2015 Family Overland Trip - CA, AZ, UT, CO

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daPitbull

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Oakland, CA
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Oakland – Joshua Tree – Grand Canyon – Moab – White Rim – Ouray – Colorado Springs – Sandy – Truckee – Oakland…
This is a trip I’ve been wanting to do…but as usual life gets in the way. Circumstances aligned this time – my wife and I were able to take off 3 weeks from work, my oldest just graduated pre-kindergarten, and an opportunity to visit my wifes brothers in Colorado Springs presented itself…so the planning and preparation began.
First things first, I needed to get the rig prepared. After having our three kids (5, 3, and 1), the last several years didn’t leave me much free time to tinker with the rig. Here is a list of things I did in the few weeks leading up to the trip:
- Replaced stock battery with Die Hard Platinum Group 31
- Build a storage/tie down platform for the back
- Replaced timing belt, water pump and coolant flush
- Replaced gear and engine oils
- Replaced air filter
- New tires, GY Duratracs
- Storage Solution: Keeper Roof bag, Frontrunner Wolf Packs
- New tent: REI Kingdom 6
- New Stove: Primus grill/stove combo
Before I get to the report, I should say, I’m super thankful to my wife for allowing us to go on such an adventure with the 3 youngans, and agreeing to do this trip in my truck rather than our plush 2015 Toyota Sienna.

 

daPitbull

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1st Leg: Joshua Tree
The first leg of our trip took us to Joshua Tree. We had originally planned to stay one night in Mojave, mainly to break up the long drive for the kids. In the end we decided to make the first leg to Joshua Tree and stay 2 nights; my sister and her family were staying in an awesome Air BnB, that had a backyard pushed up against the park with a pool. We also thought, given the long drives ahead, it’d be good to let the kids run around with their cousins for a few days. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore Joshua Tree at all, we just hung out at the house, swam, and hiked in the backyard. We’ll definitely be making a trip back to explore the park.

Backyard of the place we were staying at:

Hiking with the little one in the pack


2nd Leg: Grand Canyon
After some morning tantrums from the kids, I packed up the rig and headed off to the Grand Canyon. This drive offered some long, straight, hot stretches through the California desert, finally crossing into Arizona near Lake Havisu.
We camped out 2 nights just outside the gates to the Grand Canyon, at Ten X campground. It’s a developed campground with toilets, fire pits, and tables. There was potable water available, which was useful for filling up the water cans for White Rim.
Visiting the Grand Canyon was more of a “we should go see it since we’re in the area” deal. The park was crowded and hot; plus with our young ones, hiking the canyons was out of the question. So we settled for driving around to all the look out points. We came, we saw…good enough for me. We’ll probably visit again when the kids are old enough to hike down the canyon.



 
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daPitbull

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3rd Leg: Moab/White Rim/Arches
I really enjoyed the drive to Moab. We cut across through Monument Valley at the Arizona/Utah border. We opted to not drive through Monument Valley park – the views from the highway was good enough.


We arrived in Moab about 6:30PM, it was HOT…104 degrees I think. I reserved a room at the Holliday Inn, to get a good nights rest, and hit White Rim early AM.
After breakfast at the hotel, we packed up the kids and gear and were off to the Island in the Sky Visitor center to check in and get our permits. Once that was done, we headed the trail head at the Shaffers switchbacks and air’d down. I ran the Duratracs at 20 psi for the trail. Started down the trail at about 10am.

 
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daPitbull

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After a couple hours or so on the trail we decided to break for lunch at the Airport campground. It was HOT…but the kids didn’t seem to mind.




First night of camping was at White Crack, about 35 miles or so from the trail head. The campground is about 1 mile off the actual White Rim trail, which made for a more remote/private feeling. The views from the campground were outstanding. Every picture I took I thought to myself there was no way I’d be able to capture the scenery in it’s entirety.





I set up the cooking table facing west and cooked up our dinner. It was awesome.
It was a bit windy (still HOT), and offered the perfect opportunity for the kids to fly a kite. This scared off all the crows…
 

daPitbull

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Woke up the next morning, cooked up some bacon, eggs, and pancakes for the kids, and headed back onto the trail at about 9am.










Our campground for the next night was a Hardscrabble B, near the river. While the scenery from this campground was awesome, there were tons of flies, and at about sun down, the mosquitos came out in full force.








Now, I’m definitely not a novice at backcountry camping, I very well should of known, camping so near to the water was a bad idea, but all the reviews I read on the internet raved about this very site. Bug spray wouldn’t keep the skeeters away, and the kids we’re starting to go crazy. I noticed clouds in the sky so I packed up our gear into the car, and we hunkered down in the tent. At this point I was really happy we got such a huge tent with a mesh ceiling.





All the flies and skeeters were congregating on the tent just waiting for us to come out. It was still very hot at about 630pm, but the ventilation in the tent was our saving grace…until it started to rain. I got out of the tent to put the rainfly on, and got attacked by a gang of flies and skeeters.
The next morning I was hoping the flies were not so bad, but unfortunately they were waiting for us to come out of the tent. The kids were still in a bad mood from last night, so we packed up camp and headed off; eating breakfast in the car.
Hardscrabble B is towards the end of the trail, so we finished the trail at about 1030am.
 
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daPitbull

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All in all the trail was what I was hoping for and more. The scenery is like no other. Literally out of the world. I mentioned a few times to my wife, that some of the views seemed like a different planet. This trail is a must do. Negatives to the trail was the HOT weather and the flies/skeeters at Hardscrabble B. There were a few steep climbs, nothing too technical, but I’d be surprised if a stock rig can make it up some of these climbs unscathed.






After White Rim, we headed back into Moab to have brunch and wash off in the restrooms. Our kids were looking a bit ferel. The combination of sunscreen, bug spray, and sweat, gave all of us a thick gooey layer of sludge on our skin.

Our destination that day was Ouray. But since Arches NP was so close to Moab, we decided to drive through and visit all the look outs. We felt the kids had enough excitement the past few days, so we didn’t do any hikes in Arches. After a couple hours of driving around arches we set off for Ouray.
 
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daPitbull

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4th Leg: Ouray
I’d say this drive was the best of the trip. The scenery crossing into Colorado left me speechless. My wife and I agree, Colorado has the best clouds.




Visited the hot springs


And did a few trail runs. These are from Engineers Pass



 

daPitbull

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5th Leg: Colorado Springs
The destination for the trip was Colorado Springs, where my wife’s oldest brother lives. Her other brother from Illinois was coming out too.
Strapped up all the cargo and ready to go:


Didn’t really do much except hang out and explore downtown Colorado Springs. We did do a trail (ie. Fire road)…but no pics...

Visited Garden of the Gods where the kids got to climb around






6th Leg: Sandy, UT
This past November, we put down one of our American Staffordshire Terriers, Mela, at the age of 13. We still have her littermate who is now 14 years old. The other highlight of this trip was adding to our crew. On our way back to California, we stopped off in Sandy, Utah, to pick up our new puppy, Koa. He’s an English Staffordshire…quite similar to the American version, but about half the size and weight.



7th Leg: Truckee
My family has a place over in Truckee…we decided to break up the long drive home and spend a night at the cabin. Tahoe gets annoyingly busy during the July 4th week, so we only stayed for the night, wanting to be home…
So that’s it! All in, it was about 3360 miles over 2.5 weeks…
Lessons learned:
1. Camp more then 50 yards from a river
2. Find a solution for storing dirty laundrey
3. Could NOT have done this trip without the ARB fridge…our kids drink lot’s of milk, plus keeps all the food fresh
4. We had a full size blow up mattress that was easy to deflate, since it had a purge valve…kids blow up mattresses didn’t…replace those for next trip. Very time consuming packing theirs away.
5. Need better cargo barrier. I currently have a Raingler Net. A more rigid solution would give me more piece of mind.
6. We brought one table…more table space would be a plus.
7. Need heavier spring rate or progressive springs in the rear
8. Take more pictures
9. Take less pictures and enjoy the moment
10. Need an awning…it was HOT
11. Turn off email notification for work…I did for the first time, it makes a huge difference…if work really needed me, they can call, which they didn’t!!!
As mentioned in my first post, I’ve been wanting to do this trip for a long time, more specifically, after I graduated college. But having my wife and 3 kids along was awesome. My wife and I know we’ve created a life long memory for them; squeezing them into the back of a medium sized SUV, camping, offroading, seeing family, picking up a pup, and more…it’s fulfilling my dream in a way I hadn’t originally intented…
Bonus:
1. On the way home from the trip my wife started looking up offroad teardrop trailers!
2. Started talking about our next trip for next summer…Baja!
3. I work a lot! Spending QT with my wife and kids was priceless
4. Discovering new facets of my kids personalities
5. Discovering new terrains of the Western USA
6. Sharing my experiences with Overland Bound!
Thanks for the read, until next time!
 
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Lifestyle Overland

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Awesome trip! Love the pictures and write-up.
P.S. I can't agree with you more on the ARB fridge, it's a game changer!
 
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Overland-Indiana

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Beautiful places you went to. Lots of great pictures and wonderful memories being built for the little ones. Very jealous.. My wife would never go for that, although i am making headway on convincing her.
 

murps

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Beautiful places you went to. Lots of great pictures and wonderful memories being built for the little ones. Very jealous.. My wife would never go for that, although i am making headway on convincing her.
Those photos will do nothing but help your case!
 

Overland-Indiana

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Those photos will do nothing but help your case!
That's what im hoping for. We are taking a 4 day trip the latter part of this week to Traverse City, MI. I am hoping that seeing the scenic drive through the National Forest on our way up might open her eyes to all there is to see in remote places. We only live once and there is such a large and beautiful world to see.
 

nTg

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Hey, I really enjoyed your trip journal! Thanks for sharing and posting your experienced photography skills.

nTg
 

TreXTerra

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Great writeup! You spent a lot of time in my stomping grounds, in fact, I'm just minutes from Sandy. Moab and the deserts are very pretty, but get hot in the summer, as you noticed. Here in Utah, we usually hit Moab in the spring and fall, just be sure to check their calendar of events to make sure you aren't there during Jeep Safari - every trail is packed during that week, it's nearly impossible to make any kind of time with all the traffic.

Next time you are in the Salt Lake area, shoot me a PM. I'd be happy to share some of the local spots with you.
 
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Robert OB 33/48

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I really loved it. You all live in such an amazing country.

Greetings from Robert
 
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