Monthly Archives: June 2015

Moab to Grand Junction – May 22 & 23

  
When we settled into our campsite last night, it was already very dark. In the morning, the view was striking. 

   
  


We packed up and headed to Moab for breakfast. We ate at the Moab Diner, one of our regular stops when we come to Moab. They serve wonderful Banana Buckwheat Pancakes. They were fabulous as usual. 

 
We continued up Highway 191 to I-70. I read aloud from the Roadside Geology of Utah as we drove. It was uneventful.
I read from the Roadside Geology of Colorado once we crossed over the state line. The highway follows the Colorado River. It was really high. Colorado has been getting an incredible amount of rain this Spring. We saw a small flock of wild turkeys along the riverbank.
We made several stops once we reached Grand Junction. We went to Home Depot to obtain some materials to better repair the broken window. While we were inside the store, there was a hail storm. The noise was really tremendous inside a big flat roofed building like Home Depot. It was over by the time we wanted to leave the store.  

We also stopped at a grocery store and liquor store for supplies. We reached my mom’s house around 2:00.
After saying hi to my mom and getting set up, Jon and I went to work on the camper. He removed the window repairs and worked on getting the frame ready for a substitute window. 

  
I removed all of the cushions and things from just under the window. I vacuumed up the glass. I vacuumed the cushions really well. 

  
Mom worked in her garden and kept us company. 

  
Jon cut out Lexan to create window panes. 

   
 I held it in place while Jon taped it up. 

  
By the time he finished, it didn’t look like a replacement at all. 

  
We spent a couple of nights in my mom’s driveway. We went out to eat a couple of times. 

Jon and I went to a nice long walk through the downtown area one evening. It is a nice downtown area. 

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Grand Mesa & the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO – May 24

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We needed to be back in NC by June 1st, so we had to leave on the morning of May 24. We still wanted to do something more with my Mom, we all went up to the Grand Mesa National Forest to do a short hike.

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It was actively snowing as we started going up the incline to Grand Mesa.
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We planned to  meet at the Visitor Center.  The trail we planned on hiking was completely snowed over. So after talking to the Ranger at the Visitor Center we decided to have lunch at a nearby restaurant.

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We went up to the Alexander Lake Lodge. It was quite an interesting place.  We were seated at a nice sunny table. The food was quite wonderful. After an enjoyable time, it was time for us to head out.
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The ranger had suggested a scenic route for us to take from the area. We took CO 65 south to CO 92 east. Once we passed Maher, CO, we were on a very picturesque road. We stopped at a turn out in the Curecanti National Recreation Area for the Crystal Trail.
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It provides an overlook of the Crystal Lake in the the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The sign indicates that it is 2.5 miles, but it didn’t specify if it was one way or round trip. After spending much of the last several days being fairly inactive, I was ready for a hike.
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The weather was pretty iffy. It had been raining/snowing off and on all day. We both just went prepared no matter what the weather might do. The views were amazing. It was well worth doing.
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 Crystal Lake was created by damming the Crystal Creek.
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We had a great time hiking. As it turns out, the distance was about 5 miles.

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By the time we got back, we were tired and ready to spend a little more time in the Fuso enjoying the scenery.
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Cathedral Point – May 21

  We planned on spending the day and night here. We were going to head to Grand Junction on May 22 to stay with my mom for a couple of days.

We had a lazy and uneventful morning. I took quite a few more photos and worked on the blog a little. 

  

We did notice that there were some storm clouds on the horizon. 

   
You can see the La Sal Mountains in the background. 

We didn’t have cell phone coverage, but Jon was able to listen to the weather band on the ham radio. 

 

  
The weather report was scattered thunderstorms throughout the afternoon. Since we were planning to leave tomorrow, we were a little concerned that we might get stuck here until the road dried out.

So we packed everything up. The trail/road we took to get here was a loop, so Jon and I continued the road on foot to see if it would be any easier than our original route. We passed by several campsites with really nice views. 

   
  

The trail/road was definitely worse than the one we initially took. It was a lot narrower through the trees and the rocky ledges were steeper and would require a lot more time to get down them.

When we got back to camp, we finished packing things up and headed out. It was already mid-afternoon, so we were in a hurry to get out. Jon successful made it through the really tree-filled section with only a few more scratches. Most of the rocky ledge section was downhill, which will make it a little easier in some ways. At least gravity will be working for us. 
We got to one point where we were going down a ledge very close to a tree. As one of the tires dropped just a little the camper swayed and a very large broken tree branch went through one of the back windows. One thing about a very tall vehicle like ours, it doesn’t take much change in the relationship between the tires to cause the camper to sway. 
So we stopped and assessed the damage. We had broken the large window that is by the dining table/eating nook. It was a coated doublepane sliding glass window. Jon has always been good about making sure that all of the window coverings are down when we are moving. It really saved us a lot of time and energy this time since the window shade kept most of the glass from scattering all over the inside of the camper. 

  
One of the window panes had broken entirely. The other part only broke through one of the panes of glass leaving the inner pane intact. 
I worked inside sweeping away and vacuuming up most of the glass that was inside the camper. Jon worked on sweeping out glass and pulling off the parts that would just get in the way. It was a lot more difficult a job than you would expect due to the height of the truck/camper. Even though Jon is very tall, he couldn’t reach this window from the ground. He had to secure a strap to the roof and dangled from it to work. 
Jon used a couple of corrugated plastic signs and foil tape to cover the opening of the part that was completely broken through. They were very effective at covering the space and would protect against rain and wind. It was a temporary fix, but one that would get us on our way quickly.

   
 
So, Jon, very successfully, took the Fuso out rock crawling and the only damage we sustained was a broken window. No structural damage and no mechanical issues. I am still very impressed with Jon’s vehicle handling skills. We certainly have been places this trip that I never imagined that we would be able to take this vehicle. 

   
The storm clouds were still coming and they wouldn’t wait for us. We continued down the road. 

   
 We were concerned that since it was the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, it might be challenging to find a place to stay the night.

The drive out was uneventful, but it really is a good thing that we were getting out before things got wet and very muddy. 

   
 We saw evidence of areas that obviously became very muddy because of the very deep ruts in the road. This part of the road was much flatter than the route we took to get to Cathedral Point. That meant that there were parts of the road where the water just collected, making for a really nasty, muddy place. This section also gets a lot more traffic. 

The route is very picturesque, especially once we got down to the floor of the canyon. I did take a few photos during the drive. 

   
    

  
The sun was going down. 

  
The stretch closest to highway 211 was really, really awful irregular washboard. We had to slow way down to drive on it. 

  
We passed by a turn off for a camping area, but since we still hadn’t reached pavement yet, we didn’t want to stay there. That was especially true when we had to go over a stream crossing shortly after passing by it. We finally reached highway 211 and headed south. We passed by Newspaper Rock. We didn’t find any place to stay that wouldn’t require going back on dirt roads. 
We drove up Needles Overlook Rd to the Windwhistle campground, but it was full. So we took US Hwy 191 north towards Moab. Unfortunately for us, most of the public land in this area only allows camping in designated campsites. To reach any dispersed campsites, we would have to drive down dirt roads to get to them, which would defeat the point of our day’s journey. We could see it snowing on the top of the La Sal Mountains and it was certainly possible that we would see rain or snow tonight.
We eventually came to Ken’s Lake Campground. The campgrounds were full, but we were allowed to park in a gravel lot across from the campground for a fee. It was already almost completely dark at this point so we were grateful for the option to stay there.  

 

It was still a beautiful place to be. 

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Cathedral Point – May 20

  
We traveled the short distance to the Elk Mountain Rd. There was a sign at the start that said that the road was impassible when wet. However, the road was dry and the skies were clear. The road looked like a fairly well travelled Forest Service Road. So we went ahead. There were some very significant ruts from people driving on it when it was very muddy.  It is definitely not a road we wanted to be on when it was wet. It was easy to imagine how slick it would become.

The road was in fairly good condition. We passed by a number of little campsites in the beginning. Once we turned off Elk Mountain Rd, we saw much less traffic. The road followed the top of the mountain ridge for quite a while. We had to turn at one spot that was still somewhat muddy, but we had enough distance for Jon to plan his approach. We didn’t have any problems. We drove through one area that was quite sandy rather than muddy. 

  
Near the turn off for the Dark Canyon Wilderness, we found a small hound dog trotting along on his own. He did have a GPS tracking collar with antenna and seemed to be in good condition. We stopped, but he didn’t want to come over and continued on down a different road. 
We passed by a couple of cars going the other direction. They said that the road was in good shape from the direction they had come and we confirmed the same. The vegetation and ground changed significantly during our drive. It was a very interesting drive from that perspective even if we weren’t planning to camp. 
We eventually reached the turn off for Cathedral Point. From the map I had, it looked like there was only a trail to the point, but it was most certainly a road. The road was fine at first. We started to travel up some short rock ledges and some of the trees were pretty close. The rock ledges became quite a bit more significant. Jon and I both got out of the truck to scout them out. I still don’t have a good idea about what the truck can and can’t do when it comes to climbing up these small ridges. Jon would suggest a route for us to follow when having to climb one of these rock ledges. I would guide the vehicle up along the designated path. 

Jon has done a lot of this kind of thing in Land Rovers, but this was something entirely different. 

Jon’s usual comment about our vehicle is that it is a rough road vehicle, not really an off road vehicle. It really isn’t designed to rock crawl and doesn’t do well in deep sand or mud. Jon had already taken it down some roads with deep sand this trip. Now it was going rock crawling. Going up all of these ledges took quite a while, but Jon was able to get the Fuso up them. 

I took a few photos of the road at a point where we were going up and down some rock ledges. It really doesn’t show how significant the climbs were or how close some of the trees were. 

  
 
 
Once we got to the top of the butte, the road curved around to the right near the edge. The road was fairly narrow and the trees at our height were especially tight. It wound up being another bit that was slow going. Jon had to weave through the trees. We did hear a few scratches made along the sides of the camper. 
We passed by a couple of campsites. Several were on the inside part of the road. Some of the ones near the cliff edge looked promising. We finally picked a really nice spot that had a great view of Canyonlands National Park. 

   

  

  
 
 Jon and I were both ready to relax. It had been a long day.

  
Cathedral Point is part of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area. It looks down onto some very picturesque parts of Canyonlands. The Needles section was on the left side of the point. We were a little dismayed that it was somewhat hazy in the distance.   
   
We were buzzed by swallows as they went after insects by the side of the cliffs. 

 
We had a great dinner. We enjoyed the sunset and had an early night. 

  

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Natural Bridges – May 20, Part 1

  
Since we had only traveled on the Valley of the Gods Road for a short distance before reaching the campsite, we wanted to see the rest of it. We followed the Valley of the Gods Road to the western end. It was great seeing the rest of the route. It looked like we had a really great campsite because we passed by a lot of people camped just off of the road. There was quite a bit of traffic on the road. We passed a guy running a grader along the road. We assumed that the road is being prepared for the Memorial Day start of the summer season.

We drove north on highway 261 so that we could travel up the Moki Dugway. It is a really twisty route to climb up onto Cedar Mesa. 

We were headed north towards Natural Bridges National Monument. We were planning to camp out at Cathedral Point in Canyon Rims Recreation Site and it was on the way.

  
There were a lot more people around at Natural Bridges. We stopped at the Visitor Center to find out a little more. The Park Ranger manning the counter was indifferent if not downright rude. She looked at Jon’s Access pass, handed us a guide and was ready to have us leave. I asked her about the road conditions where we were planning to go. She told us that the road was completely impassible due to all the rain during the last three weeks. Jon and I both left with thoughts of other routes and other places to go. 

  
Since we hadn’t been to Natural Bridges before, we decided to make the round and visit the three bridges. I read the Roadside Geology Guide aloud on our way there. 
The first one is Sipapu Bridge   

  

Sipapu Bridge is a middle aged bridge. The stone bridge is moderately thick. 

The second one is Kachina. The parking was already pretty tight and it wasn’t even Memorial Day yet. I certainly wouldn’t want to come here in the summer. There is a hike down to the bridge, but we didn’t want to take the time.    

  

Kachina Bridge is a relatively young bridge. The stone is much thicker than Sipapu. 

 

I thought this bit of the canyon was interesting. It is really undercut. 

The last one is Owachomo. The parking wasn’t quite so bad here. There was also a popular hike from here, but we were ready to move on. 

   

Owachomo Bridge is the oldest of the three bridges. You can see how thin the stone is.   
By this time we had decided that the Ranger didn’t give us very helpful information about the roads. She had no idea what we were driving, Jon’s experience or what kind of recovery gear we were carrying. We decided to see what the road was like for ourselves. 

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Valley of the Gods – May 19

  

We just took it easy the next day. We didn’t have any plans to go anywhere else or to do anything specific. After the hectic days at Overland Expo, it was nice to have some down time. 
Kent was feeling restless, so he went out for a bike ride. The rest of us just hung out for a while. 

  
Jon was able to solve a cork stuck at the bottom of a container by pulling out his tool kit. 

  
In the afternoon, a few people took naps. 

  
A few people went out on a walk with Arly. I tried to work on blog posts. I didn’t get very far. The landscape was quite beautiful to watch. I took a few more pictures. 

   
  

   

There were dark clouds moving up from the south. 

Late in the afternoon, the dark clouds got quite a bit closer. They were carrying rain. Jon was pretty sure that it was really going to blow, so we went inside. Very soon after we finished, the wind came blowing through. It was incrediblely strong. Jon realized that we had left the garage door open on the opposite side from where the wind was blowing. I offered to run out and close it. When I opened the door, the wind caught it. I tried to shut the door, but the wind was much too strong. Fortunately, Jon was able to close it. The rain went through as quickly as it had arrived. 

   
 

  
The sun came back out giving us a wonderful double rainbow. 

   
 Everything dried out before very long.   

All the rain has certainly made the desert bloom.  It is much greener than I’ve ever seen it before. 

  

  
Marc prepared another fabulous dinner on the wok. We all really enjoyed it.

  
Kent left early in the morning. Quite a bit later, I fixed scrambled eggs for those people who were interested. After that, we all split up to go our different ways.

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Valley of the Gods – May 18

  Even though we didn’t have much cell phone reception, Jon was able to communicate with Marc Wassmann through the DeLorme inReach. The road into Valley of the Gods is dirt and relatively unimproved. As we pulled into the entrance to the Eastern end of the road, a Ford Mustang was driving out.  The driver was being very cautious, but it seemed like he didn’t have any problems with the road. 

   

We passed by a couple of the buttes and then pulled onto a side road to reach the group camping spot. The view from the campsite was pretty spectacular. There were four vehicles. Two were XP Campers (Marc’s and Kent’s). 

   
 

We were in the Mitsubishi Fuso. The other was the Turtle Expedition Vehicle. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a clear photo of Gary & Monika Wescott’s vehicle.  It is right behind ours. 

   

We spent some time hanging and and meeting everyone.

 

 

I enjoyed playing with Arly, Marc’s 10 month old Leonberger puppy. It was so nice having a big dog to play with. 

   
 

The landscape was really amazing, especially considering how the light changed on the rocks.   

 

Marc used to be a professional chef, so he prepared dinner outside using a propane “campfire” and Gary & Monika’s Mexican wok.    

 

He created a wonderful dinner of chicken, steak, Brussels sprouts and salmon.   

We were all hungry, so the food was gone in short order. 

The sunset was incredible. 
We all hung out for a while. It was cold, but at least it wasn’t raining. We sat around the “campfire” to keep warm. It had been a great day.

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On Our Way to the Valley of the Gods – May 18

  
I’ve broken up this trip into parts since there are lots of photos while we were at Valley of the Gods.

We left the Overland Expo on Monday. It was really nice being able to leave on Monday rather than trying to get out on Sunday. We had plans to meet with Marc Wassmann of XP Camper and a few other people at Valley of the Gods for the next couple of days. We needed to make a few stops before heading up. We were in great need of a laundry and grocery. So we stopped for both. 

On our way up, we stopped to have lunch at the Wupatki National Monument near the Lomaki Pueblo. Since we were in a hurry to get back on the road, we didn’t follow the trail, but it was a very pleasant place to stop that had some very nice views. Plus there were the ruins of the old Pueblo. 

  

  
  

After that, we headed up to Valley of the Gods. We made a short stop in Kayenta AZ for a little wifi since we knew it might be a while before we had access to it again. 

The drive up Hwy 163 into Utah is really striking, especially with the storm clouds as background. 

  

We always enjoy seeing Monument Valley. It was particularly interesting this year since I read from the new version of the Roadside Geology of Utah book. 

The down side of taking that highway is that there are a lot of erratic drivers. Cars will just stop in the middle of the road to take photos and people will often stand in the road to get photos. I took a few photos on the fly, but we visited Monument Valley last year and were in a hurry to get to the Valley of the Gods. 

  

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Overland Expo West 2015 – Mud Photos

  

Photos from Saturday and Sunday

It had mostly stopped raining by Saturday afternoon, but the mud remained. It had started to dry out a little on Sunday, but there was so much rain it didn’t make much of a difference.

The Vendor/Expo Area

   
         

  
  

  
 
The General Camping Area

A significant number of people had left by Saturday night.

   
     

  


By Our Camper

Since there was not nearly as much traffic by where we were as compared to the general camping area, it wasn’t nearly as bad.

   
 

 

Nearby at an entrance

       

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Overland Expo West 2015 – Sunday

May 17

    

Jon went to the Instructor’s Meeting this morning. Once he got back, we went out to the Walkabout Breakfast. Several of the Exhibitors provide food and beverages in the morning. It may have stopped raining, but it was going to take quite a bit longer for things to dry out. 

   
 We walked around for a long time talking with vendors.

 

 We headed back to the camper after lunch to tidy up and lock things down for our class at 3:00. 

Jon and I stopped to talk with Oksana from Perky Mog. Jon was familiar with Perky Mog from the Internet, but I had only met them briefly earlier this weekend. She was gracious enough to show us the inside of their vehicle. It is certainly something above and beyond when it comes to an overland vehicle. Luisa Bell came over, too. She and I hung out with Oksana for a while, but I had to get back to our vehicle.

 
We were to present our vehicle at 3:00 at the Demo area for the class “My Perfect Overland Vehicle (Large): Mitsubishi Fuso Custom Rig”. We closed everything up to get it ready to move. It may have dried out quite a lot, but it was still really wet and muddy by the Demo area. Jon drove it over while I had to make a stop first and then met him over there. 

As expected, the rear wheel were bogged down in mud. Jon did a great job of not getting the front wheels bogged down too. We received an offer of assistance to pull the Fuso out of the mud, but it only made sense for us to wait until we finished the class first. It wasn’t like there was there was any dry, firm ground for us to park instead. 

  
Jon talked about the vehicle’s basic design. He discussed frame construction briefly and then gave much more specific information about the Fuso’s set up. 

  
 

The class had a good attendance especially considering how many people had already left. Most people leave by at least midday on Sunday in a normal year. With the rain and such, even more people had left than usual. I had actually been quite surprised to see more than a couple people show up.

  

We did a tour around the vehicle and both of us answered questions. Several of the participants had been at one of Jon’s Roundtables on Saturday. 

  
The class went well and the participants stayed until we had to end the class. 

There was fortunately a Jeep willing to help give us a tug when the class was over. We moved the vehicle back to our original camping spot. We did what we needed to do before going to the BBQ that afternoon. 

We stopped by to talk with Bill Burke. He had arrived this afternoon for an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers’ Association activity during the next couple of days.

 

We went to the BBQ last year and really had a good time. I got in line and Jon went to get us a drink. Rob and Nina from Whiteacorn were in front of us, so we talked with them during the wait. Fred and Denise Cook had already gone through the line and had a table. Fred organized a few more tables to be added on providing enough seating for all of us. It was a nice dinner. 

I stopped to talk with Luisa and her family. I was going to meet Jon back at the Fuso. When I got back to our camping spot, the vehicle was gone. Fortunately, someone had seen the direction that it had gone. So I tracked it down. Jon had parked next to Rick and Kathy Howe’s RV which is big enough to offer seating for more than a couple of people. So we sat around and talked with everyone for a while.

It was a late night. We had a very long day and were ready for bed. 

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