September 27, 2017.
It was a wonderful night. There was no rain, no snow, and no ice on our tents as the sun rose into the sky. Having seen our campsite the night before, this morning was more about getting new perspectives and enjoying the sounds of the world waking up around us.
I headed up onto the rock outcropping south east of our camp and waited for Mike, Monte, and Devin to get up and meet the day. Mike was first out to make his hearty breakfast - two cups of coffee, followed shortly by Monte and Devin who munched on a couple of granola bars; not a whole lot different than the bowl of cereal I was eating as we all enjoyed the warmest morning of the trip so far.
Enjoying ourselves and taking it easy, we finally headed back to the highway around 10:45am and turned to the south. We hit Dinosaur, Colorado within minutes, but had another couple hours of driving to get to our destination: Loma, the start of the Kokopelli Trail that would take us to Moab.
Refueled, we continued on. CB chatter ranged from completely silent as we each listened to our own tunes to downright chatty, all of our spirits raised, and us looking forward to the Utah dirt. Monte, Devin, and Mike had all been relatively recently, so a combination of "remember" and "we need to" hit the airwaves.
And of course, along the way we stopped a few times for photos.
When we got to Loma around 1:00pm, it was time to refuel - which was unfortunate. Because, you see, there was only one Conoco in our path, and it was one Mike recalled from their last trip as, "being expensive, not having any firewood, and as only having a honey bucket out back."
Monte suggested that he was just a grumpy old man - did he want to drive 40 miles out of our way to a different gas station? "Sort of," Mike said.
I could tell he was "sort of" joking.
In the end, we paid outrageous prices for gas, and used the honey bucket. The day was saved however when we discovered that they now carried firewood, so we stocked up on a couple bundles for the nights to come. And then, we were off to the Kokopelli, where we ate lunch at the trailhead parking lot before airing down and heading out.
The beginning of the Kokopelli is cool because you first drive through a tunnel that goes under the highway, and then you start winding your way pretty quickly through some cool rock formations (and definitely different than we'd seen in Montana and Wyoming)!
And then, not long after, we got away from the freeways. We had 136 miles (ok, probably 130 now) of dirt in front of us, and we were all looking forward to it more than I think any would have admitted. Even Devin was in better spirits with the "no rain" weather, and riding in Igor.
OK, let's just admit it - it was the lack of Frank that was raising her mood.
Whatever it was, we bumped along taking in the amazing views, and soon we started to get into some more "fun" parts of the trail.
And then we heard Monte over the radio, "Well, that's narrow! Might be the end of our trip!" We couldn’t believe it - we'd come so far, what could possibly cause us to turn back now?
We got out to look at the narrow spot in the road, and it was eerily reminiscent of the narrow spot where Frank squeezed by and Zane had to be winched back to safety. But this time, there was no mud and with some careful driving we were able to squeak by.
And trust me - it felt narrower than it looks in these pictures.
Our target camp site 60 miles ahead of us, we tried to make good time through the remainder of the afternoon. That meant that we only stopped about 20 times for pictures rather than the walking pace that we may have otherwise taken. And as we took pictures of our trucks and surroundings, bikers and motorcyclists would stop to take pictures of us.
There were carved canyons and red rocks for miles. Washes and green valleys below we would take photo after photo hoping to capture the grandeur.
It was impossible. But we tried.
Eventually, we came to a washout that we were all wondering about - Monte and Mike because they'd been surprised by and done it before, and me because I'd read about it in their last trip report, and they'd been talking about it on and off - wondering if it'd be in worse shape - for the better part of the last couple days.
When we got there, I could see why.
A good 10 feet or more deep, sandy on both sides, and muddy in the bottom, this would have been a place (frankly of many) where I'd have been like, "OK welp, guess it's time to turn around." But not today, we were going for it!
With lockers on the front and back, Mike went first.
He climbed right out, which raised the confidence level for Monte and I. Prematurely of course.
Monte was next. Down was of course easy. It was up that was tough.
In the end, after giving it several goes and just chewing up the exit for the next guy (wonder who that is?! Oh, right, it's me!), it was clear that he wasn't going to make it. So we hooked him up to Mike's winch and popped him out easily.
And then it was my turn. Again, down was easy. Essentially, "keep your foot to the floor on the brake and slide all the way down anyway." It was up that was the issue. Having just watched Monte scrape up his bumper in his attempts, I gave it two shots and then also settled for a pull from Mike.
The toughest obstacle now behind us, and the sun getting lower in the sky, it was inevitable that Mike would start talking about whether we'd make it to our camp site or if we should look for something closer. Ever the optimists, we pushed on.
It seemed that around every turn I wanted to stop for pictures. Even as we were driving, there were parts of the trail were 100% ledge - the first time I'd driven on such terrain. Very cool. Had to take pictures.
Loved every minute.
And then, just as the sun was setting, we arrived at camp. Nestled against a fold in the rocks (which I guess technically isn't a fold, since these were caused by erosion), it was clear that the next morning's exploration would be a fun one!
That is, as long as it wasn't raining. Because just then, as we unfolded our tents, we felt the first drops fall from the sky.
"Just go to Utah they said," mocked Monte, "It'll be sunny in Utah they said."
We were of course a little disappointed, but by now we were also used to the rain. As we cooked and ate dinner - this time in the dark and so taco-less - one of us smartened up and retired to Igor to read her book. The rest of us hung out by the camp fire, happy at least that the rain was relatively light and that we could talk about Tacoma's.
In this case, about tires - because after this trip it was clear I needed something a bit bigger than stock. Some 33's. And if you're going to get 33's, Mike and Monte assured me - you may as well consider some new wheels… because, you know, with some 16" wheels, you could also get some Tundra brakes.
Of course, it was easy to spend money on someone else's truck, so they also suggested a front locker, regearing - either to 4.56's or 4.88's, steel plate reinforcement for my frame ("before it gets all tweaked like ours" they said helpfully), and of course probably a dozen other things I didn't even understand.
These were my people. Or I was theirs. Or something. It was great.
As the rain started to pick up, I took that as my queue to hit the sack, saying "I'm out when that flame goes out." I think Mike only distracted me a couple times so he could throw two or three more logs on the fire (without me noticing) to get me to stick around for another half hour. But at 11:30pm, we all decided it was time, and we hoped that the rain would let up by the next morning.