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-   -   Two Weeks in Utah (http://www.expeditionexchange.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1375)

chris snell October 25th, 2010 05:44 PM

Two Weeks in Utah
I recently spent two weeks in Utah, travelling with a buddy who just got back from Afghanistan. The trip was inspired by previous trip reports here; I knew that two weeks was not nearly enough to experience all that this area has to offer but I hoped to scout locations for more focused future travels.

My friend drove up from Texas and we started the trip from my house in the Springs. It was a quick highway drive across Colorado.

We camped that first night on the Uncompaghre Plateau, high above the Paradox Valley of far Western Colorado. The next morning, we descended into the valley on forest roads and visited the town of Paradox.

I've driven past Paradox many times when travelling to the San Juans back when I lived in Utah, but I'd never stopped.

There's not a lot going on here. This valley boomed back in the mining days before falling uranium prices closed the mines. There's not much left except for some farm houses and center-pivot sprinklers.

After climbing out of the valley and entering Utah, we cut the corner to Monticello via the Lisbon Valley.

Lunch at the Shake Shack.

I can't say that I recommend the Shake Shack. It's one of those places where they have rules for everything and there are a hundred little signs to regulate your dining experience. Also, they charge for tap water here: water refills are $0.50.

Bathroom rules. No wonder the employees are so unhappy.

After Monticello, we made a beeline for Hall's Crossing. I had originally planned to camp along the Comb Ridge but we kept encountering no trespassing signs put up by the Ute Nation. We decided to head to the lake that night; we set up camp at the Dennis the Menace park above the marina. As much as I hate to admit it, the camping was enjoyable and the morning light was great.

It was also a good opportunity to test out the new cooking gear.

We woke up early the next morning and caught the first ferry to Bullfrog.

We set out for Boulder via the Waterpocket Fold.

We had a fine night of camping.

The next morning, we stopped for breakfast at the Hell's Backbone Grill.

I had the Jenchilada. I still dream about that flour tortilla.

After breakfast, it was back through Capitol Reef NP on our way to the Henrys.

We explored a number of roads around the southern half of the range. Not all of them panned out. The heavy rains of August and September have torn this area up badly.

On our way up into the Henrys, my friend's D2 began to have major problems. First, a serious coolant leak developed from an inaccessible spot over the bell housing. Then, he got a flat. I had bought a Power Tank for the trip but decided against bringing it at the last minute because of space constraints. I wished I hadn't left it at home.

We pushed on, only to find that the designated campsites were full of vacationing families in RVs. One of the RVs had a big flat screen LCD and they were all clustered around it watching satellite TV. We decided to bail and head for Green River to get the tire fixed and check out the coolant leak.

This was a major detour off of the planned route. We decided to pick up the trail again but do it in reverse from Moab. We started off with a day in the La Sals.

We took a seldom-travelled four wheel drive road from Spanish Valley to a meadow in the shadows of Mount Peale and Mount Tuk.

It was in this meadow that I had the finest night of camping in my life. We built a massive fire pit, cooked a nice dinner and stayed up half the night with the cameras.

The next day, we headed back down to the valley and through town to the northern terminus of the Lockhart Basin Road.

We followed the trail and had almost cleared the first difficult 4WD section when we came to an exposed off-camber corner that had been washed out--I'm guessing--by recent rains. We considered the problem for some time but the high angle and consequences scared us. It was a huge bummer to have to turn around and it only got worse when this guy came bounding down the trail.

We returned in disgrace to Moab, where we got hotel rooms and got drunk at the bar. This was, after all, vacation.

The next day, we took backroads to the Needles District and with the sun setting, we crossed over Elephant Hill.

It was an exciting nighttime drive through the park to our designated campsite on the southern end. I had studied satellite imagery and pictures of the area and it all seemed very familiar. When we got to the entrance to Devil's Lane, I recognized it immediately.

We spent the next few days hiking and driving around the park.

On the third day, we started to feel very uneasy in the Canyonlands. We had spent most of the previous week alone and all of the sudden, we were surrounded by campers in the Devil's Kitchen campsite. Some of the campers were quite strange. One of them wandered into our campsite one evening and that's when we decided that we'd had enough. We would escape the crowded canyons that night and head south for peace and quiet in Beef Basin and the Abajo Mountains. Large thunderstorms were approaching from the north and we had to move quickly to outrun them.

At 1 AM, we crossed over Bobby's Hole for the first time. There was almost no talking. Just very intense driving and occasional stops to check the maps.

To my regret, we drove across Beef Basin without stopping. I vowed to return here again and take the time to explore.

We camped in a high meadow in the Abajos that night.

This was the last night of our backcountry adventure. The next day, we headed into Moab for our rented house and the National Rally.

We did the organized trail runs for a couple of days.

I got a lot of use out of the Jetboil and french press.

At last, it was time to head home. Back into the Paradox Valley and into the snow storms that would follow me back to Colorado Springs.

Dinner in Telluride.

On my way out of town, I ran into this guy in his 83 110. Matt is driving his truck across country, looking for the right ski town with the right vibe. He was camping outside of town while he looked for a job with the resort for the season. He told me his stories and it brought back lots of memories. Fifteen years before, I was doing exactly the same, albeit in a beat-up old Ford pickup and not a sweet 110. His truck was loaded to the hilt with all of his crap, his bikes, his skis... He's got a blog: "One Life, Live It."

Dallas Divide. That's Ralph Lauren's ranch in the foreground and behind it, Mount Sneffels.

Mr. Lauren's ranch is surrounded by a very nice fence, which runs along the highway for over ten miles. I had once heard a story about this fence: when it was built, it was constructed as a proper cattle fence should be: with crossbars on the inside to keep the cattle from pushing them out. This did not appeal to Mr. Lauren's aesthetics, so the story goes, and he had the entire fence rebuilt with the crossbars on the outside. That's awesome.

Back over a now-snowy Continental Divide and back to home.

traveltoad October 25th, 2010 07:57 PM

Awesome Chris!

JSQ October 26th, 2010 09:37 AM

Very very nice pics, even if it's mostly restaurants and softroading.

But you left out the bit about the Great Lone Star Website War of Cessation. That's the best part.

johnlee October 26th, 2010 10:33 AM


benlittle October 26th, 2010 12:05 PM

I missed out :pp

blue October 26th, 2010 12:57 PM

That UTAH 2010 pic with the lights is awesome

montanablur October 26th, 2010 12:59 PM

Nice pics.

You are getting some filter vignetting and it's looks as though you may have too thick of a filter or your stacking filters.

The heliopan slims are invaluable for avoiding filter vignette.

The spot you turned around in Lockhart Basin is the crux. You definitely have to use the force. I winched up it in the snow last December.

chris snell October 27th, 2010 08:38 PM

I'll check out the Heliopans. Thanks, the vignetting has been annoying me for a while. I'm running two filters, a Hoya Pro1 circular polarizing, and a Hoya UV(0).

Turning around on Lockhart still bums me out. We were just too rookied out at that point. After driving the Canyonlands at night, my confidence got a lot better.

On a side note, the D90 amazed me. 1,800 miles of driving, 900 of them off pavement and not a single problem. I think I've turned a corner with the truck.

Keith Armstrong October 28th, 2010 09:12 AM

Okay, Mr. uninformed here….

The “vignetting” is the darkened areas at the perimeter of the image?

montanablur October 28th, 2010 01:45 PM

Vignetting is the darkened corners of the frame. Sometimes when shooting in low light or at an open aperture you will get lens vignetting on wider lenses from the light falling off in the corners..

Filter vignetting is when you are actually seeing the filter instead of light falling off in the corners.

tonydesanto October 28th, 2010 01:54 PM


Originally Posted by chris snell
I'll check out the Heliopans. Thanks, the vignetting has been annoying me for a while. I'm running two filters, a Hoya Pro1 circular polarizing, and a Hoya UV(0).

Turning around on Lockhart still bums me out. We were just too rookied out at that point. After driving the Canyonlands at night, my confidence got a lot better.

On a side note, the D90 amazed me. 1,800 miles of driving, 900 of them off pavement and not a single problem. I think I've turned a corner with the truck.


I wonder if you only use one filter at a time if that would be enough to prevent the vignetting? If it's a DSLR, what is the focal length?

If you try that, and you can still see the circular polarizer in the corners (usually only true for wide-angle lenses) you can try one of the slim circular polarizers from B&W. But, usually for 24mm equivalent focal lengths (35mm format) and longer, this shouldn't be needed.

I really like the night shots.

chris snell October 28th, 2010 02:09 PM


I think I'm seeing it from the filters when I'm shooting at 24mm on my 24-70 f/2.8L. I could take one of the filters off but I like having the less expensive UV filter to protect the nice polarizing filter. I think I'll take Sinuhe's advice and buy the slim filters.

greghirst October 28th, 2010 09:29 PM

Nice pics-

ChristopherP October 29th, 2010 08:20 AM

Great pictures

chris snell March 22nd, 2011 08:05 PM

I met up with Ben Little last Thursday for a weekend down in Cedar Mesa.

A beautiful night of camping under the Monster Moon. High on a mesa, we could see the lights of towns across the Four Corners region.

For our second night of camping, we planned a route that would take us west to the shores of Lake Powell for another killer night of full moon camping. The weather was perfect and spirits were high.

...and then...

johnlee March 22nd, 2011 08:25 PM

Oh shit.

dchapman March 23rd, 2011 07:00 AM

Well there's your problem.

JSQ March 23rd, 2011 10:33 AM

You had a spare right?

chris snell March 23rd, 2011 12:03 PM

New axle tube has been acquired.

benlittle March 23rd, 2011 06:35 PM

Nice, Chris.

I guess we add a welder to the spares/ recovery?

stu454 March 24th, 2011 05:30 AM


Originally Posted by benlittle
Nice, Chris.

I guess we add a welder to the spares/ recovery?

Or a thorough visual inspection of the axle housings.

Which I will now add to my pre-trip inspection.

chris snell March 24th, 2011 11:52 AM

Definitely going to be adding a Power Welder before the next big trip, as well as a jack stand.

Pikes Peak Community College offers some welding classes that I want to take.

I'm not sure if an inspection of the axle housing would have revealed this problem. Looking at the pieces, it appears to have failed in one quick break.

JSQ March 24th, 2011 12:38 PM

That's just bad luck.
I have no idea how you broke that. On the rear of a ST D90 no less. That's less weight than any other rover with that housing and I've seen them bend once or twice, but not break. This is a freak occurrence.

greghirst March 24th, 2011 03:56 PM

Nice pics.
I'm guessing a bad weld from the factory on that housing.

benlittle March 24th, 2011 09:19 PM

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