The Trans America Trail in a 2019 Ford Ranger

Jim Oaks

Observer
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I have been a member here for quite a while, and have enjoyed and been inspired by the stories shared by the forums members. I wanted to contribute to those stories, and share mine. :D

On June 2nd, 2019 I left my home north of Fort Worth Texas, and traveled north to intersect with the Trans America Trail at the New Mexico / Oklahoma border. My goal is to do the whole trail, but instead of driving to Tennessee and backtracking, I decided to do the section between Oklahoma and Tennessee later this summer when I travel back to Ohio (where I'm originally from).

The Ranger is outfitted with the optional Yakima Rack and Skyrise tent, and I replaced the tires with 265/70/17 Cooper Discoverer STT PRO mud terrains. The bed is loaded with a Scepter gas can, water can Lifetime cooler, shovel, Hi-Lift jack (it's behind the cooler), and some X-Bull recover tracks mounted to the front of my Contico storage box.

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With the exception of some LED lights added to the front and rear, and a receiver shackle, the truck is stock.

Oh ya, I mounted my Samsung tablet to the console so I could navigate the trail with the Gaia GPS app.

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I had never been to Palo Duro Canyon just south of Amarillo Texas, So I stopped and visited there along the way.

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On June 3rd, I was finally on the TAT in New Mexico from the Oklahoma border. It was a great feeling to finally be doing it.

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I feel like Long Canyon Road is one of the most photographed spots on the TAT.

Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:

Here's the story:

Trans America Trail - Monday June 3rd, 2019

NOTE: I blogged about my trip daily on my own site, and you can read about my adventures on the Trans America Trail starting HERE.

 

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Jim Oaks

Observer
I deviated from the TAT between Trinidad and La Veta so I could do Cordova Pass and see the Apishapa Arch. Even though it's not part of the TAT, it's still a great off-pavement section that's not far off of the true route.

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My dog Marley and I stopped in La Veta to have lunch in the park, and then rejoined the TAT. The day was full of beautiful scenery.

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We eventually spent the night at a KOA campground in Cotopaxi.

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Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:

Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Tuesday June 4th, 2019

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On June 5th, I finally made it to Marshall Pass, and made it about 1/2 across before running in to snow.

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I was forced to turn around, and ended up camping at the Salida / Mt. Shavano KOA on US50

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Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:

Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Wednesday June 5th, 2019
 

Jim Oaks

Observer
Since I couldn't get across Marshall Pass, I went west on US 550 across Monarch Pass.

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I want to drive this in the snow!

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I was able to reconnect with the TAT when I got to Sargents.

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This section will take you to Lake City. Although I saw snow, it didn't keep me from getting there.

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I already new that Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass were closed, and that I would have to head north on SR 149 to go around the Mountain to get to Ouray. I caught a break though when I discovered Blue Mesa Road CR 25. It cut up to US 50, and reduced the amount of time and distance I was going to have to take SR 149 all the way to US 50, and then west. I was a beautiful scenic dirt road, so it definitely met the criteria for the Trans America Trail.

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I stopped and made camp at the KOA campground just north of Ouray. I had camped here 2-years ago, so I knew it was someplace I'd camp on my way through this time.

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Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:


Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Thursday June 6th, 2019
 

Jim Oaks

Observer
I headed south of Ouray on US 550 hoping to find some places to take photos. US 500 is a pretty nice drive south of Ouray. I saw quite a bit of avalanche damage along the highway. I had hoped to go to Yankee Girl Mine, but the road was block by snow. I saw the turn off for Black Bear Pass, and just had to stop to get these photos.

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I knew that some of the mountain passes in Colorado in June would be closed. Ophir Pass was also closed. I expected Engineer Pass to be closed, but figured Marshall Pass and Ophir Pass would be open. Looking back, I would suggest anyone to do the TAT before mid-late July.

This meant I would have to take the highway around the mountain, and reconnect with the TAT south of Telluride.

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Finally, it was nice to be on the TAT again.

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It would be short lived.

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I would get through this spot thanks to the Cooperso_O, but I'd end up turning around due to even more snow.

Heading back to SR 145, I continued south to Dolores, and then followed Forest Road 526 north to reconnect with the TAT. First I had to get a picture of this Galloping Goose.

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Back on the TAT and heading west, I was out of the mountains, and no longer dealing with roads closed by snow!

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The Trans America Trail takes you around Mt Peale and then in to Moab. Driving around Mt Peale I was greeted by none other than....

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More snow!!! o_O

I drove through a little ways, but eventually realized I would have to turn around.

I expected to get greeted by warm temperatures and big rocks in Utah. The snow was a bit of a surprise.

I did make it in to Moab where it was 87 degrees at 9pm. This is more of what I was expecting. Unfortunately, I had arrived on a Friday, and all of the hotels and campgrounds were full. I could have probably found someplace that allowed dispersed camping, but it was late, I've never been here, and didn't know anything about the area.

I ended up driving about an hour north to a Motel 6 in Green River just off of Interstate 70.

Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:


Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Friday June 7th, 2019
 

Jim Oaks

Observer
Not wanting to skip any of the Trans America Trail, I backtracked to Moab the following morning, and started what would seem like a long trek across Utah.

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I finally came to Manti-La Sal National Forest, and that took us back up in Elevation. After several miles, I came across a sign indicating that the road was closed due to damage. I walked the road a little way and found snow on the road that seemed passable, but a guy came along in a Toyota pickup, told me that the snow gets deeper, and that it wasn't passable.

I headed back to the highway, and went south to Emery. The original version of the TAT went west from here, so I decided to follow that. I eventually ended up in Salina where I spent the night in the parking lot of a Loves Travel Stop.

Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:


Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Saturday June 8th, 2019

After stopping in Salina Utah for the night, I headed north on US 89 and rejoined the Trans America Trail in Ephraim.

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I came across a gate on a road just north of Fayette off of Route 28. There wasn't any signs telling me that I couldn't enter, and I noticed there wasn't a cattle grate, so I figured it's a public road, and a rancher put up the gate to keep his cattle from getting out. I have encountered cattle in open ranges everywhere. The gate was held closed with a chain, and a clip like you'd find on a dog leash. I opened the gate, pulled through, and then re-secured it the way I found it. When I finally came out on the other end of the road, there wasn't a gate to deal with.

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There is a point where you end up on an old section of US 6 / US 50 west of Hinckley that's going to make you question whether you're on a path that you should be following. You're going to end up driving through some brush, and then climbing the embankment back on to the new section of US 6 / US 50. You go a short distance, and then head out across the desert on the old US 6 / US 50.

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This will turn on to Death Canyon Road, through Death Canyon, and then out over a salt bed before returning to old US 6 / US 50.

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Jim Oaks

Observer
My dog was so tired after rolling around in his dry salt bath, that he fell asleep in the back seat.

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Old US 6 / US 50 will take you all the way to Gandy Rd (North Gandy Highway), however, the TAT turns south on to Knoll Springs Road to US 6 / US 50, and then west to a gas station at the Nevada state line. From there it backtracks a short distance, and turns north on Gandy Rd. If you don't turn on to Knoll Springs Road, it's only 7-miles to Gandy Rd. Also from this point, I estimated that it's about 155-160 miles until you get to West Wendover, Nevada which will be your next gas station.

This section of the TAT that takes you to the gas station at the state line is a 36.5 mile loop back to where North Gandy Highway intersects with Old US 6 / US 50. If you don't need gas and just stay on Old US 6 / US 50, you'll save yourself 29.5 miles.

I did this loop, didn't stop for gas, and still made it to West Wendover with 40 miles till empty. I also have an extra 5-gallons of gas in the bed just to be safe.

This section north on Gandy Road seems to go on forever. After about 70 miles (?) you'll tern west on Pony Express Road, which will take you past an old Pony Express station.

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You'll also end up back on a trail that won't seem like it's really a road.

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I eventually made it to West Wendover in Nevada near the Utah border and camped at the Wendover KOA campground.

Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:


Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Sunday June 9th, 2019
 

Explorerinil

Observer
Very cool! What gear did you wish you would have brought? Is there anything you didn’t need that you brought? I’m always up for advice from people that actually travel backroads and camp.
 

Jim Oaks

Observer
Thanks all!

Very cool! What gear did you wish you would have brought? Is there anything you didn’t need that you brought? I’m always up for advice from people that actually travel backroads and camp.
I wished I had a winch, but unfortunately nobody had a winch bumper available for the 2019 Ford Ranger. There were points where I had to turn around due to snow, but all of these areas had good size trees that I could have winched off of. Since the snow only seemed to be in sections, I may have tried to wheel through some of them, and winch myself out if I had a chance.

I didn't need the extra 5-gallons of gas, but I'm glad I had it with me.

Adding a shovel in the bed was a last minute detail, and I used it once to get myself unstuck from some snow.

Today I will be posting video from Craters of The Moon in Idaho. It was dry with some occasional mud holes, but if you watch the video, you'll realize how difficult this section could be if it rains. I was fortunate to get Cooper to give me a set of Cooper STT PRO mud terrains. I feel they definitely helped me get through a section of snow that I was in. I would have been stuck there for a while with the factory all-terrains.

I wouldn't have been stuck at all if the front axle had a limited slip or locker. I was going up a hill where there were trees and a drop off along the left edge. The trail as covered with thick heavy wet snow. Without the right front getting any power sent to it so it could dig, the snow acted like a wall, and the Ranger started to slide sideways (left) to spin around this point of resistance. I had to stop because the left rear corner of the truck was sliding towards the trees. I grabbed my shovel, and dug some of the snow out from in front of the right front tire to get rid of that resistance, and was then able to power though it.

When I planned for the trip, I planned for worse case scenario. I knew the tires would help me deal with mud or snow. I had a hi-lift jack, jack mate, straps, and shackles, so I could have freed the truck from about anything with a little time and patience. I had the X-Bull tracks as well in case I got stuck. I added LED lights, that helped out a lot that you'll see in a later post. And of course a 5-gallon water can, cooler, and plenty of food and beverages.

I'm also really grateful that I used the Gaia GPS app on my tablet for navigation.

As far as camping, I'm still not that comfortable with just pulling off the side of the trail, and setting up camp with a tent. When I did camp, it was in a dedicated campground. There were a few nights that I slept in either a Loves Travel Stop, or a Walmart parking lot because there weren't any campgrounds around, and I was wishing I had a longer bed with a camper shell to sleep under, or an SUV such as my Ford Expedition where I could have just stretched out in the back with a sleeping bag.

Nice trip and pictures! Your Ranger looks very nice as well!
Disclaimer: The Ranger belongs to Ford. I'm celebrating 20-years as a Ford Ranger website owner, and Ford gave me a Ranger for 6-months to pretty much do whatever I want to with. I'm not here to promote that. Just to share my adventures with my fellow adventurers. I've driven out to Overland Expo, done the Trans America Trail from Oklahoma to the west coast, and will be doing the section from Oklahoma to Tennessee here soon. I want to get in as much adventure with the truck as I can before I give it back to them at the end of September. I'm not allowed to drill any holes or permanently mount anything to it, so mounting / securing things to the truck took a little creativity. Everything added to the truck is mine, except for the tent.

My Videos:

I've been putting together videos for each day of the trip using footage I shot from inside of the cab. If you really want an idea of what the Trans America Trail looks like from behind the windshield, check them out. I've never put videos together before this spring, so these aren't going to be fancy productions, but they'll give you an honest look at the trail.

Thanks again. It's nice to share your photos and story with people that can appreciate them, and understands our desire to travel the way we do.
 

Jim Oaks

Observer
I woke up Monday June 8th at the KOA campground in West Wendover Nevada, and used their laundromat to clean my clothes before heading out.

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Crossing over in to Wendover Utah brings you by the Wendover Army Airfield which is a WWII bombing and gunnery range.

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This is a cool area because any of the buildings are still intact. Wendover also sits at the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Utah was miles and miles.....and miles....of dirt and gravel roads.

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(Salt Lake in the distance)

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The TAT takes you on to the old Trans Continental Railroad bed, and there are historical markers along the way.

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When you get near Promontory, the TAT follows a paved section of road (W Golden Spike Drive N), and passes an auto tour loop that goes off to the right, and eventually comes back out on the highway. I highly recommend it, plus it gets you off of the pavement.

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Jim Oaks

Observer
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Heading north on the TAT takes you in to Idaho, and to American Falls, but I stopped in Pocatello for the night to sleep.

Here's an in-cab video highlight of the days trip:


Here's the full story:

Trans America Trail - Monday June 10th, 2019

On Tuesday I headed north from American Falls and followed the Trans America Trail around Craters of The Moon. If there's any place on theTAT that looks like it could cause you a lot of grief in the rain, it's going to be here.

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The TAT travels through Arco Idaho, and I stopped at 'Jack's Travel Plaza - Conoco' to top off my gas tank, and for the dog and I to take a little break and grab lunch.

From there the TAT heads in to the Sawtooth National Forest.

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The Antelope Valley is a very pretty area, but when I turned on FR 135 to head back to Copper Canyon, I ran in to a young guy from the Forest Service that told me the road was completely washed out and not passable. I headed back to US 93, and discovered that if I headed north, I could take Trail Creek Road, and that it would connect me back to the TAT on the other side of the washed out road.

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There are definitely beautiful views in this section.

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Again, I would encourage you to watch the video.
 
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