Spring 2019 Arizona and Utah - Definitely one for the books

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ru108

Rank VI
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Member II

3,336
Prairieville, LA
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12189

Ham Callsign
K5TIN
WARNING: Long read and kinda pic heavy!​

A long vacation with just the wife and I had been a long time coming. Twenty-five years to be exact, but the wait was worth it. Sixteen days camping and exploring Northern Arizona and Southeastern Utah while living out of the 4Runner seemed like just what the doctor ordered. What I didn’t know at the time was that Mother Nature was determined to make it a trip to remember!
It started out innocent enough as the trip from hot and humid South Louisiana to the cool pine forests of Flagstaff for Overland Expo West went off without a hitch. With the exception of a low in the mid-20’s on Friday night, the entire weekend was a great one weather wise with a lot of walking, gawking at rigs and dreaming mixed with the pleasure of finally meeting some folks that I’d only ever talked to on the forums or on the OB Friday Night Ham Radio Nets, as well as many new ones. We had a blast and have already started making tentative plans to attend OE West on a regular basis, most likely every other year so we can bank enough vacation time to make a long trip of it.

After three great days and nights in Flagstaff, we left a day early and headed down to Sedona with @Brentc17 and a new OB member named Roberto. I’d never been down there and, needless to say, we WILL be going back for a longer stay in the future. After some driving and debating, we settled on a great little campsite on BLM land outside of town and spent the evening drinking a few adult beverages, talking ham radio, life and just generally enjoying a pleasant evening after a rain shower passed through. The next morning, we packed up and parted ways with Brent headed to Phoenix, Roberto headed home to Kentucky and my wife and I continuing on to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for the next two nights. This is where Mother Nature decided it was time to start playing jokes…

As a bit of background, we lived in Western Wyoming from 2006 to 2015, so I know that springtime in the Rockies can be a crap shoot as far as the weather goes. We were prepared as far as gear and clothing goes, but I really wasn’t expecting the forecasts to be as far off base as they turned out to be for the remainder of this trip. I REALLY should have been a meteorologist. I swear that must be the only job in the world where you can be wrong more than 50% of the time and still have a job, because three different weather websites and a couple of TV news stations completely BLEW IT!

Shortly after getting to the South Rim and getting camp set up, it started to rain. After an early supper that I managed to keep dry while it cooked, we called it a day and spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the tent. The next morning, we were up early to a snow storm. SERIOUSLY??? The night before, we’d decided to grab a shower and do some laundry before heading out to explore, so we kept to that plan, hoping it might clear up at some point. It didn’t, so we bundled up and walked a few of the trails around the rim for the rest of the day. Not really the kind of GC pics I was hoping to get, but we had a good time, regardless. Just the fact that we weren’t back home at work was enough to make the crappy weather a non-issue. After an overall good day, we headed back to camp and wouldn’t you know it, the weather broke and it cleared up as we were headed back, so we sat out and did some star gazing before bed. The next morning, we packed up and headed out for the North Rim.

After passing Jacob Lake en-route to Demotte Campground, we started hitting a few snow showers. Nothing was sticking, so I wasn’t too concerned until we crossed over a pass and dropped into the valley about five miles from Demotte. From here on out, it WAS sticking and looked to have been snowing pretty steadily the past couple of days because there wasn’t a blade of grass or bare ground to be seen. Again, MORE LIES from the weather people, lol! We pulled into our site at Demotte and I spent the first thirty minutes tromping around the site looking for a level spot to set the tent up. I THOUGHT I’d found one, but after getting the tent set up, I found out I was wrong. After getting everything set up and lying down on the cot, I found out that I should’ve taken a bit more time walking the site, because I almost rolled out of it! Oh well. It is what it is, I guess, so after turning the cot ninety degrees, all seemed well. We finished unloading, cooked supper, laughed about the crazy weather and went to bed.

We woke up the next morning just after first light to ANOTHER four inches of snow… I have to admit that I cussed JUST a little, but it wasn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Breakfast done, we headed out to the North Rim. We then spent the day hiking some of the trails and taking snowy pics. Not really the grand vistas I’d envisioned, but, once again, we weren’t back home in the daily grind. Before heading back to camp, we drove down to Jacob Lake Lodge for an awesome supper. I HIGHLY suggest a meal or three here if you’re ever in the area. The portions, service and atmosphere were really good and the prices weren’t too bad either. We also stopped in for breakfast a couple of days later and it was just as good as the dinner. Overall, money well spent.

Our last day at Demotte found us waking up to a full blown blizzard! Definitely NOT what I was expecting. We went back into the park anyway and spent most of the day just piddling around in the general store and the lodge drinking coffee and watching it snow before heading back to camp about mid-afternoon. It had finally stopped snowing sometime during the night, so we ended up packing up a wet and muddy mess of a tent the next morning before stopping at Jacob Lake for the aforementioned breakfast and then on to Monument Valley and, hopefully, warmer weather.

Our planned mid-trip break from the tent was HEAVEN! We rented a cabin on the Navajo Reservation at The View for the next two nights and all I can say about it is, WOW! The weather over those two days was great and the views from our cabin and while driving the valley loop road (the only unguided drive they allow), were simply SPECTACULAR! This is another place that I will definitely be going back to for a second visit at some point. They do have tent/RV camping spots, so a future trip may see us in the tent instead of a cabin, but then again, maybe not. That cabin was very comfy and I was actually kind of sorry we had to leave, lol. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the scenery, but now it was on to the (for me anyway), highlight of the trip…the White Rim Road! We drove up to Moab, restocked the pantry and fridge, filled up the gas tanks and water and then headed into Canyonlands. Once again, I checked the forecast and it was SUPPOSED to be good weather, at least according to the Ranger I talked to at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. Turns out she was only partially right…

We entered through Shaffer Canyon in mid-afternoon headed towards our first night’s stop at Airport. Surprisingly, my wife actually admitted that she enjoyed the trip down Shaffer. She’d watched a few videos on it prior to the trip and wasn’t too sure about it going in, so I was initially pretty leery about her reaction when it was “go time”. I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty proud of her. Once we got past the second or third switchback on the way down, she really got into it and relaxed. Anyway, we took our time (I thought) and got to Airport with plenty of daylight left to get set up, cook, eat and take in the views. After some picture taking and a beer that was interrupted by a brief outflow wind burst from a small thunderstorm that passed to our east, we called it a day and turned in after supper. The next morning, we had a lazy breakfast, packed up and headed out towards Gooseberry, which was stop number two of a planned four nights. With numerous stops along the way, we hit Gooseberry around 1300 hours, set up camp again and ate lunch. Remember when I mentioned that the Ranger was only partially right about the forecast? Here is where the FUN starts…

Shortly after getting everything cleaned up and put away, Mother Nature struck AGAIN. At about 1430 it began to cloud up and all hell broke loose. From then until about 2100 or so, we got hit by a windstorm that saw us having to stand in the back two corners of the tent to keep it from collapsing. The only thing that kept the tent from being completely uprooted and blown away was our weight and the fact that the opposite end was hooked to the 4Runner (it’s a Napier SUV tent). The funny thing about this (looking back anyway) was that it never actually rained a drop the whole time. It was ALL wind! After it died down, we went out and checked for damage. Surprisingly, we were good to go, or so I thought. WRONG AGAIN, because at about 0300 the next morning we got a rude awakening when round two came through and blew the tent down on top of us as we slept. We spent the next couple of hours till daylight sitting in the cab of the truck staring out at the dust clouds being kicked up, because we couldn’t get the damn thing to stay up in the dark! Once it got light, I did a damage assessment and found that two of the four fiberglass support poles that run across the top had broken. I tried to MacGyver them with Gorilla Tape and a few other things I had in the toolkit, but it wasn’t happening as MacGyver had not only left the building, I think he left the state... At this point, we decided to just call it since a backcountry fix wasn’t going to work.

We spent the next eight or so hours driving the rest of the way over to and out through Mineral Bottom. We did stop a bunch and take plenty of pics, but the fact that the last two nights had been pretty much trashed by the weather put a real damper on that part of the trip. There was one funny (to us, anyway) moment when we got to the top of Murphy Hogback. We were still lamenting our lost two nights when I crested the top of the hill and a Ranger pops out from behind a large rock and flags us down to check our permit. Simply wasn’t expecting that and it was definitely a surprise that lightened the mood a bit! We had a good chat with her, wished her a great rest of her day and carried on. We pulled into Moab later that evening looking pretty rough around the edges and pulled into the Holiday Inn Express were we got a room, showered then went to Antica Forma to split a pizza and drown our sorrows with some Moab Brewery IPA. Definitely not what was planned, but we made the best of it.

After deciding to not tempt fate anymore, we spent the next day driving through Arches, up to Devil’s Garden and then took the Salt Valley Road out and back to Moab. All in all, a pretty good day made even funnier by the fact that Brent had apparently been stalking me on APRS and helpfully pointed out that a Holiday Inn Express was not “overlanding”. Thanks for that by the way, Brent! I really needed the laugh!

The next morning, we decided to cut the trip short by a day and hit the road back to reality. When it was all said and done, we'd traveled over 4,900 miles start to finish, actually had a great time, met a lot of great people, took over 5,200 pictures and are looking forward to the next adventure once I get off my butt and get the broken tent poles replaced, lol.

It was one heck of a trip and I’d do every minute of it again in a heartbeat, broken tent included, if I could.
 

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JCWages

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Auburn, CA
That's one heck of an adventure. :) Having a positive attitude helps you endure some of the worst mother nature throws at you. As Graham Cahill always says "There's no such thing as bad weather only bad preparation."
 
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ru108

Rank VI
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3,336
Prairieville, LA
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Small aggravations in the grand scheme of things, but worth every minute of it. Any day away from the normal routine is a good day as far as I'm concerned. :grinning:
 
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ru108

Rank VI
Member

Member II

3,336
Prairieville, LA
Member #

12189

Ham Callsign
K5TIN
Small aggravations in the grand scheme of things, but worth every minute of it. Any day away from the normal routine is a good day as far as I'm concerned. :grinning: