Utah Cruiser Expedition 2010

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#1
Some of you may know Dave Connors, but most of you probably don't. He's a relatively private Cruiserhead from Utah that has been into Toyotas for lots of years having owned FJ40s, FJ60s, a Tacoma, an FZJ80 and more importantly he loves to explore in them. He does more solo trips in a year than most of us will do in a decade. One of those trips some of you might be familiar with is his Expedition Americas trip a few years ago where he travelled from SLC, Utah up to Banff, Canada and then on to the southern tip of S. America in his Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80.

Well I'm fortunate enough to be pretty good friends with Dave, as well as some other top notch off-roaders like Kurt Williams from Cruiser Outfitters, and Paul May from Equipt Expedition Outfitters, as we all live here in Utah and are all part of a local Land Cruiser club. About a year ago Dave and his friend J. Ralls had an idea. The idea was an expedition style trip diagonally across the state of Utah entirely on dirt roads. Dave had planned and participated in two previous trips that crossed Utah from west to east and from North to South on dirt roads but if you've been to Utah you know there is a lot of country left unexplored even after crossing it in two directions.

Fast forward to this past LaborDay weekend where the plans for this latest version of the Utah Cruiser Expedition came to fruition. I was one of the fortunate few to get an invite to this adventure. Logistically a trip like this can be a real mess with too many people or trucks as we'd be covering close to 1000 miles off-pavement. In the end we ended up with 6 trucks and 11 people, comprised of three FZJ80 Land Cruisers, a UZJ100 Land Cruiser and two Tacomas. The route was planned to drive from SLC, Utah south on the highway to our starting point at Four Corners Monument on the borders of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado and leave the pavement there and travel generally in a NW direction diagonally across Utah to the Three Corners area along the border of Utah, Idaho and Nevada then get back on the highway for the drive back to SLC, Utah. Essentially we would be crossing the state diagonally twice on the round trip, once in our drives to and from the start and finish locations, and once (more importantly) on some of the greatest backroads the state of Utah has to offer.

From a practical sense we conceded that it would virtually impossible to never touch the pavement once we started, but we minimized our pavement miles to ~5 miles over the almost 900 mile trip, and that was primarily for fuel stops. We all felt like that was acceptable and stayed true to the goal of the trip.

We left SLC, Utah around noon on Thursday and planned to complete the trip Monday afternoon. In order to complete the planned route we needed to average ~25mph for the trip. There were sections that were unknown to us that would slow us down and sections that were more technical that would also slow our pace. This required that on the higher speed sections that we were moving at a good clip. For all intents and purposes we were driving just about as fast as the terrain would allow for the entire trip. I found that to be particularly exhausting as it required constant attention for hours at a time. One sketchy moment came on the third day during a stretch I was leading in my Gold Tacoma. We were travelling fast down a narrow road in an extremely remote section of the west desert (probably 60+mph) and I came over a rise only to find a group of troubled teens out on some kind of rehab hike lying in the middle of the road taking a break. I locked up the brakes and skidded to a stop within about 5' of the group! First off, I was glad I was paying attention, but man, they picked an aweful spot to stop. I'm sure they were thinking the same thing we were, that there was zero chance they'd even see anyone else while they were out there, so I'm sure we were mutually suprised.

Overall the equipment handled the abuse well and the carnage report was relatively short. We had a few communication issues with radios that we were able to solve or work around. Paul May punctured one tire on his 100 series Cruiser. The mounting brackets broke on the Mombasa RTT I was using. Troy Demill lost the A-pillar bolts for his snorkel. Johnny Lange (Wildyoats.com) got sick and headed for home half way through with boiling brake fluid and eventually metal to metal contact on his brakes. But the bulk of the carnage fell on Dave Connors who destroyed 5 tires, broke a birfield and an inner axle, tore the pre-cleaner off his snorkel and the Eezi-Awn tent off his Mule Expedition rack with a highspeed meeting with a tree branch, leaking front axle seal on the opposite side as the broken birf, broken exhaust hangers and lost all 4 lower steering knuckle studs. He took it all in stride and we were able to plug his tires well enough to get him home, and also get the other issues fixed to complete the trip also.

All-in-all it was an amazing trip and near the top of the list of favorite trips for everyone in the group. I know it was for me. I'll include a sizeable amount of photos that I took, and maybe Kurt, or Troy who are on this board will share a few as well. One thing I found was that as fast as we were travelling it was exteremly difficult to get photos along the way except for when we were stopped or slowed down so I apologize for spotty documentation. I'll try to keep them chronological.

"All dressed up and ready to go"


Day 1 was driving south on I-15, Hwy 6 and 191 through Moab and as far as Aneth, Utah on Indian land.










We got off the pavement near Aneth and found a spot to stop for the night.
 
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Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#2
The next morning we got up and drove south to Four Corners monument. After the requisite photos on the four corners medallion we browsed the row of shops that surround the plaza.









Then it was off into the dirt behind the monument (after a small fee and permission from the local Indians) never to look back.


 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#4
Maybe now is a good time to show a map of our route. We had an APRS locater as part of the HAM setup in my truck as well as another in Kurt Williams truck. The GPS transponders would send a signal about every 2 min. If there was a repeater that could pick us up it logged our location, much like a SPOT device. My wife appreciated this as she could log on and search by either of the two HAM call signs and check our location. This map is the final completed roundtrip route.

 
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Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#5
Our planned campsite for the night was Poison Springs in the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park. Crossed a variety of terrain getting there.



On our way to Poison Springs we encountered a cattle pond that had covered the road. It appears to be extremely soft underneath.


Paul May taking a look at an aternate route around the Pond.


Paul decided the bottom of the pond might be too soft for his heavy 100 Series Cruiser and took the long way around.


While Paul was making his way around the pond the rest of us decided we'd give it a shot. Dave Connors diving in.


Followed by Kurt Williams


Then it was my turn.


 
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Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#6
The last two hours of driving was "rallying" hard in the dark to get to our campsite. We crossed the stream in darkness and setup camp to enjoy an outstanding meal of Fajitas prepared by Paul May and Jeremy Green, our "camp chefs" for the trip.

Once the sun came up it was cool to see just how pretty a location it was.










Day 3 was departing from Poison Springs and continuing north back through Hanksville and Emery to camp near Blue Lake. It involved climbing from ~4000' @ Poison Springs up to above 9000' through the Henry Mountains then back down to the 4000' level and back up to above 10,000' by the time we got to our campsite. Some absolutely stunning landscape covered this day!

Johnny Lange making his way out of Poison Springs


Dave Connors capturing a photo of Paul May picking through Poison Springs



View from near the top of the Henry Mountains.



Lined up at the top of Wickiup Pass in the Henry Mountains. Elev. 9200'
 
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Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#7
Coming down off the Henry Mountians toward I-70 was another unreal change in environment. We'd come from the redrocks of Canyondlands that morning up through high-elevation wooded moutains and back down into what I would describe as desolate.



Letting the group catch up in preparation for crossing I-70.






"Trust Fall" :sombrero:
 
#8
My life has become so lame. Looks like you guys had a great trip Adam.

The trust fall picture is classic considering the two guys Kurt had to trust. One guy likes goats a little too much and don't even get me started on the other guy.
 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#9
At this point we changed trail leaders and Troy Demill led into his "backyard" up through Emery toward Manti, Utah where we would camp near Blue Lake above 10,000'. The road up out of Emery was steep, rugged and absolutely beautiful!






 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#11
When we came out on top at Skyline Drive the views were nothing short of amazing! Incredible country.







it was just before dark when we made it to our campsite. We setup quickly and Paul and Jeremy went to work on dinner. Bacon wrapped steak, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms. It was a heavenly meal.

Blue Lake


view from our campsite




the wind was aweful that night. Sometime during the previous day the brackets on my Mombasa tent had broken. We were able to strap it down while driving but I was worried all night that the wind would blow us off the truck.

After almost no sleep, I opened up the tent just in time to catch the sunrise.
 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#12
Then it was back down 6 Mile Canyon, off the mountain toward Nephi. 6 Mile Canyon was extremely rough for the speeds we were trying to keep. Lots of ruts and rocks and when we stopped at the bottom of the canyon there was at least one punctured tire, and several upset stomachs and headaches. This is where Johnny Lange decided his stomach and the brakes on his truck had both had enough. He was leaving for NY two days later and decided he better get home and recoup before leaving for NY. We were sad to see him leave.

So back to the West Desert we went, toward Dugway on north to Delle. It was this stretch that I led and where we encountered the youth group. It was also a portion of the trip that was very highspeed so I took almost no pictures.

Here we are stopped to fix another punctured tire, a busted snorkel pre-cleaner and a tent that decided to separate from the roofrack.


I'd never seen so many grasshoppers. More than a few came to a bitter end that day.



Not too much later we ran across a herd of wild horses. Pretty cool to see.




Then we were stopped again by another flat tire.




 
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Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#13
Once we left Delle, it was on through the USAF West Desert Bombing range on the way to the Newfoundland Mountains. I had never been to the "Newfies" before and getting there is out of this world. It seriously felt like being in a Mad Max movie or that we could get snatched up by aliens at any moment. We were on a narrow track that parralleled the railroad line. On either side were shallow, dry evaporation ponds that were created almost two decades ago when enormous pumps were installed to pump water out of the Great Salt Lake as the water level was too high. The road was arrow straight for a good hour at 50+ mph, and with the setting sun and an ample amount of dust in the air it made for a very eerie setting.








Finally we reached the "Newfies" and crossed the tracks and headed for our final campsite.


Arrived at the campsite just in time to catch some pics of a great sunset.






 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#14
We woke to another beautiful day with a clear view of our surroundings.









Then it was back down the railroad grade to the pump station for a little target practice and spiders.



 

Box Rocket

Adventure Fan
#15
Our final day would take us north through the Hoggup Range and into Idaho. On our final stretch near Grouse Creek we found ourselves wandering on what was barely a road for well over an hour just to bypass 2 miles of pavement. But we finally made our way out.



And before too long our GPS's told us (with a small bit of controversy) that we were indeed at the Utah/Idaho border! Great Success!


We all had a sigh of relief that we had accomplished our goal and finished with a nice chat with a local cattle rancher that confirmed our location.

Now that I've had a few days to reflect on the experience, I am literally blown away by the sheer diversity of terrain available in Utah and that we were able to blaze our way through it all at what seemed at times like a blistering pace but still able to soak it all in. For me it was a once in a lifetime experience even though I live here in Utah. Experiencing it all with good friends made it all the better. I'm grateful for it all.



Fin.




:sombrero:
 
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