First a little background. Many years ago I read about a locale that has amazing natural formations to photograph on a photography website. Amongst them "The Wave", and many other incredible features "Dali Rock" nearby. The Wave is world famous and they have a lottery for permits to visit it. Usually booked 6 months in advance. Well the article talked about South Coyote Buttes behind it that is sparsely visited and one can camp right below the formations. Permits are easy to obtain, just apply that day. The formations have the same amazing patterns and color. That is where I want to go for my first PU camper visit. The first two parts were because I had 2 weeks and wanted to save the best for last. For late April that is where I want to go more than any other spot. Dreamed about it for many, many years. Always with fluffy white clouds like Capitol Reef or high wispy clouds like Kodachrome Basin. Clouds really do make the photograph. Being able to step out of my camper and catch the magic light at sunrise or sunset at a remote locale is why I want a PU camper. So, for my first trip with my new camper off to South Coyote Buttes (with other places I have not visited before as an appetizer (Parts 1 & 2)). To get to it you have a main access road, House Rock Valley road, then about 10 miles on a spur road. The author of the original post mentioned the need for aggressively treaded tires for soft sand. Looking at Google maps, the main access road crosses a dry river bed many times. I think "That must be what he is talking about." I have been through arroyo's with soft sand before, and have been stuck in a couple, but should be able to make it with my Goodyear GS622's.
Now on to the trip report. Not being able to take the direct route, I leave early and backtrack to HW 22 to catch State Road 500 down to Kanab. There I can catch HW 89 to Big Water where I need to get my permit. Not far after Cannonville I encounter a tunnel with no clearance signage. As I pull over to take a picture a Class A blasts by at 45-50 mph. Well if they can make it so can I.
(Passed a second similar tunnel shortly after.) Anyway, stopped to take a picture of the erosional remnants in the canyon.
I like showing these to people printed at 16x20" as there are features poking out in the trees that will have one looking for hours. I can't get them to show up in these small images though, but wanted to give a hint at my style of photography. My previous images have been blatant, but I tend to be subtle. Notice the solid overcast in the last two images. Not what I wanted.
I made it down to Kanab and topped off my diesel and headed off to Big Water. (Stopped to help a 5vr with a flat tire on the way.) Got to the park office and it is closed. Says to get a permit at the Kanab office. Sigh, my trip meter shows 64 miles. So back to Kanab and after asking directions find the park office. While talking to the ranger mentioned that I had originally intended to take Cottonwood Road from Kodachrome Park. He smiled and pulled out a photograph. It showed an Isuzu stuck in about a 200 yard mud section. I recognized the mud as bentonitic. Not only was it deep, but that stuff is slippery than ... I could see why the road was closed, and not from a landslide. Mentioned that I wanted to camp at the end of the spur road at South Coyote Buttes and he went "Whewww, Sandy!" As I head out to my rig it is starting to rain big cold drops. Sigh. Top off my tank again as 128 miles round trip is over 10 gallons of diesel. It is fully raining while I am topping off. So, having passed my turn off twice, I know just where it is. At the start, here is what I encounter.
Notice the "IMPASSABLE WHEN WET" sign. It is blurry because winds are 32 gusting to 45+ mph. The dust on the road is not from another vehicle but is one of the 45+ mph gusts. Hit many of those on the drive in. Take stock and I have about 45 gallons of water in the main tank, 6 gallons in the HW tank, over 7 gallons of spring water, so have plenty of water for the desert. I over-packed on food and figure 12 days of normal meals remaining. So head in. The road has severely wash boarded sections of 1.5-3 inches that I have to crawl at less than 3 mph and still feel the camper vibrating in the bed. It is alternated with badly rutted sections that are the bentonitic shale sections that are "Impassable When Wet". I do make it down to the spur road. Not one sandy arroyo have I crossed. Do get out and lock the front hubs (manual only for me) and cross the creek and hit this.
Ohhhh, so that is what they mean by sandy. It is the spur road. And, yes it is that steep. Look at the trees and sage. So, I pull into the first (much used turn around) and walk up the road to check it out. That very fine sand is incredibly hard to walk in. Even going downhill. Tried it in the sage and it is just as hard. 10 miles of that will be a verry long day and would have to hike out again all night. So put it in 4wd low and give it a try. I make it a little over 2 miles and the rig stops going forward. Sheesh. If I had a manual transmission would have tried to rock it past. Well give it more gas and 5 tires just spin faster. Not worried about getting stuck as it is in another steep section. Gravity will assist me out of there. Sigh. Push the button to unfold the mirrors, get as much of my body out the window as I can to see behind while still reaching the gas peddle and steering wheel and back down. (Don't need to worry about the brake, let off the gas and stop instantly in that soft sand.) Well, make it back down to where I can turn around and walk back up to see what stopped me. In the next picture you can see where both diffs grounded and that was enough on the steep slope with a heavy load in the back. Edit, ;put in the right picture
(It is steeper than it looks, the sage and trees are leaning back.) It is hard to tell in the photo, but another vehicle made it 10 ft further then me and no more. Was not alone on that section. As I was backing down, in one section the rear wanted to go to the left, but the road went to the right. Only scary part of the whole drive. Glanced forward several times and my fronts are at a 45 degree angle spinning. As I walked past the section later noticed that the road made a turn and headed cross slope off camber. The rears were leading and wanted to take the easy path straight down ignoring the fronts. When the rears follow, fine, but when leading they want to lead.
Well did back up about a third of a mile and got pointed back down hill.
You may be wondering why I would attempt this. Did get a taste at where I was stopped.
It is hard to see in these small images, but the bedding does make incredible patterns, just not the amazing colors 8 or so miles to the north. Here are some more views.
Nothing for it but to tuck my tail between my legs and head back down.
But not before stopping at _The_ _One_ _That_ _Got_ _Away_. Of the 2+ miles that I drove only encountered one section of about 15-20 ft of traction. Crossed an outcrop that formed a shelf. As I was crossing it thought that would be a nice place to stay if things don't work out. So maneuvered onto it on the way back down.
Was a very nice spot on BLM land outside the NP. Still about 8-9 miles of incredibly tough sand hiking though, even though the start of the formations are in the background in the next picture.
Ahhh, but notice the dark clouds in the above picture. And it was raining on me only 54 miles away. And here is the road off the shelf.
Notice in the foreground (bottom of the picture) my aggressive tread pattern. Well the road down also has my tracks from driving up about an hour ago. The soft sand does not worry me so much, but the Impassable When Wet main road is my main concern. Also notice the juniper trees. Several times the road made a tight severely off camber turn around the trees. I was leaned so far over that the top of the camper hit the top of the trees. Put about a 10 inch rip in my slide out awning on the way up.
Took out the range vent on the way back down.
Now these are self inflicted and are part of 4 wheeling, so I expect such stuff. But still just one more part of the adventure. So decide to give up this time and head down to Lee's Ferry NP. Continued south on the main access road and saw a covered pavilion with bleachers in the middle of nowhere. Nearby was a billboard with a silhouette of a California Condor compared to golden eagles and other large birds. Thought that was odd. Found out later that they are re-introducing California Condors to Arizona and that must be the spot. Wish I knew it at the time, could have used my big telephoto. (The one that busted the hinges off my ward the first day. A Canon 600mm f4L IS.) Oh well. Here is the entrance to Lee's Ferry NP.
There where a lot of PU campers at the campground. Almost all popup's. Shared an evening beverage with a large group. They were all from Montana. They had just come from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Later while eating dinner, I looked at the atlas and it a 60 some odd mile dirt road, but the start is not far away. Had 3 nights planned for South Coyote Buttes, guess I'll go to the north rim instead. Here is the view out the window during morning coffee.
Here is a view of my neighbors out my kitchen window while making the coffee.
I remember those days. Except that I did not have a cot and slept on the ground. Ah, the ritual of chasing the crawlies that had joined me in my bag at night, each morning, before making coffee. First trip with my PU camper and I am sooo happy!
Here is a view with my poor torn slideout awning (self inflicted), but also a view of the wind break for the picnic table. One can see where the prevailing wind comes from (the south). The winds came up with a vengeance later.
These are what they label Toad Stools. Giant boulders that tumble off the cliffs and settle on the fore slope. After thousand's or 10's of thousand years the alluvium is eroded underneath and leaves amazingly balanced boulders on a pedestal.
Here is a view of another one where you can see the amazing balance and the source of the boulders from the top of the cliffs.
The older ones form Toad Stools, the younger ones sit directly on the alluvium. It is still going on today. I shudder to think of encountering a camper sized boulder crashing off the cliff and thundering down the fore slope to encounter me.
This is a nice view showing the wonderful colors of the surrounding cliffs.
Now off to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, but not before a 100 yard detour to see the Colorado River below Lake Powell. It is amazing that the Colorado with the tremendous volume of water in a tight canyon is able to reflect.
So back the way I came and after 10 or 15 miles have to pull off the road. In the image below, the white band in the middle is rain reaching the ground. At 10:30 that morning rain is falling directly on the road that is "Impassable When Wet". Glad I decided not to camp on the shelf.
But also, to the south, I have a view towards the 60 some odd mile dirt access road to the north rim. It is now a 60 some odd mile mud road. Sigh!!
At this point I decide to pack it in and head home. Since I am close decide to head the short distance to Page and see the other end of Lake Powell. It is not reflective. By the time I get there winds are 30 mph gusting to 40+ mph and bands of rain.
Do get to see the Lake Powell dam. Don't know if one used to be able to drive across it, but not any more.
Decide to spend the night near Petrified Forrest NP. Enjoyed it when I was young. The route takes me south to Flagstaff then on I40 turning off to find the south entrance. As I am heading towards Flagstaff on a 2 lane road do hit some heavy showers. Think this is a good thing. Nothing like a 85 to 100+ mph power wash to clean off the camper. (I am only doing 60 mph, but have 25 gusting to 40+ mph head winds.) As I get near Flagstaff decide to pull off and have a late lunch. Hey, I can point the back of the camper into the wind and power wash the rear too! Get on a dirt road and point the rear into the wind and run back to the camper. As I am getting the lunch meat out, the rains stops. Sigh. No wash. As I am eating, the wind calms. When I pop out the clouds have risen and there is fresh snow on the nearby peaks.
Now snow is common in this part of the country, but I think it is not common this far south, this late in the season. Nice to see though.
At the south entrance to Petrified Forrest NP is a curio shop that offers free RV Parking. The lady apologized that electricity was not working, but hey, it's free, so a picture out the window. (The wind had picked back up to 30+ mph from the rear of course. So turned around to point the nose into the wind. Everybody else followed suit except the 2 Class A's.)
Took pictures in Petrified Forrest NP, but the muse was not in me by this time. Will include one scenic that shows the truly desolate nature of this part of the country, Fascinating in it's own right. Closest to the Sahara I have seen in the US.
My final camp spot was at Santa Rose Lake SP, outside Santa Rosa NM. Was not very nice, so cannot recommend it. The KOA in Tucumcari was much nicer. Still, a picture out the window. (Note the blurred branches. Yep, 35+ mph winds from the back.)
Well thank you all for your time and to those that replied to Parts 1&2 thank you for your kind comments. Normally I have normal trips where I can say "Ohhh look at this!", but this trip had something happen every single day. It turned into an adventure. Adventures are not bad. I have a couple of images I want to print large and hang on the wall, so was a success. The fact that it started out the first day with coming a hairs breath from totaling the truck and camper kind of set the tone. (The micro burst really did probably get me onto three wheels. Seriously, you've seen pictures of toppled 18 wheelers. Was very, very close to a toppled PU camper at 65 mph with an over 70 mph sudden direct cross wind.)
My parting comments are that I learned a heck of a lot on my first PU camping trip. I do plan on getting back to Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reel NP. Will double it up with a visit to The Maze in Canyon Lands NP (have to see Whazoo's Doll House in person). Also will spend some quality time in Glen Canyon. Really liked that area. But first and foremost I am going to buy a winch and a PullPal (sand and mud anchor) and return to South Coyote Butte's around April next year. And hope for clouds, nice white fluffy clouds like Capitol Reef or high wispy clouds like Kodachrome Basin. Clouds really do enhance the picture. In my best Schwarzenegger impersonation - "I'll be back".
* This post was
edited 05/26/12 12:32am by svduc996 *
2011 F350 DRW, Rickson 19.5X7.5 Rims, Goodyear G622RSD 265/70R19.5
2012 Arctic Fox 1150 Wet Bath
Torklift tie downs and Fastguns
May you always have a tail wind. (Cheaper that way :-)
I've enjoyed following along with you on all three parts. Love the scenery and adventure narrative. I agree with you on the lure to explore the side canyons in Capital Reef. I've only been there once and that was 20 years ago but it keeps me going to plan on the day when I can return and do just that. Looking forward to your future trip reports!