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Saturday, April 14

Utah & Arizona with Friends

Once again, I'm way behind in keeping the site updated.  My last post had Petey and I still down in Baja with weeks of exploration undocumented along with Tiffany's visit over the holidays.  With all that still pending, I'm going to jump ahead to some more stateside travel and get back to Baja later.  After coming out of Baja it was back to the homefront for a short period before switching over to the ole Chinook and head back out across the country for more tradeshows.  I spent 5 months last year traveling and living out of the Chinook and when Tiffany asked me about doing tradeshows again this year I was in, with one stipulation.  No east coast stuff.  Last year I went all the way to Maine and south along the eastern seaboard.  It was enjoyable but not so much that I wanted to do it again.   Way too many people, lack of public land where you can boondock camp, and congestion to suit my needs.  Having to stay in RV parks and established campgrounds are to be avoided and since I'm cheap, way too expensive.  Sure, remote camping can be found, but without four wheel drive along with dragging this anchor of a trailer around, it's limited and work finding it. Some will take exception to this, but once you've roamed around out west I see no need to go east.  This year, I won't be going any further east than Cade's Cove in the Smokey Mountains as I plan to go back there in hopes of some more black bear shots.  After our first tradeshow in the Bay Area the plan was to pound out some miles and meet up with some friends of mine, Kurt and GeorgeAnne, who would be in the southern Utah area on vacation.  Kurt and his wife, GeorgeAnne are friends of mine from my days living in Bend, Oregon.  However, me pounding out miles is a misnomer. Thinking I would meet up with them in a couple of days turned into four as I stopped and spent some time in the Valley of Fire State Park east of Vegas.   Having almost three weeks before the next show in the Dallas area it's easy for me to get sidetracked.  Our plan was to meet up in Kanab, Utah where we were hoping to obtain a permit to hike in and photograph an area known as The Wave.  This is an area that can only be accessed by a long hike and you must have a permit to enter.  Only 20 permits are granted per day and since it has become a very popular destination, permits are hard to come by.  If not applying via the internet, you show up at the BLM Office in Kanab every morning and enter the lottery drawing.   After a few days of rejection, GeorgeAnne and I were beginning to think the whole friggin thing was rigged and on our last day, we planned to start hollering "system is rigged" if our number wasn't called!  We entered for five days straight, and you guessed it, we haven't laid eyes on "The Wave".   We opted out of making an ass of ourselves at the lottery as we both planned on coming back. This was not my first attempt at trying to obtain the coveted permit as I'd been through the area several times over the years.  It's not going anywhere, so if I live long enough and the knees hold out, maybe one day.  

After the tradeshow in California, I headed east to meet up with Kurt and GeorgeAnn.  En-route I camped behind this solar farm and launched the drone the next morning.
 A stopover in Valley of Fire State Park east of Vegas found some wildlife and great hiking.
After meeting up with Kurt and GeorgeAnne in Kanab, Utah and our failure to obtain the coveted permit we made the best of it and went on several hikes in the area.  From there, we moved on to the Grand Canyon.  The weather was turning for the worse and we weren't sure what we'd find along the Canyon.  Kurt and GeorgeAnne could only spend one night and day before heading further south to Sedona.  Our first night we boondocked camped in the Kaibab Forest just outside the park boundaries.  We got one hike in where we went down in the Canyon and were able to get below the thick cloud cover along the rim.  Once below the clouds, it was a great hike.  Kurt & GeorgeAnne headed south and I opted to stay one more night and returned back to the Kaibab Forest where I camped, returning to the Canyon rim at daybreak the following morning.  It was worth the additional night as the weather cleared and I got some nice light along the canyon.

After the canyon, I was headed east and after receiving a text msg changed plans.  A friend of mine, Wayne Long, who was crossing the border coming up out of Baja and was near my location.  I had spent about 6 weeks with Wayne in December and part of January before I had to get back for the tradeshow journey I was now on.  Wayne was working his way, slowly, back up into Canada.  Since we were within a few hours of each other we decided to hook back up and do some exploring together.  We had hoped to go into Chaco Canyon in New Mexico but the weather had other plans as they were calling for snow.  I had been in there before and really wanted to return but we opted to go south instead in search of warmer climes.  We ended up driving south down through the Apache Indian Reservation.  Normally, it's not a great place to consider boondock camping.  I've inquired before and been    However, we found a road leading off the pavement and it looked like I could get the trailer down it far enough to get well away from the road.  We decided to go for it, thinking no one would be coming down this road and we'd leave at first light.  Probably an hour after we found a level spot we hear a truck beating down the road we'd just come in on.  Sure enough, truck pulls up and it's the range boss for the area.  Assuming we'd be asked to leave I approached him and explained what we were up to and he'd never know we'd been there if he allowed us to stay.  He stated, "he didn't see a problem with it" and even gave us a little history of the area.  We hiked down to an old homestead he told us about that night with the dogs.

Following day we worked our way further south where we holed up for three nights in the Gila Box Conservation area.   A long day of four-wheeling gets you access to some old ruins.  We left camp at 8 one morning and didn't get back to camp till well after dark.  It's a long way into the ruins and four-wheel drive with high ground clearance is required.  Wayne's rig is well set up but it was a long day getting in there.  We saw one other vehicle and one cowgirl all day. 

 Petey and I got dropped off at the bottom of the hill.  Petey was not happy about having to walk up it.
Ike watching Wayne putting some gas in the rig. 

Her office view is not too bad.
Back to Baja......soon.

Saturday, February 17

Mojave Trail & Baja (Part 4)

Church in a small village outside Bahia Tortugas

We'd been on the Sea of Cortez side and were now working our way back across the peninsula to the Pacific side.  Wayne had some beta on the Peninsular De Vizcaino area of Baja that neither of us had been to and we wanted to check it out.  We had been out to Bahia Ascuncion a few years ago but were looking to access some new terrain further west.  It was reported to be remote with some challenging conditions.  We spent the remainder of the day working our way across to the Pacific side.  Rolling into Bahia Tortuga well after dark we opted to find a motel in the fishing village.  Our  $20 room wasn't much but it did have running water and the owner allowed us to park our rigs in the locked compound.  The owner didn't speak any English but we were able to get some information on the area we were headed to by showing him our maps and doing a lot of pointing.  We first wanted to drive all the way out to the point and the little fishing village of Punta Eugenia and Chester.  Here the gravel road ends and we had to backtrack back to Bahia Tortugas to access what we'd come for. The total off-road route once we left pavement would be around 90 miles, a mixture of really soft sand and some rocky sections.  Airing the tires down in the soft stuff was the only way to get through but we were worried about the grade in some places.  We pulled up to a couple of spots that I wasn't sure I could get up.  Wayne had already gone up one of the larger dunes and I got out and walked it.  The first couple of tries were a no go and I had to back down.  Eventually, with a speed run at the bottom section, I was able to top out.  Our main concern, once we crested out in the dunes, was the wash which we'd need to locate to get along the coast and also lead us back out to the pavement.  This is one of the main things I love about exploring Baja, you never know what's going to be around the next corner and what the conditions will be.  Where we were at there certainly aren't any road signs.  Route finding plays a key roll in places.  We continued working our way through the dunes and as dark was coming on I noted a steep side road leading down to the coast.   I got out and walked it all the way down to ensure we could get back up.  It was a great campsite along the coast and we had no problems coming out the following morning.  We debated staying two nights here but opted to move on.  Later that night as we were sitting around the fire we noted truck lights way off in the distance.  We found this a little strange as there is absolutely nothing out here for probably 30 miles in either direction.  It's pretty tough driving in places and the direction they were headed was even more remote.  I suppose they saw the fire once up on the higher dunes.  Anyway, they kept coming and eventually pulled into camp.  Always a little disconcerting when someone rolls into your camp well after dark.  We met them, two men in a pick-up, as they pulled down the sandy road into camp.  Due to the language barrier, we never really did ascertain what they were doing that far out in the middle of the night.  They eventually left after it appeared they were sizing up the Gringos.  We were probably reading a lot into the whole situation but it doesn't hurt to be a little cautious when this far out.  Once we realized they'd made the turn and were headed to our camp I slipped a can of bear spray in my back pocket.  Better safe than sorry.  Ike, Wayne's dog, is a pretty good deterrent when unexpected guests roll in.  There is no doubt he means business.   Plus, there's always Petey.  No one, and I mean no one, wants a piece of Petey!  
Fishing village.

Camp for the night.
Petey hanging out in camp.  I ask you....would you want a piece of this?  I pity the fool that rolls into my camp uninvited!
Truth be known......Ike is what I wouldn't want a piece of!
Whale backbone that was washed up on the rocks below camp.
Found pockets along the coast where these large rocks had been tumbled smooth and round.
Following day we kept working our way through the dunes in search of the wash which would lead us to the coast.  Our plan was to access the coast and drive along the beach to access a point that was reported to have some excellent fishing.  Coming out of the dunes we eventually hit the wash but there was a problem.  Once we dropped down this dune there was no way we're going to go back up it.  It wasn't that tall but it was steep and the sand like sugar.  I had no doubt I couldn't come back up it once I dropped down.  Once in the wash, a left turn would take us 8 miles to the coast.  A right turn and 25 miles up the wash would get us back to the pavement.  If the wash closed out headed back out to pavement this could turn into a real adventure. We dropped in, turned left and were stymied about a quarter of a mile from the coast.  The wash was really rough in places and slow going over small boulders.  The wash kept closing down and eventually closed out leading into an estuary which was holding quite a bit of water.  We had to walk the remaining 1/4 mile to the beach.  No way we were getting the rigs in there as there were dunes on either side of the wash that we couldn't  get over.  We were pretty disappointed as the area was remote and the camping would have been excellent out on the beach.  Wayne had visions of catching some big fish in here as well.  The beach here is massive and runs for miles in either direction.  I forgot to take the camera down but we saw multiple whale bones and a perfectly good sea kayak that had washed up on the beach.  Anywhere else and that kayak would have found a new home but we had no way of hauling it out of there. This is one of those areas that you've got to work at to get to. I'm sure we would have stayed in here for multiple nights had we made it.  Hopefully, we'll be back to this area and with some changing conditions can access the beach next time.  
Pictures never seem to depict the steepness of was steeper than it looks here.  Wayne named this Commitment Dune.  I was coming down it but was pretty sure I couldn't come back up it.  
After failing to make the coast we turned around and drove a few miles back up the wash and set up camp.  In this picture you can see the steepness of the dunes.  Not tall, but just steep coming up out of the wash.  Was a beautiful night in a remote area.  With a couple of cold beers and an excellent meal that Wayne cooked up, we sat around watching a meteor shower late into the evening.
We gained some high ground and Wayne was glassing for pavement.
 Spent the day crawling back out to pavement.

Petey was exhausted!

Sunday, February 11

Mojave Trail & Baja (Part 3)

After our successful rescue, we were back on the move and debated whether to head due east across the lake bed in hopes of intersecting the road which would take us south towards San Felipe.  It was a gamble taking the lake bed across to the east as we weren't sure exactly where it would bring us out, or if it even would.  We opted to backtrack the way we came in but this was now going to require us to go back through Mexicali to reach Mex 5 which would take us south again.  Our destination for the day was going to be Bahia de Los Angeles.  From there we'd get back on dirt and head south towards Pancho's place and San Franciscito.  I've been through this stretch several times.  It's always a fun experience stopping in and hanging out with a Baja icon, Pancho.  We planned to camp on the beach just down from his place and hang out for a few days. We ran out of daylight well before Bahia de Los Angeles and found an arroyo to drive up where we wouldn't be seen from the road.  One of my cardinal rules when in Baja is to not drive at night.  It's just not worth it considering the road conditions and the real chance of livestock or burros on the road.We camped in the arroyo for the night and broke camp early the following morning continuing down through Puerticitos, past CoCo's Place and then on to Bahia de Los Angeles, where one always has to stop for fish tacos.  I also ran into the store to pick up a bottle of Tequila and dog food for Pancho.  He lives about 40 miles from the nearest store so anytime someone brings some goodies he's very appreciative of it.  The remainder of the day was spent slogging along the rough ass dirt road south to Pancho's place.  We set up camp, hung out and did much of nothing for the next three days. A few fishermen and Pancho were the only others we saw and we had the beach to ourselves.  At night Pancho would come down for a beer or two and hang out by the fire with us.  With his limited English and our limited Spanish, we mostly sat around the fire, sipped on cold beer and listened to the coyotes back in the dunes.  One thing I was able to get out of Pancho was that the Tequila that I had just given him the previous day was.....finito!  Life in Baja!  More info about Pancho can be read here Pancho from an earlier post. 
View of Bahia de Los Angeles

View from the beach looking towards Pancho's place.  He doesn't have much of a dwelling but oh the view and solitude.
Set up camp and stayed for three nights.
 Ike lounging around camp as the fishermen were heading out.
Launching early one morning.
Couple of fishermen came to camp one evening in search of water.  Their captain had left them for the night and forgot to leave any water.  Not that they needed to but they gave us this nice fish for some water and sodas.  I filleted it out and Wayne cooked it up for supper that night.
 A short hike over the beach dunes from camp and you could watch the sunset to the west.
An area of concern to me here was the boldness and quantity of Coyotes in the area.  Ike was constantly chasing them away from camp but I had to keep a close eye on Petey.  He could easily be snatched by a Coyote.  They were a constant around camp and would patrol the beach early each morning.
After three nights at Pancho's, we continued south where we spent one night at San Francisquito before turning west away from the Sea of Cortez.  The Baja 1000 race had just utilized this road the previous month and the trophy trucks had really done a number on it in places.  It was slow going until we reached San Francisquito. We had decided to cross back over to the Pacific side.  On the way, we viewed one of the most impressive caves with paintings I have ever come across.  I've seen many in Baja, but this one was special.  Interesting hanging out here and pondering what must have transpired here hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.  A local we met in Francisquito told us about it.  It's not marked on any maps and if you don't know what dirt road to turn down it would be really tough to just stumble on it.  You park and have to hike in about a 1/2 mile with a little climbing and there it is.  The view looking out over the valley was impressive as well.  

Next, some new ground that Wayne, nor I, had yet been to in Baja.  

Mojave Trail & Baja (Part 2)

Thursday, February 8

Mojave Trail & Baja (Part 1)

Plan was to head back down to Baja for about two months.  Tiffany and the boys would fly down during the Christmas holidays.  I made a call to my friend, Wayne, up in Canada as I knew he was headed down as well.  We decided we'd meet up before crossing the border, jump on the Mojave Trail for a few days, and then cross the border together.
I arrived a couple of nights before Wayne where I camped, hiked a little and explored the area for a couple of days prior to his arrival.  Wayne arrived late one afternoon and we departed the following morning to get on the trail and head east.  Our first order of business was a fairly substantial water crossing. I was first in line and when I pulled up to this my thought was that I should get out and walk across to check for depth and bottom conditions, or possibly end up swimming, the crossing to ensure it was a doable crossing.  I opted for the "go big or go home" method and threw caution out the window, slowly pulling in.  This crossing is probably well over 100 feet in width and as the water started creeping towards the bottom of the window I began praying that it didn't get any deeper and god forbid, the engine stalls out.  With the water level approaching the bottom of the window I thought I'd made a big mistake but after a few tense moments the truck eventually started crawling out the other side.  Exiting the truck, water poured out of the cab.  Carpet was wet but hey, I'm in the desert and it will dry.  I grabbed the camera and shot Wayne coming across behind me.  This was certainly the deepest crossing I'd done with my Tacoma.

The remainder of the day we crawled east along the trail where we became lost a few times.  Tough following the trail in places as it exits out of some major washes and you just don't know which direction to take.  We ended up in some large dunes where we became stuck but eventually reconnected with what we assumed was the trail. We were still lost but enjoyed a spectacular full moon and ended up making camp for the night.

 The trail is out there somewhere.

  Moon rising as we looked for a campsite that evening.

The following day we got back on the trail and kept working our way east towards Marl Spring.  After camping at the springs the second night we needed to make a decision as to whether to finish the trail or cut off and head south towards the border.  The weather was really turning cold and it was forecasted that the winds the following day would be a consistent 40+ mph.  We decided that the warmer weather of Baja was looking good so after two nights on the Mojave Trail, we cut off and pointed the rigs south towards Baja.  I'll have to return later to finish the second half.

Camp at Marl Spring.

Stopped and did some hiking in the eastern part of the preserve.