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 > FIRST SEASON'S REPORT - OUTFITTER APEX 8.5

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Sponsored By:
terryrey

Utah

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Joined: 02/06/2011

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Posted: 01/04/12 02:42pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

FIRST TRAVEL SEASON’S REPORT –
OUTFITTER APEX 8 & 2007 GMC CLASSIC 2500HD, CC, D/A

We took delivery on our new 2011 Outfitter Apex 8 April 19, 2011 and reported soon after on our early experiences and impressions of the camper and how the truck and camper matched up.
Link to that initial report to review Camper & options; Truck & modifications; Weight; MPG; Etc. CLICK HERE

After our first season of use, the following summarizes our impressions, experiences, and trips taken. I know that much of this information and trip experience will be old news to many experienced truck campers, but thought this could be of interest to some in the truck camper community. Also I am the first to admit that our consolidated trip reports (travel logs, really) presented here will not have the “sizzle” of many of the truly great trip reports that have been posted on this forum, but felt that at least they show we seriously enjoy using our truck and camper. Additionally, we really need to get a better camera, since our snap shots do not convey very well the immensity and grandeur of the scenery we experienced.

THE CAMPER:
* 8 trips, totaling 38 nights and over 6800 miles taken this first travel season. (Counting the Canadian Rockies, taken without the camper: 9 trips, 46 nights and over 9,700 miles.)
* A robust, well built, high end pop-up camper, capable of providing comfortable full service travel and camping accommodation for two adults (had three on one trip) – sunshine or heavy rain, hot (high 90’s) or cold (17 degrees).
* All mechanical equipment has functioned flawlessly to date. Love the Nova Kool fridge and solar.
* Plenty of water, propane, etc for the one week trips we have been taking.
* Plenty of hot water and the shower works great.
* The only time we have needed to use the generator (Honda 2000i) to charge the batteries is when we were camped in the rain for several days without moving the truck and ran the furnace. If there is sun for most of the day, the solar (125W) keeps up (no furnace usage).
* Stays warm when cold and cool when hot.
* No leaks in very heavy rain. (We haven’t camped in the snow yet – we’re really three season campers and tend to winter in our warm, comfortable home [emoticon] – but could yet see some snow.)
* As expected, in cold rainy weather, without running the furnace, condensation forms on the inside of both the glass windows and vinyl eisen glass (the clear plastic coverings in the soft walls), but not on the hard walls, Weblon soft walls, ceiling, floor, or other interior surfaces.
* Strong winds do not affect the Weblon soft wall – no flapping or drafts.
* The camper ventilates very well using the windows in the Weblon walls, as well as lets in tons of natural light, when wanted.
* The structure has held up very well to some pretty rough off road travel – from 4/Low with visual truck frame flex to severe washboard – with nothing broken, loose, misaligned, etc. (Thanks to Whazoo for helping me understand the frame flex I have observed traveling on rough 4WD roads is not uncommon and is a part of such camper travel. We have the same truck and camper. Thanks Dave)
* The HappiJac tie down system has worked very well in conjunction with the rubber bed mat, keeping the camper from shifting around and planted in the bed.
* Easy to load and off-load from the truck (I’ll never be as fast as “one shot” Bob Ward) with the HappiJac electric camper jacks and wireless remote control.
* Roof goes up and down without effort with the electric lift system and wireless remote control – can park and set up the camper (or take down) in a few minutes.
*Cassette toilet works like a charm and very convenient to empty.
* New accessories added: LED lights; MAXX Air cover over fantastic fan; spring loaded door struts to hold open overhead cabinet doors; motion activated battery powered LED night light and outside light; level gauges attached to outside camper walls.
* Issues: I refinished the poor quality finish on the Oak cabinet doors and drawers and now they look great. We still have a plastic taste in the drinking water and use a PUR snap on water filter on the kitchen faucet to make the water palatable (sanitizing the tank doesn’t fix the problem).
* Upgrades to be made next Spring: To both compensate for low sun days and to be able to fully recharge the batteries (2 X 6V GC, 217 AH capacity) from solar, after heavy overnight use (furnace, TV, etc could consume over 80 AH overnight), we will add two additional solar panels (150W and 100W fit the available roof top space) to give a total of up to 20 amps (375 W) solar capacity, which will provide a theoretical yield of up to 100 AH in 5 hours peak sun light. Also, perhaps a 4 gauge direct charge wire from the truck to the camper batteries – the factory pigtail wire puts out only about 12 amps. (Thanks to CEWillis for sharing with me his design for making this upgrade. We have the same truck and camper. Thanks Cal.)
* Upgrades I would like to make but either can’t or haven’t figured out how to do yet: A slightly larger wet bath floor area – not possible, it is what it is. Make the dinette easily convertible back and forth from dinette to a “lounge” with foot rests for kicking back in the evening – still thinking...

THE CAMPER TIED DOWN ON THE NEW PAD I INSTALLED IN THE BACK YARD OF OUR EARTH SHELTERED HOUSE
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REFINISHED CABINET DOORS
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LED REPLACEMENT LIGHT BULBS: 9 TOTAL BULBS – 7 INTERIOR BULBS - 5W, 420 LUMENS EACH - PLUS 2 WATER PROOF BULBS (Shower and Porch Light)
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LEVEL GAUGES (ONE EACH ON SIDE AND BACK WALLS)
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PUR WATER FILTER (SNAPS ON/OFF; SNAPPED OFF WHEN TRAVELING)
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THE TRUCK WITH CAMPER:
* The truck with camper continues to acceptably handle the load under every condition we have encountered to date - in town, on the freeway, heavy traffic, two lane highways, steep or curvy roads, wet or dry, high wind, and off-road (as we all know, high clay content mud acts much like ice with the same pucker factor).
* The truck drives and handles with the camper loaded very much the same as without the camper: minimal leaning and no rear end sway in the curves; no bouncing or proposing; is very stable in semi-truck wind blasts and high side/head winds; stops quickly under all conditions; has outstanding power and acceleration to safely pass as needed. I have never felt any camper related stress while driving (except maybe high clay content mud...)
* Fuel economy with the camper has averaged 15.2 mpg over the 7 trips and 6,300 miles driven this travel season with the camper. Off road the truck averages about 10 mpg, while highway travel averages 14 to 16 mpg with speeds usually kept between 55 and 65 mph depending on the road. (For comparison, the Canadian Rockies trip, taken without the camper but with the fiberglass shell fitted, averaged 19.8 mpg over 2900 miles, with highway speeds of 70 – 75 mph)
* Gross travel weight of the truck with passengers, the camper wet, gear, and supplies ran between 11,000 and 11,300 pounds – the higher weight includes additional food/gear, a receiver mountable 12,000 lb winch, and 10 gal extra diesel in the two AT jerry cans. About 58% of the gross weight is carried on the rear axle and 42% on the front.
* DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am well aware that these weights are significantly above the factory rated GVW for this truck, but our on-the-road experience to date (and off-road) gives me complete confidence the truck, as modified, is fully capable of safely handling the load of the Apex 8. Also, I fully understand that being overweight may be of concern for legal liability. Please see our “OUTFITTER APEX 8 / 2007 GMC 2500HD – NEW OWNER’S REPORT” (follow link in “Camper Section” above to access it) for a summary of the modifications made to the truck.
* The LT 285/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armor tires (rated at 3750 pounds load capacity at 80 psi) continue to perform admirably. The front tires are inflated to 55 psi and the rears to 80 psi with the camper on the truck. Tire wear for the season has been between 1/32” and 2/32” (~3/64”) on each of the four tires. Despite the high GVW, the tires and sidewalls have held up very well to date over rough, rocky trails, with no damaged noted.
* I need to say here, that I do not want to give the impression that we are extreme truck campers. Although we do go off-road, and sometimes over really rough trails, it is only as needed to get to some destination – if it makes sense. We are not extreme truck campers and cannot hold a candle to experts like Whazoo, DonCurly, CEWillis, jefe 4X4 and the many others with a lot of off-road camper experience who post here, for whom I have tons of respect and admiration. For me, usually, given the choice, I will stay out of the really rough stuff because my nature is to try and not overly stress my equipment. When I was “young” (becoming a distant memory…) I thought my 4X4’s had wings and were unstoppable – I was wrong, since I got really stuck and broke things on the rig I shouldn’t have. Now as I have become “old”, to me it isn’t worth the work or expense to get unstuck or fix breakage - my philosophy now is “discretion is the better part of valor”…[emoticon]
* The Banks Speed Brake (computer controlled exhaust brake) is truly a wonder. In every situation where it has been used, the performance has been flawless and kept the truck at the set speed without use of the service brakes.
* As probably most crew cab owners already do, we use our back seat (folded down with storage containers on top) as a trunk when traveling with the camper, to fit in those bulky items that don’t fit inside the camper. It works great for us, allowing even more stuff (important stuff, mind you) to be taken with…?
* Modifications made to the truck this season include: Firestone Level-Rite front air shocks (with dedicated air compressor) giving up to 2000 lbs additional front spring load capacity, with Bilstein B6 HD yellow shocks fitted; and Rancho 9000XL rear shocks (a significant improvement over the stock shocks with the camper loaded on the truck), set at #9 loaded and #4 unloaded. The Level-Rites and 9000XLs gave a noticeable improvement to both ride and handling.
* Issue to be resolved: More fully control side to side rock and roll on rough off-road trails. As set up, I get don’t get excessive rock and roll, but more than I want. Not sure what will work to further minimize this: A rear antiroll bar (Hellwig Tech Service could not predict if it would help rock and roll or not off-road. Conventional 4X4 wisdom is antiroll bars limit off-road articulation, but these rigs will never articulate very much anyway…)? Maybe two 9000XL shocks per side in the rear? Perhaps an extra rear overload spring on each side (already have Stable Loads and Roadmasters)? Or it may be that what I have is as good as it gets - still thinking…
* Future modification to the truck: Cognito swivel end front anti-roll bar end links. And perhaps heavy duty tie rod ends, if needed. These modifications would be made solely to increase durability for off-road travel.

TRUCK WITH CAMPER ON PARKING PAD IN BACK YARD
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FRONT FIRESTONE LEVEL-RITE AIR SHOCK WITH BILSTEIN B6 SHOCK ABSORBER AND COGNITO UPPER CONTROL ARM LEVELING KIT
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REAR RANCH0 9000XL SHOCK ABSORBER, STABLE LOAD, AND 5000# AIRLIFT AIRBAG
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REAR ROADMASTER PROGRESSIVE COIL OVERLOAD SPRING (up to 1000 lbs added weight capacity per side)
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BANKS SPEEDBRAKE IN ACTION - The Speedbrake is holding the truck at 32 mph down the steep grades off of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain NP without the use of the service brake. (Set speed on the right side of the screen is indicated as 30 mph and is controlled from the speedometer, which reads low because of larger tires, and the actual truck speed on the lower left side of the screen reads as 32 mph true from the built in GPS.)
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LOADING THE CAMPER
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THE TRUCK AND CAMPER PARKED IN THE DRIVEWAY READY FOR THE NEXT TRIP
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TRAVEL IN 2011

The following are quick looks at the 8 trips we took this season with the camper, plus the Canadian Rockies trip without the camper. With the exception of Canada, we pretty much visited “local” attractions in and around Utah - places we were already familiar with, having been there quite often over the years. The three exceptions, which we had not been to previously, were Cave Falls (otherwise known as “Mosquito Central”…), Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and CR 12 back country road from Crested Butte, CO to highway 133.

You will note that we stayed in Forest Service or National Park campgrounds most of the time. Our Senior Pass really helps with free entrance into Parks and half price campground fees. Although we do boondock (and really like it), if available, we actually prefer campgrounds if they are not too crowded, which for us this past season they weren’t. With two exceptions (Chaco Canyon and Capitol Reef/Fruita), there were only a handful of other campers, and several times we were the only ones in camp. Our campground experience over the years has for the greater part been very good - we have been lucky and have had quiet and enjoyable stays, even when full, like with Fruita.

At our current station in life, we budget to meet our day to day household expenses, while always including as much as we can for travel. For us, like for most in the truck camper community, the main cost of travel is fuel, with some out-of-pocket expense for campground fees and food – you know edibles that we use to supplement donuts... (Hi Whazoo!) We love to travel, as simply and inexpensively as we can, and spend almost all our extra cash doing so, having been very fortunate over the years to see much of this great country on the many road trips we have taken. Now, having a truck camper gives us the opportunity to revisit this beautiful, wonderful country of ours from a new perspective. As long as we have money for diesel fuel and donuts (I never met a donut I could say no to…), I’ll be a happy camper – truck camper that is.

To help visualize where we were on each trip, I have included mapquest travel routes. I hope they’re useful…



TRIP 1: APRIL - Springville, UT to Longmont, CO to pick up the camper at Outfitter. Home by way of Southern Colorado and Southern Utah. 1574 miles.
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We sort of goofed and didn’t get a picture taking delivery of the camper at Outfitter. In our defense, it was way late after quitting time when we finally got the camper loaded on the truck, which left us with no light for a photo.. Although we arrived early that morning to pick up the camper, the Outfitter guys were still putting finishing touches on it through out the whole day,

Since it was April, the travel back to Utah was cold and windy, threatening rain. We stayed in three locations on the way home: (1) West Dolores River, on the lower part of the off-road route that goes up over the mountain to join highway 145 below Telluride (Some day I’ll have to relate how on this same road one spring 8 years ago we got flats at the same time on both rear tires on my 4x4 pickup carrying only one spare tire, and how we got out without walking the 25 miles to town…); (2) Natural Bridges National Monument; (3) Capitol Reef/Fruita Campground.

To get to our first camp, we left Denver on Highway 285 headed Southwest, over three mountain passes ranging in elevation from 9,500 ft to 10,000 ft, passing through the towns of Fairplay and Saguache (near Great Sand Dunes NP – didn’t have time to visit there this trip), joining up with highway 160 at Monte Vista in Southern Colorado. Then following highway 160 to South Fork, which is also the junction for highway 145 which leads to the town Creede, of Bat Masterson fame, passes by the head waters of the Rio Grande river, goes over 11,361 ft Slumgullion pass, and down into Lake City, which is the turn around point back to Silverton/Ouray for the 4WD Alpine Loop trail. Having already done route 145 a number of times, we stayed on route 160 going over Wolf Creek Pass (10, 850 ft), where traffic was stopped for several hours while a run away truck wreck was cleaned up, and then down into Pagosa Springs, on through Durango, and over to Dolores. I have to again apologize here, because we were trying to outrun the weather and took few pictures until we got to camp on the West Dolores River.

TOWN OF FAIRPLAY, CO ON HIGHWAY 285. ELEVATION ABOUT 9,900 FEET
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CAMP ON THE WEST DOLORES RIVER
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Leaving Southern Colorado, we followed highway 491 to Montecello, UT and then highway 191 to Blanding, where we turned onto route 95 going over to Natural Bridges National Monument, where we made camp in the cedars back in on Elk Ridge road just outside of the park. Natural Bridges NM, the oldest US Park Service site in Utah, contains three stone bridges, including the second largest (Sipapu) in the world. These bridges are different from other arches in that they were created solely by water erosion from the stream beds below them, and not by wind as most arches are. An interesting benefit to be found at Natural Bridges is that marriages can be performed there with a special use permit…

SETTING UP CAMP ON ELK RIDGE ROAD
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NATURAL BRIDGES NATIONAL MONUMENT (ABOUT 6,500 FT ELEVATON)
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LOOKING DOWN ON NATURAL BRIDGES…
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From Natural Bridges it was on to Capitol Reef National Park Fruita Campground by way of the bridge crossing Lake Powell at Hite, through Hanksville and on into Capitol Reef. Also camped at Fruita were Dave Pearce (Forum name CROSSCHECK) and his wife (Mrs. Crosscheck) who had come down from British Columbia to take delivery on their new Outfitter Apex 9.5 the day after we picked up our Apex 8. We introduced ourselves and had a great time comparing notes on our campers. Dave is an old hand with truck campers and really knows a lot and has since made some really useful improvement to his Apex 9.5, particularly for cold weather use. Dave posted his Revelstoke, BC trip report “The Moose is Loose” on 10/20/11 in this Forum. Hi Dave.

CAMPED IN FRUITA CAMPGROUND
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ON THE TRAIL IN CAPITOL REEF TO THE FREEMONT RIVER OVERLOOK (ABOUT 1500FT ABOVE THE RIVER & CAMPGROUND)
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FROM CAPITOL REEF IT WAS 180 MILES TO GET BACK HOME, ENDING OUR FIRST EVER TRUCK CAMPER TRIP – WHAT AT BLAST…
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TRIP 2: MAY - Southern Utah Red Rock Country – Zion NP, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon NP, Kodachrome Basin, Burr Trail, Lower Bowns Reservoir, Capitol Reef NP. 790 miles.
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We drove straight down I-15 and into Zion, planning to spend the night in the park. Unfortunately, every campsite in the park was taken, so having been to Zion many times over the years, we decided to push on to Red Canyon Campground just below Bryce NP to spend the night. The drive through the park over to US 89 was scenic, as usual, but because of the camper, park rangers flagged us over to be measured for length and width, to see if we would require an escort ($15 fee) through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. Fortunately we measured less than the 11’4” height and 7’10” width limits and did not need to schedule an escort through the tunnel. We took many pictures of our drive through the park, but I can’t seem to find them, except for this one.

LOOKING BACK INTO ZION NATIONAL PARK FROM NEW HARMONY, UT
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Red Canyon Campground is on UT 12 about 10 miles below Bryce. Getting there we found we almost had the place to ourselves. Also it was clear and cold that night, dropping down to 17 F (read on our indoor/outdoor electronic temp gauge). We had no idea it would get so cold, so we hadn’t turned on the furnace. Even so it didn’t get below 36 F in the camper, while we stayed toasty, snuggled in our warm bed.

CHOOSING A CAMPSITE IN RED CANYON
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Leaving Red Canyon we drove up into Bryce Canyon National Park and then back out onto UT highway 12 (once named by Motor Trend as one of the 10 best driving roads in the US) where we drove down to Cannonville and then out to Kodachrome Basin State Park, named in 1948 by the National Geographical Society after the Kodak color film because of its beautiful red rock formations, where we set up camp.

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK LOOKING TOWARD THE SOUTH (BOY IT WAS COLD THAT MORNING, ELEVATION ~9000 FT)
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HOODOOS AT BRYCE
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TYPICAL RED ROCK FORMATIONS IN KODACHROME BASIN
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MORE KODACHROME ROCK FORMATIONS
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CAMP IN KODACHROME BASIN
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From Kodachrome Basin we followed UT 12 through Escalante, over “The Devil’s Backbone” and into Boulder, UT. Boulder is the jumping off point for the Burr Trail, a fantastically beautiful drive through the northeast corner of The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument down into Capitol Reef NP by way of the “muley twists” switch-backs, which drop about 1000 ft in elevation in less than a mile, and then south into Bull Frog at Lake Powell. Or, from the “muley twists” you can head north on Notom Road, driving up the length of Capitol Reef to UT 24. We drove down as far as the switch backs and then returned to Boulder and drove UT 12 over Boulder Mountain down to the turn off to Lower Bowns Reservoir, about 5 miles down a forest service road, where we set up camp.

MULEY TWISTS ON THE BURR TRAIL. - I’m not sure they are officially named Muley Twists, but that’s what we call them. (This image is from NPS photo, since I couldn’t find the picture we took on this trip.)
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CAMPED AT LOWER BOWNS - WHAT A DINNER…
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LOOKING UP FROM LOWER BOWNS RESERVOIR TOWARD THE TOP OF BOULDER MOUNTAIN - OVER 10,000 FT IN ELEVATION
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We love the Fruita campground at Capitol Reef, so we left Lower Bowns to spend some more time there, after which it was homeward bound and the end of our second outing with the camper.


ON THE WAY UP TO THE “TANKS” (NATURAL POT HOLES IN THE SANDSTONE THAT HOLD WATER) IN CAPITOL GORGE. Of interest: Highway 24 used to run through Capitol Gorge (originally built through the Gorge by Mormon Pioneers in 1884) to get into Capitol Reef, until the highway was rerouted along the Freemont River and paved in 1962.
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TRIP 3: JUNE - Canadian Rockies with truck only, no camper. 2930 miles.
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I know this isn’t really a truck camper trip, but it would have been if we hadn’t already made firm plans with friends a year earlier (before even knowing we were going to buy a camper) to visit the Canadian Rockies in our truck, so I’m including it. Since four adults is not a comfortable fit for our camper, we went ahead with our original plan and stayed in hotels. It turns out that this was our fifth visit to the Canadian Rockies over the last ten years – we really love it there. Below are a few pictures of the drive between Banff and Jasper, which I hope impart the grandeur of this country. We returned home by way of Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP.

THE TRUCK WITH SHELL AND CARGO POD – FOUR ADULTS RIDE IN THE CAB…
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PRETTY IMPRESSIVE VIEWS OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES…
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MORE VIEWS OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
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THOSE EARLY GLACIERS REALLY LEFT MAGNIFICENT FOOTPRINTS… NOTE HIGHWAY BELOW
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LOOKING BACK TOWARD THE CHATEAU ON LAKE LOUISE
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TRIP 4: JULY – Central Idaho and Cave Falls (the falls are located just over the Yellowstone Park boundary in the extreme southwest corner of the park). 1105 miles.
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Having been to Mesa Falls, just north of Ashton, ID, several times in the past (both on our Goldwing and in the truck) and knowing how beautiful that waterfall is, while also remembering Whazoo’s trip report about visiting Cave Falls, where we had not been before and also near Ashton, we decided to visit family in Boise, ID by way of Cave Falls and Central Idaho, including the Saw Tooth Mountains. Because of our night spent at Cave Falls, this was the most unforgettable trip of the season…

CAVE FALLS LOCATED ON THE FALLS RIVER – ABOUT 20 MILES IN ON A DIRT ROAD. THE ORANGE SIGNS WARNS THAT IT COULD BE DANGEROUS IF YOU SLIPPED AND FELL INTO THE RIVER…
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That night we camped in the Cave Falls Campground. The reason the picture below is so blurry is because of camera shake, caused by millions of mosquitoes (although not seen in the picture, they are there!!) swarming us as we tried to set up camp before being eaten alive. The campground was beautiful, but really not habitable because of mosquitoes, but being late, we decided to stay the night anyway – a huge mistake. Just opening the door to get in or out of either the camper or the truck let in thousands (well maybe hundreds…) of the blood suckers. As done by Whazoo before us, in the camper we turned the Fantastic Fan on Hi/exhaust and thought we got rid of all of the little buggers. Little did we know… Since not all were sucked up against the fan screen and killed, we were left with midnight visitors that kept us up all night swatting the darn things. Needless to say, Connie and I got tons of mosquito bites and there were a number of blood stains on the ceiling from swatting them - unforgettable. We wondered why the two other cars that came into the campground turned around and left; it turns out they were smarter than us. I know that Whazoo warned of the Cave Falls mosquitoes in his trip report; we should have listened. Thanks…Dave.

SETTING UP CAMP AND DODGING MOSQUITOES AT CAVE FALLS CAMPGROUND… (#2041)
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We left Cave Falls and headed for Rexburg and then on into Central Idaho by way of the Howe to Ellis back country road, a good portion of which is not paved. At every stop we had to open the truck doors and try to shoo out the many mosquitoes that came aboard at Cave Falls. Even traveling with the windows down, it took four stops, over 10 hours to get rid of them all – they were sneaky little devils, hiding everywhere in the cab.

BETWEEN HOWE AND ELLIS TRYING TO GET RID OF MOSQUITOES…
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From Ellis we followed the Salmon River down US 93 to Challis joining ID 26/75, continuing to parallel the Salmon River and the Northern edge of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area until we got to Stanley, where we picked up ID 21 and the Ponderosa Pines Scenic Byway heading west over to Boise. We looped into Stanley Lake and later camped off of ID 21 at Sheep Trail Campground with views of the Sawtooths to the south.

LOOKING ACROSS THE SALMON RIVER TOWARD THE SAWTOOTHS COMING INTO STANLEY
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STANLEY LAKE (#2059)
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CAMPED IN THE RAIN AT SHEEP TRAIL
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Leaving Sheep Trail we followed ID 21 to Boise where we spent some time with family before taking I-84/I-15 back to Springville.

HOME AGAIN…
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In August we took two trips up into the High Uinta Mountains, which are located on the northern Utah border with Wyoming. The mountains are all in Utah but can be accessed from either state. Associated with the Rocky Mountains, the Uintas are unusual in that they are the only major chain of mountains in the lower 48 that run east to west rather than the usual north to south, like the Wasatch Mountains, which front Salt Lake City and most all of the major cities in Utah. The Uinta Mountains contain over 1,000 high alpine lakes and ponds, each picture postcard beautiful. Additionally, most all of the major Uinta mountain peaks are between 12,000 and 13,500 ft, including the highest peak in Utah, Kings Peak at 13,528 ft ranking in the top ten high points in the lower US. The High Uintas are a popular destination for Utahans, with most all visitors accessing the mountains via UT 150, the Mirror Lake Highway. To get away from the crowd and stay off of UT 150 (mostly), we decided to retrace a couple of trips we have made a number of times in the past into the Uinta backcountry, but this time with our truck camper.


TRIP 5: AUGUST – Upper Stillwater Reservoir and Moon Lake, High Uintas. 314 miles.
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Our route from Springville up to Moon Lake and Upper Stillwater (both located on the south slope of the Uintas) took us through Heber City to Woodland where we took UT 35 over Wolf Creek Summit, an extremely scenic Back Way through the mountains fronting the High Uinta Wilderness Area. At Wolf Creek Campground (just off of UT 35) we turned onto a 4WD road back up onto Duchesne Ridge (elevation 10,140 ft) where we had beautiful views down into Heart Lake to the south and back toward the High Uinta Mountains to the north.

LOOKING DOWN ON HEART LAKE FROM DUCHESNE RIDGE
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LOOKING NORTH BACK TO THE HIGH UINTA MOUNTAINS FROM DUCHESNE RIDGE
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Retracing our route back to the campground, we then followed UT 35 down to Hanna and over to Mountain Home, the jumping off point to both Moon Lake and Upper Stillwater Reservoir. We spent time at both locations before returning home to Springville by way of Duchesne and Heber City.

MOON LAKE: The largest of the High Uinta alpine lakes, covering about 768 acres, Moon Lake is one of dozens of trailheads into the High Uinta Wilderness Area. The campground tends to be quite full in the summer months, but despite this it is a beautiful place to visit.

COMING INTO MOON LAKE
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CAMPED AT MOON LAKE
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UPPER STILLWATER RESERVOIR: Lying in a timbered setting at about 8,200 ft elevation on the lower slopes of the Uintas, Upper Stillwater is part of the Central Utah Project system of reservoirs that bring water out of the Uinta Mountains back to population centers on the Wasatch Front (SLC, Provo, etc).

CAMPED AT UPPER STILLWATER
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LOOKING BACK TO THE HIGH UINTAS FROM UPPER STILLWATER
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TRIP 6: AUGUST – North Slope Road, High Uintas. 530 miles.
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The last half of August found us back in the High Uintas, this time retracing an “overland” route from east to west, located on the North Slope of the Uintas and called the North Slope Road, which consists of Forest Service roads and trails that transverse almost the entire length of the Uinta chain of mountains – about 120 miles of off-road travel. Most sections of the road were typical Forest Service, but others were narrow, rough, rocky, steep 4WD trails that really shook us up – about 20 miles in all.

To get to the eastern terminus of the North Slope Road we had to travel to Vernal, UT on US 40 where we picked up US 191 headed north up into the Uintas and Flaming Gorge. Passing through downtown Vernal we noted that both sides of the main route through town were lined with many large planter boxes with beautifully colored potted flowers. Although, while we admired the beauty of the flowers, what really grabbed our attention was the City of Vernal Unimog fitted with a large water tank on the back that was being used to deliver irrigation water to each planter box. Unfortunately, I spaced it and didn’t get a picture.

US 191 took us up into the east end of the Uinta Mountains, where we turned off onto the Red Cloud Loop and drove into East Park Reservoir to spend the night.

CAMPED AT EAST PARK, ELEVATION 9,000 FT, WATCHING APPROACHING THUNDER STORMS
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From East Park we drove back out to US 191 until we picked up UT 44 and headed down the mountain to the Sheep Creek Geological Loop turn off just to the west of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The Sheep Creek Geological Loop showcases more than one billion years of geologic history and is well worth a visit. We followed Sheep Creek loop back up the north slope of the mountain to get to Browne Lake and the North Slope Road headed west. We spend the night camped at Browne Lake.

LOOKING DOWN ON FLAMING GORGE FROM UT 44 ON THE WAY TO SHEEP CREEK LOOP
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TOWER ROCK - SHEEP CREEK GEOLOGICAL LOOP
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CAMPED AT BROWNE LAKE
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From Browne Lake we followed the North Slope Road over to Beaver Meadow Reservoir, passing over one of the roughest stretches of trail we encountered on the trip. Although we have done this trip before (but not with a camper), I had forgotten just how rough some of these trails were. But never mind, we made it just fine, although I must point out that this section of trail introduced me to visible frame flex with the camper loaded on the truck (thanks again to Whazoo for consulting with me and putting my mind at ease that what we experienced is normal and nothing to be concerned about – thanks again Dave). Of course the pictures we took of the trail do not really convey just how rough the ride was to us in the truck…

ROCKING AND ROLLING
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CRESTING A STEEP CLIMB
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BEAVER MEADOW RESERVOIR
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The road smoothed out from Beaver Meadow over to Hoope Lake and Hole-in-the-Rock

ON THE WAY TO HOLE-IN-THE-ROCK
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HOLE-IN-THE-ROCK
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We continued on the North Slope Road passing the Henry’s Fork Trailhead and then China Lake, from where we had great views of Kings Peak to the South.

KINGS PEAK, HIGHEST PEAK IN UTAH – 13,528 FT (Anyway I hope I shot the correct peak)
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Continuing on we took the cut-off to the Hewinta Guard Station going over the mountain and down into the Blacks Fork River valley and to the turn-off going south up to the East Fork of the Blacks Fork Guard Station, where we set up camp right on the river.

ANOTHER ROUGH STRETCH OF ROAD…
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The East Fork of The Blacks Fork is one of our favorite places to stay. It has wonderful views, good fishing, and is very lightly used. Also, it can be accessed on much better Forest Service Roads from Mountain View, Wyoming.

CAMPED ON THE EAST FORK OF THE BLACKS FORK RIVER – ELEVATION 9.300 FT
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YOU CAN STEP RIGHT OUT OF THE CAMPER AND KICK BACK, FISH, OR WHATEVER…
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LIFE IS GOOD…
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FISHING FOR DINNER NOT MORE THAN 50 FT FROM THE CAMPER
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LOOKING BACK SOUTH AND UP INTO THE HIGH UINTA WILDERNESS AREA FROM OUR CAMP
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From the East Fork of the Blacks Fork we followed the North Slope Road for about another 30 miles on out to its western terminus right by the Bear River Ranger Station on UT 150 (the Mirror Lake Highway), thus completing our truck camper “overland” trek across the North Slope of the Uinta Mountain Chain. However, before completely leaving our off-road adventures behind, we drove about 5 miles off of UT 150 up into Christmas Meadows (another campground and trail head) to see its beautiful back country mountain views.

LOOKING ACROSS CHRISTMAS MEADOWS
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Headed home we took UT 150 south up over the heart and height of the High Uintas and down into Kamas, UT, by way of Mirror Lake, 10,700 ft. Bald Mountain Pass, and a number of beautiful high alpine lakes just off of the highway. From Kamas it was over to Heber City and then down through Provo Canyon and home to Springville.

MOOSEHORN LAKE ON UT 150 JUST BEFORE BALD MOUNTAIN PASS SUMMIT (A typical High Uinta alpine lake)
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BALD MOUNTAIN PASS SUMMIT ON UT 150, THE HIGHEST PAVED ROAD IN UTAH
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TRIAL LAKE LOCATED BELOW BALD MOUNTAIN PASS AND JUST OFF OF UT 150
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TRIP 7: SEPTEMBER – Dinosaur National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver, CO, Cottonwood Pass, CO, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Silverton, CO, Canyonlands National Park. 1642 miles.
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For us late September is a favorite time to wander through the Colorado Rockies, with the fall colors highlighting some of the most beautiful mountains in the lower US. Since we needed to have some minor warrantee work done on the camper at Outfitter in Longmont, CO, we decided to make a trip of it and off we went for a fantastic tour of the Colorado Rockies. We headed for Denver on US 40 by way of Dinosaur National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

CAMPED ON THE GREEN RIVER AT DINOSAUR NATIONAL PARK
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Following US 40 from Dinosaur NP, we crossed into the Colorado Rockies driving through Steamboat Springs, CO and over to the junction with US 34 at Grandby, where we headed up into Rocky Mountain National Park, passing through Grand Lake and up onto Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road, built in 1931, is a 48 mile strip of asphalt connecting Grand Lake on the west side of the park with Estes Park on the east side. From either side, the road climbs over 4,000 ft. in a very few miles, quickly transitioning from evergreen forest to above tree line tundra at about 11,500 ft. The road traverses about 11 miles of tundra as it crosses the continental divide, reaching its peak elevation at 12,183 ft. Of note, at the northern boundary of Rocky Mountain NP, on the continental divide, lies La Poudre Pass. The small stream draining a wet meadow on the western slope of the pass is the headwaters of the Colorado River.

HEADED UP TRAIL RIDGE ROAD
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LOOKING ACROSS THE TUNDRA OF TRAIL RIDGE ROAD FROM ITS HIGHEST ELEVATIONS
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A HANGING LAKE LOOKING DOWN FROM TRAIL RIDGE ROAD
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After reaching Estes Park, we drove on down into the Denver area, dropping our camper off at Outfitter for one day of minor repairs that needed to be done by Outfitter. While waiting for the camper to be repaired, we spent the time touring the Denver Mountain Parks System, including the Lariat Loop and Buffalo Bill’s Grave Site.

BUFFALO BILL GRAVE SITE ON LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, HIGH ABOVE GOLDEN AND DENVER, CO. (Buffalo Bill died and was buried in here in 1917. His wife Louisa, who died in 1921, is buried next to him) (#2353)
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After picking our camper up from Outfitter, we once again found ourselves headed south on US 285, past the town of Fairplay, CO, and down into Buena Vista, the jumping off point for CR 306 headed west up into the high San Isabel National Forest back country. This is an extremely beautiful drive, especially in the fall, climbing up to 12,126 ft. Cottonwood Pass and then on over the top and down into the Gunnison National Forest side of the mountains. We followed CR 306 up over Cottonwood pass and down the other side on CR 209 before turning onto CR 742, which goes through Taylor Canyon, where we camped right on the banks of the Taylor River.

HEADED UP COTTONWOOD PASS ROAD
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LOOKING BACK DOWN COTTONWOOD PASS ROAD
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THE SUMMIT
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LOOKING TO THE WEST DOWN INTO GUNNISON NATIONAL FOREST FROM THE SUMMIT
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THE TAYLOR RIVER AS WE APPROACH TAYLOR CANYON
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TAYLOR CANYON AT OUR CAMPSITE
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A MOMENT OF QUIET CONTEMPLATION WHILE CAMPED ON THE TAYLOR RIVER
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Leaving Taylor Canyon we drove down into Crested Butte, the official wildflower capitol of Colorado. In addition to enjoying the magnificent beauty of the area, our primary purpose for visiting this isolated Colorado high country (8,885 ft) mining community turned ski town of 1,529 citizens was to pick up Keebler Pass Road (CR 12) and drive this back country byway over to CO 133, a first time experience for us.

CRESTED BUTTE
[image]

HEADED TO KEBLER PASS – 9,980 FT AT THE SUMMIT
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VIEWS FROM KEBLER PASS ROAD
[image]

Kebler Pass Road (CR 12) is a beautiful back country, graded/dirt road and well worth the trip, except for the bad washboard that was present on a good deal of the western side of the pass, when we drove it. To me, washboard is as bad as, or sometimes worse, than gnarly 4WD trails – I hate it! Despite getting a good shaking up on the washboard, we joined CO 133 and headed west through Hotchkiss and into Delta, CO, where we turned south onto US 50 and drove by way of Montrose over to the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where we made camp and explored the park.

PICTURES DO NOT CONVEY THE DEPTH AND SCOPE OF THE BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON (so named because the steep canyon walls prevent sunlight from penetrating very far down the canyon walls, making them appear black)
[image]

A few statistics: The canyon is 48 miles long, with 14 miles contained in the Park; Average descent of the Gunnison River through the park – 95ft/mile, greatest decent – 240ft/mile (for comparison the Colorado River in Grand Canyon NP drops only 7.5ft/mile); Narrowest width at the top of the canyon – 1,100ft wide at Chasm View (1,820 ft down to the river), narrowest width at the river – 40ft wide; Average air temperature at the river is 8 degrees warmer than at the top of the canyon.

A STRAIGHT DROP INTO THE CANYON AND THE GUNNISON RIVER BELOW…
[image]

PAINTED WALL IS 2,250 FT HIGH AND IS THE HIGHEST CLIFF IN COLORADO
[image]

CAMPED AT BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON
[image]

Leaving Black Canyon of the Gunnison we back-tracked to Montrose and headed south into the San Juan Mountains on US 550 and the Million Dollar Mile Highway, passing through the southern Colorado towns of Ouray and Silverton, and then down the mountain to Durango. This is one of our favorite drives and as always, the views were magnificent with autumn colors everywhere.

HEADING SOUTH UP INTO THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS
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OURAY, CO AND THE BEGINNING OF THE MILLION DOLLAR MILE HIGHWAY
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ON THE WAY UP TO 11,075 FT RED MOUNTAIN PASS
[image]

TURNING INTO SILVERTON, CO
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DOWNTOWN SILVERTON (At 9,305 ft elevation, the former silver mining town, turned tourist attraction, is one of the highest towns in the USA. It is also one of the gateway communities for the FWD Alpine Loop trail)
[image]

AFTER PASSING OVER 10,899 FT MOLAS PASS AND HEADED DOWN THE MOUNTAIN TO DURANGO, WE STOPPED AT ANDREWS LAKE FOR LUNCH (13,158 ft Twilight Peak is in the background, I think…)
[image]

Since we were now on the homeward leg of our journey, we followed US 160 from Durango over to Cortez, CO and turned onto US 491 crossing over to Monticello, UT to take US 191 north to the Canyon Lands Needles Overlook Road and Wind Whistle Campground where we made camp.

CAMP SITE AT WIND WHISTLE
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DUSK AT WIND WHISTLE CAMPGROUND
[image]

Leaving Wind Whistle, we passed through Moab, UT, over to Price, UT, and down off of Solider Summit and back into Springville, and home.

JOURNEY’S END
[image]



TRIP 8: EARLY OCTOBER – CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK. 1,000 miles.
[image]

In October our oldest daughter, Jennifer, joined us for a visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park (Chaco Canyon, NM), one of the few major places in New Mexico that we have not visited before. So this was a trip of first times for us – a visit to Chaco Canyon and three adults in the truck and camper. It turns out that the three of us were very comfortable in our Outfitter, even though we had fairly heavy rain and cold weather for most of the trip – it started raining just after arriving at Chaco Canyon. The ruins were incredible, but hiking in the rain and cold was not as comfortable as being in the camper. We also took a day trip into the Needles Area of Canyonlands National Park on our way home.

The trip down to Chaco Canyon consisted of a straight shot south from Springville through Moab and Monticello, UT, turning east over to Cortez, CO, and then south into New Mexico by way of Farmington and Bloomfield, where we turned south again onto US 550, driving down to Nageezi, NM and the turn off onto CR 7900 (9 miles paved), which joins CR 7950, the rough (washboard) 13 mile dirt (and clay) road leading out to the Park. The park has only the one campground, Gallo Campground (6,200 ft elevation) located about one mile from the Visitors Center, which was almost full when we got there, but we were able to get a good campsite.

Although it rained on us for most of our visit to the Park, and was cold to boot, the weather did not diminish the scale and wonder of these incredible ruins. Engineered, pre-planned, multistory, buildings comprise this pre-historic ancestral puebloan Four Corners area cultural and trade hub. While the Park contains more than 3,000 architectural structures, six major sites are located along the 9 mile paved Canyon Loop Drive in the heart of the canyon. Construction of the Chaco community began about 850 AD and probably continued for another 300 years, with the many of the principal Great Houses (buildings) most likely built in the first 100 years. These massive, stone, multistory buildings contained hundreds of rooms and were often oriented to Lunar and Solar directions, while also keeping open lines-of-sight with each other for easy communication. Trade routes reached as far away as Mexico and the Gulf of California. After 300 years, construction slowed and by the mid-thirteenth century, Chaco’s role as the regional cultural and trade center had shifted away as the people migrated into other areas in the region.

GALLO CAMPGROUND (Can you spot our camper?)
[image]

ON THE WAY TO THE GREAT HOUSE OF PUEBLO BONITO
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LOOKING ACROSS PUEBLO BONITO
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INTERIOR WALLS OF PUEBLO BONITO
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CLIFF SIDE “BACK YARD” OF PUEBLO BONITO
[image]

LOOKING IN AT THE GREAT HOUSE OF CHETRO KETAL
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SITTING IN THE RAIN AND CONTEMPLATING THE RUINS OF CHETRO KETAL
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INTERIOR WALLS OF CHETRO KETAL
[image]

CHETRO KETAL KIVAS
[image]

We were told that more than two inches of rain had fallen over the course of our stay – an incredible amount for one storm in this part of the country. The morning of our departure from Chaco Canyon the rain had stopped, but the dirt road out of the Park was still wet and muddy. I really hate driving in the mud, but we had to be on our way, so off we went. A few miles from the park, the road climbs up a grade which is mostly clay. As most know, wet clay is about as slippery as wet snow, or worse. Our drive up this slippery clay section was in 4WD with the truck sliding side ways from one side of the road to the other as we tried to keep out of the very deep barrow pits on either side and a “stuck” that would have required being towed or winched out. The pucker factor was high, but we made it to the top and continued on our way to the next obstacle – a water crossing through a normally dry arroyo. Fortunately for us the water level in this crossing had dropped significantly over night and the road was passable – barely.

THE WATER CROSSING – A RIVER IN THE DESERT
[image]

ALL OF THAT RAIN HAD TO GO SOMEWHERE…
[image]


Now on the home leg of our trip, we retraced our route back into Utah and made camp for the night in a road side campground just off the highway by Monticello. The next morning found us heading into the Needles Area of Canyonlands National Park for a day trip before heading on home to Springville, arriving late that afternoon.

NEWSPAPER ROCK – THE WIND WAS REALLY COLD
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WOODEN SHOE ARCH
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THE TRAIL IS THAT AWAY…
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LOOKING BACK ACROSS THE PARK
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THE WEATHER CLOSING IN ON US AND TIME TO GO HOME…
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WE GOT HOME JUST IN TIME FOR IT TO SNOW
[image]



TRIP 9: LATE OCTOBER – CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, FRUITA CAMPGROUND WITH THE GRAND KIDS (some of them) – LAST TRIP OF THE SEASON. 350 miles.
[image]


In late October, school was out for several days, so we collected our grandkids that live in Springville and their parents and spent a long weekend at the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park – a perfect place for kids and families. Did I mention that we really like staying in this campground? The grandkids and their family stayed in their Springbar tent and Connie and I in the camper. The weather was perfect and the autumn views spectacular – a perfect trip to end our first travel season with our new Outfitter camper.

OUTSIDE OF TORREY, UT – THE WESTERN GATEWAY INTO CAPITOL REEF ON UT 24
[image]

TORREY, UT
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THE “BACK YARD” OF FRUITA CAMPGROUND – CAPITOL REEF (so named because early prospectors to the area often had nautical backgrounds and referred to the Waterpocket Fold as a reef, since it was a great barrier to transportation.
[image]

OUR FRUITA CAMPSITE – CAMPER, SPRINGBAR TENT, AND “COOK TENT” (in case of rain – didn’t happen)
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SINCE IT WAS CLOSE TO HALLOWEEN, WE BROUGHT HALLOWEEN DONUTS…
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LOOKING UP FROM THE CAMPGROUND…
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THE LOCALS…
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ONE OF TWO HISTORIC COTTONWOOD TREES (planted circa 1905 and 1886)
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THE OTHER TREE…
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A TRULY SPECTACULAR SETTING…
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OUT FOR A HIKE WITH THE GRANDKIDS…
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HEADED DOWN THE TRAIL BACK TO CAMP – EASY DOES IT…
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Our Capitol Reef trip was a great success and we soon returned home to Springville where we took the camper off the truck, parking it on its backyard pad before winterizing it. The truck, unburdened by the

BradW

Mayor of Flat Rock

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Posted: 01/04/12 03:07pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hey, great photos and trip report(s). Thanks for posting. Makes me want to load up and head west when the passes open up. [emoticon]

Brad


Wake Up America
1996 Lance 500 and 2006 F-350 PSD 4X4 DRW
Our Truck Camper Photos


weymard

NORMANDY

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Posted: 01/04/12 04:09pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great reports. Very interesting, thanks for sharing


FORD F250 LARIAT 4X4 DIESEL 2008
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USAFBILL

Alabama

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Posted: 01/04/12 03:58pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for pictures and details


2003 Cougar 285EFS
2000 Chev 2500 Ex Cab


marinemommy

Yerington, NV

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Posted: 01/04/12 04:02pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Incredible!! Thanks for the posting, the pics and stories are great!! Makes me want to go!!!!


shirley kay

Bubtoofat

SE Michigan

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Posted: 01/04/12 03:52pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

HOLY MOLEY![emoticon] I hate when someone buys a camper and it just sits in the driveway collecting decay. You, sir, do NOT fit into that category. Great post.
Mike


2005 Chevy 2500HD Crew 4X4 6.0
2011 Northstar Adventurer
Hellwig Bigwig, Ride-Rites, Fastguns, KYB Monomax.


"No matter where I am, I can't help feeling I'm just a day away from where I want to be."
Jackson Browne

turtletalk

NC

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Posted: 01/04/12 04:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks so much for posting all the pics and the maps. Trip reports sure make us restless!

DonCurley

La Sal, Utah

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Posted: 01/04/12 04:49pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Terry,

WOW!! What an amazing array of trip reports, photos, and rig details! I suppose we shouldn't have expected anything less after your highly detailed New Owners Report thread. I have to admit that I stopped doing trip reports quite a while back as I just found doing them to be too time consuming. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the amount of time and effort you put into this.

Cheers!
Don


-'07 Dodge 3500/QC/SB/SRW/4x4/6.7L CTD/6-spd auto/35" Toyo MT's/Ride-Rite air bags/RS9000XL shocks
-'07 Apex 8 fully optioned w/220W solar/2 T-145's/2KW Prosine/Honda EU2000i/Tundra fridge/AC/etc
-'00 Jeep Wrangler TJ 4x4, highly modified w/5.9L Magnum V8


TBH219

South East, Charleston SC

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Posted: 01/04/12 05:35pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

DonCurley wrote:

Terry,

WOW!! What an amazing array of trip reports, photos, and rig details! I suppose we shouldn't have expected anything less after your highly detailed New Owners Report thread. I have to admit that I stopped doing trip reports quite a while back as I just found doing them to be too time consuming. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the amount of time and effort you put into this.

Cheers!
Don




X2,,, and thank you for your time and effort.

Blake


2011 Ford F-350 CC SWB 4X4 SRW 6.2L 4.30 Gears Torklift tiedowns/Fastguns

2011 Northstar Laredo SC 4ea.AGM'S 240 watts of solar and some other stuff.

dadwolf2

Henderson,NV

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Posted: 01/04/12 06:12pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Impressive post and lots of great pictures. What model is the Apex 8.5? I've got the Apex 8 and I know there is a Juno 8.5 but never heard of the Apex 8.5 before. One of these days we need to get an Outfitter group together. I bet there won't be a single model that is the same.


2005 Dodge Ram 2500 CTD,4X4,NV5600
2014 Adventurer 86FB

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