M ~ U ~ D
1000 miles of Utah Dirt
1000 miles of Utah Dirt
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!
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.
And a great view of the vast yellow canyon.
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
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.
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.
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.
Our view from the very edge of the falls. We had this spot to ourselves for about 10 minutes.
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.
Still a great view of the massive Yellowstone Lake.
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.
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.
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.
And this is why we came.
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!”
And sure enough there he was. A good sized Grizzly Bear just walking a long the side of the road.