Offroad Trailblazers and Envoys

COMPLETED: The Big Western Trip - September 2009

Post a future trail ride or document a completed trip. Let us join in on your adventure!
Forum rules
Please label new threads with the following to indicate the type of thread:

COMPLETED: a completed trip
IN PROGRESS: a trip currently in progress
PLANNING: researching or recruiting

Please feel free to utilize the trail rating article found below.

by AlekG » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:44 pm

*** Please note the following:
- There will be some links to the OS since I am posting this before bringing older threads over
- I use the "center" style quite a bit so ignore the code, there are just too many to change


Well, I was finally able to coordinate 2 contiguous weeks away from work this year so I decided to go for the trip I had planned last year but that got put on hold.
The general plan was to head further west than my 2007 trip to Colorado and explore areas west of The Rockies. Areas of interest were Idaho (why Idaho? more on that later), the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and of course, Utah.

So logically it would be best to start in the North out there and head South and hope for somewhat cooler weather into later September.

Day 1 - September 4

As usual, a successful trip by any Canadian traveller should always start at Canadian Tire.

Image

For readers that may know a little about my Trailblazer, you may notice a few new things on there. The roof rack actually has the PIAA light wired up! :o :woot: :o

It sure took me long enough but I finally was able to get the wiring done (fuses - relays - switches) in a nice clean install using the rear power lead next to the rear fuse panel (under the rear seats). I will be adding to my lighting write-up here sometime soon.

On the Surco Safari Rack itself, I now have the the Camping Lab awning instead of the Hi-Lift jack. The awning worked great earlier this year on my TECORE/MORA trip. The jack is now on the new rear spare tire carrier from C.B.I. Offroad Fab, the supplier that James Downing worked with.

Both the axe/shovel mounts and how the Hi-Lift mounts to the tire carrier use cool locking hardware (originally for an H2) from Gobi Racks USA. More on that and the new (much more sturdier) way I have mounted the Surco Safari rack to the Trailblazer rails when I update my write up here. There are also some cool powder coated surplus ammo cans up there for storage.

And finally the new wheels and tires. I got an itch last year to update them. The American Eagle rims and Mickey Thompson Baja MTZs were from my Old Blue Trailblazer that got crunched by a tree. The MT tires have always been outstanding, getting me through lots of different kinds of terrain. But the wheels started to look somewhat ragged (paint chipping, constantly cleaning the rust from the caps, and the fake beadlock ring getting duller and duller).

What I really wanted were the Teflon coated rims that American Racing produces. And when they released a new design called the Predator earlier this year I decided to go for it. I also decided to go up to 17" rims, stay at 33" diameter tires, but go from 11.5 width to 12.5. As for tires, I decided to give another manufacturer a try since I needed a whole new set for the 17" rims - Nitto Mud Grapplers. More on this when I start another thread. Here are some corporate shots until then.

Image Image Image


So the logical choice to get across to Idaho would be to head north in Canada, probably to Sault Ste. Marie, cross the border there (Northern Michigan), and head west south of Lake Superior.

However, a couple of things forced my plan to crossing at Niagara Falls. One, I had a few things waiting for me at my US mailbox that I would need for the trip. And two, I really wanted the neoprene Hi-Lift jack cover (which I could not find anywhere locally). Since I was heading south anyways, I decided to order the jack cover from 4WD.COM and pick it up on the way in Columbiana, OH.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 4 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:39 am, edited 7 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:49 pm

Day 2 - September 5

Day 2 started with my side visit to Columbiana to pick up the jack cover. The weather so far was perfect - sunny and not too hot. I really like 4Wheel Drive Hardware's system. When you purchase from their online store, you have a choice for delivery or pickup. Pickup is at over 60 affiliated stores across the US (although they are skewed slightly towards the west).

The plan today was to head west around Lake Erie and then north between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron all the way up to Mackinaw City. MI. Not much to report from the Interstates in general. The first picture is notable only that it shows the sign for Sandusky, OH. Sandusky is where the ferry crossing is from Leamington in Ontario. I have always wanted to get to the US using that ferry, on another trip I guess. The second picture is from a bridge at Saginaw, MI. Its over the Saginaw River that empties out to Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron.

Image Image


Since there wasn't too much excitement on this day, I do want to mention something important that I noticed on my whole trip. What I noticed was that there are a whole lot of Trailvoys out there! Driving along the Interstates, particularly through what is called "Middle America", I would notice a Trailvoy passing the other way a shocking amount of times. Definitely disproportionate to other SUVs (Tahoe/Yukons, Explorers, Durangos, Pathfinders, Cherokees, etc.)

GM sure cranked out a lot of GMT 360s/365s over the years. Which makes its cancelling even more a kick in the *****. After coming home I finally ended up seeing the "The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant" documentary all the way through. I would encourage everybody here to seek it out and give it a viewing.
After I noticed this, I ended up trying to capture each Trailvoy that passed me along the trip. The set of photos below are from the entire trip (not just this day) but make an interesting (to us anyways) case study. I managed to get all the versions except for a Saab and SS (one did pass me but I was not quick enough to get a photo :D), even the elusive Ascender!

Image Image Image Image

Image Image Image Image

Image Image Image Image

Image Image Image Image


So you can see ... Trailblazer, Envoy, Rainier, Bravada, Ascender, I6, V8, with trailers, even being pulled by an RV ... I saw them all.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 5 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:47 am, edited 7 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:51 pm

Day 3 - September 6

I woke up again this day to excellent weather. Mackinaw City is an interesting town right on the water with the predominant landmark being the Mackinac Bridge which crosses the straight between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The photos I took are interesting in that they demonstrate how the bridge takes on different colors depending on the light and the weather. As I started to cross it heading north with clear blue skies ahead of me, it was a glistening alabaster and green. As I took another photo heading on the downside of the bridge it started to look darker with the clouds behind it. And then finally after taking some photos from the shore it looked even a darker gray.

Image Image

Image


Please note that I took a new DSLR with me on this trip. The background to this is that I finally decided to resurrect some old (but high quality) Tamron non-autofocus lenses I used to use. I ended up buying a used Nikon D200 from eBay which allows me to use the lenses with adapters. Because of its programming, it also allows using the lenses in semi-auto exposure mode.

So the 4:3 photos are from the Sony point-and-shoot and the 3:2 photos are from the DSLR. I'm still learning the finer points of the Nikon so some photos will be better than others.

A quick shot from the truck driving towards the sunset.

Image

The day's drive took me across northern Michigan, into Wisconsin and by Green Bay, then west to the Minnesota border and over the Mississippi River to Rochester.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 6 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:48 am, edited 2 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:55 pm

Day 4 - September 7

So far I was really lucky with the weather, but remembering 2 years ago, I also had great weather. It must be the season - mid to late September.

This day I had a loooooooong straight drive ahead of me across most of Minnesota, all of South Dakota, and then finally into Wyoming. A few things broke up the monotonous, flat, straight driving.

A huge wind farm in South Dakota, something strange by the side of the Interstate, and crossing the Missouri River.

Image Image

Image Image


The day's saving grace was that my plan was to visit Badlands National Park in the afternoon. I got there towards the end of the day when the colors just go wild.

Image


Entering the park from the east, you follow the Badlands Loop Road which takes you down and up the cliffs a few times. There are many great overlooks.

Image Image

Image Image


Just before the loop road exits the park, there is a turnoff onto the Sage Creek Rim gravel road, it continues along the rim and then drops down before exiting the park to the west. Its around this area where there is the most wildlife activity. I got shots of Prairie Dogs, Bighorn Sheep, and Bison. Some up close and others with my 500mm lens.

Image Image Image

Image Image Image


I had planned to go to the western part of the park (the Stronghold Unit) and explore Sheep Mountain Road. This is the only road in the park where 4WD is recommended. It takes you onto Sheep Mountain Table that has some stunning overlooks, but unfortunately darkness caught up to me quickly and I would have to miss it this time.

Image

Afterwards I headed northwest to Rapid City and the Wyoming border. Mt. Rushmore in Black Hills National Forest was close by but again, not on my itinerary this trip. An unexpected pass-through was Sturgis just before the border, with various motorcycle and related ads on billboards.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)
Garmin GPS Track - Sage Creek Rim Road Badlands NP (large file)

September 7 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:51 am, edited 3 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Fri Oct 23, 2009 11:57 pm

Day 5 - September 8

On this day, bad weather finally caught up to me. But I decided to drive up to Devils Tower National Monument anyways and give it peek. On the way there a fine mist started to fall and it got dramatically colder, enough for trackpants and a sweatshirt.

Image


When I got there, the mist gave the tower an eerie feeling, sometimes visible, sometimes shrouded by a thick fog.

Image Image Image


I read about how the tower was formed, since its the only such outcropping of rock for hundreds of miles. It seems that millions (billions?) of years ago, a massive amount of magma (molten rock) thrust itself up towards the Earth's surface from deep down, but it never broke through. Basically a failed volcano. Over the millennia, erosion took away the softer earth around the volcanic rock and Devils Tower is what is left.

As I headed west towards Idaho, the weather cleared up nicely and I found myself driving through Bighorn National Forest and the Bighorn Mountains which are a sister range of the Rockies.

Image


I used my Garmin GPS and looked for some forest roads that would take me away from the pavement, and return me back to the pavement further west. The first one ended up being an easy gravel road but with some nice views at various clearings.

The second one was more interesting but had a dead end. There were a few turnoffs and I probably missed the one I needed to take. Bighorn is a very nice area of Wyoming and would definitely warrant a lot more exploration and camping.

Image Image

Image Image


US 15, it drops into Ten Sleep Canyon as it leaves Bighorn NF. As I was descending into the canyon I saw a gravel road on the opposite side (to my left) of the canyon that looked interesting. Using my GPS I realized it was Old Hwy 15 and parallels the paved road all the way down and out of the NF.

Totally miffed at myself for having missed it at the top. I decided to turn onto it at the bottom, take it back up, and then take 15 back down again! I'm glad I did as there were some spectacular views all along Old Hwy 15.

Image Image

Image


The next major landmark on the way to Idaho was Wind River Canyon. This one came up unexpectedly as all I saw in the distance was what seemed like a wall with no way through (Please excuse the blurry pictures, it was getting late in the day and the exposures were long).

Image Image


But then as I got closer, a sharp cut started to appear and it was apparent that this is where the road was going to go. The road follows the Wind River closely and exits to the south at the Boysen Reservoir.

Image Image Image


As darkness came I started to regret that I was not even able to get to the Grand Tetons before nightfall. I knew from when I started planning this that I was going to pass by Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks at night, or at least late in the day. This area has so much to offer that it warrants a dedicated trip, so for my planned destination of Utah, they would have to be missed this time around.

One last incident this day was encountering very heavy construction through Teton National Forest. As I was approaching, the traffic warning signs were flashing so I tuned into the AM info station. The road was completely closed to 2-way traffic all night. What they do is provide a "guide car" which takes a column of vehicles (including construction vehicles) through the zone. The problem is that you have to wait for the guide car to come back (bringing opposing traffic through) and that could be as much as 2 hrs the radio said! Luckily, my wait was only 20 minutes and off we went.

Garmin GPS Track (large file)
Garmin GPS Track - Side routes - Bighorn NF (large file)

September 8 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:53 am, edited 2 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Oct 24, 2009 12:04 am

Day 6 - September 9 - Part 1

So why Idaho you may ask? The story goes back a few years.

There used to be a magazine called "Truckin's SUV" which is since defunct. I started reading it as I was planning to get my original (blue) Trailblazer. I guess that is the genesis of my "expedition/exploration" bug as they tried to include an offroad adventure in every issue. The December 2001 issue had a write up of what is called "Little Switzerland" in East-Central Idaho.

It intrigued me at the time because it helped me realize that it wasn't only Colorado that had the Rocky Mountains, they must of course pass through other states as they make their way north to Canada. Plus the magazine had pictures of river crossings, remote 2-track trails, everything that was exotic to me at the time.

Luckily I kept the magazine stored away and when this trip was taking shape, I dug it out and decided to work Idaho into my itinerary during my northern route going west.

During my research I decided to do a bit of online searching to see if there was a guide for the area similar to the great Peter Massey books I used for my Colorado trip 2 years ago. Luckily there is a guide by a local brother & sister, the Howard's, that is on par with the Massey books ... Backcountry Roads - Idaho. Leland Howard is a professional photography so the imagery in their book is spectacular. The guiding and GPS info is not as detailed as in the Massey books but still more than acceptable.

I ordered this book and picked it up at my mailbox in Niagara Falls on day 1 of this trip. Reading through it makes me want to come back to the very scenic and very interesting state of Idaho!

Heading north out of Idaho Falls, I first crossed a wide basin that is situated in front of the Rocky Mountains. This basin along with how the mountain ranges I was heading to are situated prompts the writers to say this:
"Gas stations are distant from the expedition starting points. There is no cellphone coverage."

Image Image


Another interesting fact about this area is that it qualifies as a "cold desert", receiving most of its moisture in the form of snow during the winter months. It definitely looked very dry when I was there.

My goal for this day was to head north into the mountains, cross 3 ranges which come down like fingers with flats between them, and then head south to Twin Falls, ID. The first was the Lemhi Range and the historic Charcoal Kilns, page 187 of the book. To get to the Kilns you take one of a multitude of roads and tracks that crisscross the flat, this is where the book comes in handy as it has exact mileage and GPS coordinates. Crossing the flats here always means that you will probably encounter cattle herds. The trick is to drive through slowly and honk the horn if necessary.

Image Image Image


Image


The charcoal kilns are on the eastern edge of the Targhee National Forest. There is a small parking lot with some historical information and a water well, but I am not sure if it is potable water. The book explains that 16 kilns were built in 1883, only 3 remain. They were designed to process the local wood into charcoal, that would then be used at the nearby Viola lead mine's smelter.

Image Image

Image Image


My next destination was Spring Mountain Canyon and the pass road that would take me over the Lemhi mountain range. The road tops out at 10,007 feet near Big Windy Peak and is the highest road elevation described in the book, on page 181.

To get to the start of the trail, I decided to use my GPS and cut across the flat going north instead of backtracking all the way back to the main road. After opening and closing a couple of gates (as requested by the National Forest signs), I stopped to take a picture of where I came from. You can make out the long, lonely track all the way back to the last hill. The mud is from a couple wet areas of the track, but it was mostly dry going.

Image

At the point where I picked up the route from the book, I stopped to talk to a couple who were out hunting Pronghorn Antelope in the NF. Although all I saw were cattle, the gentlemen said that he had spotted a couple of bucks with his high powered binoculars, but they were really waiting for dusk when they come out in the open more.

Addendum from Day 4
Here are the Wiki links to my other wildlife mentions: Prairie Dog, Bighorn Sheep, Bison.


The Spring Mountain Canyon trail started up the mountain right away, and it got extremely rocky and bumpy right away too! It was definitely slow going all the way up to the pass. In fact, the book warns the reader about this as well. The trail got very scenic after clearing the tree line and reminded me of the great trails in Colorado.

Image Image

Image Image


Continued ...

Day 6 - September 9 - Part 2

Image


Challis National Forest is right next to Targhee, so as soon as you crest the pass and start down, your are in Challis. There were a couple of tricky spots in terms of navigation as the main trail down was not immediately evident. But after a couple of false starts, I got on the main one and headed down to the next flat. Going down was a little better then going up, but still pretty bumpy!

Image Image


The next destination required me to go a bit more north in the flat and then west into the Lost River Range, page 169 in the book. This is where it all started as the original SUV magazine's article described the Upper Pahsimeroi river and the foothills of the Lost River Range of mountains. The reason this area has a nickname of "Little Switzerland" is because bunched together in this range are 7 of Idaho's 9 peaks over 12,000 feet. The trail (as described in the book) takes you right up close to this concentration of peaks.

Unfortunately, I misjudged the amount of daylight I had left so when I got to the turn off to head south towards the river and Borah & Leatherman Peaks, I made a judgement call to not go. Going that way would require a return trip back to this turn-off spot in order to then head over the pass to come out at the next flat. Even though this pass road was described as drivable 2wd road, I didn't want to try it in the dark.

Image Image

Image Image


As I headed towards Doublespring Pass over the Lost River Range, I pulled off on a side trail to get some sunset pictures. I was still learning the intricacies of the Nikon D200 so some results were better than others.

As I crested the pass and started down, I noticed some movement to my left far in the distance. A short while later I noticed what it was. Two Pronghorns were running in parallel to my Trailblazer, about 400 yards away. When I stopped to take pictures, they stopped. When I started up, they galloped along, it was pretty strange. Luckily the gravel road was very smooth here and I could truck along at a pretty good pace.

Image Image Image


Even though it was dusk and getting pretty dark, I decided to get out my 500mm lens and try to snap a few shots (it needs a lot of light). These are the least blurry.

Image Image


I finally got out to the Highway 93 just before it got totally dark. And therefore I had to cut my original plan short by 1/3. I was going to take Trail Creek Road (page 205 in the book) over the last "finger", the Pioneer Mountains, come out at Ketchum, and then drive south to Twin Falls. And even thought this graded gravel road was definitely rated as 2wd, I didn't see a point trying it in the dark, even with my PIAA's operational.

Ahh, forgot to mention that I had used the 4 PIAA long range lights on the Safari rack a few times up till now. You can see them uncovered in one of the pictures above. On a side note, back on day 7 after leaving Badlands NP, and on this night, driving to Twin Falls, they definitely saved my skin with wildlife crossing the road.

I always wondered if they would be effective since they are on the smaller side (I like how they fit well with the height of the rack). I am pleased to report that after I aimed them to light up ahead of me longer than the low-beams, but shorter than the high-beams, they are outstanding. In both instances some kind of deer bolted across the road at a point that would have been difficult to see with even the high beams. With the PIAA's, I was able to see the deer and slow down in time to avoid any carnage. More in another thread ... soon.


Garmin GPS Track (large file)
Garmin GPS Track - Spring Mountain Canyon - Targhee NF (large file)

September 9 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 1:59 am, edited 3 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Oct 24, 2009 12:10 am

Day 7 - September 10

This day was a long travel day south, through the Great Basin and into Las Vegas.

First, I would like to re-iterate how awesome and interesting Idaho was. Not that Nevada-Arizona-Utah are not going to be outstanding, but Idaho was a total surprise once I got there. I would love to go back. OK, now onto the day's drive.

You enter the Great Basin area shortly after leaving Twin Falls, ID. First over some small hills, and then flat, straight, flat, straight, etc. etc. The saving grace is that there is always something interesting to look at in the distance.

Image Image Image


The temperature climbed into the 90s very quickly (sign of things to come) but my temps remained at good levels with the transmission cooler and deep pan working excellently. One casualty of the hot temperatures however was my windshield. A rock must have hit it somewhere on the trip and when it got into the 90s it started to crack.

Oh, did I mention that the road was flat and straight? :hahano: :hahano: :hahano:

Image Image Image


A few times the road gets closer to the mountain ranges that are for the most part, off in the distance.

Image Image


As I got further south, the distance between the ranges to the East and West became less. I was still quite a ways from Vegas when it started to get darker so I stopped and uncovered the PIAA driving lights. They definitely came in handy again on these long and straight roads. I was also glad I used them because towards the very end, the road borders the Desert National Wildlife Range where the signs constantly remind drivers to watch for crossing deer.

Image Image


And then finally I turned onto Interstate 15 which has a great descent into Vegas, particularly at night. I planned a stop before checking into the hotel and that was to a car wash. The Trailblazer was quite muddy and dusty from the past couple of days. Plus I had to re-arrange a few things inside to make it easier at the hotel.


Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 10 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 2:03 am, edited 3 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:23 pm

Days 8 & 9 - September 11 & 12 - The Lost Days

:o :o :duh: Oh the shame :duh: :o :o

Warning, this post has no offroad value whatsoever.

Image


So I arrived in Vegas the night of September 10th with big plans. But first I had to find an all-night car wash to get rid of all the mud and dust from the past 10 days, and to re-arrange some items in the back so that it would be easy to check into the hotel.

Then I headed up Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip) towards my hotel. What I didn't anticipate is that there would be 2 separate areas of road construction (they obviously work during the night) which made a 10 minute drive into a 1 hour painful crawl. Well, at least I got some nice shout-outs from people admiring the Trailblazer.

Image


When I finally arrived at the Flamingo, I ended up tipping the valet so that he would park the truck right in front of the entrance. Plus with the Safari rack, he said it would probably not be able to make it into the garage.
:duh: Stupid me, I ended up not getting a picture of it sitting in front of the entrance. :duh:

So what were my big plans? Well, because of past visits, and the economic downturn (Vegas needs visitors!), I was able to get 3 nights for free at the Flamingo. So I was going to use this as my base to go explore places around the area. Things on my list were Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon at Tuweep as a start.

I should have taken the construction as a warning as several things started to make these 2 days in Vegas the Lost Days, in terms of offroading that is. I go to check in and their room booking inventory system is down. So thats another hour and a half in line waiting to check in. So to speed things up they are scrambling and offer me a better room for the 1st night and $50 credit ... but I would have to switch rooms the next morning. I didn't want to wait anymore so I accepted.

Well now that I was here, I wasn't going to just go to sleep so I decided to walk across the street to my old stomping grounds, Caesar's Palace.

Image


I make a bee-line over to the Seahorse Lounge where my favorite bartender is the supervisor and we catch up on old times over several Martinis. Needless to say it was a long night.

Image


Next morning (Day 8) I have to transfer rooms so there goes half the day. I decide to use the rest of the day to recover a bit and plan for the next day where I wanted to head out to Death Valley. At night I decided to head over the Caesar's again for a couple of drinks and bit of time at the tables.

Image


Big mistake #1. Instead of Martinis I start up on Mojitos, my bartender makes killer ones. I then take my pre-planned gaming budget to the tables and the worst thing happens. I don't start to win right away, but I don't lose right away either. Six hours later I stumble back to the Flamingo, pretty much breaking even, but now its 5 in the morning! :bonk:

I somehow wake up at a decent hour on Day 9 and scramble to get ready for Death Valley. Oh, did I mention that Vegas was experiencing an unseasonable heat wave? Temperatures were reaching 105 for the past week and there was no let up in sight. They should have been in the high 80s this time of year.

So it dawns on me that I should at least check the temps in Death Valley. I go online and the forecast was for 140! At this time what is left of my better judgement kicks in and I decide to not take a chance with a solo trip to Death Valley in 140 degree weather. I think a bit about heading over to Tuweep and the Grand Canyon, but looking at the maps I see that there are over 150 miles offroad through varying levels of graded gravel and dirt road. I decide that it is too late in the day for that and that a trip out to the nearby Red Rock Canyon would be a better choice. OK, let me go grab lunch first.

Image


Big mistake #2. I head down to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville right in the Flamingo. The food was great, but the Margarita's were outstanding! All six of them. :bonk: Well, there goes my afternoon trip out to Red Rock Canyon. I wake up later that evening and head over to Caesar's again for a small dinner. The rest as they say "will stay in Vegas".

So that is how I ended up with 2 days of my Big Western Trip with absolutely no offroading whatsoever. Oh, and I didn't end up even taking any pictures. OK everybody, feel free to let me have it. :laugh: :raspberry :laugh:
Last edited by AlekG on Fri Feb 26, 2021 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by HARDTRAILZ » Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:12 pm

Cant really let you have it, as you have done so well with the trip so far and I am jealous in the fact tht you got 2 days in Vegas to enjoy. You coulda popped some pics is the only real complaint I can voice.
I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone...but
they've always worked for me.
User avatar
HARDTRAILZ
Moderator
 
Posts: 6342
Joined: Sat Sep 12, 2009 1:49 am
Location: IN, Batesville
Name: Kyle
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Extreme Offroader

by AlekG » Sun Oct 25, 2009 1:44 pm

Day 10 - September 13

OK, so I blew it in regards to offroad adventure around Vegas. I would have really liked to have gone to Death Valley and seen The Racetrack with the moving rocks, or the Valley of Fire, or Mount Charleston.

So this day I decided to at least go visit Red Rock Canyon which is just outside of Las Vegas.

Image


The temperatures were still into the 100s so even though Red Rock Canyon is very close to the city and there is usually quite a few tourists there, I made sure I had plenty of liquids with me and lots of sun protection.

With clear skies above, the colors in the canyon were incredible. Reds, oranges, yellows, greens, browns ...

Image Image Image


Red Rock Canyon seems to have something for everyone, even offroaders although ATVs are not allowed (along with driving off marked roads). The Scenic Drive loop road is paved but very nice as it takes you up close to the rocks, then higher in elevation to overlook the entire area, then back down into the flat parts. There are many parking areas that allow for great pictures as well as hiking into the rocks. The trails have varying levels of difficulty and length, plus there is rock climbing allowed in certain areas for those so inclined.

About half way through is a turn off to Rocky Gap Road. It starts as a graded gravel road that leads to some nice shady picnic areas. Past that it is marked as a high clearance 4x4 road. I followed a Pink Jeep Tours vehicle up into the mountains and at a turn, he let me pass as they were going slowly to allow for pictures I guess. I asked the driver/tour guide wether the trail was a dead end. He indicated that their tour turns around soon but that the trail itself continues on, but deteriorates. He also said that if I used my GPS I could probably follow it all the way to Pahrump on the California border.

Later that evening I took a look at Google and my GPS Topo maps. Even though the trail is not marked on Google, using the satellite images you can see that it does make its way to Lovell Canyon Road, which leads to Lovell Summit road, which ends up in Pahrump. That would have been an interesting drive through Toiyabe National Forest but unfortunately, not on this trip.

After reaching where the trail becomes quite rocky, I decided to turn around and take some pictures at what looked like a nice back country camping area.

Image Image Image


As I drove along the back half of the Scenic Road, I tried to get some pictures of the western mountains (Bridge Mt, Mt. Wilson) as the sun was starting to set behind them. And finally at the exit to Red Rock Canyon, there is another great overlook.

Image Image


I then headed back into Vegas, north-east through Arizona, and into southern Utah, all the while hoping that the weather would hold up as the next day was going to be a big one, something that I had been looking forward to for many years. :woot: :woohoo: :woot:


Garmin GPS Track (large file)
Garmin GPS Track - Red Rock Canyon NCA (large file)

September 13 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 2:04 am, edited 2 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:05 am

Day 11 - September 14

This is the day I have been waiting/planning for, but first a little background. When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to have a cool Dad that would occasionally take me on business trips (conventions, seminars, etc.) with him to all parts of the U.S.A and Canada.

One of those early trips was to a convention in Phoenix. This was our first time out west so we combined a drive to Las Vegas with a stop at the Grand Canyon South Rim. For those of you who have been there you know that it is basically impossible to put into words.

Many years later, when I had my own business and I was headed out to Las Vegas for the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), I invited my Dad along to retrace our earlier route. However, this time I decided to check out the more remote North Rim of the Grand Canyon. At the time, I thought it was "way cool" because it was not as "touristy" as the South Rim, and you were able to walk out to areas that were much closer to the canyon walls.

Little did I know at the time that there was another access point to the Canyon, one that only offroaders or expeditionists would be interested in due to its remoteness and vehicle requirements.

Image


So on this day I set out to that challenging area of Grand Canyon National Park called Tuweep and the Toroweap Overlook. Here is some advice from their website:
No one should attempt the trip without ample preparation and knowledge of the hazards associated with remote desert travel. Travelers should carry extra WATER, FOOD, and GASOLINE; GOOD TIRES including at least one USABLE SPARE; and PARTS and TOOLS to handle vehicle and tire repairs.


And just to underscore this warning, I found this press release on the National Parks Services site. It seems that just a week after I was at Tuweep, a hiker had an accident on the treacherous and dangerous Lava Falls Hiking route which descends 2500 feet from rim to river in a distance of just under 2 miles.

That morning I headed out to the BLM office in St. George to pick up a detailed map of this area of Arizona. I also filled my 2 Scepter gas cans, and checked the tires. My plan was to use the 90 mile Main Street Route for the trip there, and the shorter 60 mile Clayhole Route for the trip back to pavement.

Image Image Image


Initially the driving was slower than I liked it as the graded gravel road was terribly washboarded. I ended up trying to drive on the softer parts of the road which was usually down the middle. At one point it looked like rain was coming in from the North which worried me a bit, many areas on this route become impassible with wet weather. Luckily, it stayed away. After a while the road got softer and clay based and I passed some abandoned homesteads.

The next stop was the Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse. It has been beautifully renovated after some asshat vandals almost burned it to the ground some years back. There was a lot of interesting information inside.

Image Image


The road then took me up and around Mt. Trumbull. A really nice drive with some great overlooks. I ran into a Forestry Dept. controlled burn on the slopes which was interesting.

Image Image Image


There was plenty of the tall plant growing after the fire. I remember seeing a picture and write up of this plant somewhere but I cannot find it now. If anyone knows, please chime in. On the slope down there was plenty of Prickly Pear Cactus. I read that the fruit on that cactus is edible, but I'm no Survivorman so I left it alone.

After more driving you enter Grand Canyon NP with its ranger station right next to the road. There is a pit toilet and some information to read. One prominent sight warns of Sand Bogs along the road to the rim.

Image

These are areas of very soft and deep sand. The notice asks drivers to NOT circumvent them by going off the track, but to slowly and carefully plow through them, preferably in low gear. I thought about airing down but didn't. A couple did feel quite deep but as long as I kept moving, there was no problem.

Shortly after the picture above, the terrain changes to barren rock with a few tricky climbs but nothing too radical. The exposed rock continues all the way to the Tuweep overlook parking area.

Image

As I arrived, another vehicle was leaving so I got the place all to myself. It was windy but also eerily quiet. Once you shut the engine off you get the sense that there is no human around for thousands of miles, even though you will see that it is not the case.

Now, I am not particularly afraid of heights, but a sheer 3000 foot drop I do respect! So here are some pictures from as close as I dared to venture to the rim. To get a picture of me with an interesting background, I wedged myself between some rocks that were pretty close to the edge.

Image Image

Image Image Image


I then got out my 500mm lens and tried to see if I could capture any wildlife. No luck there but I did get a couple of shots of a rafting trip down on the Colorado River.

Image Image Image


I then headed back north to get to pavement, the Arizona-Utah border, and ultimately to Cedar City Utah. Was it as awesome as I dreamed it would be?

Image

Absolutely! And more! The pictures only give one sense of this narrow area of the Grand Canyon. The sounds (and quiet), the smells, driving 150 miles away from civilization, it all ads up to an unforgettable experience.


Garmin GPS Track (large file)
Garmin GPS Track - Grand Canyon NP - Tuweep Overlook (large file)

September 14 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 2:20 am, edited 5 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by MrSmithsTB » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:18 am

Very awe inspiring trip! Great photographs. I just gotta ask, where did you purchase your fender flares? Exactly what I've been looking for.
No longer a 360 owner, but you can't get rid of me "stranger in a strange land"
TB BUILD
User avatar
MrSmithsTB
Veteran
 
Posts: 1756
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2009 2:28 pm
Location: EHT, NJ
Name: Bob
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Other GMT360/370
DriveTrain: AWD w/ G80
Rank: Offroad Rated

by teebes » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:27 am

MrSmithsTB wrote:Very awe inspiring trip! Great photographs.


+1

Great write up, Alek! BTW, you inspired me to look up/use the thumbnail feature via photobucket :coffee2:
User avatar
teebes
Founder
 
Posts: 1052
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:05 am
Location: CA, San Diego
Name: Teebes
Vehicle Year: 2002
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:05 am

teebes wrote:
MrSmithsTB wrote:Very awe inspiring trip! Great photographs.


+1

Great write up, Alek! BTW, you inspired me to look up/use the thumbnail feature via photobucket :coffee2:


Thanks! Took me a while to realize that I didn't have to make my own thumbnails when using PhotoBucket :idea: :oops: :idea:
It was just staring at me all this time.

AG



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by Philberto » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:11 am

Amazing journal of your trip, Alek. I'm very inspired by your journey, and may take that route from Pahrump through Red Rock Canyon one of these days after proper preparation. I never knew Idaho was so great, and I really need to track down that BackCountry roads book one of these days. Thanks for the report, and keep on keepin' on. :drool3:
My Build Thread | 2006 Trailblazer LS Desert Camping Edition **SOLD**
2013 Nissan Xterra S "ReXterra"
User avatar
Philberto
Lifer
 
Posts: 2046
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:30 pm
Location: CA, Oxnard
Name: Philip Cruz
Vehicle Year: Other
Vehicle: Other Vehicle
DriveTrain: 4WD
Rank: Offroad Rated

by AlekG » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:12 am

MrSmithsTB wrote:Very awe inspiring trip! Great photographs. I just gotta ask, where did you purchase your fender flares? Exactly what I've been looking for.


The flares are by ATS. I believe I got them through Summit Racing but I can't be sure.

AG



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by AlekG » Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:13 am

Day 12 - September 15

After my outstanding day at the Grand Canyon and Tuweep Overlook, this day was about getting closer to Utah's canyons.

The plan was to head north to Salina which would be my starting point for the next day's foray towards the San Rafael Swell. I chose Salina because the next town west of it is Green River, 100 miles away and too far past the starting point of the trails I chose.

I did have time to incorporate an offroad trail today on the way north so I read through my Peter Massey Utah Backcountry Adventures book and chose the Richfield Pioneer Road on page 509. It is rated at an easy 2 (on a scale of 10) with a scenic rating of 9 and a driving time of 3.5 hours.

The weather this day started out great but unfortunately grew worse as I travelled north along the eastern edge of The Great Basin to the point where I hit some pretty heavy showers going over the mountains and Fishlake National Forest.

Image Image Image


It seemed to be looking up by the time I got to Richmond which is the starting point of the trail so I headed up into the red hills hoping that the weather would hold up. Unfortunately as I got to the top of the first crest I could see heavy rains straight ahead. I stopped to consider this for a bit as the trail is that typical Utah red clay dirt, which turns into heavy, gooey, slippery mud when wet. What finally convinced me was a column of about 10 ATVs heading down back into Richmond (where I came from) completely plastered with red mud, head to toe. So I decided to play it safe and turned around.

Image

As I was heading back down even more ATVs passed me. What was the deal :confused: ? Well, it seems that Richmond is ATV central in Utah that time of year as the 275-mile-long Paiute ATV Trail (PATVT) passes through it ... AND ... the Rocky Mountain ATV Jamboree was in full session!

Well, I gassed up and continued north to Salida. That evening I had a really good Mexican dinner in the restaurant right across from the Super-8 where I was staying. This is also where I spotted the blue Ascender - see picture way back on Day 1.


Garmin GPS Track (large file)

September 15 Google Map
Last edited by AlekG on Thu Mar 25, 2021 2:22 am, edited 2 times in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

by Zero » Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:07 pm

that is an amazing trip! id love to try to plan on joining ya next year bud!
Zero
Veteran
 
Posts: 1048
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2009 5:07 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA / Toronto, ON
Name: Brendan
Vehicle Year: 2005
Vehicle: Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ G80
Rank: Offroad Rated

by cowboy63645 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:50 pm

Wait, did I miss something or are you doing this trip again?! I would love to join in on the action after a few more mods are dont to the ol TB!
cowboy63645
Member
 
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:46 am
Location: Southeast, MO
Vehicle Year: 2002
Vehicle: Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT
DriveTrain: 4WD

by AlekG » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:03 pm

cowboy63645 wrote:Wait, did I miss something or are you doing this trip again?! I would love to join in on the action after a few more mods are dont to the ol TB!


Nothing definite, but I think Zero is referring to my Toronto to Colorado and Back trip 2 years ago. I was supposed to do this one (Utah) last year but it had to be delayed. So next year I need to top this one :roll: :lol: :roll: I guess its obvious, I need to head to California and meet up with Roadie again!

AG
Last edited by AlekG on Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.



|| Documenting and sharing overland travels ||
|| adventures and expeditions ||
|| Trailblazer modifications ||
User avatar
AlekG
Off-Roader
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:29 pm
Location: Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
Name: Alek
Vehicle Year: 2006
Vehicle: Chevrolet TrailBlazer
DriveTrain: 4WD w/ Aftermarket Locker
Rank: Expedition Rated

Next

Return to Trail Rides / Trips

cron