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Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California trip report. (May 17 – May 25, 2019)

Discussion in 'South West' started by Teegs, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:28 PM
    #1
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    To sum this trip up in one sentence: It's a darn good thing my wife and I are adept at camping in crappy weather.

    While it wasn't quite the trip we had in mind, that's not to say we didn't see and do some cool things. It just wasn't the relaxing, adventure vacation we had planned. Also, the weather wasn't ALWAYS crappy, but it did provide a number of challenges. It also gave me the chance to really break in my new Bundutec awning, and find out what it's limitations truly were.

    The trip took place during the week I gave myself between jobs. We were originally supposed to book it to Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah, travel Cottonwood road off 89 up to the town Escalante, mess around up there for a day or two, and then circle back to Monument Valley via Burr Trail Road, and finish up with Antelope Canyon and meander our awy home. About the only thing that went according to plan was that we made it to Escalante.

    Our trip started out at 6:00pm Friday, the 17th of May in Sacramento CA. We took Highway 50E to 395S. Just before Topaz Lake we turned on to Highway 208E. We started late because it was my last day of work and they had planned a little going away party for me. Gonna miss those kids. That said, we decided to leave and knock out at least 4 hours of the drive so that way getting to the Grand Staircase Escalante would be more of a 10 hour drive, rather than 14. (In reality it took longer because of bathroom breaks and lunch.) Around 11:00pm Friday, we rolled into a spot next to the West Walker River on 208E in Nevada. There we found a picture perfect place to camp, though the next day I did locate a rather informal “no trespassing sign” on an entrance we didn't take coming in. That said, a gentleman came out to check what looked to be irrigation equipment and paid no mind to us. He gave my wife a friendly “hello” and went about his business. During our camp we were greeted with a full moon and a pretty cool view of the river after a very short walk. The river was raging – looks like spring is still in full effect in this part of Nevada.

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    The next day we continued our drive through Nevada on highways North of Las Vegas. At some point we found ourselves on the “Extra Terrestrial Highway” also known as Nevada 375. Here we were treated to a couple different desert biomes in full spring bloom. We stopped and gaped at the greenery for a bit and took some pictures here. Also managed to snag a view of my first Antelope and her calf whilst driving near the largest military munitions depot ever, or something like that.

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    After a quick jaunt through the Northwestern corner of Arizona we passed through St. George, Utah and continued East until we got on highway 89. I found myself pretty jealous of the scenery that the people who live here take for granted. Talk about a beautiful place. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity we got on to Cottonwood Canyon Road, and the first real part of our adventure would begin.

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    Cottonwood Canyon Road came to me as a recommendation from an ex-coworker that used to give tours out in this area. He said the road would be an easy drive for my truck, and he was mostly correct. Really, it was an easy drive, so long as the road was dry. We would learn later, just how tricky (and sticky) Utah mud can be. But before all of that it was time to try and find a campsite. Cottonwood Canyon Road didn't let us down. The geological features were were stunning and the baby cattle we encountered were cute as punch.

    Eventually we found what would be our campsite in this bowl of sorts. But a steep winding road caught my attention and we gave it a go, eventually climbing out of the canyon. I let my wife drive some of road here to get her accustomed to basic technical driving and low gearing, because eventually when I get a drone I'm going to need her to drive while I pilot. The lighting and sunset really made for some dramatic pictures here.



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    Camp that night went off without a hitch, and overall we felt completely wind blocked. So much so that we barely needed our jackets, and I didn't even bother to stake the awning down.

    TO BE CONTINUED.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
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  2. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:29 PM
    #2
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The next day we would find this was a huge mistake. I awoke early the next morning to a roar, which my foggy brain translated as a huge gust of wind. I then opened my eyes just in time to see the awning actually lift off the ground. Turns out, we were windblocked from every direction, except the direction we drove in on. Frantic, I managed to get out of the truck cap and latch on to one of the arms of the awning before the wind had a chance to tear it clean off the roof. I imagine we were getting gusts of up to 50mph, directly at the awning. After yelling at my wife to hurry up before we ended our trip before it began, she groggily climbed out and grabbed another arm of the awning. We both looked at each other and tried to evaluate whether or not staking the awning down would even hold in the soft soil we had set our camp on, our leveling blocks even sank into the ground quite a bit the night before. We came to the conclusion that it would not, and decided to put the awning away. I will get around to doing a full review on this awning, but in the meantime let it be known that in high winds you will need a minimum of two people to deploy, and pack it away. Of course once we got the awning all packed up, the wind stopped dead. Fearing intense rain, we ate a quick cold breakfast and hit the trail once again.

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    This leg of the trip we encountered a bunch of really cool campsites, awesome geological formations, and even small cave/overhang or two. Nothing terribly technical here, though one of the power line tracks I took was pretty fun until it petered out. Eventually we would reach Grosvenor Arches, and this is when the rain would begin. We continued our trip on to back roads that were intended to get us to the town of Escalante. There, the plan would be to take Hole in the Rock Road and explore some slot canyons, Devils Garden, and eventually the Hole in the Rock. We never made it to Hole in the Rock Road. After some miles out, the rain really picked up and turned the road to mud. At one point I had to call the trip because we began to slide sideways down a particularly steep and muddy hill with a drop off on the outside. Blessedly we only slid a couple feet, and were able to maintain traction whilst backing out, but at this point the roads were trashed, and the journey would turn from a relaxing drive through some cool back country to white-knuckled fish tailing for the next 36 miles.

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    Once we made it back to the arches, my OCD wouldn't let me continue until I scraped at least SOME of the mud out of the wheel wells. We estimated around 80lbs of mud came off. Not that it mattered, we just replaced it the second we resumed our drive. At least one point we slid sideways down another hill (albeit much wider and with a dirt bank that would have stopped us from going off the cliff). I managed to engage crawl control which worked well for regaining our traction and getting us down safely. The next leg of the drive didn't include any crazy hills (thanfully) but did have a lot of mud, and was pretty slow going. Several hours later, I almost kissed the pavement when we finally made it off the backroad.

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    STAY TUNED FOR MORE.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
  3. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:30 PM
    #3
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    It was around 4:30pm at this point so we decided to take highway 12 to the town of Escalante and check out the State Park Campground there. Upon arrival we managed to grab the last campsite and the last of the firewood they had for sale. The campground here was small and quaint. It did have showers which were nice, as we were covered in mud from the days work. That night we cooked kalbi short ribs and mushrooms and onions over the fire for dinner, and had a generally nice time until the down poor began. So much for all that firewood we bought. It rained and rained, and then got very cold and turned to hail.The awning held up spectacularly, and honestly we were the envy of the campground, chilling under our awning sipping our beers. We also made a little friend called a White Lined Sphinx Moth. We named him “Mothra” (original, I know) and he hung out with us all night on our LED strip we attached to the awning. (Also, best 7$ idea ever.) We went to bed during a lull in the rain and then the weather went dead silent. I interpreted this as the weather getting better, but as you've probably noticed already, that wasn't the theme of this trip.

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    We awoke the next day to approximately 1.5 inches of the wettest snow on earth. The awning was sagging considerably, but still holding up just fine. After adjusting the guy lines and shaking off the slush I noticed that the awning had stretch out considerably – which was a good thing – as now once properly tensioned it would hold its shape better and pool water less than it had before. Mothra was still there in the morning and was very reluctant to move, but I didn't want to crush him when we packed the awning away, so I carefully transferred him to a protected portion of the nearest tree. Was a pretty rad experience.

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    After talking about it, and chatting up some of our campground neighbors we decided to bail on our original plans. If the roads had any chance of drying out from the rain, those hopes were dashed when they got a layer of snow. Basically everything I wanted to do in Utah and Northern Arizona was going to be off limits for the foreseeable future. It wasn't an easy choice to bail, but after checking the weather in Death Valley National Park, we decided that we very much preferred 70-80 degree weather over 34 and raining. Back on the road we stopped for a resupply at a grocery store and stopped by the ranger station to see if there was any point in trying to remain in the area. They said no, escape to Death Valley while you still can. And that was that, we were now on the road to Las Vegas.

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    But of course you can't go Utah to Vegas without first passing through Bryce Canyon and Zion. I've been to both of these places before and honestly am still awed every time. Just the drive through Zion alone is worth the park fee (though we have a inter-agency pass). We stopped for a quick lunch in Zion, and took in as much of the scenery as possible before hitting the road again.

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    Then, after another pit stop for beer we ended up in Red Rock Canyon campground, just west of Vegas around 6:30pm. The campground is unimaginative and boring, but we were desperate for an easy place to sleep. It cost $20 and I managed to sweet talk the campground hosts into letting us camp in the RV/Trailer area, as the general campground was full. Once we got camp set up, the wind kicked up again and we were back to 30-40mph gusts. This is when I discovered I could tie one of the ends of my awning down by hooking it to my passenger side rock slider. Dinner that night was pasta with sauteed and diced mushrooms and bell peppers, covered in a tomato sauce. Too windy for fire so we ended up hanging out in the truck cap after it got too cold to be outside. The campground hosts also wouldn't let us angle the truck to block the wind because it would “stick out too far”... Never mind the people with 28ft RV's and trailers that were doing the same thing. Whatever, I was just glad they didn't tell me to hit the road when I asked if I could take one of the last spots in the RV/Trailer area. We only managed to get this because I told them we were sleeping in the truck, and not in a ground tent or RTT. You may not have the same luck I did.

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    Day 4 COMING RIGHT UP.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  4. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:30 PM
    #4
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    The next morning it was still pretty cold and windy so we packed up camp quickly and took the Red Rock Canyon scenic tour. Our inter-agency pass worked here too which was nice. The drive is a one-way road that is wide enough to pass people gawking at the scenery. The scenery was also very cool, and if we weren't in a hurry we would have loved to do some of the hiking in the area. We did do a little bit of White Rock Mountain Road, which was a very rugged road. Had to take it pretty slow in a few sections. Our goal here was to find some easy petroglyphs, but alas we were unable to locate them. Once out the scenic tour, we were bound for Parump, NV and then Death Valley National Park.

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    Now, I've been to DVNP for a cumulative 3.5 weeks now and I must say, overall the park is incredible. Despite all the time I've spent there, we've barely scratched the surface of what's available to off-road capable vehicles. While there's a lot to do in your Corolla, I honestly recommend only going to DVNP with a vehicle with C class tires minimum, and low gearing. The true beauty and adventure here can be found WAY in the back country. Also never venture out without topping your tank off, and bringing extra fuel and a minimum of 5 gallons of water. We entered DVNP on 190 and our first stop was Zabriskie Point. Here we ran into a couple friends we made in a parking lot in Zion. They were also fleeing from Utah's crappy weather and took our advice to go to DVNP for a good experience. This was the last we saw of them, I believe they were in a smidge of a hurry to get to Oregon for a new job.

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    Zabriskie was pretty, and after a few pictures and bidding our friends farewell we headed down past Furnace Creek up to Stovepipe Wells where gas was about a dollar cheaper. We made a slight detour through Mustard Canyon for some cool scenery before we got to Stovepipe and found the ranger station there closed.

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    Running low on time we headed towards Chloride City (old mining town) up in the hills to camp in a canyon we had visited on a previous trip. Our destination was Monarch Canyon, a side trip off the backcountry road that takes you to Chloride City. After about 0.7 miles off the road to Chloride you will encounter the “mother of all washouts”. We camped here, and as per usual, the wind decided to pick up the second we got the awning all set up. At least here we could angle the truck to block most of the wind, but I still wanted a bit more stability. Knowing a fire wouldn't be an option tonight either (eff you, weather) we used the fire pit and a trekking pole as an impromptu pole setup for the arm of the awning that was being buffeted the most. Once we got the awning locked down, it worked great, and didn't budge at all, despite the 40-50mph winds we were getting. It was then we were joined by a random traveler on a dual sport. His name was John and was a really nice guy, traveling to Detroit for a new job he just got. We all spent the night powering beers down and having a great time hanging around the lantern, which we pretended was a fire. The next morning I had a great encounter with a humming bird who came to check me out whilst I brushed my teeth. I tell you, humming birds can be downright intimidating when they're 12 inches from your face. Once the bird had checked me out a couple times, he went and admired himself in the mirror of John's bike before flying off.

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    TO BE CONTINUED.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  5. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:50 PM
    #5
    PcBuilder14

    PcBuilder14 Well-Known Member

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  6. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:52 PM
    #6
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Bidding farewell to John, we then headed towards Furnace creek to find out the location of the nearest pupfish. After that we went to Salt Creek to view a surprising amount of spry little self important tiny fish. It was actually much more interesting than I had though it would be. These little fish were extremely active in the 80 degree heat and their 2-6 inches of water. We also saw a number of lizards, including the Zebra Tailed Lizard, some as long as my forearm, who likely preyed on the pupfish. The cool part about these fish is that the ones in the creek we visited are the only one of their kind in the world. And there were a ton of them. I can recommend this, especially if you bring binoculars. Yes, binoculars for animals that are like 8ft away. It gives you an incredibly good view of them doing their little fishy thing. Photos were difficult to take of them because they are rather small though.

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    Because naturally, when you're below sea level, you can't breathe right? ... I'll see myself out.

    Next we drove south on 190 and further south on Badwater Road. We blew by the attractions here because we've done them before, but if you haven't, I do recommend them. Our destination, on the other hand, was Warm Springs Road, which I thought might have a river crossing or two to help with the mud cemented on the bottom of the truck. Alas, no water crossings, but we did pass several very cool mines, and eventually encountered Warm Springs Camp – which is a series of abandoned buildings right next to a large mine. The place looked like it would have been very nice back in its hayday, complete with a swimming pool and diving board. It also had a small spring running through it, and yep, you guessed right, the water was lukewarm. The place was totally haunted though (well, IDK if it was or not, but I mean, it HAD to be right?) Careful not to disturb any rodent droppings for fear of the Haunta Virus, we made our way through the buildings until I found something out of nightmares. It was clearly the old communal kitchen, complete with a cold room and all, and the walls were covered in abandoned wasp nests. Like, hundreds. I got out of there quickly.

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    This is the shit out of nightmares, folks.

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    And as you can probably imagine, once we got our awning up, the rain came in and reminded us how insignificant we are. Thankfully it wasn't windy. I cooked New York steak on the skillet and sauteed some mushrooms and onions in a pot for dinner. It monsooned, but did managed to piss itself out and then we were rewarded with a relatively pleasant evening by the fire.

    The next morning we packed up and headed further up Warm Springs road until we got to Gold Hill Road. Here the road deteriorated considerably and it was very slow going. Saw a couple burrows and heard them making that stereotypical donkey sound, it was pretty funny to hear. We managed to get to the top of one of the splits off the main Gold Hill Road and find a pretty cool mine.

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    Check out that INSANE wheel lift. (lolz)

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    This one was pretty picture heavy so I'll do the rest of the day in the next post.
     

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    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
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  7. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:52 PM
    #7
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    On our way out we detoured on to an unnamed road that was said to have a spring at the top of it. A spring we did not find, that said, we did encounter a plethora insect and plant life. Springtime was abound in this place, with the cacti blooming, and several species of blue insects around. Was a truly beautiful place this time of year, and also considerably more abundant in flowers and insects than the previous valley we went up on Gold Hill Road.

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    We encountered an old talc mine on our way back to Badwater. Was a pretty interesting spot, and because the ground was pure white, it would make a very interesting camp on a full moon. Once we were done there we headed back to Badwater Basin in attempts to make it to Furnace Creek to camp. Of course by the time we got to the creek crossing down in the basin, it decided to monsoon on us some more, turning the “creek” to sludge. Shifting into low gear, I made it across without too much trouble, though we did take the lock off the maxtrax just in case.

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    On our way back North, we detoured for Artist's Palette and had a late lunch there. The views were great, the drive was cool (even if paved), and the place was just plain cool.

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    Yes, a random mushroom next to the restroom at Artists Palette.

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    In the next episode, Echo Canyon, cuz Furnace Creek sucks on a holiday weekend. (We did it better anyway.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  8. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:53 PM
    #8
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    This is known as being a rather intimidating jeep trail, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the road conditions as some of the best we encountered on the entire trip. We drove all the way up to where the canyon splits into the “short wheelbase” section, and turned back, opting to camp in a cool spot in the canyon we found on our way in. Once there we pitched the awning, and – you guessed it – crazy wind kicked up, forcing us to pack our firepit away yet again. Thankfully, no rain this night though. Dinner, I believe was more pasta with sauteed veggies and tomatoe sauce. Our lantern did provide quite the spectacle with the insect life in the canyon, however. We saw probably 7 different species of moth at one time, and witnessed some interesting behaviore with Daddy Long Leg spiders.

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    The next day we packed up, bid DVNP farewell, thanked it for a good trip (even desptite the weather) and made our way towards Alabama Hills, right outside Lone Pine, CA. Before we left the park entirely, we stopped at the Father Crowley Memorial at Rainbow Canyon, also known as Starwars Canyon. It's nicknamed that because fighter jets sometimes make passes through the canyon for onlookers to gawk at. We managed to see three full flyby's. It was awesome! Took a video of it, because pictures were trash. Not sure how to share that here, sorry folks.

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    Was a bit too clean.

    Finale. Alabama Hills. Woop!
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
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  9. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:53 PM
    #9
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Let me tell you about Alabama hills. This is a wonderfully amazing place to camp out. Make sure if you head this way, DO NOT bring glass. The place is nothing but rocks, and glass and rocks do not mix well. We made a few friends to which we shared some beers with that evening. The weather actually turned out great, being warm, dry, and low wind. Here we had New York steak and veggies for dinner. The area was pretty full, but with a high clearance vehicle you can get to some places that RV's and trailers can't. I can't recommend this spot enough.

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    After Alabama Hills, it was a 6.5hr drive home. Long, but honestly, 395 is a beautiful highway. The only thing really putting a damper on our mood was our hangover. Overall it was a great trip, and now that I've cleaned the rest of the mud off my truck, its ready for its 30k checkup. Hope everyone enjoyed this little report I made.


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    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
  10. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:53 PM
    #10
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Alright. SO I took one post too many. Sorry everyone. I'm sure ya'll will lose sleep over it.

    If ya stuck with me through this I share more adventures on IG.

    @4x4beard

    I know, its corny, but its easier than these trip reports, so its going to be updated more often. Also, I probably wont do one of these again until I go on another week long trip.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
  11. Jun 5, 2019 at 8:25 PM
    #11
    ruffridha9

    ruffridha9 Well-Known Member

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    stock ish
    :popcorn:
     
  12. Jun 7, 2019 at 8:11 PM
    #12
    Lost In The Woods

    Lost In The Woods Well-Known Member

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    Great trip report!
     
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  13. Jun 7, 2019 at 11:17 PM
    #13
    5Sport

    5Sport Well-Known Member

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    Very nice. Thank you. I love 395
     
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  14. Jun 8, 2019 at 6:41 AM
    #14
    Oxwhite

    Oxwhite Well-Known Member

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    Very cool
     
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  15. Jun 10, 2019 at 8:24 AM
    #15
    CXYyuppie

    CXYyuppie Sarcasm Master

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    Great report. I felt like I was there with you.
     
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  16. Jun 29, 2019 at 8:28 AM
    #16
    TailHook

    TailHook Weakness Is A Choice

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    Paid Off mod, Fox 2.5 life, Headstrong 3AAL, bronze Method NV, Falken Wildpeak AT3W, Avid 20* sliders, RCI steel skids, CBI bed bars w/ bike mounts, Baja Designs Squadron Sport fog/ditch lights, Cali Raised ditch brackets, Relentless Fab quickfist mounts, RCI HiLift brackets, SR grille surround, Taco Garage DMM, LED conversion, Hella Sharptones, KTJO 4X4 Bolt-n-Lock, Diff breather mod
    Awesome report!

    I'll be making a similar trip in a couple weeks...Cottonwood Canyon, Hole in the Rock, and Cathedral Valley...hoping the weather cooperates!
     
  17. Jun 29, 2019 at 8:44 AM
    #17
    Teegs

    Teegs [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Check out Burr trail road. And if the ferry is open maybe make a loop out of it.
     
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