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Glen Canyon NRA

2007-04-02 (E)

A short update since it is so quick upon our last entry.

Since we left Canyonlands and our journey with Sean and Katie, we traveled north-west of Moab and settled down for about a week of decompression and solitude at the rim of the Hellroaring Canyon. From this location we began to work on addressing a number of issues that had arisen in the van, and took some time out to get Amy use to her new bicycle we picked up in SLC.

For those of our readers with similar vehicles, or technical tweak interest, the following is a list of the recent maintenance and enhancement items we have done, a few before the Canyonlands trip, a few during, and a few after, more details are on the associated component pages:

  • Replaced bolts with pins in to hold the hoop steps for easy removal when traveling in technical terrain (a bit late for the driver's side since it had some large chunks removed by rocks on Elephant Hill, but it prompted me to get my rear in gear).
    Hoop Step Pins
  • Discovered and examined the broken front-axle track-bar and requested a replacement from Sportsmobile.
    Broken Track Bar
  • Found the rear drive-shaft output yoke on the transfer case was loose on the U-Joint, permitting it to shift, and producing a fairly loud bang periodically when driving slowly as the drive-shaft would shift side to side. Contacted SMB and it is a known issue, new yoke on the way.
  • Installed puck-lock hasps on the doors for greater security and to provide a visual deterrent.
    Puck Locks
  • Installed aluminum bracing for the front penthouse roof hold-downs to replace broken plywood bracing and stiffen the whole assembly.
  • Fixed a leak in the water-system pressure tank bladder. Diagnosed this because the pump was running more often (the air in the tank had dissolved into the water), and the tank developed a water leak out of the air valve (shouldn't leak, certainly shouldn't be water).
  • Finally resolved the issue of the stove smoking when running for an extended period (turns out the fiberglass mat (i.e. a 3" circular wick) that hosts the flame had become encrusted with carbon deposits letting fuel run off and drip below the burn chamber (likely from overly rich high-altitude runs). Replaced the mat with fiberglass cloth from auto-body shop to good results.
  • Replaced a missing bolt in the bottom of the transfer case which had allowed all the fluid to leak out (all the other bolts were loose. Re-torqued bolts and refilled with fluid. (This is why I do a crawl around under the van once or twice a week, especially after rough roads)
  • Lubricated steering joints and drive line U-Joint fittings (wherein I finally tracked the above mentioned thunking noise to the rear drive-shaft's play at the T-Case).
  • Found nearly all the bolts and nuts on the driver's side rear engine mount were loose, and one broken. Replaced the broken one and tightened the rest. (We had pointed out the broken bolt to the Ford dealer in SLC. They refused to fix it under warranty as "they never break, so you must have hit something". They then quoted 6hours labor to fix. I refused and it took all of 20 minutes for me to fix, find the rest of the loose bolts (which explained why one had broken), and tighten them all down.)
  • Our solar input seemed lower than expected for the time of year, but would fluctuate, sometimes matching expectation. Finally tracked it down to the "flexible" Solara solar panels. One of them had a number of cracks in the tinned copper traces running between the constituent cells. It appears that when it had been trod upon the sharp edges of the silicon wafers had cut the traces that transitioned over the edges of the cells. Just flexing the panel a bit would drastically change its current output. I carefully examined each trace at the transition points, cut out the rubber coating over each one that appeared cracked, soldered the cracks, and re-sealed the cuts. Panel output became high and consistent.
  • Drilled 1" holes in the bottom corners of the fender flares. The flares don't completely seal against the van body or wheel-wells, and are hollow, allowing dust, water, and dirt to get in and go along for the ride. This resulted in some abrading of the paint by large masses of solidified mud. The holes let the dirt fall right out when it gets in. These have been in place for a couple months of dirty driving, and seem to be working quite well.
    Fender Flare Drain Holes
  • Replaced fuel cap with a locking one for security against siphoners and foolish gas attendants who try to immediately start pumping gasoline into our diesel vehicle (mainly an issue in Oregon, where one is not permitted to pump one's own fuel).
    Locking Fuel Cap\


2007-04-28 (E)

Nearly a month since any real content, so this will likely be a long entry...

We started off the month relaxing near Moab, UT after our trip through Canyonlands. Our camp-site was out a nice secluded jeep track on the rim of the Hellroaring canyon, and it looked like it had been many weeks since anyone had last driven there. We were able to spend a week undisturbed decompressing from the last couple weeks relatively frenetic passe of traveling, exploring, and some high-priority issues I had to deal with at work. With the blustery spring weather we even were treated to some amazing sunsets.
Sunset at Hellroaring Canyon

Nearly every day we went out on a bike ride to get Amy use to her new full-suspension bicycle we had picked up in Salt Lake City. It is a Santa Cruz Juliana (eXtra small, of course). The improvement in her ability to tackle obstacles and have fun on the rough slick-rock makes me really regret not getting it for her much sooner.
Amy and her Santa Cruz Juliana mountain b

As the week wound down we packed up and prepared to head south out of the Moab area since the Easter Jeep Safari was getting close, and from my research I realized that the trail we were camped on was likely one of the routes, so our solitude would be soon disturbed.

We left, picking up some groceries, fuel, water, and other supplies in town. On the drive out the stream of incoming Jeeps towed by motorhomes was quite something to behold. A number of fairly stock ones, and a few really really tweaked out machines that probably have no real Jeep parts left in them except for the emblem on the side of the "hood".

We ended our travels that day in a wash not too far from the northern end of the Navajo Nation. The area we found had a number of large cottonwood trees for some shade, and shelter from the wind. There was even a fair bit of grass cover on the sandy ground for Amy to do her Yoga practice.
Butler Wash Camp Site

The next day we headed out on the bicycles for another ride. After a mile or two we dropped off the bikes in a bush and hiked up an interesting looking canyon, as we had read that the area held a number of old Anasazi cliff dwellings. We did not find any signs of civilization in the canyon, but did see a neat rock formation that looked for all the world like a stereotypical Scottish golf player in a kilt.

Golf Player Rock

A day or two later we began heading south again in the van. We had not found any ruins, but kept our eyes open, and soon spotted a very interesting looking cave in a ridge a mile or so from the road.
Cave in Comb Ridge

As usual, we were in no rush to get anywhere, so decided to hike into the cave and enjoy the scenery, if nothing else. As we hiked up the rock we noticed a few smaller caves below us in the opposite side of a wash with some structures in them. We decided to visit the large cave at the top, then return via the wash bottom to check out the other caves.


As we neared the large cave we encountered a series of "tanks" and little "gardens" established in pockets of the barren rock slope.

Some of the tanks were quite large, and must have held thousands of gallons in total.

Once near the cave we discovered that the only access in to the cave was through the wash far below us. We had ended up on a ridge that arced up to the top lip of the cave, with a rather steep slope down to the wash way below. A few minutes of route surveying found us a possible way down that didn't seem completely suicidal, and when we reached the steepest part of the slope we found periodic depressions in the rock face that could be nothing other than steps chipped in long ago.

Once in the cave we found some old walls built out of cut rock & mud in one corner, but they were not easily accessed, nor in good shape. The cave itself was huge, hundreds of feet wide and deep, with an arched ceiling nearly 100' high at the peak, with amazing acoustics where I could hear Amy from across the cavern. The view out over the valley was equally amazing.
View out of cave

We descended the cave by way of the wash, and continued down the wash, seeing more small caves and overhangs that had been obscured from our view on the way in. Most of these cavities held the remains of ancient structures as well, a wall here, a pit lined with stones there.

Finally we reached the caves we had seen from earlier in our hike, and they held some nearly complete buildings with identifiable walls, windows, doors, and banks of small structures which must have been ovens. The state of preservation of some of the buildings was fairly amazing considering the likely age, and obvious lack of maintenance.
Old Anasazi Structure

Finally back at the van we had lunch, and got on our way. Our target was to cross the Navajo Nation and find a camp spot in the National Forest near Flagstaff, AZ by the evening. We had traveled the route through Monument Valley a few years prior in our car, so we just moved on past, enjoying the view but not stopping for pictures.

We found a spot to spend the next couple of days in a scrap of National Forest pinched between the Grand Canyon and the Navajo Nation. The drive up provided some lovely views of the little Colorado Canyon as it carved its way toward the Grand Canyon.
Little Colorado Canyon

The camping spot was not terribly exciting. We were just in a flat, featureless, juniper and pinion pine forest on an old (probably illegal) wood-cutters track. It was a quiet place however, and we amused ourselves for the day we stayed by hiking out through the trees for a mile or so and then seeing if we could find our way back without the GPS.
Camping in the Forrest

On Friday we packed up early, headed down the hill to the highway, and began our drive to Phoenix. We stopped for lunch in Sedona. The scenery around that area is magnificent, but the whole place was extremely crowded and the roads were covered with mini-malls and traffic. We did not do much exploring after deciding that getting stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and a half was enough.

We arrived in Phoenix in the late afternoon, and found our friend Nat's new house without much trouble. He was restationed from the Mountain Home, ID Air Force base to Luke AFB in Phoenix at the change of the year, and since his wife was still in Idaho, we figured he could use some company, and we could use a shower.

Sleeping in the van in Phoenix was an experience. Up till this point we had nearly freezing temperatures every night, with some snow in Moab only a week prior. In Phoenix the night-time temperatures were all the way down into the 60s. Luckily for us a few days into our stay a storm blew in that cooled the air down a bit. It was also quite impressive to see the wall of cloud and dust approaching.

Nat's driveway gave an opportunity for work on the undercarriage of the van. Since we had been using his address to get repair parts for the van shipped I had everything ready. I replaced the broken track bar; replaced the bad T-Case output yoke; replaced the cracking passenger side U-Bolt plate; rotated the tires; siped the tire lugs I hadn't been able to reach before while the tires were off; and repaired a crack in the water pressure tank that had caused it to spring a leak.

We went out on a number of mountain bike rides with Nat, weaving between the Saguaro cacti and various chola bushes that are all trying to stick you. In fact, as Nat pointed out, almost everything growing down here is trying to stick you with some sort of thorn or spike.
Mountain Biking

We stayed with Nat for about a week, absorbing the heat, showers, good cookin', and local mountain bike trails. We then took our leave and headed north to Prescott at the invitation of someone we had met on www.expeditionportal.com.

We met up with Chris and his wife Sharon when we reached Prescott. They proceeded to give us a tour of some of the local sights of Granite Mountain, the Granite Basin, and Watson Lake.
Chris & Watson Lake

We then drove over to meet Scott Brady who runs www.expeditionportal.com and his wife Stephanie. After a bit of chatting about good places to see in the area we all headed into town for dinner. Scott, Chris, and Stephanie, along with a number of other folk, are working to put together a magazine about overland vehicle traveling at www.overlandjournal.com.

After a scrumptious dinner and desert (its nice conversing with people who don't think we are completely nuts), we were shown a lovely camping spot high above the town where we could spend the next few days.

We stayed on the hill for three nights, hiking around on the roads and trails in the neighborhood, and giving Chris and Sharon a tour of the van.

Thursday we departed, having lunch in town with Chris and Scott before turning south and leaving via the Senator Highway (which is actually a graded dirt road to the (very) small town of Crown King, AZ.

Along the drive south we encountered our first herd of Javalina. Basically small hairy wild pigs. There were about 5 or 6 which ran across the road as we came near, and then rooted around in the brush a bit off the road trying to stay out of view of the van.

A few miles later we saw an inviting track off to the east of the road, so we followed it a while and ended up on a small hillock with a nice view all about. It was an early stop so we unloaded the bicycles and rode around for a while on the jeep track.
Camping Spot Senator Highway

The next day we passed through Crown King, down to the freeway, and back to Nat's house in Phoenix for another weekend of structured mountain biking, pool lounging, and good food.
Mountain Biking

On Monday we left Phoenix heading East. We had been given some suggestion of visiting Devil's Canyon by Chris and Scott, along with some GPS coordinates, and it seemed a good spot to stop on our way to Tucson by the next weekend.

Once we left the highway we followed a dirt track until we encountered a drilling rig. From the rig the state of the trail turned quite technical almost immediately. We took the track for about 1/4 to 1/2 mile until it followed a rock fin down to the canyon floor below. The fin looked quite doable, but the transition to the canyon floor was quite abrupt and I feared we would damage the motorcycle carrier if we went that way. This meant we had to turn around and head back out.

Once out we hunted around and finally found an easier path to the bottom of the canyon. From there we continued on the jeep track over another ridge and down into the next canyon. At the bottom of this canyon were a couple of ponds surrounded by a grassy meadow and a small herd of horses. When we reached the bottom of the canyon the horses gave us an enthusiastic greeting.
Horses coming


The trail to the Devil's canyon overlook continued a bit further, but we decided to camp between the ponds by the horses since the wind was somewhat blocked, the water was nice, and Amy was thrilled by the horses milling about.

Considering the state of the trails into the canyon we did not expect to be disturbed very often. I would consider the "roads" to be nearly equivalent to the difficulty of the ones we had dealt with in Canyonlands a month prior.

Camping Spot Hackberry Canyon

We hiked around the next day and found that many of the nearby canyons and valleys also held small ponds and grassy meadows. We also got a lovely view of our campsite as we returned from our hike.
Hackberry Canyon Camp Site

The horses seemed to welcome us as another bit of the herd, and we got to watch the one new foal as he gamboled about, running, jumping, and trying to walk only on his rear legs. We offered them apples and carrots, but they seemed not to care for them, but a few would walk right up to us and bump us with their heads and shoulders (which, as a non-horsey person, I found a bit concerning with them weighing a few pounds more than I).

We hiked out to the Devil's Canyon overlook the next day and enjoyed the view of the rock spires all along the canyon rim, colored by the nearly setting sun.
Devil's Canyon Overlook

All throughout this area we were constantly seeing turkey vultures soaring around the rocks of the canyons.
Turkey vulture

On Thursday we headed south towards Tucson since Amy was scheduled to meet up with a friend and spend the weekend at a Spa doing girly stuff (probably involving Barbie dolls or something).

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