Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Tripsor Overcoming Pavement Aversion Syndrome Think back to a time when you were young and innocent—long before you learned it was sinful for an overlander to enjoy driving a paved road. Go back…before roof tents, onboard showers, and moving dots on mapping apps; back to a time where “county highway” could mean anything from divided four-lane to poorly maintained dirt. Remember when you’d pick a direction and let the road carry you away, with little more than your wits and a bag of truck stop munchies to see you through?… Link: Living Overland
OXW17Overland Has Evolved Bless me khakis for I have wandered. It has been two Expos since my last confession. You might have noticed the complete lack of content from the 2016 show, save for a passing mention of walking five miles in last May’s 52 Hike Challenge update. The fact is, as good as it was to catch up with friends in Mormon Puddle last year, I was left feeling quite “meh.” Now that’s not a reflection on the show itself, nor the hard work and excellent job the Hansons and their team do to make every Overland Expo happen—I have nothing but love and respect for them and their efforts. No, it was directed at the overland-o-sphere in general: I lost faith in the overland industry’s willingness to evolve and grow, and I’d become jaded against the overland market’s unwillingness to mature out of rampant segregation—created by both the titanium-clad and the budget-minded alike. So much preaching of how this community of adventure-seekers was different, bound together by our common interests; but the actions spoke louder. The walls built by so many, to mock or often shun anything that was “too expensive,” or “too cheap,” or “too heavy,” or “too minimalistic” said volumes. Weren’t we supposed to be sharing libations and learning from our differences? I mean, we all just want to travel by any means possible, right? Those walls finally crumbled this year. Whether caused by overlanding hitting the mainstream, or the new venue reaccommodating elites amongst the commoners at random (I like to think that was a deliberate stroke of genius by Roseann), the end result was the same: we all felt like equals. No booth, no table, and no camp felt unapproachable; all parts of the show felt warm and welcoming. I sat in a half-million-dollar camper chatting up the owner for advice on a clapped-out budget build. I shared a beer with a fellow gearhead in a $2,000 Subaru, and wasn’t thought snobbish or out-of-touch because I apply lessons learned from Land Rover. It was a reoccurring theme through each encounter from Wednesday’s Gear+Beer event until our departure Sunday evening. I was reluctant to attend, but I’m glad I put aside doubt and showed up for what became the best Overland Expo yet. Three more things stood out at the show: Overland has indeed hit mainstream. Yakima released their own line of rooftents, Nissan sees an emerging opportunity to legitimize their truck line, and traditionally offroad/racing types are pushing the comfort and endurance aspects…
Bulldust & Bad MapsRoutefinding for Hema Maps on El Camino del Diablo It was a questionable decision, running the Arizona border along Mexico in an antiquated truck with no support vehicle. A brand-new suspension had been fitted, and an extra 300 pounds of fatman-and-iron packed into the passenger side, but our little Hema Maps BJ-74 Land Cruiser stubbornly insisted on holding it’s five-degree lean to the driver’s side. The air conditioner sputters, laughs at us, then blasts hot air into the cabin. Chris and I roll down from the cool air of central Arizona’s highlands with the windows wide open. The adventure begins in the middle of Phoenix—a route declared “quickest” by Siri insists we exit the interstate in the ghetto, then brave three miles of surface streets to reach the BLM Field Office. A permit is required to traverse El Camino del Diablo. To obtain the permit, one must show up in person. From the eighth floor of a downtown high-rise a video drones on about not touching bombs, and the dangers of remote desert travel. Curiously efficient window architecture on the tower across the street prevents the summer sun from baking through the glass. My thoughts are interrupted by a disinterested federal rep as he hands over several pages of forms. I read through, then sign away any and all rights to sue the government if I’m kidnapped, injured, lasered, exploded, or a Predator drone falls from the sky and crashes onto the truck. With our lives signed away we flee the city, classic rock blaring from a set of phone-powered portable speakers as Highway 85 leads us south through an unseasonably green Sonoran. The desert heat is more humid than expected, but the freedom of this forsaken two-lane makes the journey worthwhile…even in our little tin oven. Ajo. We giggle at the potential pronunciations of the town’s name until the square rolls into view. It’s worth at least a short stop. The old Spanish architecture of covered walkways connects a derelict train depot with a converted mission, all surrounding a central park that’s in desperate need of a little rain. Dueling cameras round the plaza snapping away with abandon before we’re back in the truck. Tempting as the little café looks it’s not on the agenda—there’s a long drive ahead, and we have an unfortunately tight schedule to keep. The beauty of wide-open desert is broken by a single ominous sign at the intersection of two dirt roads, this must be the track. I hop out for a closer shot when the stillness is suddenly interrupted…
Destinations: Poncho HouseA side hike into ancient history with the Diné. The unmolested desert stretched out before us without so much as a bent branch or dimpled dune to hint at the correct course. We’d only been making our way through the sand and shrubs for an hour, but the silence and isolation made it feel like days. A combination of dead reckoning and a flashing dot on the GPS were keeping us close to the old two-track trail, which had been wiped clear by last winter’s brutal storms. Finally a landmark, the southernmost point of Tséyík’áán (Comb Ridge) jutting up on the horizon. Moving map technology is neat…when it works. Cautiously we made our way down the cliffs, breaking ground on a new trail to reach the valley floor through the most stable looking notch. At the bottom an old corral clearly marks the start of the foot trail, and off we set for the mile-plus hike up Chinle Creek. As we approached a bend in the canyon I looked up, and looming overhead, a massive citadel clinging to an alcove in the cliff wall. Planning a tour of Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii (Monument Valley) or Tséyi’ (Canyon de Chelly)? Ask your guide to include a stop off the beaten path to explore this must-visit destination. Information on (mandatory) guide services in reservation lands can be found at discovernavajo.com. Originally licensed to American Adventurist for publishing on May 11th, 2016.…
Mojave WanderlustSolitude on the Beaten Path Windows down. Sunroof open. Summer air rushes through the cabin. Tires screech in protest as they fight against another turn they’re simply not designed for. The engine roars back up through the power band, and the heavy beast remembers what continent it was born on as it catapults out of another curve. Ulysses is happy today, she wants to run. A glance in the mirror before I enter the next turn reveals no sign of the stock Discovery 3 running with us, either I’m hauling ass or he’s dragging it. I glance at the speedometer—it’s me. 33-inch mud terrains wail in anguish once more as they’re pushed to the edge of traction. I push the accelerator down farther and smile with a joy that only comes from driving a slow car fast. The Escape I’m relieved the event is over. Don’t get me wrong, I love the community and visiting with the people that bring it together, I just wasn’t wired for large gatherings in fixed locations. Three days is just about right, then it’s time for my cure: an equal number of days wandering. Soaring. Eastbound above the smog along Rim of the World Highway. Chris catches up as I roll to a stop next to the old, long abandoned Cliffhanger. I’ve known him since I was 14, but never would I have guessed he’d want to race down this twisted tarmac, hopping from tavern to tavern, on a never-ending quest to find the world’s best tuna melt. So go our conversations and revelations over a pint at the first of two bars in the entire town of Crestline. We hit the next bar, so we can say we’ve hit every bar in town—tuna melt ordered, and we watch as the attractive brunette behind the bar grabs a muddler and sets about making a proper mojito. She’s lived here her entire life. She owns the place. It dawns on Chris what she’s making for me. He orders one too, and she skips through the back door again for another bundle of fresh-picked mint from the garden. The tuna melt arrives, and all is right with the world. Conversations with more of the locals reveal the location of an “edge of the world” campsite just outside town. The view on arrival does not disappoint, not a bad end to the first (half) day. With Abandon Rounding the next bend I’m blinded by the full force of the rising sun.…
Relics: The Richardson HomesteadIt’s amazing what you can find just off the highway. Highways have been standardized to keep the flow of traffic moving swiftly and smoothly onward. White lines flash by in time with the gentle hum of the motor, yellow lines keep you subconsciously floating down the right side of the tarmac, and the repetitive consistency brings on a state of semi-hypnosis. Most of the time the system works, commuters arrive safely, and travelers continue on oblivious to the treasures that might be hidden over the edge of the manicured medians. Over one such edge, on the eastbound side of Arizona Highway 68 as it winds through Union Pass, rests a crumbling gravel ramp. At the end of that ramp stands a nondescript ADOT gate—standard issue, except that this gate is unlocked, and what’s left of the road beyond is open to the public. At the bottom of the hill lies the abandoned Old Kingman Highway, and not far beyond that the ruins of an unnamed town homesteaded by Jonathan Draper Richardson and his family. Originally licensed to American Adventurist for publishing on May 11th, 2016.…
Desert Rendezvous Last month we rolled out to southern California for American Adventurist’s annual Desert Rendezvous event. This time late February was chosen for the event, and with highs in the low 90s the change was much appreciated. Activities were as we’ve come to expect from an AAV event: smaller groups out exploring the area by day, followed by evenings filled with good food, great company, and plenty of cold beer. On Saturday, the volunteer clean-up removed 3.3 tons of trash from the desert…not counting the trash from DRV shenanigans. I enjoy catching up with old friends, making new ones, and partying in the desert for a good cause, but as always my main purpose for making the trek is the extra few days of wandering we get to enjoy taking the long way home. After an obligatory stop at my favorite desert taco stand, it was time to find a sunrise view. Salton View The Salton Sea Standard Oil   Desert Center Bill’s Town The U.S.-California Border Dinner Break…
Four Corners, Four DaysWhen they offer to pay wandering fuel, take the job. It amazes me the lengths a person will go for that extra mile-per-hour. Even more surprising is how long it takes some folks to figure out that I’m going slower than they are, and maybe just maybe they should use that wide-open passing lane to, you know, pass… Mile twelve-hundred-and-eleventy-something of my new employ with Ye Olde Overland Shipping Company. No sooner do I get one trailer disconnected and another is hooked up—when Adventure Trailers offers to cover your fuel for a long weekend of wandering, if you can get a trailer to Durango by morning, it’s tough to say no. It’s nearly 8pm, and the lingering summer sun is closer than it appears. In spite of the tailgating, slow-to-pass speed demons, I’ve safely traversed Navajo territory with a nicely apportioned Horizon trailer silently in tow. The glow of Farmington, New Mexico is dead ahead. It’s midnight. I have Motel 6. I’m going to bed. Running late. Arriving early. The drive time into Colorado is a lot shorter than I imagined. The trailer delivery went off without a hitch (sorry, couldn’t resist). Mission accomplished, now it’s time to satisfy that wanderlust. That all too familiar Land Rover “ding” fills the cabin as I’m rounding the tight curves of the Million Dollar Highway somewhere above Silverton, and I glance down to find my speed reading zero. Speed pops up on a digital readout, intermittently, after a few button presses on the ScanGauge—much more helpful than an orange “check engine” light and a dead gauge. A check of the error code shows a wheel speed sensor is on the fritz, the Discovery is just old enough to not care so I press onward. It’s interesting how the things we stop and see or choose to skip can change when traveling solo. Without my wife’s love of old-fashioned trains and small towns to keep me company, Silverton just doesn’t have the same hold. After a brief lunch and an Americano in hand I’m anxious to hit the road. Ophir Pass appears quickly out of Silverton, and I’m reminded of that cliff-side gnome village spotted during the only other visit I’ve made to the San Juans. I’ve never been over 10,000 feet, at least not for any length of time. Slowly up the winding road toward the pass, ever cautious for signs of acute mountain sickness. Instead of the anticipated headache and dizziness the low pressure of altitude clears my sinuses more quickly than any pill ever could. Spectacular vistas swing…
Adventurist LifeThe Adventure Begins After months of behind the scenes planning and designing, the Adventurist Life concept is finally ready for prime time. Head on over to the Kickstarter Campaign for an inside look and join us for the next adventure! We need your help getting the word out to adventurists far and wide: every like, follow, and share is one more person we can reach to help make this dream a reality. Instagram Facebook and of course, Kickstarter Thanks for joining us, we look forward to seeing you…out there!…
Layne ProA New Direction It’s been an interesting few years, to say the least. I’ve watched as the dividing lines between my work in design, photography, and travel/gear blurred into obscurity. Oh, Enfluence still continues to draw in clients of it’s own, but the vast majority of new business has come either from personal introductions or articles I’ve published. The situation was forced to light late last year, when a prospect I was courting spent more time flipping through my articles on Expedition Portal than my design portfolio. Ultimately, it was the hands-on involvement in the industry demonstrated by those articles that qualified me over the competition and landed the project. And so, it’s time to put all of my creative offerings under one roof: I’m proud to introduce the new Layne Pro »…
The ADAK Outpost Castias, Scamps, and the smaller Airstream models… I’ve often been caught staring at such travel trailers, lost in thoughts of welding on custom suspensions, fitting larger tires, and enjoying the weeks of in-camp luxury these cabins-on-wheels could provide to a basecamp deep in the wilderness. ADAK Adventure Trailers out of St. Augustine, Florida has made this dream a reality with their 116 square-foot Outpost. The Outpost isn’t going to be running many rock crawling trails—at 23’6″ long and 8’6″ wide it’s far from small—but with ample ground clearance and underbody protection it can handle most forestry access roads with ease, and is manageable on easy-to-moderate trails. Dry weight comes in just shy of 5,000 pounds, so chances are you’ll be pulling this trailer with a full-size vehicle. The armor continues over the roofline, with protective bars ensuring branches won’t strike the air conditioner and skylight on the roof of the tall trailer. After arrival at camp all systems are conveniently placed and easy to access for setup. Storage for propane, a generator, and fuel is provided by a sturdy shelf at the nose of the trailer, along with a ladder for roof access. Tall stabilizer jacks in the rear help to level out the trailer on practically any terrain, and a section of rock rail underneath the door drops down to reveal a convenient step. The teardrop-style exterior galley compartment opens up from the rear of the trailer, and it’s massive door becomes an ample awning to cover the work area (an interior galley floorplan is available as well). All of the essentials are present, including fridge, freezer, sink, stovetop, and enough storage for a fully kitted kitchen. Additional storage for tools, bbq, or outdoor gear is provided in compartments along the left side. Moving inside the cabin reveals a posh interior that rivals an EarthRoamer for comfort, complete with full wetbath, ample storage compartments and closet space, oversized 4-person dinette and two large sofas—all with thickly padded leather seating. All seating surfaces transform into sleeping spaces, and bunkhouse floorplans are available if additional sleeping capacity is required. Headroom throughout the trailer is a generous 6’8″. On the exterior galley models a wetbar is available inside complete with sink, small fridge, and microwave. For survival in harsh climates a 13,000 BTU furnace and 13,500 BTU air conditioner maintain comfortable temperatures inside. The freshwater supply carries 43 gallons, and an optional 4-seasons package is available for cold climates. The base model Outpost…
Utah: Sand and MudSometimes it’s best to put away the maps and just wander. There are few places in the world quite as spectacular as southeastern Utah. Pinnacles of stone tower over a parched red desert floor, dusty backroads wind thousands of feet up narrow switchbacks precariously cut from vertical rock walls, and aspen forests reach for 11,000-foot snow-capped peaks. Late spring is my favorite time of year, when the summer thunderstorms are just getting started but the roads are still dry enough to be passable. With a canoe on the roof and a prototype trailer to test out we wandered north from Overland Expo in search of that picture-perfect mountain lake. As the first decent camp beyond the Navajo Nation, Valley of the Gods has become a kind of obligatory tradition when traveling north from eastern Arizona. That’s not to say it isn’t worth a visit—it’s only slightly less impressive to behold than Monument Valley, a campsite and campfire are practically guaranteed, and it’s absolutely free. Our first night’s camp greeted us with fierce wind-driven sand that blew well into the evening, but our spirits would not be diminished. As we huddled inside the massive canopy of the Kakadu tent sipping Corona and waiting for the storm to pass, the only smart member of our expedition mocked us from his clean, comfortable lair. Eventually the wind subsided and we settled into a fire-lit evening of tall tales and tall plans for the following day. I awoke to the smell of bacon and poked my head out into a calm, overcast morning to see if the scent was a lingering dream—it wasn’t. Adding to the delightful smell, bits of left-over filet mignon from the previous night’s dinner were joining the bacon, along with eggs, veggies, cheese and hot sauce. Minutes later, the Bacon Filet Mignon Breakfast Burrito was born. Departing from our mile-high camp we climbed higher up the Moki Dugway continuing our search for the perfect lake. Pulling in to the tiny Mormon settlement of Fruita we made a quick stop to top off our water tanks, and grab a bite for lunch… and pie. Ignoring the signs warning us of road closures and impending doom, we turned south to follow Pleasant Creek in hopes of winding our way up the massive form of Boulder Mountain in the distance. The first water crossing was little more than a trickle and a fun off-camber exit this time of year—while Google Maps will send you over Lippincott Pass in a Camry without a second thought, the slightest hint of water is enough to…
1816 Safari Jacket For the better part of a week I’d been sifting through piles of search results, weeding out cheap knockoffs and overpriced fashion statements trying to find a quality, mid-weight field jacket for less than $400. We were going through a warmer-than-usual winter, and with only a parka on hand I was ill prepared for it. I was hovering over the confirm order button on Filson’s Tin Cloth Field Jacket when our editor walked into my office carrying the 1816 Safari Jacket for review, it was precisely the jacket I had envisioned. I’ve worn the Safari Jacket frequently over the last several months around town and in the field, and the fit and finish are spot on for tasks in both environments. I find the pockets plentiful, but not overdone, and they’re sized just right for a phone, small notebook, pen, passport, wallet, or just about any other gear you’re likely to need (the hidden zippered “security” pocket is a nice touch). I questioned the choice of a double-layer waistband over a traditional belt-and-buckle at first, but in practice it’s just as comfortable and far more convenient. The jacket’s 8.5-ounce cotton twill is just right for a crisp spring morning or a cool fall evening. The fabric is very soft to the touch, yet surprisingly durable and stain resistant. In spite of traveling with me across desert and forest on everything from day hikes to canoe trips, it still shows no sign of wear. I have no doubt the Safari Jacket will provide many years of reliable service. For detailed specifications, more information, or to pick one up for yourself view the Safari Jacket at Remington 1816’s site. Originally licensed to Expedition Portal for publishing on June 19th, 2014.…
Weather & Ruins12 Days across the Navajo Nation Practically every form of precipitation in Mother Nature’s arsenal was being thrown our way. White-out conditions gave way to freezing rain, then fog, a little sun, then more snow. The Navajo had reopened the roads just weeks before our departure, with words of caution that the weather might close them again any day. With optimistic fingers crossed, we pressed on under breathtaking skies expecting to encounter the unexpected. A belly full of omlette-in-a-bag, we began our introduction to the Tséyi’ (Canyon de Chelly) region with a crisp morning hike down to the Three Turkey ruin. The somewhat difficult access to the site preserves the small cliff dwelling in pristine condition for the few adventurers able to make the climb. Following the climb, a relaxing afternoon drive winding through the rugged Navajo backcountry brought us to the ancient multi-colored graffiti of Painted Cave. Handprints and pictographs depict the history of the many Navajo who once called this settlement home. Daniel, our guide for this leg of the journey, led us to his aunt Winnie’s hogan for a demonstration on Navajo weaving. The techniques and tools used to produce the rugs create an impressively tight fabric which is far more durable than modern machine-made versions. Leaving Winnie’s hogan, Daniel informed the group that he had a surprise in store for us. Due to the harsh second winter the floodgates of Tsaile Lake had to be left open, keeping the water level too high for vehicle access in the canyon. Instead of our planned campsite, Daniel brought us to the edge of the slickrock overlooking Spider Rock… and by edge, I do mean edge. The first rays of the rising sun brought with them the scent of Frank’s Fresh French Toast—why is it we seem to eat better on the trail than we do at home? With the canyon floor still flooded, a rim-top tour of Standing Cow, the Spanish Invasion, and the Navajo Fortress followed, binoculars and long lenses were key. Back at our own cliff dwelling, Daniel regaled us with the legends, stories, and songs of his people. A late start the next morning set us on a spirited but beautiful drive through the still snow-covered Lukachukai mountains. Arriving hours later than intended we managed to track down our next guide, a surprisingly difficult task in the tiny village, just in time to set up camp at the foot of the mountain.…