So We Took A Little Trip (Southern Utah)

GearWhore

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We spent last week hitting up some of southern Utah's finest overlanding, though it was just supposed to be a fun out and back to the Canyonlands Doll House. Little narrative below if you want, otherwise enjoy the photos!

I originally envisioned and planned this trip in February/March as a birthday gift and couples retreat for one of my closest friends. However it happened to fall on his 10th anniversary, but they still wanted to do the trip.

Then their childcare fell through. I was able to get a permit for 2 weeks later. Even though this put us into mid-June, we figured we'd go for it.

Then a little more than 2 weeks before the new departure, their childcare fell through, again. Instead of calling off the trip, my buddy's gracious wife insisted he still go. A few days later his cousin was convinced to fly in from Seattle for the trip.

Then, as we were sitting in my buddy's back yard finalizing meal plans and other trip details, I received a call from the Hans Flat Ranger Station warning me that the temps were forecast to be 108+ in the Doll House for the days we were there. For those not familiar, the Doll House is an area with 3 campsites in the most remote part of Canyonlands National Park. The ranger station is a minimum of 18 miles of pavement and 46 miles of dirt road from the nearest gas station/town (Hanksville). From there it is 42 miles of trail to the campsites. NPS estimates 6-8 hours to complete that 42 miles. It is technical for many, many miles.

With temps too high to do much, even sit, safely, we decided to make this more of an "overland" style trip, so I go to planning so more. I have been poking around these areas of Utah in Jeeps for more than 20 years now, and really enjoy connecting remote places with remote roads. I planned to keep the first night at Doll House as it was the impetus for the trip and permits can be hard to get.

My buddy picked up his cousin from the airport Wednesday morning, stopped by a Mall-Wart and connected at our house. Short drive to US-6 and we were underway. Topped up fuel tanks and fuel cans in Hanksville then headed to Hans Flat. We aired down to low teens as soon as we pulled off UT-24. What a difference in ride comfort! The drive in was beautiful, hot, and uneventful. It was still 100 degrees when we got to the campsite and set up. I don't think temps were lower than mid-80s that night.
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We were going to hike down to Spanish Bottom of the Colorado River on Thursday morning but even starting a little after 7am the sun was out and too warm. We hiked about half way down then turned around. The trail is short, steep, and fully exposed. Not a good one in the heat. We checked out the other two campsites as they were empty, then back to breakfast and camp breakdown.

From the Doll House we exited Canyonlands to the south, rejoining pavement near Hite, and what used to be the top end of Lake Powell. Now the boat ramp is a LONG ways from the river, and even further from the "lake." Fortunately the fuel station is still open in Hite (Gobisteen was thirsty, Panda not so much), and they offer free air to fill up, but not too much else.

My plan was to skirt east through some dirt roads north of Natural Bridges and into the elevations of Bears Ears. Unfortunately, around 14 miles in, near the Sundance Trailhead, my buddy called over the radio that "we have a problem." As he pulled up I could see it, the front passenger lower control arm was not attached to the frame; missing bolt. They stayed there in the AC while my wife and I backtracked, looking for hardware. About half a mile back we spotted the bolt in the dirt. After another mile we never found the washer or nut. We were able to get the control arm bolt back in place with a mallet and ratchet strap. We wrapped the threads with duct tape then secured that with a couple zip ties.
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We limped back to Hite, but there was nothing to help there. We took the highway SE towards the nearest hardware store in Blanding. Knowing it would close before we got there, we pulled off into the lower end of Bears Ears, near Natural Bridges and set up camp for the night. The following morning we were off to Blanding. We were unable to find a thread-matching nut, so got a new bolt, nut, and washers, which we replaced in the parking lot.
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From Blanding we headed west again, back up Elk Mountain, then down into Beef Basin and Ruin Park. We had lunch near the Tower Ruin, then headed north into Elephant Hill at Canyonlands through Bobby's Hole.
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I managed to get myself pretty well hung up on the rear differential at maybe the crux move on the Elephant Hill/Joint Trail. Trying to get that undone I slid the front sideways and got the transfer case skid dropped onto another large rock. I got complacent as I drove our 2018 WK2 Trailhawk through here in 2019 without much issue. Hubris. And payback. Used the hi-lift to get the wheels up to stack some rocks. After that it walked right over. My buddy went right up it, though pretty sure he took extra time to get the line better.
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My original plan after Elephant Hill was to head to the La Sals for Friday night. However, due to the Pack Creek fire (unattended campfire gone wild), the entire west side of the La Sals are closed to access. We stopped in La Sal for another fuel top off and headed up Two-Mile. Rangers and fire personnel were at most intersections preventing us from heading east over La Sal or Geyser passes. We found a nice clearing on the east side SITLA lands for the night at 8900'. Almost no bugs and a great view of the mountains.
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Saturday morning we broke camp and headed for Gateway, Colorado. Very cool auto museum (and fancy resort) in Gateway. From there a beautiful drive NE towards lunch in Palisade. After a quick stop it was time for the highway push home.
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I have loved all of my Jeeps because they allow me to get further than most, and I feel see more than most because of that. The primary design brief in ordering and building this JL is getting us further and back comfortably and safely. We splurged on the diesel hoping it would return the mileage and performance we saw last week. Our JL (Panda) is on 37s and 2.5" MC lift. Buddy's JK Recon (Gobisteen) is on 37s and 4.5" MC springs with TF control arms.

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wibornz

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Great write up and awesome photos. There is nothing better than a Jeep expedition with friends and family.

A little adversity also makes the story a better story to tell even though it usually suck when it happens.
 
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GearWhore

GearWhore

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Depending on your driving skill, you should be able to do it all. I have done most of these roads with our 2018 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, though we certainly dragged the belly skids and rock rails on a few obstacles. In the Rubi you will likely catch the rock rails, fuel tank skid, and the occasional hitch or bumper corner if you're not careful.
 
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