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Team Toad: July 2014 Canyonlands Trip, part 1

Updated Friday, 2014-07-25

Just dropped Debbie off at the Grand Junction Airport to fly home to the horses, dogs, and kids.

So far we've had a great trip. I started out from home late at night and drove through lots of rain in Texas and New Mexico. The Jeep was looking really shiny. Stopped by Meteor Crater to discover that Meteor CIty was closed, perhaps permanently.


In preparation for this trip, I'd had AirLift 1000 air bags installed in the rear suspension, and I discovered in Arizona they were leaking. I'd been running them at 55 psi to keep the trailer up and the Jeep level, and the leak meant the new compressor could only keep 30 psi. I made several calls to 4Wheel Parts, and made arrangements for emergency service in Vegas Saturday morning. Thanks to Neal and Adam at 4Wheel Parts of Las Vegas for squeezing me into a busy Saturday. Duane found the leak and got me back on the road in time to pick up Debbie at the airport Saturday afternoon.

We dropped the Chaser Trailer at our leased parking space in Las Vegas, and checked into Planet Hollywood. We had tickets for the Nine Inch Nails concert with Soundgarden. Trent Reznor announced from the stage that this would be the last Nine Inch Nails tour for "a long time", so if you like the band be sure to catch this tour.


Sunday morning we picked up the trailer, stopped at WalMart for water and food, and set out for the Dixie National Forest. We'd discovered the Griffin Top plateau on an earlier trip, and Debbie thought it would be a great place to camp to see the stars at night. She was right. Of course, there was a big traffic jam leaving camp the next morning.


We drove through Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park before fording the Fremont river and driving up to Cathedral Valley. On the way we found this very cool work truck seemingly stuck forever in the clay near Bentonite Hills. After camping at Cathedral Valley, we drove past the Temples of the Sun and Moon back to Highway 24.


While airing back up for the highway, we had a blow out in the compressor hose. It was loud and scary, but nobody got hurt, and five minutes with crescent wrenches and a diagonal cutter got the hose repaired and we finished airing back up. We then stopped at Duke's Slickrock Grille for lunch.


We'd booked Yurt 1 for the night at Goblin Valley State Park. Yurt 2 next door was booked by three very nice bikers, Frank, Charlie, and John, with whom we had a very pleasant chat. We gave them all Toad Stickers, and Frank proudly placed his on his motorcycle helmet.

After dark we headed out into the Goblins to try for another Milky Way photo. Frank tagged along to help with the tripods and lights. We'd just gotten this one formation properly lit when a big cloud came and blotted out the Milky Way. We'll have to come back some other day to get this shot.


The next morning we headed back into Hanksville to stop at The Hollow Mountain to fill up all our auxiliary fuel cans. From there we drove for almost two hours to get to the Canyonlands Hans Flat Ranger Station. We double checked our backcountry permit, bought a Tshirt, and chatted with the ranger about road conditions and the weather forecast. Our goal was a single night at the Maze Overlook Camp.


The first obstacle to cross was the Flint Trail. I'm not the first to pull an Adventure Trailers Chaser down the Flint Trail, but I pretty sure it's a very small club.

There are only two difficult spots, both hairpin turns. What worked for me was taking the turn as wide as possible, then backing up the Jeep until just before you jacknife before continuing forward. Here you see that working on the first turn.


The next turn to the right actually seemed to have more room, so I attempted to pull past the turn in an attempt to back up and do a simple three point turn. It didn't work, but from there my best option was to drop the trailer and reposition the Jeep. On the return trip up the trail the next morning, I was able to negotiate this turn with the wide/jacknife method, which was much, much faster.


From there it was a long trip to the Maze Overlook Camp. As a relatively new Jeeper, this was a challenging road for me. I'd pull up to an obstacle like a hill, a dip, or a rock ledge and plan a line. Then I pointed the Jeep at it and the Jeep just went. With 33 inch BFG TaKo's and a 2-1/2 inch lift, the Jeep just calmly drove over everything I pointed it at.


Like the night before at Goblin Valley, the clouds hampered all efforts at night sky photography. I took this multi-shot panorama looking out over the Maze, and you can see that the bright part of the Milky Way is just over the Chocolate Drops, but the clouds are in the way. I plan to go back to this exact spot next week when the waxing crescent moon should illuminate the valleys enough to balance a long exposure of the Milky Way. Fingers crossed.

Today I head out for the Needles District of Canyonlands for two nights, then two nights at Island in the Sky before returning to the Maze next week for five days. We'll see if I can manuver the Chaser trailer through the difficult area of Dollhouse Road near the Teapot Camp.

...continued in part 2...
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