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mk5 adventures

Discussion in '2nd Gen. Builds (2005-2015)' started by mk5, Sep 6, 2018.

  1. Feb 28, 2020 at 7:53 PM
    #41
    RyanTacoMC

    RyanTacoMC 96 Tacoma LX (RIP)

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    I hope you're posting these adventures on some blog or travel site or something! The pictures and story are very well done. They deserve a wider audience!

    I loved Death Valley when I was younger... I would drive out there and camp and hike and whatnot. The stars at night are not like anything I've seen since.

    And seriously... there's an abandoned mine you can drive through? I might have to go back...

    Thanks again, for these trip logs!
     
    tinker_troy likes this.
  2. Feb 29, 2020 at 8:00 PM
    #42
    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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    AdventureTaco
    Looks like a great trip! Definitely a few things in there I'd like to see some day ;).
     
    RyanTacoMC likes this.
  3. Mar 2, 2020 at 2:10 PM
    #43
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    You mean there's more to this "internet" thing than the Tacoma World???

    I'm inspired by others such as AdventureTaco and ExploreDesert who've made the leap to independent content hosting (in terms of both time commitment and quality)... but as a relatively inexperienced off-roader, and a newcomer to modern photography and videography, I'm content just enjoying the trails and posting here. Glad you enjoy it.

    Thanks! You have definitely inspired the destinations of several recent trips for me. Hope to to meet you on the trail someday.

    I've practically got a wall covered in yarn and thumbtacks of places I want to visit based on stalking build threads in this forum.



    Finally, here's the video montage from the trip:



    Hopefully it will show up in 4k at some point... it was a nightmare editing at that resolution on my wimpy computer. I think I'll stick to 1080 going forward.
     
    Road_Warrior and turbodb like this.
  4. Mar 2, 2020 at 6:08 PM
    #44
    RyanTacoMC

    RyanTacoMC 96 Tacoma LX (RIP)

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    4x4 Springs, QA1 TS703s, Rear Sway Bar, blah blah

    I do appreciate the smaller nature of TacomaWorld! Recognizing peoples avatar on random forum/posts is pretty cool. Oh, this person likes wood working, too? I sort of dig it.



    Well, photography/art is subjective, but I like your stuff better. Partially, because the Taco is there, but secondary... you have an eye for the whole scene. And maybe, I'm a little biased more to "the whole scene."

    Plus, you can't tell how how experienced a driver is based on photography!

    Anyway, keep it up! I look forward to your next trip!
     
  5. Mar 15, 2020 at 9:55 AM
    #45
    SIZZLE

    SIZZLE Pro-party

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    A little a this, a little a that...
    I’m really enjoying your thread! Great places, great truck, and great sense of humor. Keep ‘em coming!
     
  6. Mar 15, 2020 at 10:13 AM
    #46
    TacoEspecial

    TacoEspecial SSSlow

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  7. Mar 20, 2020 at 4:25 PM
    #47
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    Social distancing: Red Canyon and the Eagle Mountain Railroad

    Here is a video from a recent trip. Photos to follow.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLNSjLlq2Go

    With day-to-day life on hold because of the covid-19 pandemic, I went out to the desert to practice some social distancing this week.

    Here is the resulting video montage. Starting from Chiriaco Summit, CA, our adventure takes us along Red Canyon Trail, the Bradshaw Trail, and the Eagle Mountain Railroad, within the BLM lands of the Colorado Desert. The now defunct Eagle Mountain Railroad was built to haul iron ore for Kaiser Steel, once a west-coast industrial empire, from Southern California's largest mine to the steel mills in Fontana, via an interchange with the Southern Pacific on the east shore of the Salton Sea. The highlight of the route is its spectacular trestle over Salt Creek Wash, which is easily one of my favorite desert destinations. Most of the rails between the trestle and Eagle Mountain have recently been removed, leaving us for the time being with a fantastically graded route back to the freeway, but also, another sad reminder of the continual decline of American industry. Although the days of ore trains are long gone, I hope that this bridge survives for generations to come, and that future desert explorers can experience the tranquility of watching the sunset over the Salton Sea from this towering relic of post-war industrial might.

    FYI guys, I'm not a youtuber. These are more like music videos, so turn on the sound and enjoy.
     
    tinker_troy and SIZZLE like this.
  8. Apr 13, 2020 at 4:25 AM
    #48
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    Social distancing trip report (March 2020)

    2020 is off to a rough start. Due to a recently unfolding global pandemic, several major aspects of my life have been temporarily suspended, such as having a job that I go to, and in-person interactions with most other humans except for my wife (and even then, I’m avoiding eye contact, just to be safe – #hashtag flatten the curve). And while many other things in our lives may soon become very uncertain, back in mid-March, I decided to capitalize on a unique opportunity to head to the deserts of Southern California on a weekday. And unlike any other aspect of this world-wide shit-storm, the timing couldn’t be better. It’s spring, and we just got a lot of rain. The deserts are overflowing with natural beauty, and like always, offer unmatched desolation for those of us seeking to practice a critical skill for survival in the post-apocalyptic 21st century: Social Distancing.

    bs2.jpg

    I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that social distancing means you drive your truck out to the desert to avoid people who might be sick, foreign, or poor.

    rc3.jpg

    I invited my dad to join me from out of state, because he is old and in poor health, so he’ll need to be really good at social distancing to survive this pandemic. Our adventure began at Chiriaco Summit, which it turns out, is the only gas station between the Coachella Valley (Indio) and … whatever is east of Chiriaco Summit, which my sources claim is “Arizona Territory.”

    gp.jpg

    The desert is packed with history, and we had already stumbled upon some of it on our way to fuel up. In the early 1940s, America entered into WWII, which was well underway, as a nation of vast resources and budding economic might, but with a comparatively inexperienced and ill-equipped army compared to the battle-hardened, well-oiled war-fighting machine we would face on the battlefields of North Africa – literally, an army of Nazis, under the command of the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel. The man who turned the tides and led America to victory was General George S. Patton, a native Southern Californian, a visionary architect of mechanized warfare doctrine, and a cherished icon of American history. The Colorado Desert that we’re exploring today served as the vast training grounds for his troops during the war, then shortly thereafter, became the source of iron ore that fed Southern California’s steel mills during the post-war economic boom. So it is fitting that we start our adventure at the General Patton museum at Chiriaco Summit.

    rc4.jpg

    From here, we headed south on Red Canyon Trail, across some of the finest BLM land California has to offer. (And that’s only true because most other SoCal BLM lands have already been swept up by the NPS!) Our destination is the spectacular Salt Creek Wash railroad trestle of the defunct Eagle Mountain Railroad, which once carried ore from California’s largest mine (Eagle Mountain), to the steel mills in Fontana, via an interchange with the Southern Pacific on the east shore of the Salton Sea.

    kiosk-full.jpg

    Note that the BLM map kiosk mislabels the location of the railroad trestle. It is a couple miles to the east, at the next intersection of the Bradshaw Trail and the railroad route – by where the mile scale marker starts.

    rc6.jpg

    This trail is not particularly difficult, but it is definitely not suited for high-speed travel due to its roller-coaster grading and spectacular views. I made a point of driving it solely in 2WD this time, which requires a dash of momentum for a couple of hills, but is otherwise a piece of cake in dry conditions.

    rc2.jpg
    Sorry folks, this one got over-faked in photoshop, but I lost the original, and I still like the perspective. My bad.

    This trail is always a joy to drive, and although this year is no superbloom, the spring desert was flush with beautiful flowers.


    rc1.jpg

    As the small wash we were following gave way to a spectacular canyon, we got our first glimpse of the massive Salton Sea, many miles to our west. (It’s hiding right at the center of the below photo, trust me.) Finding such clear air is never a guarantee in the Coachella Valley.

    rc8.jpg

    Soon we had descended into the confluence of red canyon and the larger wash it feeds. We decided to double back into Red Canyon to stop for lunch within its narrows. This spot offers the perfect combination of warm spring sunshine and cool afternoon shade, with stunning views in any direction.

    rc9.jpg

    The only negative thing I can say about this place is that it bears the telltale signs of overuse and abuse by selfish idiot campers. And by that, I mean that there were bottles and cans littering the ground, and wind-blown fistfuls of used toilet paper dancing around half-buried piles of human feces in most corners of the canyon. While I hope that no TW forum member could be so ignorant or selfishly short-sighted, I’d like to utilize this platform to broadcast the following message to the broader internet community:

    Please do not defile our public lands with feces and toilet paper. Sprinkling a handful of sand or rocks on your lukewarm turd is not an acceptable plan for when nature calls. The desert winds will uncover it within hours, and the dry climate will preserve your shit-streaked clumps of toilet paper for years to come. There are 15 million people living within a few hours' driving distance of this place. Plan ahead and PACK IT OUT!

    Okay, with that out of the way, and with my bed slowly filling with all the bottles, cans, and other litter I picked up along the route (but no, not the poop)… we started packing up to head to the trestle. But just as I swung the tailgate shut, a distant roar filled the canyon, abruptly crescendoing to a horrifying thunder. Was it a flash flood crashing down upon us? That would be an unfortunate but perhaps not surprising way for me to meet my demise, given my hobby of hanging out in canyons in the desert. Maybe I should have looked upstream for the inescapable wave of destruction. But I’ve spent enough time in these parts to know the more likely source of this unearthly furor, so I turned my head towards the narrow ribbon of sky above us. And in the blink of an eye, a pair of warplanes zipped across this sliver of daylight, appearing to fly wing-to-wing, followed almost instantly by an equally brief moment of the loudest sound I’ve ever heard, as the scream of their engines echoed into the canyon and reverberated throughout my soul, momentarily weakening its grasp on my earthly existence.

    There was no chance for photography. Even if I had had my camera on and recording video prior to their unannounced arrival, I doubt it could have even focused or adjusted its exposure in time to catch the glorious moment when these terrifying feats of technological innovation blotted out nearly the entire width of visible sky from our vantage point on the canyon floor. My best guess is that I saw a pair of B-1s with their wings forward, flying at perhaps 1000 feet. I’m almost certainly wrong about that, but such is the falsified image that is now forever seared into my mind, amidst dozens of other surprise flyovers, as yet another of the countless reasons I will forever cherish exploring these desert lands.

    rc7.jpg


    But seriously, who leaves USED DIAPERS in the desert? Who walks 15 feet from the door of their tent or RV, into this public sanctuary of astounding natural beauty, and thinks, “this is an acceptable place to deposit a non-degradable vessel of my child’s feces for all of eternity, because disposing of it properly would be just slightly less convenient for me?” I can’t think of a more ironic symbol of the unravelling of American virtues, and the growing hopelessness facing our future generations, than finding a cache of carelessly discarded diapers in this spectacularly desolate corner of our public lands. I pray that the children of such selfishly lazy parents might somehow grow up to become decent human beings, and learn to respect the land as the rest of us do – but it’s hard to hold out a lot of hope given who is raising them apparently.


    b1a.jpg


    Soon we had reached the Salt Creek Wash trestle.

    b3.jpg

    For some reason I really like visiting this place. It is always serenely beautiful, combining my love for desolate desert landscapes, with my curious desire to explore abandoned relics of the industrial age. I come here several times per year.

    b2.jpg

    There are essentially three ways to reach the railroad trestle from area highways:

    Coming from LA, then probably your fastest route would be to drive the aqueduct access roads from North Shore until it intersects the Bradshaw Trail at drop 24. But this is tricky at best, because many of the roads are gated. It is easier to find your way through in the opposite direction, where the gates are immediately apparent from the route. Once you’ve memorized the canal route, these roads make for very fast travel. But then, the trail from the canal to the bridge is perhaps the worst of all 3 routes with respect to washboarding, so it always takes longer than it should.

    b4.jpg

    The second route is by far the most scenic, and is the route we’re taking today. From Chiriaco Summit, take Red Canyon Trail south to intersect Bradshaw Trail. From there, the trestle is only a few miles to the west across lumpy, soft sand.

    hike4.jpg

    The third option is to follow the railroad from the Red Cloud Rd exit on I-10, which is our exit route today. Because the rails have been very recently removed, you can actually drive on the former railbed for several miles. It is in far better condition than the adjacent Summit Road, which used to be the only option to follow this route into the wash. But be warned, this route is not maintained, and you will encounter progressively more severe washouts until you are forced to divert into the wash. Also, unremoved ties and eventually rails resume beyond Summit, spanning washouts like spaghetti noodles. And what’s one of the lessons we learn early in life? Oh yeah, don’t drive on the railroad tracks! (And that’s one I happened to agree with!) In any case, the immaculately graded right-of-way will beckon you to drive at freeway speeds or faster, and it is certainly fun to do so, but charging into a washout at such speeds could be a regrettable if not fatal mistake.


    bs1.jpg

    Ludicrous speed!


    So, after admiring the railroad trestle for some time, we headed back towards I-10 along this third route, stopping to appreciate the desert landscape as the afternoon sunlight gave way to the early stages of a beautiful desert sunset.

    bs3.jpg

    Our ambition had been to follow the railroad all the way to Eagle Mountain, which we arguably did, but we found that the railbed was closed off to vehicular travel with large boulders throughout its length north of I-10. Some areas had clearly been illegally bypassed, but we weren’t looking to break any laws today. So instead, we wound up following the infrastructure of the MWD aqueduct, which delivers water from the Colorado River to Southern California's urban sprawl. And several miles before reaching our destination, we ran out of daylight entirely.

    mwd.jpg

    With the automobile so central to our day-to-day lives, it is tempting to think of our freeways as perhaps the greatest engineering marvels spanning these deserts. But they’re not. The massive aqueducts that deliver water to SoCal’s urban empires and vast farmlands feature hundreds of miles of tunnels, wildly elaborate pumping stations, immense reservoirs, and they play a huge role in how our power grid works. But as fun as it would be to see some of these most impressive engineering feats like the nearby pumping station, it turns out that they have some pretty heavy-duty security as well, and you can’t go exploring them like you can abandoned railroad trestles in the desert... especially after dark. We were met by similarly intimidating (albeit unmanned) indicators that our presence was unwelcome in Eagle Mountain as well:


    gate.jpg

    (and yes, this gate was in fact locked.)


    So it was back to reality for us, via Desert Center. I had assumed this named town on my map, located along a major interstate corridor, would host at least a truck stop and a typical assortment of roadside amenities. But such was not the case. The town has a fascinating history, but today, appears to be entirely abandoned (although it is still a well visited parking area for long-haul truckers). Here, we aired up before the long and uneventful drive home.

    dc.jpg

    It was a truly successful day of social distancing. Only, like, several more months to go?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2020
  9. Apr 22, 2020 at 6:16 PM
    #49
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    Trip Report: Anza Borrego '20

    https://youtu.be/4vRwAY6uxmQ

    vw2.jpg

    So with the collapse of our economy and society on the horizon, I decided to get the heck out of town and go live in the desert for a while. Luckily, I was able to work remotely during this time, which means this is was a very non-typical type of camping trip for me: a stationary one.

    night1.jpg

    Where should I go? The requirements are that it needs to be far away from people, but have excellent cellular service, so I can type on my little computer all day while talking to people on Zoom. Also, being mid-March, the high deserts still get super cold at night, as in, like, the 40s, which is too cold for people of such weak character as myself. So I decided to head to the low inland deserts of San Diego county, which were already warming up, and which turn out to have great cell service unless you're in a canyon.

    vw1.jpg

    Anza Borrego it was!

    fl2.jpg

    Luckily I know these areas pretty well. The very best spots were already taken up, even mid-week. But I found a pretty okay one to set up camp.

    fl5a.jpg

    fl3.jpg

    This year is no superbloom, but the desert was still flush with beautiful flowers.

    gh7B.jpg

    The difference between the okay spots and the best spots out here is wind shelter -- although there is also a tradeoff there, because the winds generally come from the same direction as the cell towers. So my spot was pretty windy, but I had better data service than most places I've ever lived.

    night2.jpg

    My shitty Harbor Freight canopy finally earned its keep, too, sheltering me from the unrelenting sun during each work day -- although I had to periodically pull the tarp off when the winds picked up in the evenings.

    gh1.jpg

    I really loved my stint of living and working in the desert. Every few hours, I took a break from work to go take more pictures of the desert.

    vw3.jpg

    fl7.jpg

    My only visitors were the occasional hawks and attack helicopters that would fly over my campsite.

    hc.jpg

    In the end, I ran out of cellular data -- not food or water -- and had to head home. In fact I ran well over my allotment, and my bill was insane. But this was around the time of the lockdown anyway, and I think my wife was starting to miss me, so home I went.

    asdd2.jpg

    asdd1.jpg

    On the way home, I tried to snake my way through the park to Ocotillo Wells via Diablo Dropoff, repeating the route of the very first adventure I took with this truck a couple years ago.

    ss1.jpg

    ss2.jpg

    ss5.jpg

    ss6s.jpg

    This final evening culminated with the trip's most spectacular (and windy) sunset.

    ss4.jpg

    Somewhere in the far distance of the above photo, Julian was getting hit with late-season snow as another weather front moved in.

    dd.jpg

    With the day's very last light, I reached the dropoff, only to discover that it has been totally washed out, with massive 3+ foot gashes cutting lengthwise along each of the established routes. To be honest, if my life depended on it, I think I could probably slide my way down one of these chutes, but I think you'll agree it would be stupid to try that alone at night during a pandemic without a very good reason. And there were definitely no tire tracks to suggest anyone else had attempted this since whenever the washouts occurred. There was a newer, passable route just slightly to the north, but while walking it, I realized that it crossed over a destroyed fenceline. So FYI, as of March 2020, I would call Diablo Dropoff essentially impassible unless you want to take an illegal bypass.

    washout.jpg

    Man, I wish I could have seen the canyons below fill with the raging floodwaters that caused these washouts!

    Lessons learned:
    • Stationary camping requires a much larger solar panel than my dash-top trickle charger panel, just to keep up with a fridge and a laptop day and night! I had to run the engine every evening to recharge the battery. And as time went on, I found myself more frequently playing music through the stereo, which ate up even more power. I will order a much larger panel for future pandemics!
    • The propane campfire continues to be really convenient, especially now that I've upgraded to a 20 lb tank. It is so nice to sit around a fire all night without waking up with burning eyes and clothes reeking of smoke.
    • If you're going to try warming a can of spaghetti-o's directly on the fire, because you're too lazy to set up a stove or unpack a sauce pan, then here are a couple of pro tips: 1. Don't. 2. Eat a few spoonfuls cold so there is enough room for you to stir the can. 3. Actually stir the can instead of looking at your phone while spaghetti-o's erupt all over your campfire 4. For god's sake, remove the label.
    campfire.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  10. Sep 17, 2020 at 8:40 AM
    #50
    another395Taco

    another395Taco Well-Known Member

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    Awesome thread, really enjoyed the Canyonlands/San Juan trip as that's more or less what I'll be attempting in the next 3 weeks. What sort of flying camera did you get? Really loving some of those shots from the San Juans.

    glad you got to Cerro Gordo too this February. The hotel and some other buildings mysteriously burned down this June..
     
  11. Jan 19, 2021 at 4:27 PM
    #51
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    A bunch of stupid crap
    Trip report: Death Valley '21

    sv.jpg

    We finally reached the Searles Valley not long before sunset on Saturday. The original plan had been to reach this point by Friday afternoon, but our work schedules had abruptly intervened to scuttle my meticulous plans and shorten our original four-day trip to just one night and one day. And true to character, I had once again botched another key aspect of trip planning: remembering to bring the god damned map. Sure, I had spent hours planning out a four-day weekend in Death Valley, reading the guide book, annotating maps, and copying GPX waypoints onto a brand new SD card. But those items had been left on my desk some two hours behind us. We were once again driving by memory.

    trona.jpg

    I’ve always loved the town of Trona. It is the ultimate mix of bizarre geology, absolute desolation, and crazy industrial mining stuff. Did you know there’s a golf course? I didn’t, and I’ve never even been golfing, but now I’m shopping Craigslist for some free golf clubs because the next time I visit Trona I sure-as-hell want to go golfing here.

    pv.jpg

    We got our first glimpse of Panamint valley as the sun was setting over the mountains to our west, leaving only the upper elevations of the Panamint range basking in sunlight. My plan was to camp somewhere above Ballarat, in one of the alluvial fans just left of center in this photo. Also, check out my new center brake light on my soft topper!


    On the way to Ballarat, we encountered this government mind-control device. Luckily I always travel with a tin-foil hat.

    ballarat.jpg

    Next we stopped at the Ballarat trading post, which I didn’t know was a thing, much less a place where we could buy useful items. But I’ll be damned, someone emerged to invite us in, and I was able to buy a map of the area. Not that I would open it until we got home, but it was nice to feel slightly less lost. And even better, we now had some Oreos.

    camp-n.jpg

    We set up camp above Ballarat, near the mouth of Pleasant Canyon, as the day’s last light faded. I enjoyed the night-time views of the valley floor, a few hundred feet below us, which well into the evening bustled with the lights of highway traffic as well as latecomers to the nearby camp areas. Surprisingly there was no traffic on the Pleasant Valley road, save for a single Jeep that emerged from the trail above at around 11PM. I wonder what the hell he or she was doing up there; the sun had set some 6 hours ago!

    camp-d.jpg

    Near-perfect weather prevailed all night, and the next morning gave us our first view of the valley below. It was a barren desert hellscape, and I couldn’t be happier.

    pv2.jpg

    If I had to sum up Pleasant valley with one word, it would be, well…. Pleasant.

    truck.jpg

    It is easy going all the way to the top, save for the constant assaults of foliage to both sides of my truck.

    pv3.jpg

    In fact, the elevation gain was downright deceptive, and would only become apparent when we descended back to Panamint valley later that day via the steeper and more spectacular South Park Canyon route.

    pv4.jpg

    Meanwhile, I kept stopping to marvel at mining relics, some of which seemed only recently abandoned. But we didn’t have much time to spare. I was trying to cram in as much of a four-day literary as I could, so I didn’t try borrowing a nice camera, or even bringing the drone. Just what I could snap with the cellphone.

    grader.jpg

    After a few hours we had reached the top of the trail: Rogers Pass. This also gave us our first internet access of the trip, so I made sure to post a quick photo on the death valley thread.

    rp.jpg

    Climbing the ridgeline southward gave us our first (and as it would turn out: only) daytime view of Butte Valley to our east. I’m pretty sure that’s striped butte in the near distance of the below photo.

    pr.jpg

    I challenged this truck to a drag race but he didn’t budge:

    mp.jpg

    Middle and South park are beautiful. And oddly, well served by radio and cellular signals, even when it seemed like there was no line of sight in any direction. My little 1W packet radio was reaching all the way to Wrightwood, and I was back posting on TW with 4G service when we stopped for lunch at a mine halfway down South Park Canyon with absolutely no view of the horizon in any direction. But now I’m telling the story out of order. First there was cool stuff to explore in South Park.

    sp1.jpg

    sp2.jpg

    At the top of the canyon is this particularly beautiful growth of … I don’t know, some sort of plant. But it looked like it belonged in a fairy tale, lining the road to the witch’s house.

    sp3.jpg

    There was some slick ice hiding in the shade too.

    sp4.jpg

    The road kept rewarding us with awesome scenery. An upper shelf-y section made me wonder if this is where the bridge had been, but I didn’t see any signs of recent repairs to the area.

    sp5.jpg

    Sometimes I wish I knew more about geology. But I don’t, so here’s a picture of cool-looking rocks or whatever:

    sp6.jpg

    Eventually after stopping for lunch we got to the shelf section that once had an awesomely sketchy bridge, photos of which are what put this trail on my must-visit list last year. This is a spectacular stretch of road to drive, and I kind of wished we had gone in the opposite direction so I’d be the one with the view over the edge.

    sp7.jpg

    Here is the repaired section of trail. Too bad the bridge is gone, but we owe the BLM a debt of gratitude for keeping such an amazing trail open to the public.

    sp9.jpg

    Then, a narrow canyon section. We must be nearing the valley floor, right?

    sp8.jpg

    Wrong. We still probably had a thousand feet to go, as we realized when the trail diverted out of the canyon and onto the side of the valley. The gears got a good workout holding us back all the way down… I think it’s safe to say they’re broken in now!

    sp11.jpg

    With the sun low in the sky I charged back up Goler wash, hoping to make it to Butte Valley with at least some daylight remaining. But it took me half an hour to find an intermediate destination on the way: Barker Ranch. Sure wish I had my waypoints loaded on the radio.

    br1.jpg

    br2.jpg

    So it was well into twilight by the time we got to the top of Mengel pass.

    mp2.jpg

    There are some pretty rough sections on both sides of the pass, and in darkness and haste I wound up using the rock sliders way more than I should have. And still I had failed in my goal: it was dark, and we couldn’t see anything in Butte Valley except for a couple of campfires. I wondered if this was the famed geologists cabin as we drove by:

    bv1.jpg

    I stopped to admire the beauty of Striped Butte in the darkness. Just kidding of course, I couldn’t see a damn thing.

    bv2.jpg

    So with that we charged eastward towards pavement and ultimately towards home. I missed the turnoff to stay in the valley so we wound up driving through Shoshone. I didn’t mind, as we would have been running on fumes if we tried driving straight to Baker. Shoshone sure is a fun-looking town, and I hope to go back there if this pandemic thing ever goes away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
  12. Jan 20, 2021 at 12:27 AM
    #52
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

    Joined:
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    A bunch of stupid crap
    On board water (camp shower project)

    20200626_193241(0).jpg

    This is perhaps the most elaborate and time-consuming mod yet for me, so I hope you enjoy as I slowly update this thread with the details of this project. It looks like I’ll have to split it into at least two posts, so here’s the first one.

    Background: I love camping in the deserts and the high country, and would love to be able to camp for days on end without needing to return to civilization.

    The problem: I have a job and can't just go camping indefinitely.

    Wait, I mean the other problem: I can’t stand to go more than a few days without a shower. Campfire smoke or allergy season make it even worse. By day three my skin is crawling in discomfort beneath all the layers of caked on dirt, sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray… and I probably don’t smell that great either.

    The solution: I want a way to shower at camp. That means I need a source of water, a way to deliver it to a shower head at a reasonable flow rate, and a way to heat it up to a bearable if not pleasant temperature for a brief but thorough wash-down, even in remote corners of the desert. So here’s what I came up with!

    shower.jpg

    Ruling out some of the better-known options: There are dozens of well-established methods of showering at camp, ranging from inexpensive plastic bags that you can hang from a tree, which heat by sunlight and drain by gravity; to portable propane water heaters with battery-powered pumps. Some systems can draw their water from lakes or streams, while others rely on tanks that you fill at home or at rest stops, and some will only work at campsites with city water hookups, like at RV parks. Which approach is right for me?

    I want a shower system that delivers ~100 °F water at ~1 GPM, which I think will be reasonably pleasant and effective. I’ll budget 3 gallons for a shower, and I’d like a system that can dole out “at least several” showers’ worth of water before I’ll have to head back to civilization.

    Hanging bladder sun bags won’t work because I am usually driving to a new campsite every day, so I couldn’t leave it out in the sun, and even if I could, I’m not sure if they’d reliably get hot enough in many of the environments I tend to camp. Also, since I roll with a soft topper and not a bed rack, I can’t mount a solar-heated water reservoir on my truck, like I have seen others do on this forum. I don’t go to developed RV campgrounds, and I rarely camp near lakes or rivers; plus, I’d like the shower to deliver potable water for doing dishes and stuff, so I will need to go with a tank-based system. I don’t want to lug around a bunch of separate parts like fuel cylinders, hoses, tanks, etc., that require assembly each time I want to use the shower, so that rules out propane camp showers. Finally, I don’t want to give up any storage space in the bed or the cab, and I don’t want to substantially raise the center of gravity of my vehicle. All in all, this rules out nearly every on-board-water solution I’ve seen on this forum. So this is where the rabbit hole begins…


    Water source: I decided to mount a water tank beneath my bed. This won’t sacrifice any bed space, will keep my center of gravity low, and will keep me from hurting my back by lugging a bunch of jerry cans around. I spent some time on a creeper with a tape measure before deciding I could fit a 13-gallon RV water tank there, maybe using a couple of trapeze hangers from the bed above. The tank measures 16 x 9 x 21 inches. Here it is in the early stages of test fitting (33” tire for scale):

    tank.jpg

    When the tank arrived, I realized it was going to be a total pain in the ass to actually fit in in this space, much less properly support it. Another case of delusional optimism with the tape measure, I guess? Not only would I need a custom tailored bracket to support this tank, but I was going to need to re-route my exhaust to clear the tank as well!


    Bracket for water tank: I decided I would need to learn to weld to pull this one off, so I went and bought a whole mig welding setup. I was super excited, but in the end, it took me an entire year just to run a 240V outlet to my garage so I could start practice welds…

    outlet.jpg
    Probably the hardest part of this whole project!

    Then, it was time to start welding like a pro, starting by repairing this old shooting target:

    weld1.jpg
    Perfection!

    So it turned out I might need to practice this whole “welding” thing a few more times before tackling the water tank project.

    weld2.jpg

    Once I was making okay-looking welds, I started cross-sectioning and bending them to make sure they were solid. Which of course they weren’t!

    weld3.jpg

    After a few more sessions, I was finally making good welds at least some of the time. It was time to start practicing the joints needed for this bracket:

    weld4.jpg

    weld5.jpg

    Finally, I dove in and welded up my tank bracket:

    bracket1.jpg

    bracket2.jpg

    Next, I’d have to come up with a way to fasten it beneath the bed. So I cut and fit four different attachment points. Two to the frame, and two to the cross members. Kind of tricky to do on my own, but I wound up using spacers above the tank (to keep it ½” below the bottom of the bed) and jacking it into position so I could mark/tack the positions of the supports.

    bracket3.jpg

    bracket4.jpg

    bracket5.jpg

    bracket6.jpg

    To make installation possible without removing the driveshaft, one of the attachment points would need an intermediate bracket:

    bracket8.jpg

    I borrowed a plasma cutter to make the cutouts for the water outlets. It turned out to have a totally mutilated nozzle, but after some filing, I was at least able to make some pretty crude cuts:

    plasma.jpg
    Close enough!

    Here’s my tank holder bracket all welded up, part way through painting:

    bracket7.jpg



    Exhaust rework: The truck already had a low-profile muffler installed by a previous owner (Flowmaster 40 series), which is probably the only reason I thought I could fit a water tank down there in the first place. But once the tank arrived, I realized I would need to lower the whole exhaust by another inch or so to clear the tank without rubbing. I also discovered that my old muffler had already rusted through in a couple of spots. So I wound up buying a new identical muffler, in addition to modifying the rest of the exhaust pipe, so that the tank would fit above the exhaust pipe.

    exh1.jpg

    exh2.jpg

    exh3a.jpg
    Learning how to weld exhaust pipe…

    exh3b.jpg


    One challenge I encountered is that, even though I’d purchased an exhaust tube expander mandrel, I couldn’t figure out any way to hold the pipe while applying the necessary torque to flare the end. So I wound up making coupling sleeves from exhaust adapters instead of flaring and overlapping each joint. That meant two weld seams per joint instead of one.

    exh4.jpg

    exh6.jpg

    exh6b.jpg

    exh5.jpg

    exh9.jpg
    Only an insane person would resort to tapping threads for retainer screws in their exhaust hangers...

    exh7.jpg
    Insane person, photographed in his natural habitat

    exh8.jpg

    Luckily, the new exhaust routing still keeps the muffler out of the way of trail obstacles. Or at least, it’s still a few inches higher than my frame and driveshaft, and I haven’t smashed it yet!

    I also used a bunch of insulation to make sure the hot exhaust wouldn’t melt the plastic tank or plumbing, even if the tank was dry:

    insul1.jpg

    insul2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
  13. Jan 20, 2021 at 1:04 AM
    #53
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

    Joined:
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    Vehicle:
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    A bunch of stupid crap
    Camp shower project, part 2:

    Heat source: Given that I had ruled out solar heating, or a propane water heater, there are only a couple of options left to consider. It seems like an electric water heater would be the easiest. But let’s briefly ponder how much power would be required to heat cold tank water to 100 °F at 1 GPM on a brisk autumn morning (starting temp = 40 °F):

    maths.jpg

    Well, I’m not going to be able to draw 9 kW (i.e. ~750 A) from my vehicle’s alternator. Even pre-heating the tank over several hours with an immersion heater would be a stretch for my electrical system, not to mention that it’d take a lot of effort to make sure it didn’t self-destruct or start a fire if the tank ran dry. So electrical heating was out.

    That leaves the engine itself as the logical source of heat for my shower system. And it has plenty of heat to spare, as evidenced by the fact that it needs a water cooling system and a gigantic radiator just to avoid overheating constantly.

    hex.jpg

    So, I decided to use a liquid heat exchanger, plumbed in series with my heater core, to heat my shower water with engine coolant. I went with a 30-plate stainless steel heat exchanger, mounted on the passenger side of my firewall (behind the ABS contraption). Here’s the bracket I made to mount the exchanger – I had to buy a MAPP torch to be able to bend this thing to shape! The upper hole will mount to an existing stud in the firewall, and the lower hole will hitch a ride on one of the ABS studs:

    hex1.jpg

    This wound up giving me a rock-solid mount for the heat exchanger. I machined an aluminum backing plate to adapt the heat exchanger to its bracket. For some reason I added 16 extra mounting holes and I’m not sure why. Anyway, I used insulating bushings and a mica sheet to keep the heat exchanger electrically isolated from the body, in case there were going to be any issues with electrolysis (which I don’t expect for a stainless heat exchanger, but why not stick with the theme of overthinking things?)

    hex2.jpg

    This shows the heat exchanger installed, and how I routed the cold water input and tempered water output tubes through heat shielding, to get it safely past the exhaust manifold. The tubes pass through to the outside of the frame over the cab mounts.

    hex3.jpg
    Engine removed for ease of illustration!


    Engine interface: I’m connecting the heat exchanger in series with the heater core using 5/8” radiator hose. I tracked down some pre-molded hoses with 90 degree bends that worked perfectly for both heat exchanger connections (Gates 28470). Even though my pluming materials and the heat exchanger are rated for very high temperatures, I don’t want engine coolant flowing through the heat exchanger except when I need hot water for taking showers. That’s because fresh water has a lower boiling point than pressurized engine coolant, and my heat exchanger will usually be filled with fresh shower water. If I allowed coolant to flow to the heat exchanger at all times, then the shower water therein would probably boil while I was driving. That could overpressure the shower water system, or lead to premature failure or clogging of the heat exchanger.

    divertervalve.jpg

    To (hopefully) solve this problem, I’m installing a diverter valve between the heat exchanger and my heater core. These things were common in mid-20th-century cars, where heater coolant flow was adjusted to regulate cabin air temperature (rather than a heater blend door in the ductwork). I was able to source a cable-actuated diverter valve with 5/8” barbs for about $50 from Old Air Products. I installed this on my firewall, running the cable actuator to an unused hole in my bodywork just below the passenger headlamp. That way, I can pull a knob to enable coolant flow to my heat exchanger, without even raising the hood. Normally, I keep the knob pushed in, which bypasses the heat exchanger. Because it’s a four-port diverter valve, it doesn’t affect cabin heat in either position.

    diverter.jpg This is the four-port heater diverter valve and the crude mounting bracket I made for it.

    diverter2.jpg
    Installed!


    Interlude: At this point, an angry man tried to set some other people on fire, not far from my house, by throwing improvised incendiary devices from his car towards where these other people were living at the time, which again, wasn’t very far from where I live. Because this is southern California, this quickly led to a very big fire with lots of smoke, and very soon embers were raining down on me and my taken-apart truck. I very quickly had to change gears, from working on my engine and camp shower projects, to frantically packing our most important belongings and our cats into my wife’s car, so we could drive somewhere that wasn’t about to be on fire.

    fire.jpg
    Thank you fire fighters!

    Luckily, the fire fighters were able to stop the fire before it burned down my house and my truck, and I was able to keep working on the camp shower the very next day (although I would continue finding ash and charred plant matter for quite some time!) An important take-away for me was that I should try to limit the amount of time that my truck is taken apart, so that I don’t have to leave it to burn next time my neighborhood is about to catch on fire.


    Temperature control: Using engine coolant means that the heat exchanger could produce water over 200 °F – a bit too hot for comfort in my opinion. In fact, emerging research suggests that would be downright unhealthy. So I will be using an automatic thermostatic valve to mix the hot water from the heat exchanger, with cold water from the tank, to produce tempered shower water at a constant (adjustable) temperature. These things are required by code in most developed countries now (or at least in Europe), so they’re super cheap online. I mounted mine in front of the ABS assembly over my passenger wheel well -- not far from the heat exchanger--using a short piece of strut and strut-type pipe clamps. I can adjust the shower temperature at this valve if I want, but in practice, I set it to a nice temperature and rarely mess with it.

    valve.jpg

    The valve works perfectly, but there are a few drawbacks to using a plumbing component designed for the European market. First, the valve itself is labelled with useless metric numbers instead of real temperatures. I found that 38 smoots on the dial gives a pleasant shower experience, and also happens to be where an interlock mechanism prevents rotation to higher temperatures unless a red button is pressed. If you depress the button and turn it further, it can get scalding hot, which turns out to be super useful for doing dishes at camp, or for burning yourself if you forget to turn it back down before taking a shower.

    valve.jpg

    Another downside is that it came with BSPP threads, so I had to buy special fittings for it, and even then, I also had to buy and extensively modify a pipe die to finally cut threads that would seal on this stupid valve. In hindsight, I wish I would have shelled out a few more Euros for a valve compatible with the pipe fittings used here in the free world.


    Water pump: I went with the Flojet 03526-144A pump, which has built-in pressure regulation and bypassing, so you don't need any additional regulators or accumulators to get consistent water flow. It is rated at 2.9 GPM flow and goes up to 50 PSI. That’s not quite as much oomph as you’ll get from a typical household hose spigot, but it’s damn close.

    pump_img.jpg

    pump1.jpg

    I wanted to install the pump somewhere out of the way, but where it wouldn’t be damaged by road debris or high water crossings. I decided to put it in my passenger bed side, in front of the wheel well. I made a little metal bracket for it, with a cradle to catch it in case its rubber legs ever fail, so it won’t fall to its death beneath my tire and take out all my plumbing in the process. Here you can see it installed behind the bedside:

    pump2.jpg

    It isn’t silent, but it isn’t too loud either, and it delivers a smooth flow of water with plenty of pressure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
    CrazyAirborne, turbodb and DVexile like this.
  14. Jan 21, 2021 at 1:16 AM
    #54
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

    Joined:
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    Vehicle:
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    A bunch of stupid crap
    Camp shower, part 3

    Shower: Going with the theme of keeping things out of the way but at the ready, I selected a retractable shower hose that I installed into my passenger bed side near the back of the bed. This is a 6’ long shower hose that I can pull out when needed, then stuff back into the bedside when I’m done. A hinged cap keeps it tucked out of harm’s way when stowed, and it’s installed at the very back of my bedside so I can still access it even if the bed is full of gear.

    hose1.jpg

    The shower itself is pretty easy to use. Push the lever for a momentary flow of water, or toggle it backwards to keep it running continuously. It has a hole allowing you to hook it overhead, but to be honest, we only ever use it in the hand-held configuration, which makes for more efficient water use anyway.

    To keep the stowed hose from snagging on things or dangling below the truck, I attached a mesh gym bag to its housing, behind the bedside, to keep it somewhat coiled when stowed. Sometimes you have to fight the hose a bit to extend or retract the sprayer, just like the one at your kitchen sink or any other retractable spray hose ever. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, given the tight quarters behind the bedside.

    hose2.jpg


    Hose outlets: In addition to the shower itself, I also added quick-disconnect garden hose hookups to each bumper, so that I can connect a regular garden hose directly to the onboard water supply at either end of the truck. I now keep a compact 50’ garden hose in my collection of camp equipment, along with a standard spray nozzle. This is super useful for hosing things off... muddy bikes or windshields for example. The hose outlets also deliver full flow from the pump, whereas I ultimately installed a flow orifice in the shower head to bring the flow down to ~1.8 GPM to conserve water.

    back.jpg
    Rear bumper hose outlet

    front.jpg
    Front bumper hose outlet (circled in red). Also shown is the diverter valve actuator (circled in green).

    The garden hose also doubles for refilling the water tank. In conjunction with a “water bandit” adapter, I have had no trouble refilling the tank with fresh water from various hose spigots on our adventures. (But always with permission!)


    Pump control: To turn the pump on or off, I wound up designing an electrical subpanel that mounts in my rear bedside. It includes switches for the pump and some other lights and planned future accessories, two 12V outlets, and marine-style circuit breakers for each circuit. It is designed to be drip- and splash-proof, so the electrical connections and circuits therein will stay dry even in wet weather.

    cad3.jpg

    To fabricate the housing, I had planned to ask someone over on the 3D printing thread to make it for me (for a fee of course), but they convinced me that I should buy an inexpensive printer and learn to use it myself, which I did. It turns out you can get a very functional entry-level printer for less than $200.

    3dp1.jpg

    Although it wasn’t always smooth sailing, this has been a fun and relatively inexpensive hobby to pick up, and I have since made many other useless widgets for my other projects. Thanks to TW’s 3D printing thread for pointing me in the right direction!

    3dp2.jpg

    panel1.jpg

    I ordered the engraved aluminum front panel from an online service. Here’s the final configuration of the bedside:

    bedside.jpg

    Is this starting to look like a rabbit hole yet? Because we’re not quite done yet. It turns out that I pretty much leave the pump on all the time, because it’s just so damn convenient, and since there are no leaks, there’s little downside to doing so. Well, except for the concern that if the system did develop a leak, or otherwise ran dry when I wasn’t able to hear it (e.g., when I’m driving) the pump would keep running dry until it burned itself out or drained my battery. So I came up with a control circuit that automatically shuts off the pump if it runs for more than 3 minutes continuously, or if my battery drops below ~11.8V for more than a few seconds. I designed and ordered the circuit board, then hand soldered it. Here’s a frame grab from testing it:

    pcb.jpg
    Testing the pump timeout circuit

    This seems like a pretty clever circuit to me, it is very tiny and consumes only 100 microamps in either the normal or tripped state. I eventually installed it within the bedside electrical panel.


    Filling the tank: The tank fill port is also installed into the bedside, near the switch panel. In hindsight I should probably have just installed the fill port in the exterior bedside, through the body sheet metal. But I just couldn’t bring myself to drill a hole in this otherwise pristine, highly collectable showroom vehicle.


    Accessories: I keep the following accessories stashed away in the drawer platform cubby:
    • A 50’ garden hose, of the stretchy accordion type, used for filling the tank and/or connecting to the bumper hose spigots
    • A standard garden hose spray nozzle
    • A water bandit spigot adapter to assist in filling the tank from whatever sources are available on our travels
    • An RV tank fill nozzle with shutoff valve, because it makes it a lot easier to fill the tank without overflowing it or spraying water everywhere. This can also be threaded onto my water jerry cans to transfer water into the tank on the trail (like the tan one shown below).
    • Spare quick disconnect fittings for the bumper spigots
    • A Schrader valve to garden hose adapter for blowing out the water system should our adventures ever take us to unexpected freezing temperatures
    • An eyedropper-sized bottle of bleach, from which I add a few drops per gallon to the tank each time I fill it, to keep things sanitary in there

    accy.jpg

    The shower experience: To shower at camp, we set up our little “poop tent” and lay down some rubber floor mats to keep our feet off the sand. These, plus soap, shampoo, and a dry towel, are the only things we have to separately bring along to complete the shower setup. Everything else – the water tank, the pump, the heat exchanger, and the shower hose – are already installed and ready to go. That was basically the goal for this design.

    The tent turns out be important not just for privacy. The first time I tried showering at camp was earlier last summer, and as we were the only humans for miles in any direction, and it was pretty windy, I didn’t bother with the tent. It was still probably 70+ degrees well after sunset, but the air was bone dry, and again, it was very windy. I was hot and uncomfortable beneath the layers of sunscreen and filth, and the warm desert air became ever more pleasant as I stripped down to rinse off. And the warm water was nice too, but the minute I shut it off, it suddenly felt like I had plunged into the North Atlantic! I was irreversibly wet, shivering cold with chattering teeth as I fumbled with a comically small bar of travel soap, trying in vain to lather up as my body revolted in horror at my predicament. That’s one way to ensure a quick shower I guess! Afterwards the winds dried me off nearly as fast as the towel did, and suddenly things were back to being pleasantly warm, and I sure did feel refreshed. I guess the lesson learned was that outdoor showering would require me to either harden the fuck up, or set up a tent to hold the winds at bay, and I’ve since always opted for the latter.

    cold.jpg
    The trial run...


    What it felt like


    There is one other issue with the location of the shower: it is also right next to my tailpipe. And since I need the engine running to keep hot coolant flowing to the heat exchanger, that means I’m standing in my little shower tent right next to an idling tailpipe. Sounds like a recipe for carbon monoxide poisoning, right? Well, so far I haven’t died. I actually tested this with a CO sensor with a ppm readout before deciding that a warm engine doesn’t emit much CO, and that it doesn’t seem to collect to dangerous or even detectable levels in my shower tent. But we’ll go ahead and add the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as another reason to keep showers short!


    Drawbacks and shortcomings: Other than the proximity of the shower hose to my tailpipe, which is laughably stupid but probably not that big of a problem, I would say there are three primary shortcomings to this approach.

    Perhaps the biggest is that I have to winterize the plumbing before heading into freezing weather conditions. Living in SoCal, that’s not huge concern, because I will never experience an unexpected hard freeze at home, so I only have to consider it if I’m headed somewhere much colder. But a hard freeze could not only destroy the tank, pump, and other plumbing, but could possibly rupture the heat exchanger, which would breach the engine cooling system. And that would be terrible, not only because it is obviously terrible, but also because I would have to fix it in freezing cold weather.

    So, I keep a bottle of RV antifreeze in my garage in case I decide to head to the slopes. It is very easy to drain the system, flush with antifreeze, then blow out the lines. Also, I keep a 5/8” barbed hose coupler and clamps in my truck tool kit, in case I have to bypass the heat exchanger for any reason on the trail. For that matter I could also bypass the heater core if it started leaking, since it’s the same hose size. In fact, this seems like a smart thing to carry on any truck used for solo back-country adventuring, shower or not.

    The second shortcoming of the system is that it’s somewhat difficult to discern the tank level, or to make use of its full capacity. Although I can easily glimpse the front face of the tank by peering between the cab and the bed, it turns out to be really hard to see the water level through the translucent plastic tank. If I ever have to pull the tank to fix something, maybe I’ll try to come up with a clever way to improve visibility, but for now I don’t really care. Also, because it’s a rectangular tank, with fill and drain ports on its side instead of the top and bottom, I can’t completely fill or drain it when I’m parked on a level surface. The vent line becomes submerged about 1” below full, and the pump starts sucking air about 2” above empty. That gives me more like 8-9 gallons of effective capacity. However, if I can park on a steep downhill surface with a left tilt, I can almost completely fill the tank, and if I park on a steep uphill surface, also with a tilt to the left, I can almost completely drain the tank. Doing that gives about 12.5 gallons of usable capacity. It’s never fun to run out of water unexpectedly, but the good news is that, at the moment the pump starts sucking air, there is still about a minute of sputtering flow remaining, which is enough to finish rinsing off.

    The final drawback to this system is that the engine has to be warmed up and running to produce hot water for the shower. So if a morning shower is desired, then we’d have to idle the engine for a while, which would be somewhat wasteful and potentially obnoxious if other campers are nearby. The easy solution here is to take showers shortly after arriving at camp in the evening, which also happens to be when we’re hot and sweaty and wanting to shower off anyway. Evening camp showers are relaxing and refreshing, whereas morning camp showers are hectic and cold.

    There is another kind of problem that we sometimes experience, which isn’t really a problem with the water system, but is sometimes exacerbated simply by having water present at the campsite. And that problem is… yellowjackets!

    yellowjackets.jpg
    Fuck!

    The solution here is to spray them away with water, buying just enough time to uncouple the hose, then to get the hell out of Dodge. There’s no winning with yellowjackets.


    Final thoughts: I am super pleased with how my shower setup came together, and it has proven to be useful for more than just showering at camp! It can spray scalding-hot water for doing dishes. It’s always at the ready for hand washing on road trips, which became especially useful during the pandemic, when suddenly touching so much as a gas pump could apparently kill me with covid nineteen unless I washed my hands for 20 minutes and drank two shots of hand sanitizer. More generally, loading and unloading things from a pickup truck turns out to be a messy ordeal, and whether I’m loading landscaping materials or sketchy used furniture, it’s downright nice to wash my hands off with soap and water before hopping back into the cab. And for those times when you splash through a big mud puddle and coat your windows with muck, a blast of hot water from a garden makes quick work of the clean-up. I also recently got into fishing, and having running water turns out to be nice for cleaning fish. And finally, although it’s a far cry from a fire truck, having a garden hose within reach is arguably beneficial from a fire safety standpoint at the campfire ring, or at least makes it easy to ensure your fire is dead out before departing camp.
     
  15. Jan 21, 2021 at 4:56 AM
    #55
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

    Joined:
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    A bunch of stupid crap
    Trip report: Bradshaw Trail (2019) part 1

    So I'm uploading things out of order now, but trying to catch up on the backlog of adventures I want to share. I posted the highlights of this trip on the DV thread earlier last year, after running the trail in June. Here is a version with a more words and pictures, aided by the fact that I revisited the trail in November as well.

    The Bradshaw Trail is a historic route connecting the Salton Sea area to the Blythe/La Paz area. I'd call it the Mojave Road of the Colorado Desert. While it might not be as epically long, it offers ample side trips to keep any adventurer busy for at least a few days. And, just as Casebier's Mojave Trail guide is a quintessential reference for that route, I'd say that Delmer G. Ross's "Gold Road to La Paz" provides a similar level of engagement with the history and geology along this drive, and is highly recommended! (I just wish it was spiral bound!) Unfortunately I've lent my copy to a friend, so I can't as accurately reference details regarding the locations we visited for this writeup. Or perhaps that is a fortunate thing in this age of social media...

    [​IMG]

    We are running the trail from west to east. The adventure begins at Dos Palmas, the terminus of the defunct Eagle Mountain Railroad, at its interchange with the mainline of the former Southern Pacific.

    [​IMG]

    We arrived as the sunset was giving way to dusk -- and not for the usual reason that we can't ever seem to hit the road on schedule. This time, our late arrival to the trailhead was intentional. Daytime temperatures had already been reaching into the triple digits, so we had no intention of arriving to camp until well after sunset. I was hoping things would drop into the 80s by midnight so we would stand a chance of sleeping comfortably. The thermometer was still in the high 90s when I pulled off the road to take these photos, yet even knowing this, and having visited the shores of the Salton Sea many times, the aroma and sweltering heat still caught me a bit off guard.

    dp2.jpg

    The reason for our first photo stop: The maintenance shed for the Eagle Mountain RR. I had missed it on previous visits and assumed that it had been demolished. It in fact still stands. But, reaching it well into dusk, I realized that it has become a home for hundreds of bats, which were emerging in droves, so I snapped some pictures from a distance and retreated back towards the air-conditioned truck.

    [​IMG]

    There is a particular place I like to camp in this region, photographed above during our June trip, and below in November. Perhaps you can tell that I had borrowed a far better camera for the November trip... although, as it would turn out, I was also experiencing the onset of food poisoning, and was having profound difficulty operating it. I ultimately failed to set up the timelapse I was hoping to record that night.

    night1.jpg

    The early summer visit offered many more wildlife encounters than the autumn trip. Here is a kangeroo mouse that fearlessly explored our camp before scampering up the canyon wall:

    [​IMG]

    And a UV flashlight revealed that our camp was home to dozens of scorpions as well.

    [​IMG]

    But unfortunately, the morning of our summer visit brought about an encounter with a most unwelcomed type of wildlife: yellowjackets. We had to cut breakfast short as their numbers rapidly increased -- as did the temperature!

    On the other hand, the only wildlife I recall encountering on our November trip was a flock of crows that showed up at dawn to completely devour my entire pile of barf from the night before, saving me the trouble of shoveling it up later that morning. A true miracle of nature.

    Anyway, near the beginning of the trail is the Salt Creek Wash bridge of the defunct Eagle Mountain RR. It is my favorite desert destination; I come here many times each year. In the sweltering heat of June, we had the whole desert to ourselves, but in November, it was bustling with traffic:

    bridge.jpg

    bridge2.jpg

    The first side-trail is Red Canyon and its offshoot, Pinnacle Canyon.

    [​IMG]

    Both are absolutely worth exploring; the former dead-ends at a rock fall, whereas the latter offers a route up to the desert terrain above. However, looking at the maps, I don't think this route could be pursued through to any others due to nearby wilderness boundaries, so after climbing our way to cell service, we doubled back to the main wash.

    [​IMG]

    Just before the trail climbs out of the canyon, there's an impressive dry fall with a pool at its base that tends to hold water well into summer, and thus was swarming with six million yellowjackets. I sent in the flying camera to investigate, but didn't get any photos worthy of posting. And although it wasn't my goal, and I know it's wrong to think it, I couldn't help but wish I had killed some of them with the props. Yellowjackets are the worst.

    pc4b.jpg

    Back on the main trail, I was amazed by the spectacular colors of the early-summer Colorado Desert.

    scw1.jpg

    Despite the insane heat, everything was in bloom! The lush green colors surrounding us were absolutely surreal.

    scw2.jpg

    This trail is flanked to its south by a naval bombing range.

    scw3.jpg

    As a result, more often than not, our visits to this area are rewarded with close flybys from military aircraft. The hard part is recognizing their approach before it's too late to snap a photo! I have yet to catch a single flyby with anything better than cellphone video.

    harrier.jpg

    The Bradshaw Trail itself is a somewhat boring graded road that you could race across in half a day or less -- and without doubt, there are some very fast stretches of road on this route. Note: By this I mean not only that you'll be tempted to drive very fast yourself, but that you might also encounter people driving even faster in purpose-built vehicles -- so be careful!

    bt0.jpg

    But the real appeal of the Bradshaw Trail, in my opinion, are the side trails, which are absolutely fantastic, all of them, with a good mix of technical driving, mining history, native history, and geology.

    bt5.jpg

    Two days and two nights on the trail felt well-paced for my wife, but a bit rushed for me, as this left many historical sites unexplored.

    ap0.jpg

    The next side trail is Augustine Pass, which departs to the north, taking us over a low mountain pass before entering an increasingly narrow canyon. This is where we stopped for lunch...

    ap2.jpg

    ... which was again cut short as yellowjackets began to swarm.

    ap1.jpg

    ap3.jpg

    Here, we continued to encounter various wildlife, including a gigantic Chuckwalla lizard that I couldn't quite photograph before it was scared off by an even larger rattlesnake, which also disappeared before I could approach it. I did manage to catch a close-up of this majestic desert iguana, one of several we saw on the drive:

    bt1.jpg


    Augustine pass is probably the most "technical" section of the whole trip, as the trail narrows and the rocky canyon floor winds around some very tight corners. I guess I didn't get many good photos of this area, so you'll have to drive it yourself... but here's a shot heading into one of the narrows:

    apn.jpg

    Eventually the canyon gives way to a broad wash, from this vantage point you can see for many dozens of miles to the east. Barely visible in the center of the below photo is Ironwood State Prison, which is the size of a small city. From this point, one could either continue north to the I-10 corridor, backtrack over the pass from whence we came, or loop back south to reconnect with the Bradshaw Trail via Chuckwalla Springs, the latter option being the obvious choice for those following the route.

    ap4.jpg

    But the rest of that story will have to wait until my next post!

    bt6.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2021
  16. Feb 10, 2021 at 2:34 PM
    #56
    another395Taco

    another395Taco Well-Known Member

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    Dang, that's a heck of a shower setup there. I'm thoroughly impressed and a bit ashamed by the simplicity of my solar bag shower now. Props to you for figuring out such a setup :bowdown:

    Enjoyed the Bradshaw trail post as well! I wanted to explore that area more when I lived in LA, but never got around to it. Suppose that was before the Tacoma too so I'll give myself a pass.
     
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  17. Feb 18, 2021 at 3:15 AM
    #57
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    Bradshaw Trail, Part 2

    By the time we turned southward to re-connect with Bradshaw Trail, the relentless passage of time had already toppled the sun from its early-afternoon throne and was now dragging it towards the western horizon.

    ap21.jpg

    Augustine Pass had taken more time than I thought it would, not only because it was a moderately technical drive, but also because the voyage had overwhelmed us with countless opportunities to explore mining ruins, to marvel at the spectacular canyon geology, and to cherish the countless unexpected desert wildlife encounters along the way.

    ap20.jpg

    But with the sun sinking lower by the minute, we realized it was time to make progress towards camp. In hindsight, the Chuckwalla Springs area had tons of great camping spots, and calling it a day then and there would have made for a more relaxing evening. But my destination was the Hauser Geode Beds south of Wiley’s Well, still dozens of miles away, and with a mountain range looming in the way of our return to the main trail. Charging southward into the network of canyons leading toward these mountains, time and time again, we found ourselves thwarted by dead-end after dead-end.

    deadend.jpg
    Fuck!

    Along the way we found the Chuckwalla Springs Arch:

    ap6.jpg

    ap6a.jpg

    Here’s another spectacular dead-end, not far from the arch. Perhaps this looks like a passable route on your little computer screen, but trust me, the canyon walls are at most 4 feet apart!

    ap5.jpg

    I can’t overstate the spectacular beauty of this area’s geology, and it seems unfair to characterize it as a network of dead-end canyons, even though, to be clear, it is absolutely a network of dead-end canyons. But it’s also a museum of nature’s splendor, with each turn of the trail revealing a new gallery of prehistoric artwork—a true testament to the divine improbability of our natural universe.

    But on the other hand, after a couple hours of exploring this place, we were faced with overwhelming evidence that I was lost and had no idea how to get back to the main trail. I started to wonder if a recent flood or landslide might have closed the route. With dwindling hope and a complete lack of cellular service, maps, or preloaded waypoints, I made a drastic last-ditch decision to save our adventure: I decided to actually follow the directions printed in our guide book, which had been at my fingertips for literally the entire time.

    The hardest part of this plan was putting down my cellphone and actually looking at my surroundings for like three seconds. It was like wading into an unheated swimming pool: Requiring entirely more focus and commitment than it really ought to. With my mind slowly acclimating to the concept of non app-based navigational aids, I finally plunged into the 20th century torture of, like, reading book words or whatever.

    ap22.jpg

    In the end, the guide book turned out to be 100% helpful. Sure, I had to backtrack to an easily identifiable landmark, and then I had to reset my trip odometer so I could follow the book’s narrative mile-by-mile like some sort of early arctic explorer! But I’ll be damned, our guidebook guided us directly back to the Bradshaw Trail via an easily overlooked scramble out of the canyon, and soon we were looking down on the Bradshaw Trail from high on the ridgeline.

    ap24.jpg

    Having finally forged our way over the mountain range, we had to traverse one final wash separating us from the main trail to our south. This section of the trail is subject to seasonal closures. During closures, you have to either backtrack to Bradshaw via Augustine Pass, or loop back via Graham pass to the east. On the north side of the wash is a historical stop on the original wagon route; now a guzzler for area wildlife. A gigantic non-native palm tree offers the most prominent evidence that this was once a stop on the old stage route.

    bt3.jpg

    Partway across the wash, we encountered an abandoned boat, bearing evidence of a fairly recent development in human history. I was impressed; the stay-at-home orders had barely been lifted. Today’s boat vandals sure are on top of their game!

    I don’t know why so many small boats wind up beached in the washes of the Colorado Desert, often 40+ miles from boat-able bodies of water, but there are countless such examples. Perhaps the troubled history of the Salton Sea has played a role? In any case, each chance encounter with these derelict vessels presents a new opportunity to dance arrhythmically while shouting the lyrics to “boats n’ hoes” while my wife rolls her eyes in boredom. This was no exception.



    Finally rejoining the Bradshaw Trail, we were soon driving at warp speed eastward, hoping to make it to camp before dark. Along the way we encountered another decaying husk of a boat.

    boat.jpg

    This might not have been noteworthy if not for the fact that it had been burned to the ground upon our return to the area in November:

    burned.jpg

    The desert is rich with mystery, begging such questions as, “how the heck did this boat wind up in the middle of nowhere?” Or, “wait, is it even a boat? I mean, what’s up with this exoskeleton thing?” And certainly, this boat-shaped object didn’t make the trip across the miles of sand in any direction riding on its tiny caster wheels. But perhaps the biggest question is “what fucking ass-hole burned it down this year?” And for now, the desert isn’t offering any answers. But there’s tons of fiberglass wafting around the vicinity you want to be itchy and sad because of the actions of douchebag arsonists.

    bt7.jpg

    Cutting back to our summer storyline, before this particular act of destruction had taken place: Soon we were approaching the geode beds south of Wiley’s Well, just as the sun was setting. This is a huge geographic area, and if you are a serious rock hound or back-country explorer, then perhaps you know or have researched the best super-secret places to go rock hunting here. But my plan was much simpler: To find an okay place to camp here even in the heat of summer, and maybe try randomly digging for some cool-looking rocks in the morning, until we got bored or hot. I figured this would give us about 15 minutes of rock hunting at best, but it still sounded like fun!

    hb1.jpg

    The landscape surrounding us seemed like it belonged on Mars, not Earth. But even amidst this barren rockscape, I managed to find a small plot of land to make camp, offering level footing for cooking and sleeping, as well as a bit of nearby foliage to attenuate the relentless desert winds that night. Unlike so many other windy nights spent camping in the desert, this time the wind was refreshingly welcome as the temperatures lingered in the high 80s well after dark. Dinner was awesome—salmon on the charcoal grill—then a quick shower and a restful night of sleep. As insanely hot as the days get, the summer nights in the low desert can be pretty damn pleasant!

    hb2.jpg

    I managed to get up in time to catch the next morning’s sunrise--quite the feat for this night-owl--and its colors were just as beautiful as those of the sunset that preceded it. Then I eagerly scampered up the hillside to try my hand at digging for geodes. I pretty quickly discovered that the ground is rock-hard. Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, after all, the ground does appear to be made out of rocks. But even with a grown-up sized shovel and my trusty geologist’s hammer, I immediately realized I had no chance of digging into the virgin regolith of this bizarre planet. So instead I wound up walking around and exploring the area. Countless small excavations dotted the terrain for miles in all directions. Clearly the thousands of geodes once strewn across this landscape had already been snatched up, and finding anything noteworthy was going to take either a lot of digging or a lot of walking, combined perhaps with an amount of luck that my half-hearted ambitions clearly did not deserve.

    Back at camp, a modest breakfast of eggs and pancakes was cut short by yet another onslaught of yellowjackets. I guess there’s no escaping them this time of year. Thank god they leave us alone at night!

    hb3v4.jpg

    We packed up and headed southwest towards the area identified on my map as the actual Hauser Geode Beds, the site of the original “huge” discovery of large high-quality geodes buried deposits of volcanic ash lining a streambed. Evidence of excavations became more pronounced as we approached the area. There are a few swaths of land marked as private land and/or active claims nearby, but what’s so amazing about this region is that the vast majority is just public BLM lands. Bring a shovel and have fun digging up rocks!

    hb5.jpg

    hb4.jpg

    Actually, as I found out, you’ll probably want more than a shovel if you want good odds at digging up full geodes. I’d recommend a pickaxe. And unlimited time. And upper body strength. And the foresight not to come in the dead heat of summer. But even absent these benefits, and with morning temperatures charging back into triple digit territory, I sure had fun digging around here and there as we drove through the area. We found all sorts of neat geode fragments hiding in the piles of loose earth discarded by the more-industrious rockhounds that frequent this region. Most rocks were returned to the ground for others to marvel at, but I did bring several home to see what cutting or polishing might someday reveal – that is, if my local lapidary society ever resumes public workshops, and if I can find the courage and time to participate in yet another hobby.

    hb6.jpg

    It’s important to note that many public lands, like parks and preserves, don’t allow rock collection. But as far as I can tell, these geode beds are fair game for amateur rock collectors using hand tools. That made for a uniquely memorable experience, even if we didn’t actually find any noteworthy rocks. And personally, I like the rocks I found, even if they're not particularly impressive!

    rocks.jpg

    Content with our first rock-hounding mini-adventure, it was time to get back to the Bradshaw Trail and continue eastward. But our gas light had been glowing since approaching camp the night before, and I wasn’t sure if we had enough gas to reach Blythe at reasonable speed across desert sand. I was tempted to race north all the way to I-10 to refill--by my foggy recollection, the nearest border with modern civilization--but I couldn’t remember if there were actually any services at the Wiley’s Well interchange. (Note: in fact there are not.) So I decided to deal with the pain-in-the-ass of pouring our jerry cans into the tank, to make sure we had plenty of fuel to complete the trail. A simple enough process, but one that quickly became much harder thanks to—you guessed it—yellowjackets! A few of them had been harassing us all morning, but our bright red fuel cans suddenly attracted them like a superconducting magnet. Between trying in vain to avoid the occasional sting, and battling the infuriatingly ineffective designs of CARB-compliant fill nozzles, I’m not sure how much of the fuel wound up in the tank vs. on the ground. But after just one can, I was quite confident we had enough fuel for Blythe, and was even more certain that my wife didn’t want to be stung again.

    ouch.jpg
    Ouch!

    The final leg of our trip along the Bradshaw Trail takes us east to Blythe via the Mule Mountains region.

    bt4.jpg

    We made quick time by skipping side-trails and several old mines along the way to Blythe. The final descent into the Colorado River Valley follows a particularly sandy wash, but is still essentially a graded route. There were two surprises as we finally approached Colorado Valley.

    garbage.jpg

    The first surprise was quite sad. Pile after pile of garbage surrounded us as we neared the valley floor. Appliances. Clothes. Tires. Toys. Miles of tape blowing in the wind from countless piles of shot-up VHS cassettes. These weren’t weathered garbage piles from decades prior; these were recent if not active illegal dump sites. How can people do this to such a beautiful place?

    mv4.jpg

    The second surprise was a bit more welcome: It was the greenness of the valley floor. Sure, we’ve all seen lush green landscapes before, but I’ve never seen anything quite as green as the cultivated floor of the Colorado Valley that emerged before our eyes that day. Had our eyes simply lost their green calibration amidst two days of nonstop desert landscapes, or had we somehow stumbled into new dimension of unlimited greenness to which our eyes could never hope to adapt?

    mv3.jpg

    Just as my eyes started refocusing on the bizarre new gamut of our surroundings, my sinuses suddenly also jumped into gear. Not only were we surrounded by fields of very green, aggressively blooming plants, but also, I was apparently allergic to them. And roaming the countless acres of cultivation in all directions were gigantic agricultural machines that were cutting, baling, and transporting this plant by the ton. I stopped for a few moments to try to photograph some of the surreal landscape, but for the most part, we kept driving, trying to get away from the relentless sneezing.

    mv2.jpg

    We made it to the far side of the Colorado. Arizona Territory. The land of cheaper gas. It felt like a victory, even if we hadn’t made it to La Paz.

    cr1.jpg

    cr2.jpg

    And then, it was time to head home.

    We stopped for dinner in Blythe. It was the first time I had seen packed restaurants full of unmasked customers since the pandemic had begun, but as out-of-towners, we opted for socially distanced carry-out.

    dc4.jpg

    On the way home I stopped in Desert Center, just to finally see the place in daylight. This place is a gem of abandoned, decaying structures. Enjoy it while you can, folks -- it won't be long before destructive ass holes burn every abandoned structure in this state to the ground.

    dc1.jpg

    dc3.jpg

    dc2b.jpg

    On the drive home, our phones started exploding with alerts. During our absence from civilization, rogue police officers in a distant city had committed a terrible crime, inciting anger and unrest across the nation. Protests had given way to riots not far from our home. A curfew had been ordered, and it would take effect several hours before we could possibly return. I wished we could turn around and head back into the desert indefinitely… but that’s not what pays the bills. So home we went, ending this short adventure and returning to the chaos that is 2020.

    bt8.jpg

    Bradshaw Trail: Pro tips

    • I recommend the guide book (“The Gold Road to La Paz.”)
    • Most excitement lies in the side trails. Give yourself at least three days to explore the area. I’ve intentionally omitted a few gems from this report.
    • Bring maps and navigation aids to help you avoid the navy bombing range to the south, and wilderness areas to the north. Also useful for following the Chuckwalla Springs side trail from Augustine Pass, if it is open (check for seasonal closure)
    • Military aircraft are commonly seen from the western portion of the trail. Keep an eye out for them; by the time you hear the roar it’s often too late to snap a photo.
    • The trail network can easily exceed the fuel range for many vehicles, and there are surprisingly few refueling options in the area, especially at night. Plan accordingly!
    • Fuck yellowjackets! Nature be damned--next time I'm bringing traps for those ass-holes.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2021
    ETAV8R, Cwopinger, omegaman2 and 2 others like this.
  18. Feb 19, 2021 at 6:35 PM
    #58
    turbodb

    turbodb AdventureTaco

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    AdventureTaco
    Catching up. The camp shower setup is genius - nice work. Damn if I don't want to give a shower another try, and double damn if I don't want my own 3D printer now. Really, only $200?

    Then, onto the Bradshaw Trail adventure. What a great time it sounds (and looks) like you had. Love the writing style, so you better keep posting more stories! I've added the book and trail to my "investigate" list, because it seems right up my alley.

    And, as I hope you hoped people would, I got an enormous kick out of the yellowjacket theme. There's not much to say except that yellowjackets are the worst. Well, stepping on an underground nest and only realizing once you're inside the cloud is the worst, but it's quite closely related.

    :cheers:
     
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  19. Feb 20, 2021 at 1:15 PM
    #59
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

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    Camping Lights

    So this writeup is in response to @bprout's recent question about the light string that shows up in all my night-time camping photos:

    camp2_2.jpg
    Near the Salton Sea

    In short, this is a home-built 12V LED light string that I made because I really like this style of lighting at camp. I also made a set of extension cords and adapters as part of the project, which have turned out to be super useful at camp, for more than just lighting. Like so many of my projects, the story is a bit more complicated than it ought to be, but I’m really pleased with the results.

    “Bistro-style” light strings are the perfect lighting for outdoor evening/night festivities, whether at home or at camp. Not only do they make for great ambience, but they also provide totally adequate lighting for reading or cooking, without any of the obnoxious glare and shadowing that come with floodlights or camping lanterns. Headlamps are also great, but with the light string overhead, we can leave our headlamps off most of the time so we aren’t constantly blinding one another.

    bueno.jpg vs no bueno.jpg

    Where would you rather spend your evening?

    For home applications, you can get strings of 120V incandescent bistro lights for just a few bucks. They’re terribly inefficient, but the quality of light is great, and they’re dimmable too. Camping off-grid, however, means that everything needs to run off of our 12V car battery all night, while leaving enough charge to start the truck again the next morning. This includes a small fridge and an ever-growing arsenal of electronic gizmos and device chargers, so we can’t afford to waste 100+ watts (8+ amps) on incandescent bistro lights, as nice as they might look. The obvious choice is to use LED strings, but for reasons I can’t understand, nobody on earth makes 12V LED bistro light strings! Of course you could use the truck’s inverter to run 120V LED light strings, but that is utterly inelegant for many reasons, and being a stubborn bastard, I rejected that idea on principle. I want a string of LED bistro lights that operate directly from my truck’s 12V electrical system!

    shitty_solar_lights.jpg

    My first attempt to procure low-voltage LED light strings lighting resulted in buying several types of “solar” (battery-operated) LED devices, hoping to hack them to run from 12V. Here was the best one I found, photographed below in its stock configuration on the Mojave Trail last year:

    camp.jpg
    Mojave Trail

    Although the ambience was nice, I hated these lights: First and foremost, they were just too dim to really see what we were doing at camp. Another problem was battery life – they sputtered out after just an hour or two. So I had to buy several sets of batteries and remember to recharge all of them as we drove, and even then, changing the batteries was always a source of frustration because the box is held together with shitty little screws with factory-stripped Philips heads. We couldn’t even make use of their dinky built-in solar chargers, since we are always driving to a new campsite during the day.

    battery.jpg

    To get around the dimness and short battery life, I had planned to lop off the solar battery packs and power the strings from my vehicle’s battery. I bought a little buck converter to regulate from the vehicle’s 12V down to LED voltages (typ. ~3V), thinking I could perhaps also bump up the voltage a bit to finally get enough light from the strings. The photo below shows the adapter I made so I could power the string from a cigar plug:

    [adapter]

    But that didn’t work the way I wanted, because it turns out that the string is wired with every other bulb having opposite polarity. The battery box actually provides alternating current, which results in their obnoxious flicker (another complaint), but at least it lights up all the bulbs. Running the string on DC power, although I was able to goose up the current and light intensity significantly, only half the string lit up!

    [alternating lights]

    I probably could have built my own driver circuit to get around this, but the ultimate nail in the coffin for the solar light string was their overall shitty construction. The globes are solid plastic spheres, needlessly heavy, which are constantly inexplicably getting tangled up between the microscopic wires connecting them. Untangling them was infuriating, and eventually the wires started breaking. The only real enjoyment these lights ever gave me was the pleasure of finally throwing them in the trash where they belonged.



    So with no other options on the market, I decided to make my own LED light string. Eventually I wound up with a pretty robust system of adapters, extension cords, and other lights, which meet a variety of needs for power and lighting at camp. Here’s the recipe:

    Wire: I used a spool of 16ga SPT-2 cord that I had left over from a landscape lighting project. Unlike the flimsy wire used in the shitty solar lights, this stuff is strong enough to support its own weight and then some, and it isn’t so prone to tangling.

    spt2.jpg

    Lamp sockets: I bought a bag of (50) C7 (E12-base) sockets from Novelty Lights for like $8 https://www.noveltylights.com/c7-spt-2-brown-sockets-50-pack. These are designed to clamp onto SPT2 cord and pierce the insulation, and they work very well. They have clips for supporting the string from a guide wire, but I don’t need that for the short span of my light string.

    sockets.jpg

    (I got brown because black was out of stock.)

    socket.jpg

    Note: LEDs are inherently polarized devices, and although LED lighting products increasingly incorporate bipolar power converters, I made sure to keep the polarity of each socket the same throughout my string, in case it mattered. The SPT2 cord has ribs on one conductor so it’s easy to keep track of polarity.


    LED bulbs: I was hoping to use 12V warm-white LED bulbs with plastic (shatter-proof) globes, but I couldn’t source any. I settled on these glass-envelope bulbs instead:

    T22 LEDs.jpg

    They cost $15 per pack of (5), so buying three packs made this the most expensive part of the project. But the specs are perfect: 2700 K, 90 CRI, 90 lumens each (10 W incandescent equivalent), and 1 W power consumption. So, a string of (12) lights should draw only ~1 A at full power, will be plenty bright enough for cooking or reading at camp, and won’t substantially drain my 80 amp-hour AGM battery even if I run them all night. Most crucially, they have a pleasant warm-white color, and I love the ambience they create. Certainly, cool-white LEDs have their place, such as corporate cubicle farms, morgues, or black site interrogation rooms—but definitely not at my campsite.

    current.jpg

    I measured the actual current draw for the (12) bulb string to be only ~500 mA – about half their rated power consumption. So if I was counting on the rated 90 lumens per bulb, I’d be pretty disappointed… but I need nowhere near that much light at camp. These bulbs are great!


    Bulb protection: Glass bulbs are too fragile for use in an off-road camping setup, so to protect them, I covered each with 1” clear heatshrink tubing. This also prevents the bulbs from working their way loose.

    heatshrink.jpg


    Connectors: I used these widely available, inexpensive 2-pin waterproof automotive-style connectors throughout the project. I already had the correct crimping tool, which is absolutely required for getting these right.

    connectors.jpg crimper.jpg

    The 16ga SPT2 cord is technically too big for these connectors, but I got it to work.

    pins.jpg

    I chose this connector style specifically because it has a clip retention mechanism. That way, each connector can withstand the tension of a hanging light string. I injected epoxy into each connector after it was assembled to make extra-sure it could hold the weight of the light string, and methodically tested each connector with this precision 9-pound test weight:

    connector.jpg

    This is supposed to be an image of me holding up a 12 pack of beer with a wire connection, but apparently I didn’t save that photo. Guess I need to repeat the experiment!


    Floodlights: If nothing else, these are perfect for lighting up ol’ glory. But also for other situations at camp when we need extra light, like showing up super late and trying to set up the tent and cook in darkness.

    floods.jpg

    (Perhaps I should also make a post about my super awesome trailer-hitch flagplole assembly?)

    somewhere_in_colorado.jpg
    Somewhere in Colorado

    Anyway, I found that 12V landscape lights produce the perfect amount of warm-white light for the campsite, and draw only ~1A each. Steer clear of the vehicle-oriented “off-road” floodlights, they are ridiculously bulky and emit harsh white light useful only if you want to convert a buzz into a hangover the instant they’re turned on. The landscape lights are much more compact, and can be easily attached to clamp mounts for attachment to flagpoles, bed cages, small branches, etc., or to a magnetic base I can stick under the hood or to the frame for trail repairs.

    Dimmer: The LED bulbs claim they’re not dimmable, but that just means you can’t run them at less than 12V DC. They work fine with 12V PWM dimmers such as this one. It’s nice to turn the light string down to “nightlight” level after dinner. The landscape floodlights, however, can’t be dimmed; their internal power converters will fight to keep the same intensity and eventually start cutting out intermittently as they overheat.

    dimmer.jpg


    Extension cords, splitters, and accessories: I wound up making a whole set of cords and adapters to support various configurations of lights and other electrical needs at camp. Despite this, the whole system stores in a small volume and is very light weight. Here’s the full list of connectorized lights, cords, and adapters I carry:

    stuff.jpg
    Most but not all of the parts.

    • (2) LED light strings, one with (12) lights and the other with (3), both with 2’ bulb spacing
    • (2) LED flood lights, both with clamp bases so I can attach them to whatever mounting points are available at camp.
    • (3) SPT-2 extension cords, approx. 6’, 12’, and 24’, which can be used to power the lights some distance from the truck, or to construct a variety of DC or AC extension cords with the adapters below
    • A PWM dimmer
    • (2) Y splitters
    • A pair of cigar lighter 12V adapters, so I can plug the system into any 12V socket on my truck, or connect 12V cigar-style devices some distance from the truck. Example: I can connect my cigarette-lighter USB charger in the tent to b̶r̶o̶w̶s̶e̶ ̶T̶W̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶n̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ charge my phone while I sleep.
    • A pair of 5.5x2.1 DC barrel adapters, so I can power common 12V electronic devices from the truck’s battery at camp. Example: I can power my dad’s CPAP overnight from the truck battery, or bring the LED light string into our house during a power outage. Conversely, I can use these adapters to construct an extension cord for my solar panel at camp, allowing me to park in the shade while still charging the battery from a nearby non-shaded solar panel.
    • A 12V 2A wall-wart style power supply with a 5.5x2.1mm barrel plug, so I can power the LED light string from an AC outlet if one is available.
    • A pair of two-prong AC connectors, which allow me to construct a 120V AC extension cord if needed at camp. Example: I can use the truck’s inverter and solar panel to keep my laptop charged while working in the nearby shade. Or, I can use the truck’s inverter to power the 120V AC air mattress inflator in our tent. Note: it is important that these adapters aren’t used to connect the LED light string to a 120V AC outlet, as this voltage would immediately destroy the 12V LED lights.

    cord.jpg
    Repurposing one of the extension cords to inflate our air mattress with the truck’s inverter


    Conclusion: While this might seem like a ridiculously complex system for lighting up the campsite (and it is), I have to say, it is actually a huge time-saver that simplifies our camp set-up and tear-down. It definitely beats lugging around a bunch of different battery packs, lanterns, and flashlights. Everything works off of one battery--the truck’s primary battery—which is always 100% charged when we arrive at camp, and which is entirely adequate to meet all of our power needs throughout the night. (Yes, I do carry a backup jump-starter battery pack just in case, and also a ~100W solar panel I can set up in case we ever spend daylight hours hanging out at camp.) Everything stows efficiently in a small volume, and is made from reliable components that won’t degrade or get lost over time. Best of all, it brings the perfect atmosphere to our camping adventures, and makes for nice looking photos to post on TW!

    somewhere_in_arizona.jpg
    Somewhere in Arizona
     
    ETAV8R, Cwopinger, SR-71A and 2 others like this.
  20. Feb 22, 2021 at 6:27 AM
    #60
    mk5

    mk5 [OP] Probably wrong about this

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2018
    Member:
    #247373
    Messages:
    913
    SoCal
    Vehicle:
    '05 access cab 4x4
    A bunch of stupid crap
    Trip report: Utah 2020

    https://youtu.be/pTOVmKV0VlI

    I’m super backlogged with reports and other stuff I want to post, so this one is going to be as abridged as I can manage… hopefully no more than o̶n̶e̶ ̶t̶w̶o̶ several posts? Aww, fuck it, here’s the whole entire spiel.

    Summer of 2020 brought a long-awaited, covid-delayed trip in which we would return to Utah, and Canyonlands in particular, to relive some of the glory we experienced there last year, and to forge a new chapter of hopefully many more as we continue to explore this amazing state. It also brought an opportunity for me to improve my trip planning and preparation game, which I’ll admit, has been hopelessly disappointing thus far. With that backdrop, here are the goals for this year’s trip:
    • Don’t forget the f*cking maps for once, and try not to get lost
    • Visit all five of Utah’s national parks
    • Finally visit Moab, even if just for a day
    • Improve our camp cooking game by introducing a dutch oven and more ambitious recipes
    • Get into fishing, and specifically, catch and eat a fish at some point along the adventure

    And spoiler alert: we nailed it this time.

    grand_tour_nps.jpg
    The grand tour


    checking_in.jpg
    Checking in on TW from top of the world, Moab!


    Preparations:

    As the trip approached, the reckless spending kicked into gear. I bought a 10-quart dutch oven and some related accessories, such as liners and a pot holder thingy. And although I have yet to actually pre-program the route into our navigational tools, I at least downloaded and re-downloaded maps of the whole state, and even printed out our itinerary on paper like a 20th century peasant. I also bought a collapsible fishing pole and googled how to fish. Holy shit, is that ever a rabbit hole! I can’t even understand what folks are talking about when it comes to fishing videos:

    cat fishing.jpg
    Slooping groozers couldn’t be easier, just twert a joober or two in a Dakota jig, but in smelting season, you’ll want to jive deeper with a sporder or a number-four pfloof! (Make sure to subscribe and like!!!)

    Sure thing, buddy... With still no idea how to catch fish, I at least made sure to buy all the appropriate permits--fishing, camping, and park-entry wise. Certainly, this was the best I’ve ever prepared for a trip.


    Departure night:

    We hit the road only an hour or two late—probably a personal best! We spent the night somewhere near Cima. I had planned to camp closer to Nipton, hoping to check it out in the morning, but as we approached that region, the temperature readout steadily climbed into the high-90’s as we descended towards its low elevation. So I turned around and backtracked to the higher elevations of the Mojave, where we encountered frigid temperatures dipping into the high-80s before calling it a night.

    night0.jpg

    night0_1.jpg

    I didn’t use it to its full potential, but I had borrowed a nice digital camera for this trip, and was already getting good results on the first night. Before bed I managed to set up a timelapse which turned out great. The camera only had four hours’ battery life, but that would last well into dawn!

     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
    ETAV8R and CrazyAirborne like this.

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