The Ranch May 2018

Trip report that doesn't involve the truck but it does involve a 4runner!

 

So my GF and I had to head out to Dallas for a work event and decided to stay a few extra days to see my family and go to my families ranch. I'm originally from Texas and grew up out on our 10,000 acre cattle ranch so I try and go back as often as I can but haven't been able to make it out there in 3ish years so it definitely felt good to be back! I originally set up a reservation for a compact rental car and when we got there they told me they had a brand new 4runner I could have for an extra $80 so obviously we took it, it was nice to have it around the ranch despite using a Polaris most of the time due to the bump gates.

So my coworker also decided to come down with us and he came running into the house saying he found a snake under the hot tub cover so I went out to investigate and sure enough a little Texas Rat Snake was hiding under there! I love Texas Rat Snakes, they're very active and very good climbers which you'll see later plus they are incredibly good at controlling rodent populations so they're good to have around. My aunt doesn't agree and tends to kill every snake she sees so I've spent my entire life trying to change her mind lol. I always take the opportunity to educate people on snakes especially out in the country where most people can't tell the difference between a venomous snake and a non-venomous one so teaching the ranch hands and my family the basics is always on the to-do list.

As we walked back to the house I was explaining how they are often found up high and my girlfriend stopped and said "look there's another one!" and sure enough there was another Rat Snake up in the rafters of the pool house where it was attempting to get to a birds nest. This one was particularly defensive and didn't wanna be moved but for it's sake I relocated it to prevent a premature death haha. Rat snakes are often defensive and very bitey so they'll rear up and strike while also "rattling" their tale to imitate a rattlesnake which ultimately leads to them being killed.

The peacocks are everywhere around the house and the ranch is a working cattle ranch but my uncle had a fascination with exotic animals so we've had all kinds of stuff like african water buffalo, ostriches, alligators, antelope, etc. There's lots of cool old machinery and stuff around, including an old steam powered tractor (forgot to take pics of it but it's been sitting out in an old barn my whole life) and they also had a huge amount of Model A's and Model T's which a few now reside in the Ford museum!

We didn't really do a whole lot except go fishing and walk/drive around the property so my GF could see it all:

I spent soooooo much time out in the junkyard as a kid hunting rabbits, catching snakes and just exploring the place that it's definitely one of my favorite places on the ranch. Most people out in this part of the country don't get rid of anything so there are hundreds of cars, tractors, etc out here:

On the backside of the ranch we've got another house that my brother has really fixed up and even turned one of the old barn's into a bar so he came out and we just hung around the house playing games most of the day and did some hog hunting in the evenings. Also if you guys find yourself in Austin go check out Flat Track Coffee! The owner Sterling is an awesome guy who's got a tacoma and into the whole overlanding scene, he was out at Expo West serving coffee and will be at Expo East! 

Wish I had photos of this old barn from before my brother fixed it up cause it was just a hay barn that was in seriously rough shape.

Got up early on our last day to do some more hog hunting (sorry not gonna post photos of any of that) and caught a couple big Texas Spiny Lizards around the house:

We had to drive back to Dallas to fly home and got caught in a huge thunderstorm, it was by far the craziest storm I'd driven through!

I gotta say it made me miss the Texas summer thunderstorms I grew up with, California has really made me appreciate rain and thunderstorms because we just don't get them anymore.

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Stanceworks does Utah Pt. 1

So I've been putting off writing this trip report mainly because I think my friend Mike did such a good job on his report that I feel like this is going to be redundant! That said if you haven't read Mike's article you should: 

http://www.stanceworks.com/2018/04/stanceworks-off-road-utah-desert-part-i/

I think I'm gonna back off on the writing because I've posted almost this same trip a couple of times now so I feel like you should read Mike's take on it to get a fresh perspective. That said I'm gonna post some photos I took from the first couple of days then will do another post with more.

Also my trip started out a little earlier than Mike's, I left Thursday night to meet up with my good friends from Nor Cal who were out in Mojave for the weekend plus I got a sneak peek of the new Vagabond Drifter!

So we had to stop in St. George to meet up with Graeme to pick up my new camper! Production unit 001 - not gonna go too much into this now because I'm working on a full review that'll be out soon but to say that I'm very stoked would be an understatement!

Had to start the trip off at the falls, we lucked out and it wasn't packed plus we got to see our friend Steve and some of his friends! I've known Steve for like 12 years now and hadn't seen him in forever so it was awesome to hang out and have him jump onto the trip with us!

Next day we had to make a stop by the slot canyons I like going to, it's a great place to experience slot canyons without the tour guides and lines.

From here we hit the road to our next camp spot which I had been to before and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no one there! The last time I was there a bunch of people were camping and house boats were parked along the shore so the solitude was a nice surprise which I think was due to the water level rising and creating a pretty big mud pit to get through.

South of Yuma

After having worked a 65 hour week at a work conference Olivia and I needed to get out and decompress, we knew we wanted to go somewhere warmer than our last trip and neither of us had been to the extreme south end of Arizona so we decided it was time! I didn't have a ton of time to plan this trip out given my crazy work schedule which lead to a few issues which you'll read about later, we got off work on Thursday afternoon so we took the rest of the day to plan and prep so we could leave early Friday morning. We had a stop planned down in El Cajon to see our good friends down at Pelfreybilt, Pelfrey has been monumental in the building of my truck over the past few years and I can't say enough great things about Tyler, Satin and the whole crew down there. After grabbing lunch and checking out their new shop it was time to head even further south, our original plan was to camp in the Jacumba area but when we got on the trail there was a construction crew working and said the trail wouldn't open for another hour or so....It was at this point late afternoon/evening and we needed to find camp so waiting another hour wasn't gonna happen, we hopped back on I-8 and headed east, I didn't know the area at all but found some 4x4 trails on my topo maps wish some cool looking topography so we headed that direction. After searching through the trails and it almost dark we found a great spot that had a fire ring but it looked as though no one had been back there in quite some time. We set up camp, cooked some dinner and relaxed by the fire watching shooting stars and constellations as there was no moon this night so we could see everything perfectly.

The next morning we woke up to cook breakfast, make coffee and explore our surrounding area which proved to be pretty interesting, I knew there was a prospect mine at the end of the wash but we found that there used to be a structure just across with us that was littered with old cans and artifacts from a lifetime ago. We had no time schedule so we packed up and headed east towards Yuma stopping at a rather well known hot spring which we thought we might take a dip in but it was so packed we decided to keep trekking.

We stopped in Yuma for gas and to grab lunch in Old Town Yuma where we ended up walking around and checking out the area for a little longer than we should have, this is what caused us to get to camp way too late. After that we hit the road, with it approaching evening and still being 3 or so hours away from where we planned on camping we thought we'd stop in the Sonoran Desert National Monument to camp but we didn't find anything worthwhile but we did catch an epic sunset and cool FJ40 at the gas station!

Since we didn't find a good camp spot we figured lets just get the driving over with and head towards Organ Pipe that night and get to camp late, well this is where the problem really started...Once we got into Organ Pipe we weren't able to find any dispersed camping because when researching the area I misunderstood their definition of backcountry camping which really means you have to park your car along the road and hike 1/2 a mile off the road which doesn't really work when you wanna sleep in your camper haha. So we ended up in a campground which I can't stand but I just wanted to get out of the truck and relax, nothing really worth taking photos of in a campground...After a good nights rest we woke up and made a delicious breakfast to get us ready for the long day ahead of us.

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Organ Pipe is a very special place but you have to set your expectations, I personally can't stand National Parks and Monuments for the most part because I hate crowds and tourist traps. That said Organ Pipe is not like that in all areas, there are definitely spots in the monument you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with other people but there also are areas where you will be totally alone and are super remote. We opted to do one of the more well known routes called Ajo Mountain Rd before heading off into the more remote parts of the park. Despite the name Organ Pipe National Monument it is also home to the largest cactus species in the US the Saguaro, Saguaro's can grow over 40ft tall with the largest one ever recorded at a whopping 78ft tall! It can take up to 75 years for them to grow their first "arm" and some may never grow any arms at all, they're all very unique and if you haven't been down to see them I highly recommend you do! The second most well known park is the Organ Pipe which is the 2nd largest cactus here in the US and has a much different shape which you'll see why they're called that as they can resemble the pipes behind an organ. There are some very impressive examples of both cactus along with many others along this drive.

After the drive through Ajo to see the Double Arch we headed towards the more remote section of the park along a series of 4x4 trails that takes you South and west across the park and then back out through the North. Along this route you'll see a lot of really cool scenery, mines and old cattle camps. 

As you can see the terrain is vast and varies quite a bit, before continuing on with the trip I'll quickly address the buttons you'll see out in the middle of nowhere (see photos above). The monument runs directly along the boarder of Mexico and smugglers can be found in the more remote parts of the park so these buttons are used for emergencies. We never once felt unsafe but did come across boarder patrol trucks racing past us with the people carriers on the back so we can only assume they'd found some people and we were totally unaware. You will run into jugs of water left out to help people and these signs everywhere but in my opinion it's no reason not to visit such an awesome place.

Ok so back to to the trip, we continued north towards the edge of the monument where we were to camp on BLM land, we stopped at a few more cattle camps and ranches. One of them that stood out to us was Bates Well Ranch which was founded in 1935 by the Gray family and was operated and developed by Henry Gray from then until he died in 1976. The Gray family started ranching here before the park was ever established so they were allowed to continue to do so despite struggles with the NPS and their conservation efforts as the ranching caused heavy erosion and vegetation trampling. The ranch houses are still there mainly un-touched and you are able to walk around and get a taste of a lifestyle long lost.

What a beautiful view they had right? I couldn't help but think about how peaceful it must have been back then. After checking out the ranch for a while we headed to find camp, I had marked a few places I had found on google earth. It took us about an hour of navigating some easy trails to find the perfect spot and along the way we kept seeing these piles of rocks stacked up, anyone know what they are? We ended up finding the perfect spot that had a great view so we set up and got to cooking dinner, the wind started to pick up so we retreated to the Flippac to play 3D tic tac toe which I highly recommend as a camp game if you haven't played it!

It wasn't all fun and games this night though....the wind picked up to nearly 40mph which was causing the Flippac tent poles to bend and it nearly impossible to sleep so we had to make a game time decision which we ended up agreeing we should just pack up and find somewhere with less wind. Luckily the Flippac only takes a couple of minutes to go from sleeping to driving so we got on the road and hopped on Windy to search out calmer lands and we did, we pulled off the 10 and found a good spot to get a few hours of sleep. We woke up to a pretty cool area and we ended up driving some trails around the area marking off good camp spots because we definitely will be going back!

After a couple hours of exploring we decided it was time to head towards home as we had a long drive and wanted to avoid traffic if possible but we had one more stop to make....This is one of Olivia and I's favorite areas and we visit it often, it's full of mines and petroglyphs so we stopped by to make lunch and hike around a bit before making the long drive home.

As always thank you for reading I really hope you enjoyed the report because we had such a fun trip and sorry for the lack of wheeling photos but not all trips are about hitting trails as much as they are about just getting outside and enjoying this beautiful country we have!

Utah Christmas 2017 - 5 days and 1300 miles of adventure!

I'd been wanting to do this trip for a while now cause my girlfriend Olivia has never been to these areas and one of my oldest/best friends Charlie has been wanting to go on a trip with me for a while now. We loosely talked about doing it a couple of months ago but nothing set in stone and the week before Christmas we decided to just do it! I had the route planned out from previous trips so it didn't take long to get ready, basically just download the appropriate maps offline, confirm the route and pack the fridge. Here's the crew: Olivia, Me, Charlie and Theo:

We set out to leave on the Wednesday after Christmas with the plan to get to the falls before sunset but that didn't happen given how short the days are right now. We got to the little town nearby and picked up firewood and gas and then headed towards camp. Social Media sharing has really made this place hit or miss in terms of how populated it's gonna be which is a real shame because in the few short years I've been coming here I've watched it just get trashed and crowded. I think it's important to keep places like this more discreet, there's no reason to geotag your camp spot, keep your spots to yourself and your close friends! Anyway we got there and lucked out with only have one other truck there and they were on the side of the falls I don't like camping on (perfect!) so we set up, made dinner and relaxed by the fire:

It was cold that night and you can see the glow in the bed of my truck in the photo above of my Mr. Heater Buddy pre-warming the flippac. Charlie and Theo slept in the ground tent for the first and last time of the trip that night haha. Sleeping on an air mattress proved too cold for them so for the rest of the trip they moved into the flippac with us, more on that later. We got up, made a good breakfast and explored around the falls as Charlie had never been there before. After that we took the low trail out which not many people do, it's a fun trail that can be difficult depending on water/mud level that takes you in and out of the creek below.

Our plan for the day was to head east towards Lake Powell and get to Alstrom Point, now I'd never been to Alstrom Point mainly because it seemed like a heavily visited touristy kinda spot which is the exact opposite of what I want. And I wasn't exactly wrong we did see a lot of cars leaving as we were heading there but we lucked out and camped near Alstrom where there wasn't anyone near us but there were a couple of people camping at the point. This is where I'll say I think Grand Bench is not only a better view of the lake but also much more deserted because the trail to get there is pretty difficult and your average truck/SUV can't get there. So if you plan on going to this area and don't have a built up truck definitely go to Alstrom Point it's very cool none the less! This is gonna be a big chunk of photos from our entire stay so it includes driving there and camping. 

From here we headed back west to go to some slot canyons I visit often, this is another one of those places I'm gonna complain about over sharing....The first time I went here a few years back there wasn't a single person there and it didn't look like many people went there, these slot canyons are often confused for some with a similar name in Escalante, UT but they are not the same! Anyway again we lucked out and when we arrived a family was just packing up to leave so we had the canyons to ourselves which was very nice, the last time I went here this summer that was not the case we even saw a Jeep tour that time.....

After spending a couple of hours walking through the canyons we got back in the truck to head to camp which took us through Zion. Now anyone that's read my trip reports before probably knows that National Parks are almost never on my to-do list, they're overcrowded and often underwhelming given the traffic, trash and shear amount of people you run into. But we lucked out and when we arrived at the gate there was no one working so we were able to drive through without paying the $30 or whatever it is now a days. Luckily we didn't hit too much traffic and we did get to see some big horn sheep which I had yet to see in the wild (is a National Park even considered the wild though?) haha. 

So after dealing with that whole deal we left the park and headed to camp which was luckily nearby as it was getting dark. We got all set up not knowing what was surrounding us as I had never been here before, this location was bestowed upon me by a good friend. We made sausages and sweet potatoes followed up by some smores and then we just relaxed and talked by the fire for the next few hours. That was probably the best night for all of us, such a calm and somewhat warm night where we could really just chill and it hadn't been such a long day in the truck so that also felt good.

I woke up early to an absolutely beautiful sunrise which revealed we were atop a very large mesa, I kind of had an idea from the night photos I took but wasn't exactly sure what exactly it all looked like. The first photo is a cell phone shot out of the window in the flippac and the next is how we slept for the majority of the trip, the flippac can easily sleep 4 people or more depending on their height!

After enjoying the sunrise we got ready to leave without making coffee or breakfast (sinful I know) but we had plans to stop in La Verkin and get coffee and breakfast at a local roaster there. And it was well worth it, if you haven't been to River Rock Roasting company and you're near Hurricane Utah make sure you stop and get a cup or some food! After that we had to stop to get a whip flag because where we were going requires them as it's mostly sand dunes. With that said our destination for the day was Sand Hollow OHV park, I'd heard a lot about Sand Hollow and it did not disappoint! There is something for everyone there whether it's sightseeing, sand dunes or rock crawling it's got it all and we had to play it safe with how heavy my truck is and deep sand....We ran a few trails where I let Olivia and Charlie take turns at the wheel and I could get out and snap some pics which is always fun.

That's about it for the trip report although we did camp in Mohave National Preserve that night we didn't take any photos because it just wasn't a spectacular spot we really just wanted to get somewhere closer to home so we didn't have a 12 hour day of driving on New Years Eve. This was again a trip of a lifetime, Utah is such a beautiful place and if you haven't been I urge you to go and see it for yourself! Thank you to Charlie and Olivia for making it such a fun trip I was very glad to be able to share these places with you and make some awesome memories together. And with that I leave you with one more photo of the truck!

Eastern Sierras November 2017

So my buddy who's went to school for Geology asked if I'd take him and his gf on a trip a while back and we both had this past weekend free so we made a plan to meet up with a bunch of friends off the 395. We left SB around 12:30pm on Friday and headed north to our meeting spot where we got in and promptly made dinner than hung around the fire till the rest of the crew could arrive. Any photo with me in it was taken by Keith.

We woke up the next morning and tried to plan out the day but the group was divided, some wanted to hike and some wanted to wheel so we split up and headed off in two separate groups, I lead the wheeling group up a trail near Bishop that I like. It's a fun trail that's easy but very scenic and lands you on top of a ridge at about 10,800ft with a little lake and a small sand dune. Airing down at the staging area:

Heading back to town to get dinner and then find camp to meet up with the hikers:

Sunday we all split off to head home but my two friends, my GF and I stopped off along the 395 and just went up roads to look at certain geological sites my friend wanted to see which was awesome cause he just dropped knowledge on us the whole way! I am also constantly looking for new swim spots and campsites so I was doing my own surveying and came across some awesome stuff:

And Alabama Hills is always a must stop on the way home just to look for reptiles and take some pics, I never get tired of exploring around here despite how many people are there.


All in all it was such a fun weekend and I can't wait to get back out with everyone again soon.

April 2017 Desert Trip

Olivia and I left work a little early to try and beat traffic around LA to get to the Mojave National Preserve (which we did) as I have a little spot there that I like to camp at because it's very isolated, well when we got there it was taken which was surprising because it's way off the beaten path and I've never seen anyone there before now.....Oh well so we moved on further north into the park looking at other spots I have mapped out and holy crap the place was freakin packed we couldn't find anywhere! And our intention was to only sleep in Mojave and move on because Mojave doesn't interest me much, it's too crowded and just not that spectacular but alas we found a place to camp at the end of a small dirt road that backed up to the ecological study site.

As we're sitting around the fire a white tacoma with a flippac comes up the road sees us and turns around no big deal, well about 30 minutes later he comes back and sets up pretty close to us in a spot I didn't really think was a good place but whatever so we head into the flippac to read and go to bed. Well the guy had kids who were all fired up and started yelling and going crazy which is not very conducive to a good nights sleep and combined with the strong winds we did not sleep well (although the FP handles wind much better than my old ARB tent did!). We woke up in the morning to someone circling around my truck which really startled my gf so I look outside and there is like 6 new trucks parked around our area with kids and dogs just going nuts barking and screaming so we packed up and left. Needless to say I won't be going back to Mojave probably ever again and is another big reason I almost always avoid national parks and preserves, BLM and National Forests are the only way to go for me.

The group of people....

Exploring around our site before taking off on Saturday morning, and you may notice some of my photos have this weigh darker top or area in the photo and that was not intentional I brought a Sony A7Sii with a metabones lens adapter and it was giving me some really funky results.

After leaving Mojave we headed to Lake Havasu to do a little swimming and scout out a spot I mapped out to camp along the Colorado river and I managed to finally catch a desert iguana, these guys are normally very hard to actually catch by hand! 

Now we didn't end up staying at the camp on the river because of wind, there were gusts of over 30mph and it just wasn't gonna be worth it so we headed south to an old favorite of mine. This is a spot that I've been to many times and will go to this exact spot when it's windy because it's in a wash that has high walls that protect you from the wind, we slept great this night! Not to mention there is never anyone around which is another reason I enjoy it so much.