Travelling Light; ponderings over using a Subaru as an overland vehicle to explore the southwest Part I

Spring is always my time to unplug, get out, recreate, and just relax. After a long ski season travelling for work I am usually wiped out (pardon the pun) and needing an escape from the snow…. as much as I do in fact love it.

This season was a particularly busy one for me. Since last October I only had the opportunity to go home 2 times, 4 days over Christmas and 2 days in March. The rest of the time I was living out of a bag. My season winds down by the first week of April and I like to get down to southern Utah to get out of the snow and switch gears to bike season. Its my annual ritual.

Last year I spent two months travelling and living out of my Discovery I and had a blast despite a long, drawn out winter and cold, often times challenging weather I dealt with. My initial plan was to do something similar this spring, bring my truck and gear to Colorado at the beginning of April then wander without much of a set plan. I got rid of the Discovery and am back down to my Land Cruiser. Well, travelled, well used, well loved, I guess not that well(needs some TLC). My Cruiser has been my primary travel companion over the years. It has served me reliably for the past decade as my home on wheels travelling all over North America on long trips as well as my escape pod for local UP adventures.

As the winter rolled on, the specter of $5 a gallon fuel by early summer loomed over my plans. Combined with the fact that I still had a list two pages long of upkeep and upgrades I wanted to do the Cruiser before my spring trip and my work keeping me from being home more than even I anticipated, I had to alter my plans. Something I have always been intrigued by is trying to travel a bit more simply. Do I really need a heavily-laden, 6,000lb Land Cruiser, or equally full Land Rover with overkill amount of capability for all of the miles of travel? Somewhere there was an equilibrium point on the grand spectrum of capability/economy that I wanted to zero in on.

For me, this whole passion for travel stems around a natural curiosity and love of beautiful landscapes. I am passionate about the Lake Superior region of North America, this there is no doubt, but I love the other extreme as well, the dry desert landscapes of the American southwest. Its a wonderful contrast that really compliments each other, travelling from one to the other. Getting out and connecting with nature is key in one form or another too. Hiking, biking, paddling, camping, cooking outside, or just hanging in a hammock….. this is what its all about. In this regard I am drawn to spending time away from crowds of people and getting off the beaten path. Where am I going with this?? Well I guess I have been really reavaluating things this winter and trying to boil it all down to what it is a really love.

The arms race of building insanely capable and loaded overland rigs with every option from onboard hot water to Mr Fusion seems to get everyone, me included, all dreamy eyed sometimes. Given my circumstances I thought this would be a good time to mix it up and see how much overland “bling” I can live without. Distill the experience down to its primordial source and try to stretch a buck via fuel economy, and save time every day not trying to deploy some sort of lunar landing base with an overly complicated camp. I know this discussion has been beat like the proverbial dead horse so I won’t go there.

I decided to do and see just as much this spring, if not more but not with a big, bad 4wd, but with a Subaru. Well, a couple of them actually. My STI and my way too trusting girlfriend Alyssa’s Outback XT. Alyssa had to move back to her homeland of SLC back in January for work so we are using Salt Lake as a basecamp of sorts for the spring’s adventures. This thread will be an ongoing showcase of the trials, tribulations, joys, and sorrows of this little experiment. I know from the get-go that in the long run, yes, I want to perfect a setup that is economical but more suited for rugged backcountry travel. I figure though that this trial should bring some insights that will be invaluable along the road of finding the perfect adventure vehicle. It should also serve as a great excuse to get out of the vehicle and spend more time biking or hiking and less behind the wheel. As always, I will try to share some adventures via pictures and some words…. now, enough of the intro……..

Winter Park, CO was the launching point of my fun season again this year. US National Alpine Championships was done and I pointed the STI towards Fruita, CO for the first mountain bike stop of the spring.


Fruita is an amazing place to ride with a good, diverse system of trails. This shot is on 18 Road on the way to the system of trails along the book cliffs.


18 road has a grea BLM campground right in the midst of the mountain bike trails. The greatest part is that it is free. The STI can swallow a reasonable amount of gear between the trunk and back seat. With my camping kit, food, bike gear, and ski gear as well, I still had cargo room to spare. This goes without saying but driving the Subie versus the Cruiser is MUCH more entertaining and the miles clip by a bit faster. haha The badly washboarded road out to the camp is always a teeth rattler, I thought the STI’s ride was actually not to bad over the corrugations given its extremely stiff ride on pavement. Resisting the urge to impersonate Solberg is futile. 😉


One of the classic mtb trails, Zippity Do Dah


What it’s all about.

The weather was pretty brutal. Temps were in the low 30’s at night, snow flurries, relentless winds that made cooking difficult. I wasn’t in the mood for snow, in fact I was trying to escape it. I decided to cut the bike trip short and head it for SLC to regroup with Alyssa for the next trip. On the way back I snuck through Moab. Jeep Safari was in full swing and I wanted to say hi to some friends who were in town. Unfortunately I couldn’t connect and I didn’t feel like battling the crowds and peaced out.


Definately a check in the plus column for driving a car that is fun.

Up next, St George and Zion, to be continued…..

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Categories: Mountain Biking, Overlanding, Subaru | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Travelling Light; ponderings over using a Subaru as an overland vehicle to explore the southwest Part I

  1. Walt Gibson

    Very nice blog with great pics

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