The M~D~U Report: A Thousand Miles of Dirt in Utah

Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#1
M ~ U ~ D

1000 miles of Utah Dirt


M~D~U-31.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Chapter 1: Here we go again!


It had only been perhaps a week or two from when we had returned from Canada that the itch came back to get out. It was also the first time in my life that I did not have school in the fall. Mike had been talking about going to the desert in the fall when the weather would be nice and the crowds a bit thinner for years.


The stars aligned and we decided to make it happen. For the first time in our lives we where going on two major trips in a year. We had less than 8 weeks to come up with a route and prep the trucks.


Which was a BIG deal for me.


I was in a bit of finical dilemma. Frankenstein was dead and down for the count with the blow differential from the previous trip. Which I very much wanted to fix, however had decided to not set the gears myself and since I would be tearing the diff apart again I figured I better put a locker in it too. That meant getting a new front diff was a $2000 ordeal. My other problem was my trusty daily driver Tacoma, named Igor, was in desperate need of new tires and brakes as well as other odds and ends to keep him in tip top shape.


Sadly, I could not afford both.


Frankenstein lost out and Igor got the funding.


I was in a mad scrabble to get Igor prepped for the trip. I spent weeks tweaking the suspension, fixing the brakes, setting up my radios and navigation and building sliders. Slapped some 33'' Cooper tires on him and dubbed him adventure ready!


Mike and I picked out our route as well during this. We had a small bucket list of places we wanted to go too. The big one was run the full Kokopelli. We added Lockhart Basin to get us to Elephant hill. Then follow the UTBDR route south to Valley of the Gods. Cut over west to Hole in the Rock. Then head into The Maze. With our routes planned and GPS data sorted. We were finally ready.


This is our return trip to Utah as told by from my view point. We hadn't been there since 2012 and last time I was there, I rolled a vehicle. The best part was how long it was. Around 1000 miles of dirt road to drive. Thus the M in the title as M is 1000 in Greek.


The M~D~U Trip had begun.


Devin flew in from Maine and we set off late in the evening headed up the northfork out of Cody to make our way to Yellowstone. Devin had never been and I figured now was a great time to buzz through and the tourist invasion had slowed down. It was October 14th so the weather up here was getting cold and it was snowing at the higher elevations. For us, it was raining.


We shot for my long time family friends cabin that had been in the family for decades to camp out in front of it. As we got there, an old couple, one of the family members that own the cabin, pulled up as well. I had never met them but said hello and told them our plan and that I had told Shelby we would be here. They were totally okay with us being there and set about readying up the cabin for themselves.


I had a brand new CVT Summit Series tent and was trying to get the built in LED light working when Mrs. Bonner came out and said,


“would you like some beer or wine”


Devin replied thank you but no we where just going to make dinner and go to bed as we had an early morning planned.


“Oh just come on in and use the stove. It's no big deal.”


We gratefully accepted her offer and went inside and made dinner. We had a wonderful time chatting with them about camping and our trip plans. I had been coming to the cabin since I was 4 years old on an annual basis and told them all about our fun trips.


After dinner we crawled into bed and damn near froze all night.


We awoke to the rain, still coming down the next morning.


With a long day of driving ahead, we set off for the East Gate of Yellowstone. Promptly after it going up Sylvan Pass, we hit snow and ice everywhere. Thankfully, there was almost not traffic. After we made our way down a bit it quickly turned back into the constant drizzle.


Our first stop in Yellowstone would be at Canyon. The classic location and views of the giant yellow stained canyon that gives Yellowstone it's famous name.


There are two water falls and multiple places to see them on both sides of the canyon. I took devin to my favorite one first on the Lower Falls to Uncle Toms Trail.


Igor is loaded up and soaked!


M~D~U.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Before heading down the trail, we walked the canyon rim. There are lots and lots of falls here. Not sure what this one is called but it isn't even one of the “official” falls.


Still pretty.


M~D~U-2.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


And a great view of the vast yellow canyon.


M~D~U-3.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

M~D~U-5.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We then started down Uncle Toms Trail.


Today its 328 steel stair's that descend down the canyon wall. Can be a lung check for those not used to 8-9000' elevations


M~D~U-10.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


The route was named after Tom who was a guide in the 1890s from Montana that built the original trail that used ropes and rope ladder to get guest down to the canyon floor.


Now days, the steel stair case is a tad safer but still makes you feel a tad uneasy walking down it. The stairs go down about ¾ of the way the original trail did before stopping to allow a lovely view of the lower falls.


M~D~U-6.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


After climbing up all 328 stairs, which if you're used to sea level like Devin is a challenge, we made our way to the famous Artist Point over look.


M~D~U-7.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Buses stop here with loads of people to get this iconic view of the lower falls. But my favorite view is the Brink. We hoped back in Igor and drove over to the trail head and hiked down the short switchback trail to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The rains still a constant slow drizzle.


M~D~U-9.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Our view from the very edge of the falls. We had this spot to ourselves for about 10 minutes.


M~D~U-11.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

M~D~U-12.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


I then wanted to take Devin to the grand Lake Hotel. But of course this late in the year, everything was shut down mostly. Only a few of the bigger lodges where open and sadly this wasn't one of them. Next time.


M~D~U-13.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Still a great view of the massive Yellowstone Lake.


M~D~U-14.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Our next stop was of course probably the most famous feature in Yellowstone other then the canyon itself. Old Faithful Inn and the Geyser.


We also finally had our close counter with some Buffalo right as we got to the Inn. This day would end up being an amazing day for wild life.


M~D~U-16.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

M~D~U-17.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Generally, I avoid this spot in Yellowstone like the plague. But Devin needed to see the place. Even now late in the year, the place was a zoo.


M~D~U-18.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Millions of people come to see this geyser go off though in its iconic predictable fashion. The wait gets longer and longer every year though as the geology make up of the the hot spot below it slowly moves away.


M~D~U-19.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


And this is why we came.


M~D~U-20.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


After the eruption, Devin and I decided to eat there at the Lodge so we didn't have to unpack the truck so early into the trip. Well, come to find out, everyone else at the geyser thought the same! There was only one cafeteria type place left open and one general store. We didn't get to the main place so oppted to try the general store. Picking were slim though. So slim in fact the only hot things you could eat was either hot dogs from the smaller food service area or buy a Cup of Noodle soup and heat it in the microwave.


We opted for the Hot Dogs.


After eating we drove south to get to Teton National Forest so Devin could see the Grand Tetons as well. On our way down we got to see even more wildlife.


The first was the absolute biggest pig of a Mule Deer Buck I have ever seen in my life. He was HUGE. Sadly, I have no photo evidence of this as the people in Yellowstone tend to not be very smart and just stop in the middle of the road instead of pulling over to let other by. This scared the deer and we just got a glimpse of him as we passed.


Next though, we got front row seats.


We were nearing the border of Yellowstone and Teton Nat Park when the trees broke open a tad and suddenly there were 5 Ranger cars with their lights all lit up.


But no one else anywhere.


Thats odd I thought...and we kept on driving by them.


Suddenly, Devin yelled and pointed, “Monte its a Griz!”


M~D~U-21.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


And sure enough there he was. A good sized Grizzly Bear just walking a long the side of the road.


M~D~U-22.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr
 
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Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#2
No matter how many I see, Grizzly bears are always cool to see. And it is pretty hard to see them. I was very excited to get to see one and Devin got to on her first trip here!


We continued on to Teton Nat Park and right as we got to the junction to the Teton Park Road. A large herd of Elk were just hanging out. The massive Bull keeping a keen eye on his Cows.


M~D~U-23.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr
M~D~U-24.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


“Dang! We are doing good! All we need is to see some Moose and we have seen nearly all the big ones in the area.” I said.


For now, we pointed ourselves down the Teton Park Road towards the amazing Teton Peaks.


M~D~U-25.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


It was a bit cloudy which sadly took away from some of their awesome powerful presence. A fog a mystery was now present though and the beauty of the place was still amazing.


M~D~U-26.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Igor, packed to the brim, was still doing great. The rear suspension was being quite taxed though and the ride was a tad rough. Not horrible though.


M~D~U-27.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We finished our loop into Tetons and head towards Jackson to top off our gas tank.


As we head toward the High way junction to turn east towards Dubois and Lander, Devin once again spotted more wild life.


“Look! Moose!”


M~D~U-28.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Sure enough three big Moose where walking away from the road. Sometimes I wish I had a 400mm lens!


From there we settled in and crossed Togwotee Pass which had a bit of ice and snow on it. We got to Dubois and spent the next hour driving to Lander while keeping a VERY keen eye out for Deer. There were hundreds and hundreds of them.


It was Dark by the time we made it to Lander to my good friend's Marc and Jen's house. They had cooked up a large steak and burger meal for us and more good good friends Brett and Heather.


We had a lovely evening of chatting and teasing, but the best news was Marc and Jen let us know prematurely that they were pregnant! Congrats you two!


Marc and Jen let us shower and sleep in the guest room while we aired out the RTT in hopes it would dry out.We also made some side plans to go check out the Sinks in the morning.


We Slept in a tad late the following morning, me thinking I had ample time to get to Rock Springs to meet up with Mike that afternoon. We had a delicious breakfast and then set off up the canyon to the Sinks.


M~D~U-29.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

M~D~U-30.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


I have visited this area several time for my reports now. Its just a cool geological feature and a gorgeous area. I highly recommend stopping if you come here.


Wish I had a rear bumper..


M~D~U-31.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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The basic jist is, water goes down that hole, and somehow near two hours later, it resurfaces.


They still have no idea where it goes. Pretty cool there are still natural mysteries our there.


M~D~U-36.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


And where it comes back up is probably every Trout fisherman's dream..


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M~D~U-38.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Alas, there is no fishing allowed for the salmon sized over fed fat trout here.


From here we retreated down the canyon and went for a quick little walk to a spot Marc and Jen frequently take their beloved happy lab Jax.


M~D~U-39.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Where Marc was quick to throw a stick to get him in the cold clear water.


M~D~U-40.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


After this, I knew I really needed to hit the road to get to Mike. We said thank you for their hospitality and took off to meed Mike at the rally point.


M~D~U-41.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


As we left Lander, this was what we saw.


M~D~U-42.jpg by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Classic Wyoming :D


We where finally headed south though to warmer desert plains and grippy slickroad trails. It had been a great start to our journey that lay before us.


Utah, here we come!!



To be Continued..

Chapter 2: Kokopelli at Last!
 
#6
I just know that friends that live there always have a head wind when they drive down here to visit family and a head wind while they are driving back to Buffalo. A friend was riding his 185 Suzuki out to CA and then on to AK. He could only do about 35 MPH on I 80 due to the wind. Gave up and turned around, shut the motor off and let the wind blow him back home. He finally did make it to AK. Sold the bike there in Tok. That one lunger finally froze up there and he got more than he paid for it. Mark and Pete were on Honda 350s. Pete had his hauled back in a pickup and Mark actually rode his back home. Rob took the South bound hound. This was in 1976.
 
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Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#7
I just know that friends that live there always have a head wind when they drive down here to visit family and a head wind while they are driving back to Buffalo. A friend was riding his 185 Suzuki out to CA and then on to AK. He could only do about 35 MPH on I 80 due to the wind. Gave up and turned around, shut the motor off and let the wind blow him back home. He finally did make it to AK. Sold the bike there in Tok. That one lunger finally froze up there and he got more than he paid for it. Mark and Pete were on Honda 350s. Pete had his hauled back in a pickup and Mark actually rode his back home. Rob took the South bound hound. This was in 1976.
oh nice!

Yea I80 can be insanely windy. Known to shut down often for semi's and all trailers. 65+mph gusts. Ive driven it several times like that. can be scary..id never do it on a bike haha
 
#8
Yep, I know what I 80 can be like, summer or winter. Rolled along with many Semis that had been released from SLC after a winter closure there, I had to do over 90 to get passed them to get to the exit for Cabellas.
I've about been blown off of E470 on a return trip from Taos.
The old joke is the wind doesn't blow in WY it's just that CO sucks but I can't think of wherever else would want to live.
 

Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#11
The M~U~D Report: 1000 Miles of Utah Dirt

Chapter 2: Kokopelli at Last!


After about 2 hours of windy driving, we made it to Rock Springs. Before taking off down the interstate to meet Mike at off ramp 99 on I80 to hwy 191. I made a pit stop at Sportsman's warehouse as for some stupid reason I had forgotten my Axe and I thought I'd forgotten to transfer my flashlights over from Frankenstein.


With a quick shop done. We setup off and finally met up with Mike for the second time this year. A new experience for both of us. We had chosen to go down 191 so we could experience Flaming Gorge as this was all new territory for Mike and I.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


The views did not disappoint. Even if it was a bit chilly.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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A running theme of this trip would be Water. The power it had to shape the land, life, and how it could just never be there. These canyons where all cut from water, the mighty Green River would be the main river for Flaming Gorge and wouldn't be the last time we would see it a whole state away.


It was a bit drizzly and Mike was not amused.


“Damn its cold! This is your fault, we should have left two week ago!”


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


He was kind of right..I had asked for two more weeks for working reasons..


“it'll get warm! We still have along ways to go south.”


Still we didn't linger at the pull outs long.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Some of them though, were very much worth the drizzle.


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We spotted this pull off last minute as it practically dives off the other side of the highway. Was glad we caught it.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We had a very long ways to go though with our destination of Loma, CO a ways south. And hit the road enjoying the amazing landscape.


Finally we got to the massive Dam at Flaming Gorge. I was very very sad the visitor center was closed as they have walk ways on the damn to get the full view of the 502' damn wall. You do get to drive over the dam which is pretty cool. Have to go back to be able to stand on it..


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


There where other cool features here though that the low traffic allowed us to play on. This interesting bridge for example.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Flaming Gorge is a major summer hub and I can see why. There are endless nooks and crannies to explore on a boat.


We continued south though with Mike still hoping we would make it in the day light. Slightly forgetting the days are much shorter in October. Couldn't pass up some of the views of some of the small passes we drove over on the route down though.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr
 
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Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#12
After this, it was dark and we drove and drove till we got to Loma. Topped off our gas tanks and found our destination, The Kokopelli.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Mike and I had wanted to run this road since doing a tiny section of it by Top of The World trail in 2012. 4 years later. We had finally made it!


We found a spot off the side of the road to bunk up for night and cooked dinner under the stars. The excitement was exploding inside of us now. Nothing but 136 miles a dirt lay before us. Finally, dirt. The real reason we where here.


Settled in for the night ready for the day to start tomorrow.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


daylight reveled our camp, always a nice thing to see when you get there in the dark.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


As Mike finished packing, I went back to the “official” trail head so Devin could use the restroom. Plus I needed a photo of it :D


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


The Kokopelli is a pretty well known trail but one of the largest uses of it is biking.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


There were a lot of people prepping to bike the trail or at least a portion of it. We saw people on and off all day with bikes. But not much after the first day. That said, the main trail is a bike trail, technically you can't drive 100% of the trail. But the stretches of asphalt we had to hit to get to the trail were less then a mile.


For instance we were aired down and where very excited...to get back on the pavement haha


But only again for a very short distance to get to Rabbit Valley.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Then we got to drive under the interstate! Pretty much seemed like a drain more then a road. But still, pretty cool this is here and we can use it.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Not often you get to stop in the middle of the Interstate Median.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


It wasn't long after this stop to before we where in the thick of it. We stopped at all signs to read if there where any regulation changes for where we were. They can vary by state, county, park, whatever. Always worth the stop.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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Then we started following the trail down what most of these trails are made from. Dried up creeks or washouts.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


It was hard to not stop a lot. The formations are just always so different and cool out this way.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#13
After weaving our way we hit a section that was big and open...aka..fast! We hit speeds of 55-65mph here floating over the road on our suspension. I would quickly come to love my new Tundra brakes as the rear was lacking in up travel pretty badly. Had to slam on the brakes many times on this trip. Made me miss the travel Frankenstein puts down..oh well.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


Really this isn't a hard trail. Quite easy to keep your speed up but still enjoy the area.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Now with a good chunk of miles under our tires, we got our first glimpse of the mighty Colorado River.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


Rigs are still clean and everything.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Mike getting that perfect shot.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


So far, the trail has been fairly tame in terms of terrain. But we didn't mind. Was still fun and we where there mostly for the views.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


This ledge almost appeared from the driver seat to want to take the tent off. But really we had ample room. Larger full size rigs may have a bigger squeeze at this spot.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


I will say, I think the bikers get the cooler paths on the trail. Made me want to bike it, some of the single tracks get to go to some great spots we don't get to.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We still were having a ball. I mean, look at this place. We weren't even 50 miles in yet.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


As you can tell...we took a lot of photos.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr
 

Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#14
We stopped at a small overlook to look down into the valley.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Couldn't decide if the rocks were trying to run downhill or up hill :p


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Again, check out that single track down there...if only it was bigger..


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


Our road was still cool though.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


Our road took us down hill towards the valley.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


But not before snaking around and up again


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Can see the road far off from where we had come. We would do this a lot during the trip as we could often see the places we had come from.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr


The road dives down into a larger flat and we come up on our first “obstacle” of the trip.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Cisco Wash.


A lot of people bypass this and it shows as the road is not near as traveled.


“We can go around if you want” said Mike laughing as he already knew my response.


“Are your freaking kidding me??” I said, “as if that was on option.”


And with that. I got in Igor, slapped in 4Lo and went down.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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I'll admit...sucker is STEEP!


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Blackdawg

Dr. Frankenstein
#15
No problem though. Lucky for us, there hadn't been any rain in the last week or so. The wash was dry as can be.


So we watched Mike do it.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Easy money! Was fun. I've read about people having serious issues here when it is wet. So keep that in mind if you decide to do this yourself. Otherwise, simple 4wd is all you need here.


We continued on down the track till we hit our second very short spurt of asphalt. Was so short and the turn off is so well hidden in the dirt we drove right past the turn off.


Gotta love the pink TC Sticker :D


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We also finally got on our first big “patch” of slick rock.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Slick rock, the true treasure of Utah offroading.


Looking ahead was the La Sal Mountains we would be crossing as well later plus the face that Top of The World climbs too is there.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


We now knew we wanted to find a spot to camp for the night. We had seen many campsites earlier in the day. But now they seemed to have all disappeared. Even Mikes CampSite Radar wasn't finding much. All we could do was drive on.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


The rock formations to our left started drawing our attention in the fading sunset light.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Still we could not find a place.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Finally there was a few roads that split off. We each took one and mine turned out to be the winner.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr


While not a true campsite, there was lots and lots of evidence this place was used as such. We were sure to be very careful and pack everything out after using it.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr


Was one hell of a spot though.


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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr


Devin and I went hiking around the formations to get a good view of the area.


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by mike digirat, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by mike digirat, on Flickr

M~D~U-57.jpg
by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr

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by Monte Nickles Photos, on Flickr