This trip happened about a year later than we had originally planned. In 2017 we were in the middle of doing our research and planning a route when my parents decided to make the drive to visit us instead. I abandoned my notes for the time being and moved on to other projects (Camry). For this year I dusted off the old notes and checked to see what was current and what wasn’t. We finished the truck upgrades and maintenance and hit the road…
Wednesday December 19th 2018 Day 1:
We left home around 7 AM but had to make a stop at the local Ace Hardware to grab a couple of extra straps and misc supplies. This was still our traditionally late start, but an earlier late start than usual. Because we weren’t able to complete an errand prior to leaving we had to veer off course almost instantly. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing since we were only about an hour and a half from home when I realized we forgot all of our blankets. Camping in the cold with out blankets wouldn’t work very well, so we stopped at the Walmart in Jackson, CA and grabbed a couple of the the best Coleman sleeping bags they had to offer.
We left out of Jackson on Hwy 88 and meandered up through the Carson Pass National Scenic Byway. The roads were clear, but there was a bit of snow that we could stop and play in on some of the turn out and fire roads. We didn’t spend a lot of time playing but enough to try and get a feel for how the truck was going to do on the new tires and with all that added weight hanging off the back. I won’t lie the snow on the fire roads made me a little nervous. Trying to climb uphill we would climb on top of the frozen snow, then sink, then spin. We would have to back up and inch forward again. It left me a bit nervous to say the least.
After exiting the pass and crossing over to Minden Nevada we stopped at the Carson Valley Inn and Casino for a bite to eat. We pulled in just behind the first gen 4Runner pictured below. While I didn’t get a chance to meet the owner, I did make sure I parked by it to grab a photo. Talk about some graphics envy!
We left Minden traveling south on the 395 and crossed back in to California. Being still close to home we ignored most of the scenery here. The only exception was about a 5 min stop to snap Mono Lake from a “Vista Point” before moving on however.
Shortly after we hung a left and headed over to hwy 6.
Benton Hot Springs was our next 5 min stop. It’s cool, but after a quick glance, it just didn’t have enough content to make it worth spending too much time. Of course it may have just been all those “No Trespassing” signs making us feel pretty unwelcome.
Eventually we needed more fuel, and the Chevron in Tonopah, NV did the trick. We made a quick stop at the grocery store, and could have left from there, but I wanted to go back for a shot of the Clown Hotel. Then it happened. Not even close to my first time, but the first time on one of these trips. I fell for the small town speed trap. Downhill at the speed change sat one of Nevada’s State Patrols. He wasn’t the biggest dick I’d met, but I might have been willing to upgrade that status after he followed us out of town.
I put the ticket in the glove box and continued down highway 6. We weren’t abducted, but it was rather obvious that we were bordering the famous Area 51.
Using the “I Overlander” app I had found the Chief Mountain South Campground before we left. The campground was just as described with the exception of being cold and deserted at this time of year. We converted the truck into sleep mode and called it a night.
Thursday December 20th 2018 Day 2:
Yawn…. Day two kicked off around 4:30 AM. It was a bit chilly but still manageable. This was our first overnight stop with the new set up and the “champagne room” edition worked great. We used some shower curtains, and Jamie sewed in some magnets to allow us to quickly install and remove them. It goes up in under 5 minutes and offers decent privacy. As a bonus if you run the truck with the heater on high it keeps it pretty toasty inside. A huge win over changing “outside” or setting up our previous pop up shower tent thing.
The town of Caliente Nevada was our first stop after leaving camp, and it had everything we needed. A Sinclair for fuel a cool vintage main street and a Spanish style train station. This is another one of those area’s that deserved more than the 5 minutes we spent, but we had bigger targets in mind.
We continued on Highway 93 up to the 319 where we headed east to the Utah border. Here the 319 turns to highway 56 and continues on through several small towns. The original plan called to continue on to highway 14 cutting through the Dixie National Forest. While there were some reports of the roads being closed, my email to their website to confirm went unanswered. The 148 turn off we were looking for was indeed closed.
Panguitch, Utah was our next scheduled stop, but the closed forest roads had us come in backwards. To make matters worse I had received an email back regarding our ferry ride across Lake Powell that was supposed to happen. The whole reason for leaving on a Wednesday was to make sure our arrival in this area lined up with the Ferry Schedule, and unfortunately the only schedule we ended up lining up with was the they Ferries repair schedule. We were both disappointed, but I was glad we were able to find out before heading down to the lake. If you can’t happen to catch the ferry it adds around 150 miles or so to your trip to drive around the lake if my memory serves.
Our pizza stop in Panguitch gave us a few minutes to make the decision to backtrack down highway 89 a bit and take the Scenic Byway 12 option.
Highway 12 was a nice drive with some great views which eventually intersected with highway 24. As the sun was getting lower in the sky we stopped for a few more snaps along Highway 24 one of which was the Goosenecks Overlook.
This is a beautiful stop just down an easy gravel road that was well worth the drive. As the sun got lower we finished up Highway 24. A short distance down Interstate 70 had us back on the 191 and into Moab where we grabbed a hotel for the night and got prepped for what was to be one of the truly best parts of the trip.
Friday December 21st 2018 Day 3:
Some people go on vacation and sleep in and relax. Others of us get up even earlier than normal to make sure we can be out of our hotel and 30 miles down the road all before sunrise. We thought loading the truck at the hotel parking lot was cold until we stopped just past this sign to wait for the scheduled 6 AM sunrise and air down the tires.
The sun finally began it’s ascent over the mountains but was veiled in clouds long before we got the spectacular view that I had pictured in my head.
Even if we didn’t realize that picture perfect moment our path was now clear and we began our decent down the switch backs. It took just over 15 minutes of easy driving to be at the bottom near the Potash Road cut off.
Obviously we had to stop and snap some photos. None of which can actually compare to being there and being surrounded by this scenery.
The 360 degrees of amazing make it almost impossible to know when and where to stop and when to keep driving. Our very slow pace got us to the Gooseneck Overlook trail head around 8 am. We let the trusty 4Runner have a moment to rest and headed off on foot.
We didn’t get very far in to the short 1/4 mile hike before we were spotted by the local wild life. We were so focused on looking for the cairns that we got closer to the family breakfast spot than I probably would have guessed we could have. The kids didn’t seem to mind, but dad kept both eyes on us as we detoured well around their food source.
Knowing what I know now, I might be tempted to try and make this our sunrise stop the next time around.
The Muscleman Arch was our next stop that had us out of the truck and walking a bit. Living in California and being constantly bombarded with rules can make you feel like anything goes in Utah, so I can see where the lack of fences and onsite babysitters might leave some people tempted to ignore the warnings and take photos on the arch itself. I’m proud to say that while we did get close to it, we also used the magic of telephoto lenses to make it seem like we were closer than we really were. When we left the arch it was just as we found it, which is more important than us getting a single photo.
Around 8 miles down the trail is the cut off to Lathrop Canyon. This is a 4 mile (each direction) detour down to the Green River, and it sounded like a great spot to take a lunch break. The trail itself down was a more difficult drive than anything we had seen on the White Rim so far, but not incredibly difficult overall. I would use a lot of caution in the area if there is water flowing. Here we had our second encounter with the local wild life. Unfortunately the photographic proof is non-existent. While we traveled along the sandy canyon bottom we spotted movement above us. Like all intelligent people I jumped out of the truck to grab the camera with telephoto lens, but I couldn’t get it in my hands before what appeared to be a pair of mountain lions scrambled up the cliff side. The rest of the drive was done with the camera at the ready, but we didn’t see another sign of our cat friends.
Shortly after returning to the White Rim from Lathrop we suffered our first vehicle set back. The secondary battery was no longer providing power. It turns out the main 100 amp circuit breaker had given up. Luckily there was enough slack in the wiring that I was able bypass the breaker with a spare bolt and some electrical tape to insulate things. It wasn’t the safest solution, but auto parts stores are a bit lacking on the White Rim.
The next major stop of the day was also the last. Gooseberry Campground was our sleeping spot for the night. We had only seen one pair of mountain bikers all day long, and they were now long gone, so we had the campground completely to ourselves.
Saturday December 22nd 2018 Day 4:
Sunday December 23rd 2018 Day 5:
Monday December 24th 2018 Day 6:
Tuesday December 25th 2018 to
Tuesday January 1st 2019 Days 7-14:
Wednesday January 2nd 2019 Day 15:
Thursday January 3rd and Friday January 4th 2018 Day 16-17:
Saturday January 5th and Sunday January 6th 2019 Day 18-19: