Northern Explorer’s Southwest Adventure 2013

Better late than never. It's been a busy summer.

I have wanted to go to the Overland Expo for a number of years. Either the timing just didn’t work for us or we had already made other plans. This year would be different. I planned our entire summer trip around going to the Overland Expo.
As usual our trip would consist of a good mix of hiking and off road driving, visiting as many national parks as time would allow. After a two and a half day power drive, our first stop as we headed out west was Arches National Park. Our first adventure within the park was a drive along Tower Arch Road. This was a bit of a trial by fire because it ended up being one of the roughest roads I have ever driven with my camper.


The link below shows a video of this road.
We stayed one night at the Devil’s Garden Campground. The next morning we hiked the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop.
Landscape Arch 306 feet from base to base

Section of the trail to Double O Arch

Dark Angel is the tallest monolith in the park at about 150 feet

Some of the wild flowers were in bloom.

The hike was relatively uneventful with the exception of the last mile when we were caught in a hail storm.
Cool looking Chinook that was in the parking lot when we got back.

Later in the day we drove Long Canyon. Long Canyon is an easy 7.5 mile trail close to Moab.
Everybody takes a picture here

A look down the canyon
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We stayed the night at a campground in Moab. The next day we headed out on our big driving adventure of the trip. I was able to get permits for two camp sites on the White Rim Trail. I filled up with gas and drove to the visitor center in Canyonlands National Park. After confirming our reservations, picking up a park map and getting all of the pertinent information regarding driving the White Rim Trail, the ranger then informs us that the Shafer Switchbacks leading into the canyon were closed due to slick conditions caused by rain the previous night. With this information we were then given a choice to wait and see if condition dried up enough for the authorities to open this end of the trail or to drive around by backtracking to Long Canyon and then cutting back into the park on Potash Trail which then connects to the White Rim Trail. We went with option 2.
Along Potash Trail

Soon after connecting with the White Rim Trail we found ourselves pulling over to view and take pictures of every scenic overlook and attraction.
Gooseneck Overlook

Musselmen Arch

Our first campsite was at Airport Campground. There are four campsites in this location but are spaced out nicely and our only neighbor ended up being a VW Westfalia about a quater mile away.

After dinner and checking out our campsite we decided to backtrack down the road to the Lathrop hiking trail. We only had a few hours before sunset so we knew we were not going to be able to hike the entire trail.
Along the trail

The trail gained elevation and in one spot followed along the edge of a ravine. As we hiked, we could see across the ravine, up high along the rock walls what looked like caves. With our naked eye we couldn't tell if they were natural formations in the rock or manmade. Using the telephoto lens on my wife's camera, we zoomed in on one of the formations. This is the picture that was taken.

I instantly recognized the symbol for radiation and in the mindset of curiosity killed the cat we hiked across the ravine to investigate. When we got to the other side we found ourselves on a very old and deteriorated shelf road.

All along this shelf road were mines that had been dug into the side of the rock cliff. Most were fenced off but some of the ones that didn't go in very far were open.


A picture of the sign up close.

Needless to say we didn't stick around very long. We later found out they had done a lot of uranium mining in the area during the time of the cold war.
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The next morning we continued our way along the White Rim Trail.



You can drive right up to the edge is some places.
Parking brake engaged

White Crack overlook

We took a two hour hike to the old Indian ruins at the Fort Bottom hiking trail.

Our second night on the trail was at the Labyrinth Campground.

The next morning we continued along.


And then up the switchbacks back to the highway.
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Our next stop would be Bryce Canyon National Park. The landscape here is surreal.

Descending into the valley

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Zion National Park was next on our agenda. This was the most convenient park we've ever been to as far as getting around goes. We stayed at the first come first serve South Campground. We set up the camper and the truck didn't move for three days. Anytime we wanted to go somewhere, we would walk 100 yards or so to the Zion Canyon Visitor center and hop on the shuttle.
We hiked the Emerald Pools/Grotto trails, Angels Landing and The Subway.
Angels Landing is a 5.4 mile roundtrip hike considered strenuous. Lots of steep drop-offs.

the easy part of the trail

view from the trail

Starting to get steep

Don't slip!

Almost there

Made it

The last hike we did in Zion was along the Left Fork of North Creek (The Subway). This one we had to drive to. The hike is considered strenuous at 9.4 miles. You essentially hike right in the river for most of the distance. Hiking out of the canyon on the way back was the tough part. Unfortunately my photography was seriously lacking on this hike. This is my only good picture.

I'll post a video of the last section with the waterfall later.
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Next on the agenda would be Kanab Utah. There was nothing particularly interesting that we wanted to see in Kanab. The reason we were here was to get in on the lottery for a permit to hike the Wave. We showed up a day early for the 8:00 am drawing. This was the only time we stayed in a motel the entire trip. The 97 degree heat made this an easy decision.
There are only 20 permits available per day for the wave. Ten of which are given away online and ten are given out to anybody that shows up for and wins a lottery that takes place each morning at 8:00 am. The day we showed up there were over 70 people hoping to win a permit. They said this was a light day. There were people there that had sat in on the lottery on several previous days. Nobody was given preferential odds of winning. Everybody there that day had an equal chance. If a person's number is called and they have five people in their group, then there goes five of that days permits. On the other hand, if someone's number is called and they have more people in their group then permits available, they would have to fight it out to see who in their group gets to go. If we had won a permit, our hike would have taken place the next day. Unfortunately we did not win. This left us some extra time to take an unplanned side trek to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
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We stayed a night and hiked all of the trails at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and then it was time for the Overland Expo. All I can say is this event is something every overlander should attend at least once. We found a place to park/camp and then it was time to check out the venders.

Jeep with pop up roof and Awning

Field Bar (this was my wife's favorite)

FWC Flatbed

Jeep with JK Habitat

AEV four door Brute


Rooftop tent with side room

Full Size XP


GXV Turtle

Malayan Tiger (where the X axis of dreamland and the Y axis of possibility meet)

GXV Pangea


Camel Trophy Land Rover Defender 130

LNG Conversion with Airtop Tent

Phoenix Tailgater

Overland Journal LR4

Earthroamer XV-LTs

Horse model unknown
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Our last adventure of the trip would take us to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We took a short hike along the South Rim Trail as a bit of a warm-up for our big hike the next day.
Before I go into detail about this hike, let me first say DO NO DO WHAT WE DID. We are experienced hikers and we know our limitations. ok...back to the report.
We always like to pick one trail on our trip that will challenge us. The trail we chose this trip was the South Kaibab Trail. The South Kaibab Trail extends from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon all the way down to the Colorado river. From researching this trail online, I knew that the park service highly recommends Skeleton Point as a turnaround to go back up the canyon. Anybody that hikes farther into the canyon is supposed to be prepared for a multi day hike with an overnight stay at Bright Angel Campground. Our mission was to hike from the South Rim to the Colorado River and back up in one day.

We got to the trailhead at about 8:30 am via the park shuttle. There are no private vehicles allowed in this area. It was in the lower 60's with a slight breeze that really woke us up. After double checking that we had everything we needed we started our decent. Elevation = 7260 feet

Stepping to the side to let the mule train by.

Don't know what kind of plant this is but I thought it was kind of cool.

This is where the park service recommends that people turn around. Distance so far = 3 miles Elevation = 5200

At this point the trail gets noticeably steeper with a lot more switchbacks.

We could often see our trail across on another ridge.

We didn't actually see the river until we were fairly close. It was a refreshing sight. As we descended into the canyon and as it got closer to noon it became considerably warmer. You can just make out some river rafts along the shore on the north side.

There didn't look like there was any place to easily get down to the river from the south side. We decided to cross the suspension bridge and walk down to the beach area where the river rafts had been just prior to us getting there. This picture was taken from the north side looking south. To access the south end of the bridge you must first walk through a tunnel that had been blasted through the rock. We have hiked 6.7 miles and the elevation at the bridge is 2600 feet.

It felt good to dip our feet into the freezing cold water. We had only consumed our smaller of our two water bottles up until this point. I don't have a water filter so I wasn't able to refill it. We stayed here about 15 minutes to rest but we knew we should get going because it was still fairly early in the day and was only going to get hotter the longer we took. I dipped my hat in the water to take a little bit of the river with me.

We turned around to head back up but had to wait a few minutes for another mule train to cross.

One last picture on the bridge.

And now the hard part. The hike out. About a half hour into our assent I realized that if I couldn't drink the river water I at least should have filled up my empty water bottle just to have it to dump over my head. This thought was on my mind for the next 4 hours. I estimate the temperature reached to lower 90's soon after we left the river. (Keep in mind this was in May) Every rock cliff along the trail that was casting a shadow became a designated resting spot. As we got closer to the rim it started cool off. Just enough of a temperature change to be noticeable. We ended up completing the almost 14 mile round trip hike in 8 hours. We treated ourselves to a large pizza that night.
One more picture from our drive home. On our way through New Mexico on I-40, we were passed (like I was standing still) by the GXV convoy that had been at the Overland Expo. They gave me a wave as they passed.
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Thornton Melon's Kid
Great stuff so far Jason. I need to get out there one of these years. Superstition Mountains were pretty neat for a day trip when we were in AZ back in February. Too bad it snowed like, well, Michigan when we were in Sedona and the Grand Canyon.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Great start to the trip report and I am looking to the rest.
Looks like you had a really interesting weather mix on your Utah journey.


Great pics so far! I was just out there a few weeks ago with my Dad, showing off all the great spots I like to visit. Arches, Canyonlands, Longs canyon, Shafer trail were among our favorites!



That was a lot of ground you covered. Enjoyed the tour through your camera shots. Mo and I have been to the areas that you hit up and we look forward to getting back up there. Mighty fine country that a fellow never get's tired of.


Perpetual Transient
Good stuff! The airing out the camper shot in the Tower Arch trail is about the most extreme RV pic I have seen. Good push on the Grand Canyon hike. You guys covered a lot on that trip, well done!

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