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2009 Customer Run Trip Reports


January 24th, 2009 – Rattlesnake & Wayne’s World – By Candace Williams

A beautiful yet rainy Saturday morning. Kurt, our dog Jada, and I rallied to the Smith’s parking lot in Lehi to greet the attendees for our first “Cruiser Outfitter Customer Appreciation Run” of the 2009 season. We were a bit nervous about the turnout, could be small, could be huge, you just never know and with rain forecasted for the day, some might have backed out? To our surprise just about everyone who has committed soon pulled up and we even had a couple of extras decide to join us for the day. After all the Land Cruiser enthusiasts where present, soaked from the rain and signed in, we pulled out of the Smith’s parking lot towards the trail head. It was a nice parade of Land Cruisers, over a dozen different styles including FJ40’s, 60’s, 62’s, 80’s, a 100 and our only non-Cruiser a well built 4Runner.

Each vehicle was loaded with excitement to get out on the rocks and play in the mud on Rattlesnake. To our surprise just as we arrived at the trail head parking lot the rain stopped and the sun burned through the clouds. We aired down our tires while chatting amongst friends and taking some photographs while Jada and some of the kids had fun collecting animal bones. It was a great start to what would become an excellent day. We started the trail right on schedule and were happy to find that while there was mud and snow present it was not as bad as we first anticipated. We reached the first few obstacles everyone seemed to get over the large boulders with ease, our group was moving at a fast pace. We arrived at a more difficult section of the trail and the obstacles were getting a little harder, nothing a Land Cruiser couldn't overcome. All the Cruisers performed great, climbing through the rocks with only a few slips from the mud and slippery snow and ice. Two full sized trucks slowed us up a bit trying to negotiate their way through the obstacles with ill equipped rigs but we gave them room and took a long break. After a few photo stops, we made our way to the top passing through the very steep mine tailings.

At the top of the mine tailings mountain we had lunch and checked out the old mines that are now covered by large steel grates for safety. Kurt and the kids had fun throwing rocks down the mine shafts trying to estimate how far down they go. The verdict is, really far. One of the mine shafts has an old Jeep truck stuck in it you can barely see it now because so many rocks and debris have almost covered it completely. The kids had a great time collecting rocks and other kid treasures while everyone else enjoyed the spring like weather and a trail side lunch. Our day wouldn’t be complete without a recovery mission, one of the full sizes trucks not in our party got stuck on a muddy hill trying to get to the top of the mine tailings. Chris V. in this FZJ80 kindly offered up his winch out and slowly dragged the Dodge truck up the last 100 feet of the hill. After 15 minutes or so the Dodge was at the top of the hill and very thankful that the Cruiser Outfitters group was there to help him out.

After the recovery adventure some of our group said their goodbyes and departed to head back down the hill towards home while some of us headed to opposite direction to see Billy in his 4Runner attempt climb the near vertical rock wall called Wayne’s World. This obstacle has done carnage to many vehicles in its time but that didn't scare Billy. It had started to rain and the obstacle was already wet and muddy. Despite the odds Billy gave it a valiant and came away defeated yet in one piece. With the rain clouds circling we made our way back to the parking lot at the trail head and called it a day. Another beautiful day out on the trail in the wilds of Utah.

View the full gallery of Rattlesnake photos here


February 21st, 2009 – Dodging the Cold, by Chasing the Gold - Ophir Hill Mine - By Jason Goates

The 21st of February this year brought whipping wind, cold weather, and a great day underneath the layer of snow in the Ophir Hill Mine. A group of around 30 people made the trek out to Ophir Utah for the Cruiser Outfitters Customer Appreciation run for February. Hosted by Cruiser Outfitters, and led by Mojave Underground, this event was one to remember. The MojaveUnderground is a crew of underground explorers who devote their time to the exploration, documentation, and preservation of mines, caves, and ghost towns of the American West.
 
As the last vehicles rolled in we were addressed with safety instructions, and signed waivers and prepped ourselves for the amazing adventure that awaited us. Finally, the time came that we filed into the mouth of the main tunnel, took a numbered tab that corresponded with a numbered roster that we sign our name to. This way they know that everyone who went in comes out.
 
Excerpts from the MojaveUnderground.com website describe it best, "The Ophir Hill Mine was the last mine to operate in the Ophir District. It operated from 1865 to 1971, when it became hard to make a profit due to low mineral values. The Ophir Hill Mine was primarily a lead-zinc producer. It is in immaculate condition, full of artifacts, and makes for quite an adventure. The main portal is a haulage tunnel, which extends straight back about 3000'. The Mojave Underground Mojave Mine Team has spend several hundred hours inside the mine, and they find more and more each time. Its estimated the mine encompasses nearly 20 miles of underground workings"

Exploring this mine takes you through a time warp when you see the incredibly intact wooden structures, once trusted wheel barrows, shunned shovels, neglected newspapers from the 50's and so on. Despite the 5-6 hours spent exploring, examining and poking around, we were told we experienced maybe 1% of the entire mine. The Ophir Hill Mine is considered one pf the largest mines in Utah, due to it connecting with other mines in the area. Leave it to our fearless leaders Mike & Robert from Mojave Underground to show us a great time in the dark and mysterious buried treasure of Utah history.

I enjoy the fact that groups like Mojave Underground & Cruiser Outfitters have the goal of exploring, enjoying, and protecting Utah's rich history; whether it's above or below ground. Thanks for the opportunity!

View the full gallery of Ophir Hill photos here


March 21st, 2009 – Newfoundland Exploration – By Curt Hall

We met early Saturday morning at the gas station in Delle, UT as part of a Cruiser Outfitters customer appreciation run. Delle is usually lonely little place in the middle of the desert. We all gassed up, and made introductions, I hopped in with Jason D. since we were both riding solo and headed off to Lakeside through the UTTR (Utah Test and Training range). Once we arrived at Lakeside, we stopped at an old shack, looked around and took some photos. I was able to get to know Roger, a man who recently purchased a mining claim in Dells Canyon and was with us to see his purchase for the very first time. As Roger and I were chatting about how I knew everyone when I didn't drive a ‘Cruiser, some others ran down to the R.R. tracks to smash some change as has become tradition on these west desert trips.

The sun was shining and the weather was great, so I was really digging driving through the desert in a topless Fj40. We hit the public right-of-way on the R.R. tracks and rallied to Hog up, the Infamous pumps built in the early 1980’s when flooding was a major concern in Utah. They were very briefly used, but are still maintained should the need for them ever arise. We spent a few minutes throwing rocks into the canal, as boys do when there are rocks and water within the same vicinity of each other. It’s almost as if we sense that the natural habitat for the rock is to be submerged in 6 feet of water, or maybe we like to see the splash. Either way it’s fun if you’re 3 or 30.

From Hog up it is a straight shot to the Newsiest alongside the tracks, and let me tell you there is nothing like passing a moving train in a topless vehicle, intense doesn't seem to describe the feeling very well. Once at the range, we headed over to an old copper mine claim, and explored for a little while. Some were adventurous and proceeded into the mine armed with flashlights and headlamps, while others stayed outside and explored other relics of the mines past.

With that mine sufficiently “explored”, we headed to the east side of the range on our way to Dell’s canyon, and Roger’s “new” claim. Storming through mud hole’s in a topless rig is always good (but dirty) fun. Once at Dells Canyon, we had some lunch and hiked up to the tram tower to see as much as we could of the mine workings. It’s a great little canyon, with a great view, and Roger seemed very pleased with his purchase. I think at one time or another, we all were dreaming of buying a gold mine, and building a little cabin out there. From Roger’s new claim, we scooted back up and around to Miners basin. Miner’s basin is where you will find numerous mines, and admits chiseled out the solid rock. One of the coolest parts of the area is the stone house at Boston Terrace, a mining camp established by Scandinavian miners, being of Scandinavian descent, I was right at home in the low ceilings of the mines.

We explored a few more shafts, and had some great conversation, before we decided to head for home. On the way back, a dust storm rolled in, but in the GSL, it is more like a salt storm. We got pelted pretty good with salt, and rocks, but made it back to Delle in one piece in the dark, there I picked up my lonely YJ, and headed home, the end of a long truly epic trip to one of the most remote, and least accessible areas in the southwest. As I write this I can’t help but reflect on the trips I have taken, and how fortunate I have been to know people who enjoy the same sense of adventure as I do. It’s always a treat to share these places with fellow adventurers.

*A big thanks to Corey and Jessica from GoldRushExpeditions.com for their insight and guide service to the area.

View the full gallery of Newfoundland photos here


April 18th, 2009 - Indian Springs Canyon - By Wyatt "Stuck" Hanks

It was awesome April day to have the Cruiser Outfitters Customer Appreciation Run.  On the morning of the 18th, the crew gathered at the Cedar Valley Country Store in Cedar Fort, Utah along SR73.  As we fueled up and mingled, we watched as droves of Jeeps, Toyotas, and other heavily built 4x4s blew by us on their way to 5 Mile Pass.  It was a good day for wheelin’, though we wouldn't be heading to The Snakes.  We would be avoiding the crowd today, and exploring some places a little more remote. 

The crew was a light, with only two FJ40s, an FJ60, and me in my 80.  We headed southwest and from 5 Mile Pass, we cut off toward Faust.  There we met Curt in his YJ and continued on following the Pony Express Trail into the West Desert.  Our first stop was a visit to the "Pet Cemetery," a stone enclosure supposedly marking the graves of Porter Rockwell's wife's pets and a few humans too.  After a short history discussion, we moved on, out of the mountains and into the desert to the next Pony Express station at Simpson Springs.  More history and geography discussion, and soon we were off again, this time cutting south off of the Pony Express Trail around the west side of the Simpson Mountains. 

Our goal was to make it to the Indian Springs ghost town, though the recent snowfall in the higher elevations made us dubious about our chances making it up that far.  We resolved to make a valiant attempt, however, and halfway up we reached a fertile, sloping meadow kept wet from the springs.  Fresh grass had nearly erased any evidence of the trail, and beneath that, was slick, sticky, mud.  We had a good ol' time fighting our way up the meadow, Kurt got a pretty good video of me setting the hand throttle and climbing out of the Lexus while it sat stationary in the mud, spinning all four locked-up tires. With plenty of throttle, however, the whole crew made it through and up just fine, and just beyond that lay the remainder of the town of Indian Springs, a mining town from the Wild West era.  In the shade of huge overgrown trees, we had a quick history lesson while looking around at the few signs of ancient structure and trying to imagine the wild frontier town in its heyday.  We hiked around, snapped pictures of the crumbling foundations and piles of wood.  Not far up from the road from the center of town, the walls of a true log cabin stand as the best remaining structure.  Nearby, we found evidence of people digging for old bottles where outhouses once stood, and we found several shards of neat, ornate glass. 

After leaving Indian Springs, we headed back down the canyon and continued our way south around the Simpson's and up into Death Canyon.  There are many old mines in the area, and some claims are still active.  Kurt had permission from one claim owner to take us into an old mine that was being re-worked.  We gathered up what flashlights we had and took a quick tour before lunch.  After lunch, we followed the trail up Death Canyon until it started to narrow and crossed a small washout which I couldn't help but try to tackle.  No more than a few feet down the trail and my truck started to slide sideways off the trail into the wash.  With great spotting and nearly everyone on my bumper and sliders keeping my wheels on the ground, I was able to back into the ditch, get turned around, and climb back onto the road. 

After that little mishap, we headed back out of Death canyon, and around the south side of the mountains.  To get home, we had a fun little full speed run up through Ericson Pass back to the Pony Express Trail.  We said our goodbyes in Faust and headed our separate ways.  All in all we had a great day of wheeling, history, and exploring in the backdrop of the amazing and desolate West Desert of Utah.

View the full gallery of Indian Springs photos here


June 26th - 29th, 2009 - 2009 ExpeditionUtah.com Relic Run

The Relic Run was an absolute success, both in achieving the spirit of a 70's era camping experience as well as completing our planned voyage. Stay tuned for a feature magazine article in the coming months. Until that time we are on a 'media blackout'.


July 10th, 2009 - Cruiser Outfitters Customer Show-Off & BBQ - By Jason Goates

A great time was had by all, from young to old everyone had a smile on their faces. Unofficial numbers show about 75 Toyotas in attendance, an easy 85% of which were Land Cruisers of all makes and models. From a '66 FJ45 Pickup (which gave up the ghost tonight), a pair of fully outfitted 100 Series Land Cruisers, a little gang of heavily outfitted Tacomas & 4Runners, to full FJ inspired 40 buggy.. Everyone seemed to show up for the socializing, and of course the brats and dogs. The goal was 50 rigs with expectations more in the 30 rig range, we never would've guessed that 70+ rigs would show up. Over 250 sodas were guzzled and over 200 dogs were eaten, a hungry crowd of Cruiserheads! Huge thanks to all who came out to participate!

Contest Winners
Rustiest Relic - Steven B. - 1977 FJ40
Most Potential (Fixer Upper) - Candace W. - 1966 FJ45
Crowd Favorite Land Cruiser - Ryan O. - 1967 FJ40
Crowd Favorite Toyota - Lewis G. - 2002 Tacoma
Most Body Damage - Mark H. - 1982 FJ60
Most Original Land Cruiser - Dave L. - 1976 FJ40
Least Original Land Cruiser - Erik D. - 1972 Inspired FJ40 Buggy
Rarely Gets Washed Award - Jeremy G. - 1993 FZJ80
Most Miles in an Land Cruiser - Greg H. - Over 550k in his 1970 FJ40
Longest owned Land Cruiser - Jason D. - Has owned his 1978 FJ40 for over 16 years
Best Rattle Can Paint Job - Jeff S. - For his killer camo 1983 FJ60

Congrats to our winners and thanks everyone who came out and supported us and helped put on the event. Look forward to a bigger and better Show-Off and BBQ for 2010

View the full gallery of Show-Off & BBQ photos here


August 14th-15th, 2009 - American Fork Canyon History Tour - By Ben Ferguson

American Fork Canyon had been a hot spot for family camping trips all throughout my younger years and when we moved to Alpine in 1989 Mineral Basin became the Friday night destination for most of my teen years.   It had been quite a few years since I had been up farther than the picnic spots in lower AFC, so when I heard Cruiser Outfitters was hosting a Customer Appreciation over-nighter up at Graveyard Flats, I just had to get in on it.

We were set to meet at Tibble Fork Reservoir at 7:00 PM on Friday night.  Since I don’t work on Fridays, I decided to head up a couple hours early and spend a bit of time hiking around the reservoir.  It brought back quite a few memories.  Family camping.  Week-long Boy Scout hiking trips.  Swimming across Tibble Fork Reservoir.  The many, many hours spent fishing the reservoir and the river.  Tubing and snowboarding “The Bowl”.   Mountain biking.  And, of course, camping, exploring, and wheeling.

While I was busy wandering around, a decent thunderstorm strolled in.  I’m a huge fan of thunderstorms and I was also pretty stoked to see its looming presence was driving a lot of the folks to their cars and subsequently off down the canyon.  I’m a big fan of less people. The thunderstorm broke up a bit and we ended up with light rain falling upon us on and off throughout the night.
Anyway, around this time, I noticed a couple rigs coming up the road toward the parking lot, one of which was Kurt’s red double cab Tacoma.  I had parked up a bit higher than the lake parking lot so I headed back to my truck and drove down to the lot where the others had parked.  By the time we were ready to depart for the camp site, we had gathered a group of 2 Tacos, an FJ40, an FJ60, an FZJ80, a 3rd Gen 4Runner, and a group of 15 or 16 people.

It took us about 15 or 20 mins to reach the Graveyard Flat turn-off, and a min or two down the turn-off and we found a nice camp spot for our group.  Those of us who were staying the night found a nice spot for our rigs and tents and got them all set up and a few extremely sharp ‘almost-got-their-eagle-scout’ type of fellas went to work building up a nice fire.  Around thirty minutes later, we had a nice wiener-roasting size fire going.

Once the fire was going, we all gathered around for some captivating stories of the history of AFC.  One of the main story tellers was a man by the name of Tom Trinnaman.  His family currently owns 83 acres and holds mining claim rights to over 600 acres in the upper reaches of the canyon.  Tom would spend his summers up canyon as a young boy.  He told us about a tram that used to run from the Tibble Fork Reservoir area up to the Forest City area.  Tom used to ride the tram up and then hike over to his property.  The tram tipple is how Tibble Fork got its name. 

Tom also told us a story of heading up one day late in the year to meet up with family at their cabin and he had gotten there late and had to walk up a good distance but when he got up to the top, nobody was around and it had started to snow.  He hadn’t brought up his jacket for some reason so he started high tailing it back down to his car, taking all the shortcuts he could.  After a couple minutes, his hair on the back of his neck started to tingle.  He looked around and didn’t see anything and kept going, but keeping an eye out.  A few moments later, he noticed a mountain lion was following him a short distance behind.  He wasn’t too far from his car, but decided to stay on the main switchback road rather than taking the shortcuts.  He reached his car safely after a few minutes and jumped in and headed out.  Looking in his rear view mirror, he could see the mountain lion following him still for a few minutes more.

Tom told us another story about a time where he was hiking around the area and he came to a large downed tree across the trail.  Just as he had gotten one leg over, he heard some loud scratching noises coming from the end of the tree he was now straddling.  He looked down towards the end and there he was a decent sized bear tearing apart the inside of the tree.  Tom had a rifle with him and he slowly brought it around aimed it towards the bear just as a precaution.  The bear noticed him and stood up on his hind legs and eyed him.  Tom said he thought to himself something like “I don’t wanna hurt ya, but, if you make a move towards me, you’re dead.”  Tom slowly backed back off the tree and the bear went back to his business.  Tom backed down the trail and didn’t see anything more of the bear that day.

Tom was definitely a great story teller and I’m sure I’m not doing his stories any justice here, so I apologize for that.  It was a neat experience though to hear firsthand about Forest City, Mineral Basin, and all the other areas, and hearing them while we were actually up there on Graveyard Flats was icing on the cake for me.  Tom and Kurt chatted on for hours about the history of the area, all the mines and caves.

After a good 4 hours or so, the Trinnamans had to call it a night.  They jumped in their Cruiser and headed out.  A few of the group turned in at that point and the rest of us went back to the fire and worked on cooking up some grub.  I threw my hobo dinner into the coals and Kurt busted out his grilled-cheese gear and Doritos.   I think everyone left hanging around the fire partook of Kurt’s gracious grilled-cheese handouts. The talk went on into the night for a few more hours.  Lots of engineering talk and many water balloon stories.   We also came across a salamander that was in bad shape one of the roads near camp.  One of us must’ve stepped on the poor guy at some point.  I had never seen a salamander up there so I was stoked, except for the being squished part.  We also were routinely tormented by some of the loudest side-by-sides I have ever heard.  They were one camp spot over (which was about 100 yards away) and they seemed to head out for a quickie trip every 45 minutes.  Finally around 3:30 am or so, we decided to turn in ourselves.

As I started to regain consciousness in the morning, I could hear the sound of rain on the roof of my 4Runner.  That rain seemed to quickly turn to hail and really wake me up.  I looked around and noticed everyone else seemed to be awake and packing up.  I hopped out, grabbed some food and rearranged my supplies so they would be packed most snugly and headed over to the fire pit area.
A plan was made to head up to Tyng’s grave and then possibly over Pole Line Pass to Midway afterwards for those of us heading more South.

We departed camp, bound for George Tyng’s grave at around 10:30 am.  The hail had lightened and turned back into a light rain.  It had also remained quite chilly.  On the way up to the Tyng’s grave trailhead, two other FJ40s joined up with us.  The trail was rocky and muddy, but nothing any of our rigs couldn’t handle. We reached Tyng’s grave about an hour or so later amidst a light snow dusting.  It was crazy to think that we were getting snowed on in the middle of August in Utah.  At Tyng’s grave, Kurt busted out some literature and told us a bit about Mr. George Tyng and his mining efforts.  Tyng had traveled up from the Phoenix area around somewhere just before the turn of the century looking to do some mining.  He ended up leasing the mines on the east side of Miller Hill. Tyng was a well-liked man and treated his workers very well.  In the winter of 1906, after pulling more than $3 million dollars profit out of the mine, Tyng was killed in an avalanche.  He was sitting in his cabin and the avalanche came down and swept the cabin off its roost.  He may have actually survived the avalanche, but while he was getting tossed about, his head struck a large nail in his wall where he normally hung his coat.  His body was actually hauled all the way down to American Fork City where it was then read in his will that he wished to be buried up near his mine and cabin site.  He was then hauled all the way back up and buried there.  His grave remains there still and some of his distant relatives still maintain the sign and fence around his grave site.

From there, we make a quick 500-yd jaunt up to the spot of the mines and then headed back down to the Pacific Mine site.  There we gathered again and a few parted ways for home and the rest of us decided to head over Pole Line Pass to Midway. It was quite foggy and slightly rainy still as we ascended towards Pole Line Pass.  I was actually a bit bummed as we couldn’t see much and it would’ve made for some great scenery.  We took one turn off and messed around on some muddy hills for a few minutes trying to get up but it was just too slippery for us to get anywhere.  We turned around and continued on over the pass.

On our way down the other side, the clouds started to clear and eventually it became quite sunny and clear.  Kurt suggested we try to find the Snake Creek Trail and head up that as it supposedly took you all the way up on top of a peak where you could look over on top of Brighton.  We all agreed. It was quite a rocky bumpy trail and not one that I would want to be in any larger of a vehicle as it was quite narrow in some spots.  I smacked my passenger side mirror on a nice tree at one point.   On the way up we came across a mine site and we explored around it for a bit.  There was still a standing cabin there as well as another larger cabin just a bit farther down. We continued on up the skinny, rocky track, climbing higher and higher until we were up right near 10000 ft and we could almost see the top.  We then ran into a couple of fellers on quads and they recommended we not continue on all the way up as there was nowhere to park or turn our trucks around.  We thanked them for the advice and eyed a nice spot to park just another 100 yds or so up the track. We parked and started hiking up. There was Kurt and his shep Jada, myself, and Lewis with his wife and two kids.  The hike ended up taking us about 15 to 20 mins to reach the top.  And of course the first thing we all noticed was a very nice flat spot carved off just below the top where we could have easily parked all three rigs and used it to turn around.  The next thing we noticed was that we could have easily gotten a couple rigs all the way up on top and been able to turn them around.  The hike had winded me pretty good as I had not been up into that thin air in quite a long time.  But regardless, the view from the top was amazing.  We could see all the way back down into Midway, and off the other side, straight down into Brighton.  I could spot all the lines I usually take while snow boarding.   Out final altitude ended up just over 10000 ft (Kurt has the official altitude…).

After spending a few minutes and taking a few photos, we headed back down to our rigs.  A couple of guys in a Jeep came up just about the time we made it back down to our trucks and they asked us how it was and why we were walking.  We gave them the story and told them they wouldn’t have a problem getting turned around up there.  Kurt and Jada actually joined them for the drive back up top; while myself and Lewis and family started down the hill. Kurt caught up to us at the fork turnoff for Pole Line Pass and Midway and we cruised down and parted ways Heber (not before we spotted a shorty FJ45 pickup parked out in front of a grocery store on the south end of town—yeah, we checked it over and scored some pics :D  ).  All-in-all it was an awesome adventure and I look forward to many, many more. Thanks Kurt, Cruiser Outfitters, and all of Cruiser Outfitters fine customers!

View the full gallery of AFC Run photos here


November 13th-15th, 2009 - Frozen in the Swell - By Jason Goates

Getting out of Salt Lake City became more of a chore than normal rush hour traffic due to several major wrecks. I followed close as Kurt blazed through the jungle of brake lights as though we were heading to the San Rafael Swell for the Cruiser Outfitters Customer Appreciation November Run.. Oh, wait..

I generally like traveling at night, but at this time of year it's almost disappointing how fast the sun sets. As we made our way out of the canyon and into Helper, we could hear a faint Brian Passey over the HAM on a simplex frequency. He was already telling stories filled with exaggerations around the campfire at our first campsite located at the Wedge overlook. Not bad range for our mobile units. Kurt and I rolled into Ferron to top off our tanks, and then jumped into the Swell towards the Wedge overlook. We arrived to a good-sized fire, and even better company. Alongside the story telling we cooked up pizzas in our cast iron cooking devices and I attempted to do some long shutter speed photos, as I’m still figuring out my Nikon.

The temperatures dropped as the midnight oils burned on, and I for one was not prepared for it once I got my mattress and sleeping back set up. I more or less suffered through the night, but it's always an adventure to overcome and last through such unforgiving situations.

Morning came quick, and colder than when I finally fell asleep. But, the group was in high spirits and ready to get on the road for some much needed R&R San Rafael style. The day started out with a little sun, and bighorn sheep sighting, some coffee for some, and heaters cranked. After a drivers meeting to get everyone on the same page, we rolled out in search of the MK Tunnels. The MK Tunnels, named for Morrison Knudsen - the contractors DOD enlisted to prepare the shafts, were created in 1948 when the United States Department of Defense was looking for naturally occurring defenses from air-delivered explosives. Needless to say, the tunnels couldn't stand up to the explosions during testing. The group checked out the remains of the tunnels top and bottom.

We then moved out towards the Buckhorn Wash. There are so many treasures to be found along this corridor from dinosaur tracks, to cowboy/bandit signatures, pictographs, and more. The group stopped to check out Matt Warner's name written on a rock face, along with some rock art left by travelers hundreds of years before. Matt Warner was turned to the outlaw life around the age 15, but was always known as the kind-hearted bandit as he only raised his gun when he acted in self defense. Despite some adventures with famous outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Matt was also a family man, and even left behind a memoir of his life experiences before living out a peaceful old age; rare for someone with his lifestyle. Around a few bends of the beautiful Buckhorn Wash corridor, lined with yellow leaves and an overcast ceiling, we all filed in to take a look at the Buckhorn Panel. This Panel is believed to be home to pictographs and petroglyph's that were left over 2,000 years ago by the Barrier Canyon culture; which are the oldest of the archaic rock art styles in the U.S. This style of rock art can be found throughout Central to Southern Utah.

We then made our way to the old swinging bridge over the San Rafael River. Built in 1938 by the Conservation Corps, it was the only bridge over the San Rafael River until the early 1990’s. This is a nice place to walk through the river on a warmer day, but not this day. From here we made our way further down the road until reaching the abrupt turn-off for Black Dragon Canyon. This is a fun road that allows some speed along the first few miles. Our train of 13 or so rigs was moving nicely. The road takes you around the foothills of mesas that slow your progress with rocks and ledges. Off to the right we could see I-70, a safe haven large RV's and tractor trailers as they sailed down the smooth tarmac. The rough terrain didn't back down as we descended into the canyon. I put my new rock sliders to the test a few times as I navigated my Xterra down over large ledges, and weaved through boulders tossed around by the last flash flood.

Finally, we reached the Black Dragon drawings. Some ran off to explore the art up close, locate the hidden cave in the area, fire off some rounds from newly purchased firearms, and my favorite; lunch. The Black Dragon Panel receives its name from a pictograph, which resembles a flying dragon. Pictographs and petroglyph's are spread out along the base of the high canyon walls. As we spent a good hour or so relaxing, the air temperature noticeably dropped several notches, with an increase in cold breezes. Up the canyon were looming dark clouds closing in fast.

We packed up and were out of the canyon when the snow started to fall. Back on I-70 for a short jaunt down to another jump off point to reach camp #2 at the Lone Warrior pictograph, a stones throw from the old Swazey cabin. Here some went off to explore mines further down the road, some setup camp; other found a quick snooze until the snow passed. Once the sun came back out, the sights of the surrounding area were blanketed in a nice white layer. I've not been in the San Rafael Swell with snow, and it was gorgeous. The campfire was crackling as we listened to the UofU vs. TCU game over the satellite radio. Not the usual campfire activity, but hey, it was a big game. The game was shut off by halftime due to the relentless butt whooping that the U was receiving.

Saturday night proved to be a bit better for my sleeping situation, as I let the truck heat up, and poured boiling water in a Nalgene bottle which was placed in my mummy bag for heating duty. These two steps allowed me to have a comfortable nights rest amid the crystallized white scenery outside my windows.

Waking up Sunday morning was easier than Saturday morning. The sun was shining, and we had some more exploring to do before the drive home. I got up for the day, grabbed eggs, peppers, onions, etc and headed over to Kurt's Kamp Kitchen to cook up some breakfast burritos. Yes, I made Kurt and Cody breakfast in roof top tent that morning. They awoke to the smells and sounds of eggs and bacon, which would later be integral parts to the greatest breakfast burritos ever consumed in the San Rafael Swell region. Several plans were hatched over breakfast. Some would go check out Ding and Dang for one on one slot canyon mischief, others hit the HWY to get a jump start on heading home; while myself Kurt, Lewis and buddy, Richard, Cody, and Brian headed out to the Copper Globe Mines via Justensen Flats south of I-70.

I've been out that way twice now, and I’ve been lucky to see the herd of wild horses that call that area home. Copper Globe Mine is a popular historic mining site, with remnants from a circa 1900 copper mining operation, that actually has no record of ever producing an ounce of copper. This site has several cabins, kiln, open shafts, cowboy pictographs (gringographs), water basin, remnants of outhouse, woodpile for the kiln, and so on. It is a great place to explore.

From the Copper Globe Mine we headed along Justensen Flats over to a series of Lucky Strike Mine overlooks. The views were, and always are, breath-taking. The mural of colors and designs in front of you can look like a massive painting; almost as though you could reach out and feel the textures of the masterpiece beneath your fingers. Alas, it'd be a long reach, and a long way down if you misplaced a step while snooping around the edges of these cliffs.

We found the greatest lunch spot ever while searching for a road that skirted along the cliff sides, that was rumored to loop back up to the main road. Coolers and camp chairs are out, and Richard begins to build a small fire for some last call cooking via his trusty cast iron pie cooking device. These devices are superior to any other method of pie-cooking over an open fire; especially when compared to a cast aluminum pie cooking device (The Jacksonian Institute is currently gathering data to furthermore solidify the gross gains that cast iron pie cooking devices hold over their weak and frail counterpart - the inferior cast aluminum pie cooking device). As I dug through my cooler I found half a package of mushrooms, added that to some bacon that Kurt had left over, grabbed my double-wide cast iron pie cooking device, some spray on butter, and went to town creating bacon wrapped sauteed mushrooms over the fire using the pie iron like two separate skillets of greasy goodness.

Full of the delicious treats, and happy from popping of a few more rounds from AK-47's, mean .22 rifles, and some handguns, we were off again. The road ahead proved to be severely washed out, but we got through. Some of the wash-outs were massive, and would have easily swallowed a whole rig if the driver failed to give 100% attention to the terrain. The FJ40 puttered out of fuel, so a quick gas stop was performed to get it up and running again. Not far off we found pavement again. Lewis and his buddy took off to hopefully locate a cell phone thought to be lost back at the Wedge overlook.. As luck would have it, the phone was found. The rest of us filled up our fuel tanks in Ferron if I recall, and headed for Groggs eatery in Price. Groggs was a perfect way to finish up our weekend's adventure.

Another awesome trip. I was pleasantly surprised with the capabilities of the Nissan Xterra on this type of trip, and couldn't have asked for any better performance. A good time was had by all, and I got to play with my new camera. To which, I hope some of my photos can paint a picture that will allow you to see the beauty found in the San Rafael Swell region on Utah.

Thanks Kurt for hosting another awesome trip!

View the full gallery of Swell Run photos here


December 18th-19th, 2009 - Winter Solstice "Freeze Your Tail Off" Overnighter - By Josh Stanfield

 

View the full gallery of Lucin Run photos here


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