Travelling Light Part VI; Extraterrestrials, Expo, and Excellent Times on the North Rim

With the spring winding down and summer walking up the front steps to the door, a long planned trip was finally about to take way. Alyssa and I had 1 week to head down from Salt Lake City to the Overland Expo near Flagstaff, AZ. The Expo is an international gathering of travellers and overland enthusiasts who come to check out the new gear, vehicles, sit in on courses, and just mingle with some inspirational folks. Alyssa would be teaching a couple of yoga for overlanders courses as well as morning yoga while I was participating in a round table discussion on North America travel and spending the rest of time covering the event for UP Overland and touching base with folks.

As has been the theme all spring we would be doing the trip in a Subaru and we were planning on spending the days prior to and after Expo exploring some of the most amazing spots in all of the southwest. The ongoing experiment of overlanding in a Subaru has been a great experience and we would really be pushing the capabilities of the Outback XT to the limits on this trip.

Headed south. We had some mileage to cover the first day as we drove down through Moab and continued down Valley of the Gods near the Utah/Arizona border.

We took a quick detour up Comb Wash Road to snap a few pictures with the shadows growing long.

By the time we rolled into Valley of the Gods it was dusk. We were headed towards a spot I liked to camp on previous visits but we found a nicely built FJ Cruiser with AT trailer setup there. We didn’t want to intrude but figured they were likely headed to Expo as well. As it turns out, we were correct, it was a couple from Colorado, Lou and Nancy and they were great folks that we ran into alot at the Expo. Trying to preserve a sense of privacy we continued down the two track and found a nice spot with a view that encompassed 360 degrees. It was a calm night and we made our way to sleep pretty quickly.

Though I missed the sunrise by a few minutes, I wiped the sense of disgust with myself away quickly since I am trying to embrace enjoying the experience more fully and if that means sleeping in when I feel like it versus getting up before day break in an effort to get some pictures….. so be it! Its about balance right? As Alyssa points out to me ever so often, my photo taking desires seem to go against the idea of being present and savoring the moment.

Our home on wheels.

Back on the road touring through the rest of the Valley of the Gods road. It makes a nice detour off of the pavement and is a nice, graded gravel road that any car can drive. Its a magical kind of place that holds you in awe.

After completing the Valley of the Gods Road we turned right onto a short section of pavement that brings you up Moki Dugway, a dirt section of road that is cut into the cliffs and climbs to the top of Cedar Mesa. This is the view from the top with Valley of the Gods road visible to the left.

From the top of Moki Dugway you can head west on a dirt road that takes you out to Muley Point which overlooks Goosenecks State Park. A spectacular winding canyone created by the San Juan River on its way to Lake Powell.

Visible in the background in the infamous Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation. Amazing landscape.

Big views to ponder.

We returned back to pavement and headed down to Mexican Hat for a refuel before driving across Monument Valley. We pulled off to snap some pictures of the iconic scenery when this diesel Toyota Hilux with British plates pulled up. A Hilux is a Tacoma equivalent available in foreign markets and considered one of the holy grails by the overland comunity in North America since they are not available. Suprisingly they weren’t going to Expo but instead were one of the support vehicles for a classic car rally featuring a wide variety of marques on a journey across the United States and up to Alaska. We left before any of the cars arrive but it sounded like an impressive collection of old iron.

Never one to miss an opportunity to bust out her travel hula hoop (yeah, its a collapsible hula hoop, that’s how serious this girl is about her hooping)

Me doing my Forest Gump impersonation

We rolled on through the Navajo Nation and down to Flagstaff. We finished up the last leg of the journey to Mormon Lake Lodge, the site of the Overland Expo. It was now Thursday afternoon, the show begins Friday and we were absolutely stunned by the number of folks who had arrived already. The last Expo I attended was two years ago in Amado, AZ and from the looks of it, there were already more than the total number on hand at that event. Our friends Walt and Doug, had saved us a spot under the pines near the registration tent. They help out every year at Expo and are fixtures of the event. Walt, a retired highway patrol man from Reno, and Doug a forester from Montana are a couple of genuinely good guys and we were looking forward to catching up with them over the course of the weekend. Our last run in with Walt was when Alyssa and I met a year ago last spring and he had to serve as the proverbial 3rd wheel on part of our trip down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, poor guy!

Oh the Overland Expo, where to begin…. As I mentioned earlier it is an international gathering of world travellers, weekend warriors, equipment geeks of the highest order, 4wd enthusiasts of every marque, dusty road warrior types on their motos, basically a cornucopia of folks with varied outdoor interests mixed together into this festival of mechanized travel. It is quite extraordary really. It is overwhelming from the offset for sure. In three days we still hadn’t seen all the exhibitors booths because we would get caught up talking with everyone and make little progress. There were some absolutely incredible things on display to tempt your wallet… or your wildest fantasies, for example this….

….$500,000 Global Expedition Vehicles unit. Thats not a zero error either. This is one of several go big, homes on wheels here which contrasts sharply with…..

… this pop up conversion for a Land Cruiser 80 series which was the vehicle that stole my heart at the show. Being a long time Land Cruiser owner and enthusiast, visions of me taking a sawzall to my perfectly good roof on my 80 series were dancing around my head all weekend. Campteq is the new company that offered this prototype and its first customer with his veggie grease converted diesel 80 series was on display as well. This setup enables you to pop the roof in inclement weather and stand up inside the rear space of the Land Cruiser and potentiall convert said space into a mini RV with all the things you need to live out of the vehicle for an extended period of time. The upper portion configures into a bed with moveable cushions that allow the space to be open for lounging in the vehicle with the full roof height or cushions in place for a comfortable sleeping space for two people. Look for more info on this in a future blog as we begin to set up a vehicle for a long planned trip around the world.

This is one of the E7 (Expeditions 7) 70 Series Land Cruiser Troop carriers that are on the first leg of their trip around the world. There goal, to drive all 7 continents (yes, even that Antarctica one way down there). Scott Brady from Overland Journal teamed up with Greg Miller (a fellow with a penchant for Land Cruisers with one of the largest private collections of Cruisers in the world at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooelle, UT) to organize this trip and make it happen. The trucks had just arrived after the first leg up to Alaska and the Arctic Ocean and back before driving to the eastern Canadian Coast where they will be shipped to Iceland. Good stuff! The trucks were on display at the Overland Journal booth, if booth could do it justice. Stephanie Brady (Scott’s wife), as always put together an impressive display to help lure the uneducated over to sample what has grown into a very high quality magazine.

If you ever felt that the popularity of Land Rovers in North America was waning, look no farther than the representation at Expo. Most impressive was the sheer number of foreign spec diesel variants crusing around. Nothing still captures that allure of exploration in the bush than a kitted out series Land Rover and there was no shortage of them to really get your juices flowing.

And as if the attendees Rovers weren’t enough to get you all bothered, the presence of Land Rover Camel Trophy Team members put it over the top. Land Rover even built an impressive test track that was to be used for testing their new cars for Expo goers as well as drivers training for some of the Overland Experience folks who paid for a weekend full of handson classes and presentations. This is Alyssa with Don Floyd, a 3 time Camel Trophy member with the US team. He rode along with us each in a brand spanking new LR4 and took it through the most difficult obstacles on the course.

Alyssa manning the controls on the LR4 and engaging hill decent control on a particularly steep drop. With this feature the vehicle controls the decent speed without the need of riding the brakes. Don was a great instructor and gave a massive amount of tips and knowledge into a couple of loops around the test track. The LR4 was frankly impressive. First off, let me state that I am one of those skeptics who fit into the classic category of “what? It don’t have live axles? Its got sum of them there computers? What are they thinkin?” Ok, maybe with a touch less hillbilly in the dialect but I digress. Yes, there is alot of skepticism out there about Land Rover’s, and many other major manufacturers’ decision to forego the simple 4wd and suspension systems of the past for something that rides better, handles safer, and is actually MORE capable then the vehicles of past. Yep, I said it. You would be a fool to believe that stock for stock, any live axled Rover could be more capable as this new LR4. How is that possible? Well, technology I guess.

First off the traction control systems make the need for cross axle differential locks a thing of the past. As a tire begins to slip, the computer uses the braking system to modulate the power to that wheel and move it to the wheel with more traction. A quarter of rotation of slip in one tire is enough for the vehicle to use more processing power than could fit into an entire room in the 60’s to find the best traction solution and keep moving. As the truck crosses through sections where one tire is lifting into the air, you can feel a hint of tire slip, a slight halt in forward progress then a continuation on your path. The dash reveals a display showing the front, center, and rear differentials all locking and unlocking additionally when needed to aid with traction. The beauty is that there is no need to lock a diff manually, or perhaps unlock them to make a sharp turn. The Rover transistions through everthing as seamlessly as could be possible.

What about wheel travel with independent suspension you ask? As a rule of thumb independant has historically had both advantages and disadvantages over traditional live, solid axles. First off they allowed for a smoother ride over rough terrain due to less unsprung weight (any component on a vehicle that is not suspended by the suspension, ie wheels, axles, various suspension components) and a more linear path of travel for the wheel. As the wheel compresses into the wheel well, the camber, caster, and toe would be less effected then say a live axle. The disadvantage would be that in rough terrain at low speed, keeping tire contact is typically difficult since the wheel travel (particularly down travel) is limited. With a live axle, when one tire drives up onto an object, it causes the other wheel to droop and for the vehicle to maintain a more level attitude with better chance of wheel contact. We have all seen pictures of 4wd rigs with the axles all twisted up, but how does the LR4 fair?? Quite well, it uses a system that actually simulates a live axle by allowing the opposite wheel to droop according to how much the other tire is compressed into the wheel well…. look…

The LR4 crossing offset large bumps that test the articulation. Lift is inevitable but you can see how much travel the truck has. Combined with the smart traction control systems and it just walks right through this terrain. My Land Rover Discovery I, even with its 2 inch lift and 32″ tires would have struggled far more and likely not been able to cross this without assistance. An example of technology making our world easier I guess. The jury is still out on the reliability of a complex system to manage the cars drivetrain, suspension, and traction systems but I will say, Land Rover’s reliability has improved a huge margin since the advent of the LR3. Time will tell how these hold up I suppose but instead of simple repairs with duct tape and a spanner in the bush, might have to bust out the laptop in the future…. interesting.

A Range Rover Evoque crossing a log bridge on the course. In addition to the LR4, Land Rover had Range Rover Sports, an Evoque, LR2’s and standard Range Rovers to try on the course. It was impressive to see the support Land Rover brought to Expo and speaks highly of where they are at in regards to useability of their offerings. Maybe this is needed to battle the percieved softening and overstyling of their new models. One thing is certain though, an LR4 is a highly capable vehicle right out of the wrapper even with the stock tires.

Alyssa and I with our tested LR4. Visible in the background is one of the ex Camel Trophy vehicles and the Camel Trophy exhibition area.

On with the show! One of the most impressive vehicles at the show was this American Expedition Vehicles Brute Double Cab. This truck needs no introduction, it has been well publicized in many magazines since its release at SEMA. Dave Harriton, the founder of AEV, was on hand talking with folks about the Brute and AEV’s other offerings. Dave is one of those guys that you classify as good people. He is down to earth, funny, and the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He started this company building conversions by hand in his shop and sleeping amongst the smell of oil and curing paint. The company has grown considerably and you could think of it as what AMG was to Mercedes before they were bought out. AEV takes a Jeep and turns it up to 11. Not only are they insanely capable on the dirt, they actually ride better and handle better than a stock Jeep. This is due to their attention to engineering and extensive handling testing. Most suspesion companies are just trying to offer you a lift, at the cost of ride and handling, this is not the case with AEV. If you need faith restored in the quality of work that can be done in the US, then look no further at AEV’s offerings. Dave and Scott Brown of Chrysler/Jeep took us out to dinner in Flagstaff Friday night. I felt bad for Alyssa as she had to endure the geekiest of tech talk on everything 4wd. We had some great pizza and conversations about the future of Jeep, diesels, and what was coming down the pipeline. 😉 You want to know why Jeep and AEV make such good enthusiasts products?? Because they are driven by enthusiasts, real world, down to earth, car and truck loving folks who own and enjoy a variety of brands and get it. The future is bright folks.

Amidst the madness of perusing the sights, Alyssa was teaching her Yoga for Overlanders classes. The focus of the classes was on ways to keep your mind and body healthy while travelling and dealing with some of the issues of too much time behind the wheel or bars if you will. Check out her site for info on this and just being happy in life, who doesn’t like that right?

Alyssa also led some morning yoga sessions….. hmmmmm, I think I see our friend Doug in there! Maybe a former Land Rover engineer?? Always pays to be present.

Contiuning on with some of the show’s highlights, this Rally Fighter. Local Motors is an interesting company, they are essentially an open source car company. They use the online comunity to design their projects, this Rally Fighter is the product of many ideas shared and combined. The rally fighter is a Corvette powered beast of a car that comes with an integrated roll cage that states its purpose more than anything else really. You can take one off the showroom floor, add some additional safety devices and compete in the Baja 500. It is an absolute BEAST when it comes to crossing rough terrain in a rapid fashion. This particular car belongs to our good friend Jay Shapiro. Jay might be known from his ambitious, essentially a larger than life, eco concious 4wd home on wheels that he designed and built to travel the world and live in with his family. Little known fact that the Eco Roamer’s maiden shake-down voyage was on our first UP Overland Trip in 2008. Lets just say he wasn’t afraid to take it in places that you wouldn’t think it could go… it did. Jay also started the non profit Muskoka Foundation which inspires overlanders “To do good as you go.” They have established projects along the globe that folks travelling can help out with. Great organization.

The Turtle Expedtions, Turtle V truck. is the travels of Gary and Monika Westcott. A couple that have been adventuring around the world since 1972 and documenting their accounts in various publications. It was great getting a tour of the Turtle V truck and see how well thought out the living arrangements are. The couple are embarking on their next trip this summer, 2 years travelling the silk road from Europe to Asia.

You know there are some big rigs around when a Sportsmobile starts looking small! Another great option for overland travel on a domestic platform.

Another that falls into the category of drool, I could handle one of those…. Earthcruiser, an Australian company now offering their Mitsubishi Fuso based overland campers in the US. They use a mechanically lifting roof to keep the profile down when travelling and to provide ample headroom when camping. They are quite clever in the integration of their onboard systems and look like a comfy place to live out of for a period of time.

Another example of one of those vehicles you can’t legally import into the US…. with California tags, killing me. Yet another awesome 70 series diesel Cruiser, this one was parked along with another pickup and a diesel Defender 110 at Expedition Ops’ booth. Jeremy is a good guy and a fellow midwesterner, so we need to stick together donchaknow! It was good catching up with him and crew for sure. These guys have some cool products including their showermat made from reclaimed wood.

While the rigs on display were great, there were a bunch of other vendors as well that I didn’t photograph. Everything from portable solar charging solutions to nice kitchen kits that making cheffing up gourmet grub easy. Part of the problem of this event was the sheer amount of socializing we were doing, a good problem right? Well I am bad at taking photos of folks and I regret at this point I don’t have many shots of all of our friends, new and old we spent time with at Expo. Alyssa managed to do a better job than I so hopefully she can contribute some to the cause. Definately some fun and inspiring people there and those are the people you want to be around in your life.

On top of all the four wheeled goodness was a huge number of moto riders in attendance and a whole section of the Expo specifically for their vendors and riding areas. With our camp in an area with a good concentration of moto riders we got to meet quite a number. We sat in on one of the films being presented in the travelling adventure motorcycle theater by the always colorful Austin Vince as well. I have a background in motorcycle racing and the love as never extinguished even in my absence from the sport. We found ourselves talking quite alot about getting into the adventure bike thing. Definately a cheaper and more pure way to travel.

One of the funniest moments of the weekend was when Ted Simon wandered by our Subaru with the roof top tent and seemed perplexed. “So, its just a car with one of those roof tents, yes?” me: “yep” Ted: “And you travel about in this do you?” Me: “yeah we do” He then went on to say it was his favorite 4 wheeled vehicle at Expo and how he was shocked by the girth and extravagance of some of the overland rigs there. Ted if you don’t know is an amazing writer and wrote the book “Jupiter’s Travels” which is inspiration for many motorcylcists and travellers in general. It is the account of his trip around the world in the early 70’s on his Triumph and his experience. I had my old tattered copy of the book and he signed it for me. Made my weekend though it likely didn’t eclipse Alyssa’s pride that she had the coolest overland vehicle at the show. Classic.

Saturday night marked the End of the World Mayan party hosted by Overland Gourmet and Equipt Outfitters. There were a TON of folks there partaking in drinks and some good food. My first stuffed, grilled Jalepeno was not very hot but my second one lit my face ablaze, luckily there were drinks close by and I had to cut the line to try and put out the inferno. I ended up meeting Karl fromand spent the entire time talking aircooled Porsches and VW’s which apparently we are both pretty passionate about.

Sunday evening saw the closing BBQ and was highlighted by the solar eclipse. It was a pretty cosmic closing to an incredible weekend….

An ex Camel Trophy Defender that is about to embark on a round the world trip with two newly weds. In fact they had their wedding at the Expo which we missed but sounded like a great event. Lighting in this picture is courtesy of the solar eclipse.

Couldn’t help but to snap this pic of our friend Ara from The Oasis of my Soul. He has some great 1 pan cooking recipes on his site that help support his nomadic lifestyle with his doggle wearing, furry companion Spirit. There were some eclipse viewing glasses floating around which made for some safe viewing.

The eclipse as it was nearing peak.

A neat effect from the eclipse; the leaves from the trees were casting these eclipse images upon the tent at the bbq.

An image of the eclipse through a solar telescope.

Alyssa and Roseann (comander and chief of Overland Expo) taking some shots during the eclipse.

Well Expo was a wrap and was a wonderful time. We awoke Monday morning, drained from the past three days and a little bummed it was over already. This event could easily add another day and still not be enough time. There are many more vedors, products, vehicles and good friends I could talk about but will save for another opportunity. We had a nice breakfast at the restaraunt onsight and said farewell to our friends Walt and Doug before rolling out. Today’s plan was to head for Sedona a place neither of us had been.

We had a nice route that took us accross via a couple of dirt roads that wound through the pine forests prevalent near Flagstaff. As we approached Sedona via the Schnebly Hill Road we broke out of the pines and were afforded stunning views of Sedona below.

View from the first main overlook coming down the Scnebly Hill Road above Sedona. The road surface went from a nice and smooth graded road to a rather rocky, rugged drive as it wound down into the valley. We were surprised by the number of Jeep tours that were running up the road, seemed to be a thriving business with at least three different services operating.

As we descended down towards Sedona the temperature jumped from 75 degrees up to just shy of 100. Schnebly Hill Rd is recomended for high clearance vehicles but we had no issues as we took our time driving down it in the Outback.

We really had high hopes for Sedona as its status is practically legendary. As we rolled into town we had some mixed feelings. We were expecting an old part of town mixed with some new agey stuff but really the whole place seemed newer, spread out and kind of contrived for lack of a better word. As you drove down the street you passed a palm reader, psychic, spiritual center, yoga center, and crystal shop in a repeating pattern.

Sedona is a destination for many due to the purported energy vortices that are located in many locations in the valley. Curious to experience one ourselves we got some local beta from one of the guide companies in town and headed for the trailhead to Bell Rock. We were feeling the effects still from a weekend of sun and with the temperature showing 98 on the car’s thermometer and the sun high in the sky we wandered out onto the trail to the vortex. We ambled about trying to find it through some sort of sign like the twisted way the Junipers grow in the vortexes or by some feeling of energy or happiness that many people report from this particular vortex. To our dismay we didn’t really identify the location and were a bit anxious to get back out of the sun and head back to the car.

View from the hike at Bell Rock looking back towards Sedona.

Shade seems to be at a premium in Sedona. Refueling the car we were parked under the gas station awning when it dawned on us, there really is no park, or nice place to sit outside in the shade. We tried in vain to find a spot just for this so we could look over our maps and make a plan. Little did we know, but we were about to have a close encounter of the third kind! Yep, you can’t make this stuff up!

As we were driving down the main street in Sedona we saw a cleverly disguised space module disguised as a Honda CRV. The craft was marked with “Ashtar Command” all over it. Yep, THE Ashtar…. What? You don’t know of Ashtar? Ok, well if you have been living under a rock here is the low down… Ashtar is an extraterrestrial being who has a fleet of spacecraft and has been talking to some of us humans here on Earth since the early 50’s. He has a strong following in Southern, CA and apparently in Sedona too.We tailed the Ashtar mobile comand module till it parked in front of a Kenny’s shoes….. OK, wait, we are in Sedona, it was probably a yoga studio.

Boy were we surpised when Ashtar himself got out of the car! He must have been visiting and laying low so no one would spot him. I would suggest for future visits that he use a better cloaking technology to go unnoticed but I digress….

A better shot of Ashtar and one of his other whips, this one is rainbow powered.

Oh Sedona, you funny town. Here’s the thing, it was very beautiful no doubt but the fact that you had to have a pass for going practically anywhere in the valley and that there was no camping other than in campgrounds, along with the fact we just weren’t feeling it, things were just to regulated (likely for good reasons) but it made us decide to bolt. There were some National Forest lands west of town but going with the advice of our friend Doug we had just left at Expo, we decided to go where the wind blew us. And our gut was telling us that this place wasn’t for us, at least not on this day despite our exciting extraterrestrial encounter and all.

We drove north out of Sedona past Slide Rock State Park which sounded interesting but it looked PACKED with people. The drive through the canyon north was great. It felt like Oregon with thick vegetation and large trees that lived in lush zone along the river. Our seat of the pants decision was to head for the north rim of the Grand Canyon, escape the heat, escape people, and perhaps the weirdness of Sedona as well.

By the time we hit Navajo Bridge crossing the Glen Canyon it was getting late in the evening. It had been a long day, it was still hot, very hot.

Reflections in the Colorado River.

The day was getting late and instead of doing a long push into the dark to locate a place to camp we decided to use the campground facility at Lee’s Ferry. While I am not a big campground guy unless I absolutely have to, this was a spacious place with plenty of open spots. It was nice to not rush and be able to cook up a nice stir fry for dinner. We saw some folks from Expo, Carla King the motorcycle riding author and another rider were camping here as well as couple who were at Expo. It was still very warm and sleeping with no blankets and the windows open in the tent was a summery treat.

View of the last light from the campground.

After rising and cheffing up a suprisingly tasty tofu scramble (sometimes I surprise myself) we packed up and stopped at Pariah Beach which is just down the hill from the campground. Pariah beach is a nice wide, sandy beach on the Colorado River. It is just downstream from the put-in for rafters for their Grand Canyon adventures and across from the first small rapid (riffle). Having fun playing around with the Panorama app on my phone to create this image. Despite the air being warm, the water in the river here is not. The water from the bottom of Lake Powell spills out from the Glen Canyon dam just upstream and being from the bottom, its always icey.

A beach in the desert.

Great spot! We took our cue to leave though when a school bus load of kids arrived…. Peace!

Balanced rocks on the drive out of Lee’s Ferry.

Refueling in Marble Canyon before rolling out. One of the more beautiful gas stations in the world I reckon.

We drove straight to the North Rim Visitor’s Center and did a short walk to take in the views. Compared to my experience at the south rim some years ago the north rim was downright quiet. A much better park experience all around.

After soaking in the view for a bit we walked through the visitor center lodge which is an amazing structure. How’s that for a window with a view? We decided to grab a quick lunch before checking out a few more spots in the park.

One of the pull offs on the road to Cape Royal. We were already getting tired of driving behind slow drivers and wanting to get out to some remote places to camp. The north rim has a large portion that is in the Kaibab National Forest which allows for dispersed camping along the rim. There is alot of land to explore and since neither of us had travelled this area, we figured we would need some time. To cross over to the National Forest Lands we decided to take the Point Sublime road which follows the rim through the park before intersecting some dirt roads that allow you to work north and back into the national forest. Point Sublime Road is a dirt track that starts with a sign warning that only high clearance 4wd vehicles should attempt it.

The forest on the north rim is amazing. It is a mix of pine and hardwood forest that reminds me alot of forests in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is a drastic contrast to the south rim or to the lands below the Kaibab Plateau which we were on. We came across patches of snow which was a reminder of just how high we were here above 8,000 feet. The weather was great, blue skies, sunshine and 70 degrees, MUCH nicer than the triple digit temps much of AZ was experiencing today. The road was indeed rough. In places we had to drive very slowly and choose the line carefully, sometimes even get out to spot a line. The Outback did great. Even in some offset holes on a steep climb, I could feel the tires lifting, but the active center differential and limited slip rear diff kept it climbing without any hesitation. Amazing traction frankly in a section that an open diferentialed 4wd would like produce wheel slip (as shown by the holes themselves) we didn’t miss a beat. The surface would very between rocky to portions that had a fine silt like dirt that billowed out of the wheel wells and hung in the air in plumes of brown and red. We covered some serious miles on this road and the going was rather slow. We came across two vehicles, one loaded KTM 950 Adventure passed us going the other way, then a couple from Illinois in a Grand Cherokee. It seemed to be a very seldom used route. Perfect.

A view along the Sublime Point Rd where we stopped for a break.

Framing the shot.

Good illustration of the fine silt that had settled all over the car.

We soon turned north and started working out way towards the National Forest boundary. The road was narrow, a two track at times and continued to travel through thick forest. The road wound over ridges in through small meadows one after another. Eventually we crossed out of the park boundary. It was getting late in the evening and becoming another long day at this point. We were navigating via GPS on my netbook and the roads weren’t terribly accurate at times. We had an idea where we were trying to get to but the route finding was still challenging with a couple dead ends encountered. It wasn’t long though before we got on nice wide, graded dirt roads and were able to pick up the pace quite a bit. As the Forest Service roads improved, so appeared signs and things became much easier again for us. We decided to give Timp Point the nod for our destination. After just over 3 hours of dirt roads and trails we had arrived with just enough daylight to go check out the views and unpack.

A loo with a view…. The intersection of reality on the road and nature’s splendor. Even though we are trying to travel lightly we still bring all things we need to eat, cook, sleep, shower, potty, etc and pack everything out. Low impact is the way to go to keep our favorite places unspoiled.

A important matter of business we had to contend with tonight was to open up this bottle of wine we’d been dragging around. Problem was, we had forgotten the corkscrew! Without resorting to barbaristic cork destruction we figured we would meander over to one of the other folks camped in the vicinity. There were a few FJ Cruisers all kitted out camped together a few hundred yards away, and on the other side of us through the woods, a solo fella with his KLR 650. We stopped at his camp first and jackpot, he had us covered. We opened the bottle shared it with our new friend Matt and caught the sunset from the edge of the rim. Matt was a great guy and we had some good conversations before it got dark and we realized that dinner was still to be made. We rustled back in the dark and decided to go with one of our easy dinner options, freeze dried Pea Soup. Boil some water, done, a nice filling and quick dinner. We crawled into the tent, another mild evening, even at the higher elevation and fell asleep to the wind blowing through the pines… sounds of home.

Another fouled plan to rise before dawn to take pictures….. who cares. That’s the spirit. We wandered down the 15 minute hike to the point and took in the panorama. The Juniperish trees (not sure exactly what these are called) were in full flower and very fragrant.

Using the binoculars to look at a waterfall I noticed way down the canyon.

After hiking back to the camp we decided to cook up a big breakfast using up the remainder of the eggs and sautee our last veggies to create a nice final breakfast of the trip. Matt came by and helped us out killing it all. We were in no rush and had a good time wrapping about travel, motorcycles, routes, and all the good things that matter in life…. We said by to Matt and packed up and started the journey home. We travelled around 50 miles of dirt forest service roads before we saw pavement and rolled into Fredonia, AZ just a few miles from the Utah border town of Kanab.

We had an early dinner and Alyssa got her coffee fix at the perfect store for her, the sign says it all. Soon we were back on our way and putting miles behind us. Instead of cutting over and driving I15 back to Salt Lake we stayed on the old two lane highways that pass through all of the small, rural farming towns in central Utah. It was nice way to wrap up the trip.

Sunset just south of Gunnison, Utah over an old farm.

We saw alot, did alot, and lived alot on this trip. Our mini, portable house on wheels served its purpose perfectly being a reliable partner in our trip. Some folks tend to spend their trips with everything revolved around their overland vehicle and challenging it on certain routes, working on the broken bits. This is all fine and dandy but really, ideally, if the vehicle is invisible and the journey itself is the focus then the experience tends to be more authentic. We were thankful for the experience of the week, reconnecting with good friends, making new ones, trying to be in the present and go with what felt good. I know looking back this will be a long lived, fond memory for us both.

Categories: Overlanding, Subaru, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Travelling Light Part VI; Extraterrestrials, Expo, and Excellent Times on the North Rim

  1. Super nice trip, thank you for sharing!

  2. Nice writeup Kristian! That looks like a fantastic trip.

  3. Lou Patterson

    Great write up and awesome pics. Was really good to meet both of you, hope our paths cross again. I’ll be in SLC for Outdoor Retailer in Aug.
    Lou ( and Nancy)

    • It was great to meet you guys too! Alyssa might be around SLC then, I am heading back to the Upper Peninsula in early July for the summer though.

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