camp site by hours.  I was tempted to take it since we were behind schedule, but decided to stay on the cautious side and take the 14 mile detour.

By passing up Fort Piute we did have time to stop at the Laser Ray Mine (35.027400, -115.033722).  That gave us a chance to get out of the truck for a bit and stretch our legs and give Ripley some time outside.  The mine’s ruins were pretty…..well, ruined.  Not much to see.  It would make for a good camp site, however.  Something to remember for next time.

We climbed back into the truck and continued on.  We didn’t get far before our first mechanical breakdown.  The driver side shock on our trailer tore off its mount.  At first, I thought it was the weld but upon closer inspection, the shock mount tore completely off the trailer’s frame leaving a hole in the frame rail.  Well, that was a bit of a surprise……to say the least.

Another surprise was that I had cell service via Verizon on my work phone.  I gave Moby 1 a call to ask about pulling the trailer on one shock.  I spoke with Harrison who, surprisingly again, said this was a known problem to them as it has happened before and they have since incorporated a new mounting system on their trailers.  Well, that would have been nice to know before we left Boise.  I would have thought they might give current owners a heads up instead of finding this problem 17 miles into the Mojave Road.

I took the shock off the trailer and we continued on.  About 10 miles later, the passenger side shock tore off its mount.  So now both shocks were gone.  The trailer still did fine.  It just had a bit more bounce in it over the rough road.  We stopped by the Mojave Bus Camp (35.119550, -115.115130) and took some time to get out of the truck at high points in the trail to look around and explore a bit.  Here are some photos of Day 1 on the Mojave Rd.

Stopping at a high point in the trail….seriously….to look out over the valley floor.

The Mojave Bus Camp.  This would make a pretty nice group camping spot.  Big turn around area and nice and flat.  No real cover or break from any wind, however.  And no, I didn’t put any rounds into the bus.

The Mojave Bus Camp.

Penny Can Tree.  The story I read on this can goes back to when the Mojave Road was used for transportation and trading and crossed lots of private property.  In fact, there is still a lot of private property out here along with homesteads.  The owner of one section asked for donations using a can, like the one pictured, in a tree.  Users of this section were asked to donate to the can to help offset his cost of maintaining the road.  Yes, we kept with tradition and donated to the can as well.

We did finally make it to our first camp site in the New York Mountains (35.218872, -115.309633) but it was late.  We had wanted to stay farther up Carruthers Canyon, but figured that might be another 30 minutes so we took this spot.  There was a hike at the top of Caruthers Canyon I wanted to do on the morning of Day 2, but with how long it took us to drive around on Day 1, I was concerned we would run out of time, so we bypassed that hike on Day 2.

This camp site was really nice.  Easy to get into, big area to turn around and might provide good shelter from any wind.  Our evening was pretty calm.  It was a good thing we didn’t go by Fort Piute or start at MP 0 after all.  It was close to 2000 hrs by the time we set up for dinner…and it was actually cold.  We huddled around the grill while we cooked hamburgers, ate and went to bed.  Having left Flagstaff around 0700, it had been a long day.

The next morning we woke up with the sunrise.  We set up the solar panel on the side of the truck to charge things up, made breakfast and enjoyed the morning.

Shelley putting breakfast together.

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Breakfast, fruit and hot drinks

With no shocks on the trailer now, we decided that we would stick to the more improved sections of road in the Preserve and stay off the rougher sections.  We did scout out some camp sites along Caruthers Canyon and visited the windmill (35.225351, -115.300387) in the area before we headed off to our next camp site.  It appears the windmill powered a pump from this old water cistern.  As we drove up this road, you can see remnants of the old pipe line along the side of the road, partially buried.

The Mojave Windmill

We made much better time by staying on the more improved sections of the road network in the Preserve and eventually made our way out to Granite Pass.  On the way there, the trailer did well even without the shocks.

We stopped at the Mojave Monument where the Mojave Rd crosses the Kelso Cima Rd (35.176040, -115.509276).

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We traveled down the Kelso Cima Rd and stopped by the visitor center in Kelso (35.218872, -115.309633) which is closed on Monday and Tuesday.  It’s a cool area and I recommend stopping to check out the historical markers and the old jail they have set up.

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Some of the original Kelso buildings surrounding the area.

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The visitor center.  This building is original, but has been refurbished and returned to its original likeness.  This is a real nice area.  It was a bummer it was closed.

me in jail

We arrived in the Granite Pass area early and had time to drive up and down the area scouting out the various camp sites in the area.  I counted five.  Shelley went out and scouted the first one and turned back when she ran into a swarm of bees from a nest.  She spotted them with no issues, but we weren’t going to camp near by.  We finally picked a real secluded spot tucked way back up into the boulders.  It was a sweet location.  Tough to maneuver a full-size truck and camper into, but we made it (34.808008, -115.621451).  We would definitely stay in this area again.

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Since we stuck to the more improved roads, we made great time and had time to go explore the area after setting up our camp.

On this day we also finalized our plans on how to get the shocks fixed.  We decided that we would go home via Salt Lake City and drop the trailer off at Moby 1’s shop and have them do the repairs.  This decision also forced us to cut our trip short by a day as we needed to be in Springville by close of business Friday.  We decided that instead of finishing the Mojave Road east from the Mojave Monument to I-15, we would stay on the Kelso Cima Rd and head north to Cima and stay near the Mojave Cross on Wednesday night.  Then we would spend Thursday driving to Springville and drop the trailer off Friday morning.

In my research of where to go and what to see in the Mojave, the area around the Mojave Cross was on my list but our original trip ran out of time and I cut it out of the original plans.  So this was easy to put back in as I already scouted the area out via Google Earth.  There was a nice hike in the area and good camping options.

After breakfast on Wednesday, Day 3, we headed north and took a pre-planned side trip to the Kelso Dunes (34.892444, -115.699056).  This was quite a hike.  We had never climbed a sand dune before, which was interesting to say the least and the view at the top was pretty spectacular.  No one was around but us.  On the way down a visitor from Switzerland was on his way up.

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The hike only took us about 2-1/2 hours round trip.  It wasn’t “hard”, but it was a bit more difficult once we started ascending the dune itself.  We learned quickly that if you walk on the windward side of the summit ridge, the sand is a bit more compact and easier to walk on.

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The untouched summit ridge.

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Looking back down the summit ridge.

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The summit is actually a combination of three ridges.  In this photo, Shelley is at the top and I walked down one of the ridges coming off the summit.

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me on kelso dune

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The weather was really very pleasant for this trip.  We got hot because of the climb, but the temperature was really nice.  We put Ripley in the trailer while we were gone and turned on the fan for her.  But it never got hot at all.  When we got back, it was in the 60s inside.

After leaving the Kelso Dunes, we found another great camp site near the Mojave Cross.  This short driving day also allowed us to go for a second nice hike over to Teutonia Peak Trail.  This was another nice, mellow hike with great sweeping views of the valley floor.  Not a long hike by any means.

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We hung out around the camp site and explored the area immediately around the cross before dinner.  There are a number of nice camp sites in this area.

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This area we stayed in is known for its large Joshua Tree forest.  These were some of the coolest trees to walk through.  Very different from anything we’ve ever seen.  Some were smaller but others were quite large.  This was the most interesting day of the trip with the Kelso Dunes and this Joshua Tree forest.  And since we weren’t on the road long, we had a lot of time to explore around the area.

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Ripley was so happy to be able to go with us as we walked around this area to check out the camp sites.  She finally got a chance to stretch her legs.

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After we spent the afternoon exploring, we had dinner, relaxed and then climbed the rocks behind our camp site and watched a spectacular sunset over the Mojave.

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On Thursday, Day 4, we packed everything up and head to Springville.  We stayed in a KOA in Springville, took showers and got cleaned up.  Had a nice dinner in a local brewery that night and dropped off the trailer at Moby 1 on Friday morning before heading home to Boise.

It was quite the trip.  Fruita, Flagstaff and the Mojave National Preserve.  Two weeks on the road at three distinctly different stops made for a real awesome trip.  And having not finished the Mojave Road gives us ideas for a return to the Mojave Preserve in the future.

 

Our Visit to the Overland Expo (West)

After we finished our mountain biking in Fruita, you can read about it here, we traveled to Flagstaff, AZ to get ready for the Overland Expo (West).

You can read about the Overland Expo here.  This was the 14th year for the Expo.  The organization that runs the Expo holds two every year.  One in Flagstaff an another on the east coast in Asheville, NC.

Since this was our first year attending, we signed up for the full-meal deal and bought the full Expo package called the Overland Experience Package (OEP).  That got us camping on site inside the Expo grounds and full access to all the classes and presentations.  It also got us a free beer every night at the outdoor beer garden and a full catered dinner on the last night.  Those food and drink specials were nice, but we really wanted the hands classes and driving courses.

We arrived in Flagstaff from Fruita on Tuesday night and stayed at an RV park where we had full hookups.  We wanted to be able to drive down from Fruita with an empty trailer and move into the Expo on Thursday full of water and fully charged.

We arrived in Flagstaff to freezing temperatures and had to set up in a freezing drizzle.  But we managed and settled in.

We had hoped to mountain bike Wednesday morning/afternoon, but the freezing temperatures and rain stopped us, so we spent the morning sleeping in and doing laundry and grocery shopping in the afternoon.

Wednesday night was an Overland meet-and-greet in old town Flagstaff.  A block of old town was taken over by various Overland rigs and five businesses had free beer (yes, free) and sales on their merchandise.  The alcohol laws in Flagstaff are……interesting.  We spent the night drinking the free drinks and window shopping.  We met some people as we wandered around including a couple who just returned from an Overland motorcycle trip to Panama and back.

Flagstaff, at least the old town, is a pretty cool place.

Thursday afternoon we moved into the Expo and got our camp site set up for the weekend.  We did some wandering around the Expo as venders were setting up and got our bearings after we checked in and got our maps, passes and swag.

The Expo is huge.  There is a huge vender area that ranges from small booths and full blown demo displays.  Sportsmobile even holds an annual Sportsmobile owner’s get together where they have their own camping area in the woods.  There is another vender and demo area for Overland motorcycles as well.  The Overland motorcycles had their own camp ground as well.

Then there are the driving courses for trucks, cars and motorcycles.  There’s a man-made Land Rover off-road skills course.  A rock-crawling course.  Multiple vehicle recovery area demo areas.  Our OEP got us access to all these courses.

The Expo had set up portable toilets throughout the area if you wanted to use them, or you could use your own set up on your trailer/truck.  There were also hot showers set up for on site campers.  All in all, logistically, the place was set up pretty well.  You can tell they have been doing this for a while.

I’m a member of an Overland group called Overland Bound.  Many of us were trying to coordinate a meet up at the Expo on Thursday night.  We got in the camp grounds early and we weren’t a group traveling together, so we didn’t get to park with the rest of the groups.  However, we carried our chairs over to their camp site and hung out with them Thursday night.  It was nice putting faces to screen names and trucks you see on social media.  We also wandered around the camp ground a bit and met another Moby 1 owner, Monty, from California.  I knew him from social media too and immediately recognized…..his truck (LOL) when I saw it.  We saw four Moby 1 trailers at the Expo (counting ours) and met three of the owners.  The fourth was never home when we stopped by….bummer.

On day 1, Friday, Shelley and I participated a couple driving courses with our Avalanche.  The OEP allowed us to use our own vehicle for the driving courses.  We did a marshaling/picking a line course.  I drove one section with Shelley marshaling me and she drove another with me marshaling.

We did some basic hands-on recovery courses as well.  Since we had never done any of this stuff before, Day 1 was all the ‘beginner’ courses.  On Day 2, Saturday, the recovery classes were more detailed and the driving courses were a bit more in depth.  On Day 2 we also got to take the Avalanche through the Land Rover Experience course.  This was the highlight, to me, of the driving courses.  The course involved inside turns on steep banks, outside turns on steep banks, steep inclines and descents as well as other obstacles.  A Land Rover driving instructor rode shot-gun.  Both Shelley and I had an opportunity to drive the truck through the course.  It was pretty fun seeing what the Avalanche could really do as it has been a daily driver for 8 years and we just are now putting the ‘off-road’ side of it to work.  In fact, until this course, I never have had the electronic locking rear differential kick in.  But this course required the truck to be in 4-Low and both Shelley and I got the rear locker engaged when we had one of the back wheels completely off the ground as we negotiated the obstacles.  I wish we could have taken pictures or video but both of us were in the truck the whole time.

We got to spend a lot of time meeting with venders about options and new modifications that are coming out and what they are offering.  We are looking at getting a new truck to replace the Avalanche and we want to make sure we get the right truck to match up with the modifications.

We spoke with ARB about air-lockers, Rhino Rack about their bike racks among others.  Venders held product demonstrations around the venue to show off their stuff.  We also just walked around and checked our the cool trailers and campers.  We also walked through the stuff we’ll never get, but oogle over…..the Sportsmobiles, Earthroamers and Earthcruisers.  Pretty cool stuff.  Each evening different vendors would bring out kegs of beer and fire up their grills and give away food and drinks.  Even after the show officially closed, you could still wander around and enjoy some food and drinks.  Tepui Tents even had live music and beer one night.

On Sunday morning we got up early and took our Ham Radio test for our technician license.  We had both been studying for it for a few weeks.  Shelley a lot shorter time than I as she got into the class as a fill-in and I signed up months in advance.  So she started studying before she even knew if she was able to take it.  You’re allowed to miss 9 questions of the 35 asked and I missed 9……a pass……as we say at work, “71 and gun.”  Shelley, of course, aced the test.

After passing the exam, venders were serving various breakfasts for everyone.  We wandered around eating different foods and someone was even making Bloody Marys.  Sunday wasn’t as busy with classes for us.  We went to a presentation on the Mojave Road, which was our next stop on this trip, but mostly we just wandered around looking at stuff and meeting some people.  You could tell the Expo was starting to clear out by Sunday afternoon as many people headed home for Monday.

We enjoyed the catered, free dinner that night with our OEP and hung out with some other Overlanders we met on Sunday while taking the Ham radio test.  We got to talking while we were waiting for our score and learned he and his wife were from Oregon and own a Moby 1 trailer too.  We visited a bit and then met back up with them at dinner Sunday night and exchanged contact information.  Nice people.  Hopefully we can arrange a mutual trip in 2018 with them.

In fact, everyone we met while at the Expo were real nice.  Lots of stories.  We were so busy with classes, however, I think we may have missed out on some of the personable aspects of the Expo.  I think if we were to go back again I’d just do the camping package.  Unless we have our new truck, then I’d want to take it through those driving courses.

Sunday night we packed up our truck/trailer for an early departure Monday morning as we had a long drive.  Lots of people left Sunday and by Monday morning the camp site was pretty sparse.  We left early, full of water for the Mojave Road.

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