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Thread: CA -> UT -> CO (Warning: TONS of pictures!)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco

    Default CA -> UT -> CO (Warning: TONS of pictures!)

    Just recently got back from a 12 day road trip (I guess the hip kids call it “overlanding” now) exploring Utah and Colorado (from California) with my wife. Had an awesome time and saw so much pretty scenery. The Rockies - my god, it was mountain after mountain after mountain. Just amazing.
    This was our second road trip, two years ago we did Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. We definitely learned from that one. Some things that stood out:
    1. The short bed of a Tacoma without a shell is not enough space. Not for our glamping.

    2. Setting up a tent, tent footprint, rain fly, mattress, sleeping bag, stove, table, and then taking all that crap down the next day was absolutely horrible. After the fourth night we were dreading making/breaking camp.

    3. Our schedule was too tight. There were some planned events and meetings with friends that forced us to move at a certain pace, it didn’t allow us to soak up the places we were.always trying to hit the next mile marker became quite a chore.

    4. My wife is very afraid of wild animals in camp and just about any night time noises she hears lol. This was all magnified after one night in particular. There were some nice folks camping near us and their dogs started barking like crazy just as we were going to bed. They came over to our site shortly after with a shotgun in hand, apparently the commotion was over a bear. The campers caught a glimpse of it with their flash light…my wife barely slept a wink that night. It didn’t matter that it was a black bear, or that we were careful with our food, or that I had a .44 Mag with me. She just couldn’t sleep.

    1. “Camper shell” added. So hesitant to do this since the truck looks so good naked, but it was necessary. Not just for adding more space for camping gear, but it will make life easier outside of camping too.

    Something about a truck with the shell door open and tailgate down appeals to me though. Probably cause of my childhood.

    I added a few things as well.

    Cargo net. Threw all my dirty / camp cloths up there, was super convenient.

    Axe holder

    Air compressor

    Air hose holder (btw, gear ties are freggin awesome)

    Plywood shelf. Really wanted some kind of drawer system but those are expensive. So instead, I built this and put loose, commonly used items into two plastic bins that slid in and out. Both trays shown here fit under it. Worked out great.

    We were also able to reorganize the rest of our gear into action packers. Made everything much more organized and easy to deal with.

    2. Roof Top Tent
    This add on changed the entire dynamics of the trip. I can’t say enough how nice it was to have. The two of us working together could deploy it in 5 minutes and take it down in about 10. Being able to store our sleeping bags and pillows in there saved time and space in the truck. And most importantly, my wife slept very well (okay I did too). Being high up off the ground gives some piece of mind, the visibility you have is very nice.

    Install day at the shop. Shout out to Mobile Living over in Concord, I got the shell and tent there and was very pleased with their work, service, and pricing.

    It did smell of manufacturing chemicals and whatnot so we decided to air it out for a few hours. A bonus for us was the wind was howling down by the GGB, so we got to see how the tent stood up to some wind.

    View out of the tent window

    That night I deployed the tent in the driveway for a while longer to air out some more. All of a sudden a full on fire works shows started from across the freeway. Apparently my town turned 150 years old that night…had a great view of the show from the tent.

    Last thing before the trip pics. My wife spent the week precooking out meals. We then vacuum packed it all up and froze it. Including the soups and stews (hooray for the Vacmaster chamber sealer I bought for Christmas!). All we had to do was boil the bags (bags are boil safe). Cooking during the week sucked (for her :P) but it sure made things simple on the trip.

    On to the trip. We left our home just north of San Francisco on Sunday morning around 9am. Our first stop would be Cabela’s in NV (can’t resist walking around there). Then we pushed on up the 80 and started looking around for our first camp site towards Sulphur, at the base of the Black Rock Desert High Canyon.

    Our first nights dinner tasted a lot better than it looked.

    That’s a happy camper if I ever saw one.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    The next morning we headed off toward Utah. Destination, Salt Lake City.

    “Some people just aren’t cut out for life on the road.” - Lloyd Christmas

    Salt flats

    Some mall, we stopped by a Borders.

    It was HOT.

    The goal was to head into the Uinta Mountain Range to explore. Running out of daylight we decided to grab dinner in Park City and stay in a campground by the Jordanelle Reservoir.

    I generally hate campgrounds but they can be convenient sometimes.

    Okay, now we head into what was probably my favorite portion of the trip. The Uinta’s were gorgeous.

    Mirror Lake

    Then we hit the dirt. We had two choices, descend down to a small water fall or ascend up to a cluster of lakes. I chose to descend.

    Time to air down. Have to post an air down photo right?

    Took a while to get down the rocky road, eventually saw water.

    And found the falls.

    We had a decent camp spot available near the dammed pool but it wasn’t really what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what we’d actually be able to access if we reversed course went back up the mountain but decided to take the chance. The drive back up took 2 – 3 hours.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    The first lake I tried for was a bust. No access. Another hour gone. And at this point I’m hoping I didn’t make a huge mistake looking for greener pastures.

    Heading towards another lake and feeling good.


    Leveling her out.

    Perfect site. The only complaint I had was that the mosquitoes were a little thicker than I would have liked.

    Time to get ready for the night. I decided we would stay the next day / night as well, so cut a little more wood. The Fiskers splitting axe is sweeeet!

    We had Burgers that night and Chili the next.

    The view from our “room”.

    I spend the next day fishing while the wife read and relaxed in the Tent (also avoiding the bugs).

    The lake fed a small creek right behind our camp site. I lost track of how many fish I caught in the lake / stream…40 would be a conservative estimate. All released.

    I didn’t want to leave this place. But we packed up the next morning and continued on down the road.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    What was aired down must be aired back up. 

    Lunch. The next target was Skyline Drive (North).

    Here we go….

    Very pretty road with amazing views, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The camp sites were right off the main road and almost every one of them had a huge RV parked in it…there were so many RV’s…I can only assume this place is RV heaven. We concluded the northern section of the drive and decided to look elsewhere – pretty views and dust is what we took with us.

    We wound up staying at Electric Lake that night. There were some people there but the far end of the lake was deserted.

    Beef Stew for dinner.

    We packed up and left the next morning. I started fishing the road side streams on our way out. The fish were definitely bigger than the guppies I was catching up at the lake.

    Poser fly fisherman pic. Pretty sure this is a thing.

    Remember I said gear ties were awesome? They really are. Just wrapped the rod to the rack as I drove and then kept it there for the rest of the trip.

    This spot had a wooden stair case leading down to some holes. Packed with fish. They weren’t as eager to bite as the fish were in the lake, but I somehow managed to get a few.

    Oh, the entire time I’ve been using 16 year old flotant. Haven’t fly fished streams since highschool. And it still worked.

    Our original plan at this point was to head towards Southern Utah to checkout Moab and the like. However, there was a heat wave, the already hot temperatures were even higher (into the 100’s based on the forecasts). Neither of us deal well with heat, so we decided to just head into Colorado. I’ve always wanted to see it and the temperatures were 30 degrees cooler, worked for us.

    Along the way, one of the Velcro straps holding the RTT cover gave way. Those gear ties again…

    We set the GPS to Aspen. Arrived late, had to get a room.

    Aspen was gorgeous, but you could totally tell it’s where the rich folks go to play. Anyway, breakfast was great.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    Next on the agenda was to hit up a nearby trail. This turned out to be an EPIC drive. Not that the trail was incredibly technical or challenging, but it just had the right ingredients. There we still snow on the peaks and the melt was trickling down many parts of the road. There were water crossing and mud puddles. Some of the most incredible mountain scenery, etc. This was by far the best drive of the trip. The trail took us to 12,000 ft or so.

    It drizzled along the way too.

    Passed this lake. You can see the summit in the background.

    There were some old cabins along the way as well.

    Reached the base of the summit. The pictures don’t to it justice at all.

    I LOVE these tires. Toyo Open Country R/T’s.

    Looking back.

    This wasn’t the end of the trail. It kept climbing so we continued up. We hit this snow drift along the way and I got to play with my trucks e-locker. I could probably could have made it up all open but with the e-locker it was no drama.

    Unfortunately there was a bigger snow drift a little further up. It might have been possible to make it up with some patience, some digging, and a bunch of tries, but when the truck started sliding a bit sideways (bear in mind the steep drop off we’re also dealing with), the wife wanted no part. No argument from me either. So this was as high we made it before we turned around.

    I wanted to camp at the base of the summit but the altitude was a bit much. We were both feeling it and my wife started to get a headache. In combination with the building winds, we decided to descend a bit and look for a site.
    We “settled” on this.

    Dinner…I guess we needed to eat some “vegetables”.

    Just in case.

    It got a little cold that night. lol

    Some time during the night we started hearing some noise from the truck. Almost like something was trying to get OUT of the bed area…whatever it was climbed on top of the exhaust and was trying to get in. Maybe he smelled some food or something we might have left in there. I got out of the tent and got a long stick and started banging around the wheel wells, but he didn’t care. He just sat there, all I could see was the tail. This was about as much as we saw, it was sticking out more before the picture was taken.

    My best guess is either a Pine Marten or Marmot? Anyway, it wasn’t going to get in the truck so I went back to sleep. As I drifted off I felt him jump off the exhaust.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    The next morning we headed back towards Aspen and to the Maroon Bells – Snowmass wilderness area. We hiked a few miles to Crater Lake. Hiking at 11,000 whatever feet is ridiculous, those people that climb Everest have mental issues. That said, I don’t like walking even when I’m at home.

    Our reward.

    Next stop, Rocky Mountain National Park.


    I didn’t realize the Rocky Mountain National Park was actually less “rocky” than what we were coming from. We were a little disappointed but it was beautiful nonetheless. The ride was just okay. We did the five hour and they didn’t provide lunch or take photo’s for us. The also took us to a lake that a major stop on the road and accessible by car…oh well.

    My ride

    Her ride

    After that was concluded we decided to check out Denver. I saw a Cabela’s on the way and couldn’t help myself…again. Got a few more flies there.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    Stopped at a Pizza place, the Yelpers said it was good.

    What the heck is this?

    We spent the evening driving around Denver, looking at down town, some neighborhoods etc. Our plan was to get a hotel room somewhere around the city but as we tried to book a room, EVERYTHING was no vacancy. On a Monday…wtf?
    We wound up driving west and found a nice lodge in Winter Park. They had garage parking, but I wasn’t sure if my RTT would clear. Wife got out of the car to look and tripped over a curb…hurt her wrist. Booo.

    Breakfast was good.

    The ski resort was in full mountain biking mode. All the bikes started getting me excited…I really wished I had planned for a day of riding. Especially since I wouldn’t have had to pedal up any mountains.

    No biking, but I decided I needed to catch a fish in Colorado. We drove out towards Meadow Creek Reservoir.

    Only fished for a few hours but I was able to get a few. So pretty.

    After fishing we had a quick bite to eat before heading back West towards Keystone.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    My goal for the evening was to hit up another trail and find a camp. I probably fished an hour too long and ate one too many taco’s, we wound up getting to the trail head as light was quickly fading.
    The trail was marked Moderate but there was a lot of rocks and deep ruts. I would say bordering moderate / difficult. I started scraping the bottom of the truck on things and realized I was driving a bit faster than I should be and not carefully picking lines – the trail conditions were maxing out my trucks capabilities. Tired and rushing, I decided it was not a good idea to proceed, first time I’ve had to turn around. Another inch of lift and 33” tires and it would have been a lot easier.
    As I was assessing the situation I was in (about to be high centered), my wife starting screaming, “MOOSE! MOOSE! MOOSE!”
    I wasn’t putting it together, “What!??”.
    “MOOSE!” she pointed forwards. I looked up and sure enough, a big ol Moose was trotting across the trail. I pulled the camera out a little late.

    I couldn’t really savor the moment, I was worried about not damaging the truck. Turned my wife into a spotter (she did great) and backed out of the spot I was in without incident.
    I made my way back down the trail to a camp site we had seen earlier. Even getting into this spot was a bit tricky for me. I made it through in-between two large rocks and some off camber, un-even ground. I set the truck up on flat ground and started to take the tent out.
    Then I looked up in the sky and saw some dark clouds and recalled the weather report forecasting 30% chance of rain. Considering the rocks we would have to go down to completely get off the trail we were on, I decided we should get down the trail now while everything was dry. I didn’t want to risk slipping off a rock and smashing something that shouldn’t be smashed.
    I realized how cautious I was being….man I must be getting old. Or wiser? Lol….anyway we drove back down and made camp around 10pm. Pic from the following morning.

    This pool was across the road from us. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any fish.

    We got back onto the road and checked the weather. Southern Utah cooled off a bit, so we pointed the truck towards Moab.

    Stopped in Grand Junction for lunch and an oil change.

    Back in Utah

    Hellooo Moab! We took Kane Creek Road a few miles and noticed a lot of no camping signs as well as a no camping sign the next 6 miles…running out of daylight again we decided to turn around to the campsites we passed for the night.

    This was where we stopped and setup.

    I looked up at the sky and saw some mean looking clouds (again). Then it started drizzling…and then thunder and lightning started striking off in the distance. We were pretty out in the open and I didn’t feel very safe, especially not on top of a roof.
    We drove down a mile or so to a different campground that was in a depression with some 40 – 50 ft canyons surrounding us. We stuck around there in the car for half an hour, the storm wasn’t coming much closer but there was still lightning…really would have probably been fine there, but I decided to be safe and head all the way down back to the road side camp sites by the Colorado River. It was a much lower canyon with much higher sides and a lot of surrounding trees. Again, 5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about staying at the second site.
    This is where we wound up staying for the night. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes here…they didn’t care about bug spray at all. We fell asleep to some decent wind and the sound of rain drops falling on our tent.

    Back on the road, the trip is coming to an end. Last stop, Grand Staircase. Another nice drive reaching our destination. Heading over the Dixie National Forest was awesome, I’d like to go back and camp there.

    As we drove through highway 12 we came across this cool coffee shop (Kiva Koffeehouse), way out in the middle of nowhere. Great coffee and pastries too.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    San Francisco
    Exploring Staircase

    I had high hopes for our last night before returning home. Headed off towards the forest near Antimony based on some research I had done online. What a let down, all I found was miles of ATV track. Wasted all of our daylight looking for a camp site before deciding to just hit the road towards home to find a campground on the way. We did see this guy.

    While driving it started raining again. It was dark by this time, we were on a pitch black two lane highway and these big rigs were FLYING. I was not comfortable going over 65 with the road conditions, tent, gear etc. I pulled over for two trucks, they must have been driving 75 – 80mph. I was getting tired and decided that I really wanted to get off the road.
    While trying to turn off on one of the highway intersections we were stopped. The highway we wanted to travel down was closed, a big rig had turned over…go figure. I hope nobody was injured / killed in the accident.
    The closest place I could find on the map was Panguitch Lake. We slept there for our last night.

    Got up at 7 the next morning and headed home. Crossed into AZ and NV.

    Back in California. The Sierra Nevada’s are still a sight to see.

    Near Bridgeport we came across this. Not cool.

    At gas stop, admiring the dirt, mud, dust, and scratches spanning four states.

    We arrived back in the Bay Area after a long 13 hour day on the road. What an awesome trip! In total, we drove about 4000 miles. I averaged 16.2 MPG, which was down from my last trip (19.2). We were driving at much higher elevation and over a lot more mountain passes though. That in combination with the roof top tent drove the mileage down quite a bit, I need to look into setting up a fairing to deflect the wind.
    For next year, we’re already thinking about British Columbia.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Gladstone QLD. Australia
    Great report, Loved the pics. Certainly beautiful country.


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