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… 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.



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).


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.


Some of the original Kelso buildings surrounding the area.


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.


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.


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.


The untouched summit ridge.


Looking back down the summit ridge.


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.



me on kelso dune


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.




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.






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.





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.



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.




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.

Our Trip to Fruita, Colorado

Shelley and I made a short weekend stop in Fruita, Colorado a few weekends ago for some mountain biking.

We stayed at James M Robb – Colorado River State Park for three nights and four days.  The below photo was our camp spot.  We wanted to stay in North Fruita as there are tons of BLM spots up there, but with us coming into town on Friday night with a big mountain biking event that weekend, we didn’t think we’d find any spots.  So we just made reservations early for a spot.  This was a pretty nice camp ground.  On Monday, after we finished mountain biking up there, we drove the area around North Fruita marking all the camps spots for future trips back to this area.

Ripley seems to always find the best seat in the house.

We left Boise on Friday and made the drive in one day… long day.  11-1/2 hours with fuel and food stops.  We didn’t want to waste a day of vacation traveling by taking two days to drive there, so one long day was better.

The mountain biking area we really wanted to try out was in North Fruita, but a mountain biking event was taking place this same weekend.  So our first two days, Saturday and Sunday, was spent in the Kokopelli trail area and the Rabbit Valley trail area.  Both are south and southwest from Fruita.

Monday, after the mountain biking event was over in North Fruita, we drove up there and spent the day.

Here’s a map of the area so you can get an idea of where we were riding.

The riding was great on all the days.  It was so much harder and technical then what we typically ride on around Boise.  Plus, there are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from too.

This was our Kokopelli area ride.

The scenery around this ride was pretty spectacular.  As you can see from the map, a lot of the ride was right along the Colorado River.  We could see a lot of rafters cruising the Colorado too.

As I mentioned, there were places where we couldn’t ride and had to get off and walk the bikes.  Steep drop offs or just real technical climbs.  In this photo of Shelley, you can see her getting ready to climb down.  With her in the photo, you can see that’s about a 10′ drop.  There was one spot where the warning was regarding a 100 yard boulder field that dropped 60 feet or so and said that all the but the most technical riders should even try it.  We watched a couple guys from Germany try it, but only one of them even came within half way to making it.  Everyone was climbing up or down it.

This was our Rabbit Valley area ride.

Rabbit Valley was pretty nice, but not quite as spectacular as riding along the Colorado River.  This area was more wide open with some spots where you rode along cliff faces, but mostly it was pretty mild compared to the day before.

This was our North Fruita area ride.

Our rides in North Fruita were mostly long climbs to spectacular downhills.  On the map above, those long straight lines on the right hand side were 1-way trails where you climbed up one and then ripped it down hill on another.  Then we moved over to the west (left side of the map) and did a big loop.  That loop was pretty nice at the beginning, but around mile marker 13 on the map, it got pretty difficult with lots of climbing and areas where we had to walk our bikes.  Then, the down hill came along and it was miles of greatness back to the trail head.

Here you can see Shelley just beyond that first clump of trees along the trail working her way to those switch backs on the second ridge in the background.  That’s what we had to walk.

Here we are, finally at the top looking back down what we just rode/walked up.

Now that we are at the top, I’m getting ready to take in the miles of downhill ahead of us back to the trailhead.

On Sunday evening, my sister Laurene and her husband Roger both came to visit for the afternoon and join us for dinner.  They live just a few hours away and got some of their own biking in on Sunday before joining us.

It was great to see them again and catch up over beer and dinner.

My Big 5-Oh

Trying to get back into writing on my blog. I have to admit that posting little snippets to Facebook is much easier and it has taken me away from the blog for some time.  So I thought I’d come back with a recap to my 50th Birthday week.

It’s kind of fitting, in a way, as Shelley and I spent three days and four nights on Mt Rainier this past week for our 2nd and 3rd summit, respectively.  We are now a multi-summit of Mt Rainier family.  Not too shabby.


The Summit of Mt Rainier

Rainier wasn’t a blue bird trip, but it was pretty close.

The forecast was calling for rain and storms on our approach days, but the storm waited us out for about 12 hours so we got above it on our way to Camp Schurman.  We did get some precipitation but we were well above the 7,500 ft freezing level by that time and just got some light dusting of snow.


Camp Schurman

The wind, however, was a bit more of an issue.

The wind started on day two as we set our tents at Camp Schurman and didn’t stop till the following late morning as we made our way up the last snow field to the summit.  The wind also made us start a bit later than we would have liked.

We woke at about 4:00 am and started climbing around 5:30 am.  It was easier to stay warm during our breaks with the sun up than it would have been had we left in the dark at 1:00 am.  It was pretty cold, but nothing like we’ve experienced in other places.


10,500 feet. An hour out of Camp Schurman.

We made it up and back in about 10 hours.

Although the summit wasn’t right on my birthday, it was still pretty cool to be back in the mountains again.


Around 13,500 feet on Mt Rainier.


Moving up to Camp Schruman from our camp 1 on day 2.

My sister, Sylvia, was putting us up in Seattle for this trip and she and her husband, Bruce, picked us up when we got back.

Seattle may be beautiful and all (during the summer) and it has great food and places to see, but it also has traffic.  Really, really……….really bad traffic.  Sylvia and Bruce live about 6-1/2 miles from Alpine Ascent’s office and that round trip too 1:34 minutes.  Yep, 13-mile round trip in 1 hour and 34 minutes.  I even took a photo of Bruce’s car’s trip computer to prove it.  Man alive.

We planned this Rainier trip last fall/winter and then in January or so we learned that Ken Griffey Jr was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and the weekend we came down off the mountain was going to be Ken Griffey Jr Weekend at SafeCo Field.  So we bought tickets for two of those games, Friday and Saturday, to watch all those festivities.


The Hall of Fame Kid.

Both games were great.  Both games were Mariner come-from-behind wins in the late innings.  Saturday was like a playoff game with a sold out crowd and lots of pomp and circumstance with the retirement of Griffey’s number and all.

What a lot of fun.

Saturday, Sylvia organized a birthday brunch for me with those family members living in Seattle.  My other, wiser, sister Barbara and my brother Bob and their family all came by for the brunch.  Sylvia really knows how to put on a spread and celebration.


Thanks, Sylvia for doing all that.  It was really great.

I got some good cigars (one of which I am smoking now as I write this post) and some other cool stuff.  Barbara got me a Roman numeral “L” shirt that she said stands for “50” but I have other ideas about her true intention.


Birthday loot.

barbara and the %22L%22 shirt

Shelley and I drove back to Boise on Sunday and on Monday I had a low key birthday get together here in town.

We met some family and friends at Payette Brewery, had some beers and caught up with some people I hadn’t seen in some time.  Then Shelley took me to a nice dinner and chocolate fondue dessert.

Pretty nice day over all.  And a pretty awesome week.

shelley and I at dessert

Shelley and I at dessert

I stood on top of Rainier for the 3rd time, saw two great ball games, had a great family brunch and hung out with friends and my beautiful wife.

I’m a pretty lucky 5-0.

Some shout outs now.

Thanks to my sister Carol and my niece Sierra for house sitting and baby sitting our dogs while we were gone.  Without them doing that, climbing Rainier and having such a great week would never have been possible.  Thank you two so much.

Thanks to Sylvia and Bruce for putting us up in their house and for the great hospitality….like always.

Thanks to everyone for coming by for brunch, Barbara/Jim, Monica/Joe and Bob/Jennifer.  The gifts and vices I received were very thoughtful.

Thanks to everyone who came by for a beer at Payette and the cards and gifts, Andy, Sue/Hawk, Travis, Ty, Dean, Noah/Amy and Bev/Greg.

And of course to my lovely, beautiful wife Shelley.  After 9-ish years of climbing, she still enjoys going up mountains with me and sharing in those hardships.  She’s so strong, smart, fit and thoughtful.  It was her idea to climb Rainier the week of my 50th birthday and it was her planning that brought everyone together in Boise.  It was a great week and I’m glad I shared it with you.

A Lack of Customer Service at The Market Arms

I’ve gotten use to a certain lack in customer service over the last few years, but what happened to us on Sunday, September 27 at The Market Arms in Ballard, Seattle tops all expectations of poor customer service.

As most who read this blog know, we live in Boise. We lived in Seattle for a number of years and spend 3 – 6 weeks of time coming back to visit every year. In July of 2010 we found a new soccer pub in Ballard called The Market Arms. Great soccer atmosphere for games. We’ve watched a number of out of town Sounders games there, UEFA games and Championship games. Their food has always been good and the wait staff have always been nice and efficient.

But on Sunday, we got to meet the owner, John Bayliss.

In order to explain things in context, I need to set the stage a bit.

This Sunday there were two sporting events taking place, nearly simultaneously. The SoundersFC were playing a key game against Kansas City on the road at 2:00 pm and the Seahawks were playing at home against Chicago at 1:25 pm.

Shelley had more interest in the Sounders game and I just wanted to be able to keep track of both. In the big scheme of things, the Sounders game was more important in the playoff run, so I had a bit more interest there as well.

So we needed a place that would have both games on. Having been going to The Market Arms since 2010, we knew they would find a way to have the Sounders. So we left my sister’s house early to go there first and check it out.

When we arrived, we found they had their five inside televisions labeled with which game would be on which TV. They split their restaurant into half with 2 TVs showing the Sounders and 3 TVs showing the Seahawks. Having got there a little before noon, we had our choice of tables and we picked a good one that had perfect views of two TVs. One was labeled “Sounders” and the other one was currently playing the Dallas/Atlanta game and was labeled “Seahawks.” The two TVs labeled “Sounders” were turned off. We found out later there was a WNBA Championship game taking place on ESPN (the channel showing the Sounders game).

So we thought we had the perfect set up. We arrived early enough to get a good seat to watch both games. We ordered a couple beers and an appetizer of potato skins and hunkered down till kickoff.

Just before the Seahawks kickoff we ordered another round of drinks and lunch.

Things got silly around 2:00.

The restaurant started filling up with Seahawk fans around 1:00, with many of them overflowing into the Sounders half of the restaurant. The two TVs over there were still off. Many of these people were asking about the TV situation and our waitress was telling them that the TVs tagged with “Sounders” would be showing that game at 2:00. When the Seahawk game started, on of the TVs labeled “Sounders” (the one we were going to watch) was changed to the Seahawk game. The other Sounders TV was still off. Needless to say, there was no where to sit over by the other “Sounders” TV now as that area of the restaurant was full of Sounders fans. Our perfect seat was in jeopardy. We asked our waitress if the game would be switched and we were told if it said “Sounders,” it would show the Sounders.

The Sounders kickoff was delayed 15-ish minutes to accommodate the end of the WNBA game. When the only indoor Sounders TV was turned on, the one at the other end of the restaurant away from us, the WNBA game was just wrapping up. The Sounders then kicked off and the TV closest to us that was supposed to show the Sounders, still had the Seahawks game on.

So, we did what anyone in our position would do. We asked our waitress if the TV could be switched to the Sounders. I watched her walk over to the owner, John, who mouthed “no” to her. Their conversation went on for a few moments and she came back to us and told us she was told there were technical reasons the channel couldn’t be switched. Something about switching this TV would affect the other three TVs showing the Seahawks game. I suspected this was BS, but I couldn’t say anything about it.

A few moments later the waitress brought the owner over to explain what was going on, but he went to the wrong table. There was a group of Sounders fans sitting next to us and he went up to them and said, “You want to watch the Sounders? There’s a table on the patio. You can go out back.” They didn’t move. I don’t even recall them saying anything to him.

Our waitress was standing behind him and told him he was at the wrong table and he came over to us and, leaning on the table in front of me, asked us “You want to watch the game?” I’ve been around long enough to know this was a “gotcha” question that had no correct answer. If I said yes, he would tell me to go out to the patio, if I said, no, the conversation would be over.

So I thought I’d try to explain our situation. How we got here at noon, picked out seat specifically for it’s location to both TVs, etc. When I tried to talk, he interrupted me with, “Do you want to watch the game?” I tried to talk again and he interrupted me a second time, “Do you want to watch the game?” I tried to explain things again, and he interrupted me a third time, “Do you want to watch the game?” This time, exasperated, I said, “Dude, you gonna let me talk and finish a sentence or you just gonna keep interrupting me?” He said, “There’s a table on the patio out back if you want to watch the game.” He then waved his hand at my face, giving me the “brush off,” and turned his back and started walking off.

So, I called him a jerk.

Now, did I say “fucking jerk”? Or “you’re a jerk”? Or “Way to be a jerk”? Honestly, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. His arrogant attitude, condescending behavior….his lack of concern for a customer’s complaint and his indifference made him a jerk. He was a jerk.

He heard me and turned back around and got right in my space. Up close and personal. Stuck his finger in my face and started yelling at me for calling him a jerk. He told me how he wasn’t gonna stand for being called names and how I wouldn’t answer his question. I tried to explain again that he wouldn’t let me talk or finish a sentence, and he interrupted me again, over and over. I couldn’t even get four words out. Having to talk over him I said, “You’re doing it again. You keep interrupting me and won’t let me speak.”

His reply? He sticks his middle finger in my face and says, “Fuck off!”

At this point, the only negative thing I said to him was calling him a jerk. I never swore at him, never disparaged his mother, family or staff. I was just trying to explain our position and he didn’t care and refused to listen to me. When I called him on it, he tells me to “Fuck off.”

Yeah, real professional. Real good customer service.

Now he storms away. Evidently, the Seahawk game is staying on the TV we, and those Sounders fans around us, thought was going to show the Sounders.

Our waitress came back over and apologized. She said she thought the Sounders would be on that TV, etc. She was very nice. Very embarrassed. When she left, the Sounders game was now on the TV that the Seahawks game was on. The TV that was labeled “Sounders.”

But wait a second….didn’t the owner tell our waitress there were technical reasons it couldn’t be switched? Yeah, he did.

So now he’s a liar too. He lies to his own staff, so they can pass the lie on to his customers.

What a jerk. What a fucking jerk.

After our waitress left, another woman approached and we had a conversation with her. She tried to explain that, “He’s really not a jerk.” Okay, maybe he’s not. Maybe he is Mother Theresa during the other 99.99999% of his life. I get it. People have bad days. But right then, right at that moment when he’s interrupting me, arrogant, condescending and waving me off like a fly…..he was a jerk. This woman really did try to explain things, but there really isn’t much she could say. I felt she was in a very difficult position and I was polite with her.

At one point the John Bayliss came back over, interjected himself into our conversation and said something about being at work since 5:00 am, working hard and, “I’m not going to be called names!” Then he looked at me and told me to, “Fuck off!” again before walking away. Oh, yeah, none of us (including his employee) could get a word in edgewise. She was even trying to shoo him away and he would have none of it.

I finished my conversation with this second woman and things were over.

We were asked if we needed anything as the second half of both games were still left to play, but we were done. I had no intention of ordering another beer or any more food. We couldn’t really leave as we had no where we could get to in order to watch either of the games. Being from out of town, we couldn’t go home and my sister was watching the Seahawks at their house.

So we stayed and drank water till the Sounders were over.

In the end, our waitress gave us our bill and she took two beers off our tab, leaving us with a $41 bill, before her tip. Yes, I did tip her. She was great. Plus, I assume the owner doesn’t get any of the tip money.
So, after being lied to by the owner, being treated like garbage by the owner, being waved off like a fly by the owner and being told to “Fuck off” by the owner, they took two beers off my tab.

That was pretty disappointing, too.

Needless to say, we are never going back to that place.

The Breithorn Traverse

For our final climb of the trip, Jon chose to take us over to Zermatt and climb the Breithorn.  This mountain is considered the easiest of the 4,000 meter peaks in Zermatt due to its location near the top of the cable car.  However, we would be taking a more challenging route to the summit and one that would expose us, again, to those techniques needed to climb the Eiger.  Mike would join us for this climb.

Jon drove us the 2 ½ hours from Chamonix to Zermatt and once in Zermatt we took the ski lift and cable car up to the top of the ridge.  We then trekked across the glacier to the Rifugio Guide Di Ayas hut on the Italian side of the mountain range at 11,220 feet.  Here we are just arriving, you can see the weather was a bit foggy.  The next photo of the hut was taken the morning we left.



This hut is Jon’s favorite.  All the huts we stayed at had their own nice features, but this one really felt like you were in a ski lodge in “Anyplace USA.”  The guardians were really nice, like always, and the food was very good, like always.

The hut had a very nice gear room and dining room.




It had flush toilets and running water, however the water was not drinkable.  That was the only downside.  The dorms consisted of two types.  An open dorm sleeping about 20 climbs or so (which is where we slept) and then eight (I believe) 4-bunk private rooms.  There was a second floor to the hut but it was closed off and not being used so I didn’t walk up there and see what it was like.


We left Chamonix around 8:30 am and arrived at the hut around 4:00 pm.  We hung out in the dining room, as it was a bit blustery outside with fresh snow falling and wind.  This weather was scheduled to end over night.  We sat in the dining room with Jon and Mike and talked about independent climbing.  They discussed with us route finding and things to look for while climbing on a glacier to help avoid hazards.  We hung out for a few hours then Shelley and I went upstairs and laid down for some rest before dinner at 7:00 pm.

We were asleep by 9:00 pm with an early start the next morning at 5:45 am and breakfast at 6:00 am.  I have to say that the breakfasts were the only disappointing meals I had on this trip.  I could have really used some eggs and bacon or pancakes.  But, when in Europe, you get the classic European breakfasts of breads and jams.  By 7:00 am we were roped up and on our way.  The weather was perfect.  Hardly any wind and clear.  We could see Gran Paradiso to our south and we were surrounded by other peaks as we hiked to the start of our climb.

The Di Ayas hut is about 2 hours east of the Breithorn with a very slight up hill climb.  We made this in one move and it wasn’t too difficult.  It was nice to take a good break near the base of where our traverse was going to start.  This starting point was the steepest snowy terrain we climbed on our trip.  This was well over a 40 degree slope to get to the base of the rocks.  Unlike our traverse from the previous day, we wore crampons for this rock traverse due to the amount of snow on the rocks.

The weather that was hitting Grindelwald and dumping snow over there was also impacting the Zermatt area.  While on the glacier moving to the Breithorn, we were walking through 6” – 8” of fresh snow.  Most of the trail was well worn but in places it was quite deep.  This area wasn’t that busy with climbers and we were the first team to head for the Breithorn traverse so we had to break trail once we left the main trail between the cable car and the hut.  You could see that a good snow fall had occurred here in the last few days before we arrived.  It was easy to see why the Eiger trip was washed out for us.  I wouldn’t have wanted to climb there with 10” – 13” of fresh snow.


Once at the eastern end of the Breithorn massif, we started up on the rocks.  Just like the traverse from the day before, this exposed us to a technical rock climb and skills we need more exposure to.  There was no rappelling done during this traverse, however, there were spots that were much more exposed then the previous day.  There were also parts that were quite a bit more difficult than the previous day as well.  Here are some photos of this rock traverse.

IMGP4519 shelley

Note the climbers ahead of us up on top of this portion.  This photo gives you some sense of scale.  Also in this photo is the Matterhorn being buffeted by high winds.  It was only visible for a few moments at a time throughout the day.

IMGP4525 matterhorn

Here is Shelley down climbing a short section to a snowy, knife edge ridge between peaks.  I like this one and the one below it as they both show just how steep and exposed the sides of this ridge could be.

IMGP4531 shelley downclimbing

This next photo was taken higher up and looking down on the knife edge you see in the photo above as Jon and Shelley came across it.


I enjoyed this rock climb better than the previous day because of the views and exposure.  We would get up on top of one of the tops of the ridge, with 1,000 – 2,000 foot cliffs on both sides, and you could look around the Zermatt valley at a dozen pyramid shaped 4,000 meter peaks.  It was just incredible.  Zermatt was under a bed of clouds, however, but we were so high, the peaks stuck up through the clouds all around us.


After a few hours of rock climbing, we were back on the snowy ridge and on our way up to the summit of the Breithorn.  After this rock climbing, the summit ridge was anti-climatic.  Shortly after 1:00 pm we stood on top of our third summit for this vacation.

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