My ex-MOD completed the final leg of its journey from Galveston to Seattle last week. After picking up the truck in Texas and driving it to Colorado
, I drove it on the Utah Rovers trip
but didn't drive it back to Colorado. Instead, I left it at Ben's place until I could finish the journey several weeks later.
I picked the truck up in Salt Lake on a warm Friday afternoon in early June. It was still loaded up with all of my gear so all it needed was a quick trip through the car wash and a grocery run and then I was off. I headed out into the desert west of town, where I met up with my old friend, Michael Slade. The plan was for him to accompany me around the western side of the Great Salt Lake before splitting up as I continued west. I was hoping that Slade would bring his 145" monster crew cab truck but it was in need of freeze plugs and not going anywhere soon. Instead, he brought his old RRC. In true Slade fashion, he was fearless and not overly concerned that his truck was throwing a code and running on busted shocks and crappy department store tires. No ham radio, either. Not even after this
After meeting up alongside I-80, we left the highway for the far northwestern corner of the lake. The Union Pacific operates a railroad causeway across the lake. Post 9/11, most of the causeway is off-limits but Slade is a encyclopedia of Northern Utah knowledge and he took me to a spot where we could drive along the UP access road.
The original plan was to camp on a mountain with a grand overlook of the lake and the Wasatch Front.
Strong winds killed that plan so we headed back down to lake level and found a little campsite alongside an old Pioneer cemetery.
The graves are a testament to how incredibly tough, brave, and crazy these first white settlers were. I can't imagine what would drive someone to cross this land in a horse-drawn wagon. The poor family on these tombstones all died within two days of each other; the baby died the day after it was born.
We had a feast that night and Slade threw down. He brought t-bone steaks from his family's farm near Logan, UT. The meat came from a cow that his family raised; Slade personally observed the slaughtering and butchering. It was grass-fed and finished on grain and the beef was some of the best I've ever eaten. Sadly, it was dark by mealtime and I didn't get any photos of the spread.
The next morning, we patched a hole in one of his crappy tires with the Safety Seal kit and said our goodbyes.
I made my way west on some lonely two lane roads.
The original plan was to head into Nevada and the Jarbidge Mountains and then follow the Bruneau Canyon up to Boise, where I would meet up with Jason. Sadly, I was running short on time and had to save Jarbidge for another day.
Instead, I followed dirt roads in the far northwestern corner of Utah and explored Grouse Creek, one of the stranger Utah towns I've seen. Grouse Creek lies far off the beaten track, about 35 miles of rattlesnake-covered dirt roads from nowhere. What's strange about this place is that you travel these rough desert roads to get there but once you're there, it's a nice little town with paved streets, grassy pastures, and it's own little school. I stopped in the little general store for a Snickers bar and a soda and the lady who ran the place was busy curling another woman's hair in a barbers' chair behind the register. I drove out of town and as the pavement quickly ended and it was another 35 miles of rough dirt road to the next town.
After staying with Jason and his family for the night, I left Boise roasting in the heat and headed north into the mountains around McCall, Idaho. I stopped for a burger and an awesome raspberry shake for lunch.
The road to McCall was paved and I was eager to wander off the pavement again.
Soon after leaving the highway, I rolled through a farming town beside a small river. A few blocks off the hardball, behind a little country airport, I discovered a little slice of heaven:
This little swimming hole lies beneath a one-lane wooden bridge. I probably wouldn't have stopped but the bridge was blocked by clothes and an ice chest belonging to the locals who were swimming underneath. It was really hot in the cab of the 110 so I decided to stop and take a dip.
Afterwards, I continued on a seldom-used double-track through farm country and up into some really beautiful mountains.
I was wandering now, with only a vague sense of where I was going. I happened upon a dirt road which started in alpine terrain at 7,000' and ended up at an almost-tropical 2,000' alongside the Snake River. It reminded me of the road from Creel to Batopilas in Chihuahua, if you've ever driven that: twisty, steep, and narrow, with insane exposure at every turn. I'm guessing that some corners had 2,000' drops off the edge...not that it mattered...if you drove off any part of this road, you were totally fucked.
After an hour of white knuckle driving, I stopped for the night at a campground alongside the river. I was exhausted, so I watched the sun set and ate a cup of chapagetti out on a floating dock in the river before crashing out in the back of the 110.
Early the next morning, I crossed into Oregon.
Like Idaho, the mountains of Eastern Oregon are beautiful. I stopped for lunch and some trail coffee on a dirt road alongside a mountain stream.
Another farming town, another swimming hole.
The mountains gave way to the rolling farmlands of the Columbia River Valley.
Seattle, at last.
Thanks to Steve and Zachary for the sweet tour and Mike, for the dim sum dinner.