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We Arrive and it is Hot | UTBDR Prologue

As always, we wanted to run a Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR) this summer, and I'd had my eye on Colorado or Utah as both are always beautiful states through which to travel. This would be our seventh BDR in as many years, the original Oregon BDR being one of the very first trips we'd attempted with the CVT roof top tent.

With record snowfall across the west, we realized a few weeks before our departure date that Colorado was completely out of the question, and even portions of the Utah route could still be blocked by snow.

Still, the Utah BDR is an iconic route. Meandering 871-miles through the Valley of Gods, climbing the Moki Dugway, picking the perfect route through the rough roads of Lockhart Basin, and winding through four mountain ranges along the eastern edge of the state (Abajo, La Sal, Uinta, and Wasatch), there's no doubting the spectacular scenery along the entire route.

Not everything was as it has been on previous BDRs, however. As has been the case for many of our trips this year, our journey began with a flight from Seattle to Las Vegas, half-full packs hanging off our shoulders as we left the house on foot. We'd save more than 14 hours of driving this way, instead enjoying the ultra-luxurious seats that are Spirit Airlines economy class. You know the ones I'm talking about - no padding or ability to recline. But the snacks are free if you find them in the seat-back pocket in front of you.

Landing mid-afternoon, it was 111°F as we walked out of the Las Vegas airport, the stifling heat raising several questions that we struggled to put out of our minds. Questions like:

  • Will the fridge be able to keep the food cool?
  • Will it be too hot to get out of the Tacoma to take photos?
  • Please, please, please, let's hope that the air conditioning works through the entire trip.
  • Why in the world did we leave the pleasantly warm (85°F) Pacific Northwest for this?
  • Why? Just why?

It was a tad roasty for us, even if our Uber driver assured us that, "105 °F is totally workable."

From the airport, a quick stop at In-n-Out for stomach sustenance and the grocery store to fill the new Dometic CFX3-45 that I'd recently acquired, Then, A/C blasting, we hopped into the Tacoma for a 10-hour drive along the Utah-Arizona border to the starting point in the southeast corner of the state: Mexican Hat.

Along the way - as we passed through Apple Valley - we got a sneak peak at some of the views that Utah has on offer.

After passing through Monument Valley, we would arrive at Mexican Hat just after 3:00am the following morning, the bright light of a full moon shining down on the formation for which this town is named.

Perhaps due to the temperatures, we had the place to ourselves.

Knowing that the most pleasant time of day to travel would just before sunrise, I set my alarm for only a few hours later. We wouldn't leave before the fiery ball rose above the horizon, but we would try to get a few miles under our belts before it was able to raise the temperatures into the triple digits.

My plan - poorly thought through as I look back now - was that early mornings would allow for early evenings, enabling us to enjoy a relaxing dinner in camp. The problem - as is likely obvious to anyone reading this - was that with sunset around 9:00pm, "early evening" was perhaps the hottest time of day - a time when we most definitely preferred the comfort of the air-conditioned cab.

For now though, anticipation - and six-or-seven days of travel to complete the six-plus-one stages of the route - was the name of the game, and we both fell asleep dreaming of what lay ahead.

Stage 1: Mexican Hat to Monticello - 174 miles
Stage 2 (expert alternate): Lockhart Basin - 78 miles
Stage 2: Monticello to Dewey Bridge - 148 miles
Stage 3: Dewey Bridge to Wellington - 170 miles
Stage 4: Wellington to Currant Creek - 106 miles
Stage 5: Currant Creek to Evanston - 127 miles
Stage 6: Evanston to Garden City - 97 miles

An iconic route.



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  1. Mark
    Mark August 4, 2023

    When you pick up the Tacoma--Does it matter that you put in slightly cool food?
    does the fridge cool fast enough for food safety?

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 4, 2023

      Hey Mark, The fridge cools pretty quickly - maybe 40°F in 30 minutes or so (at least, probably faster). Additionally, putting cool food in from the grocery store helps to cool it more quickly, and things like a gallon of milk help to act as a ballast over the course of a trip. So I don't really worry about food safety, especially when I'm on a trip that's a week or less. For 2+ week trips, I try to be a bit more careful about what I eat first/last, and will re-supply part way through the trip for things that don't last as long. ?

      • mark
        mark September 7, 2023

        I would be interested in following up on Las Vegas long term parking. Is it inside? What security is given? Did you try any others? How far is the airport and do they pick up and drop you off?
        It looks like parking long term would solve my time driving from northern Illinois and let us try the BDR routes. Im looking at storage places like "Nellis" or "Life Storage".
        Prices are i,m line at about $230-250 per month and both of these have promo rates now.

        Did you get lockable inside storage or regular outside

        • turbodb
          turbodb September 11, 2023

          Sorry for the slow reply - been out exploring the California Sierra! I don't want to share the specific location where I've got the truck stored (just to try to keep a bit of "privacy" over my stuff, even though I share my actual adventures over the Internet), but I'm happy to answer general questions about the long term storage, and what I think are important things to find when looking for a place to keep your own truck.

          Is it inside?
          Yes, my truck is stored inside a large, climate controlled warehouse. I think this is extremely important in Las Vegas, for a couple of reasons: (1) security - keeping it inside makes it much less likely to be broken into, especially given that I have a lot of stuff in the bed of the Tacoma. (2) The weather in Vegas is insanely hot during the summer. Like weeks of time over 100°F. Storing a vehicle in the sun all that time would be terrible. Rubber, dashboard, battery, etc. would suffer.

          What security is given?
          The Tacoma is moved in/out of the facility by the staff there, and there are (as I understand it) people on site at all times in order to ensure security. Essentially, I tell them when I want to pick up the Tacoma (with some limitations around the hours) and an hour or two before that, they move it out of the warehouse and into the parking lot in front of the reception area. Then, I show up and pick up the keys and drive away. Dropping it off is similar - I hand off the keys and they move it back into the warehouse, generally within about 15 minutes. The caveat to this is after-hour drop off - if I drop it on a Sunday or after 5:00pm, they won't move it in until the following morning. So, I generally make a point of dropping it off when the location is staffed.

          Did you try any others?
          I haven't tried any others, but I'm sure that similar services would be reasonably good as well.

          How far is the airport and do they pick up and drop you off?
          They do not pick up and drop off from the airport, but I just grab an Uber or Lyft for $20-35 each way. The overall cost is still a lot cheaper than driving 2000 miles down and back from home!

          It looks like parking long term would solve my time driving from northern Illinois and let us try the BDR routes. Im looking at storage places like "Nellis" or "Life Storage".
          Prices I'm looking at are about $230-250 per month and both of these have promo rates now.

          I've really enjoyed the long-term storage, and as long as you don't mind (1) not having your truck at home when you're not out on the trail and (2) paying for the long-term storage all year (in the case that you do drive your truck home at some point - I've had mine home most of the summer), it's a great option. Those prices are in line with what I'm paying for mine as well.

          Did you get lockable inside storage or regular outside?
          Mine is inside, but it's just a big warehouse, so it's not "individually lockable" as I mentioned above. Still, only the employees have access to the warehouse (and customers can get a tour prior to signing a lease on a parking spot), so it is "locked" from that perspective. And, as I mentioned, I would not do outdoor storage even if it were secure, due to the weather.

          Hope that helps! Shout if you have more questions!

  2. Lapsley Hope
    Lapsley Hope August 5, 2023

    What a great travel itinerary and I'm really looking forward to this trip report. I've done about half of the Colorado BDR and portions of the Utah BDR and I don't think there is a much better way to really see the backcountry of both states than the BDR's. Plus, there are several travel guides, maps and GPS associated tracks that are available to make the navigating easier.

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 6, 2023

      Definitely a couple of great routes. Like you, I've done about half of each - just coincidentally, as part of other trips, and without knowing at the time that I was following the same path as the BDR - prior to setting out. And, like you, I do enjoy the convenience of someone else planning the route for me! (though, I also enjoy route planning myself!)

    JOHN D MORAN August 5, 2023

    Looking forward to your adventure report. It's been many years since we did eastern Utah but it was a beautiful trip in the fall, Monument Valley, Arches NP, then crossing to the west then south to Cedar City and finally back to CA. Utah is beautiful in spring and fall but can be brutally hot/dry in the summer.

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 6, 2023

      Sounds like a fantastic trip, and fall is a great time to do it. So colorful with the aspen (once you gain a bit of elevation) and probably a lot more comfortable temperature wise! I've yet to officially visit Arches, though I've seen several of them from a distance on Dome Plateau to the east; will need to find a time when it's not so busy and spend a day or two hiking to some of them...maybe this winter!

  4. Bill Rambo
    Bill Rambo August 6, 2023

    Way too Hot!! Fall trip for sure!

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 6, 2023

      If we'd known how hot it was going to be before planning the dates several months ago, we definitely would have decided to go somewhere - anywhere - else! The heat wave across the entire SW really had us in a bind though!

  5. Rob
    Rob August 7, 2023

    Anything below 5,000 ft during the day is going to be pretty beastly this time of year. Those red rocks really absorb the heat of the sun. But nights are decent when the monsoon isn't in place. On a positive note, summer tourist season should be winding down in another week and you may see fewer people out and about. Have fun!

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 8, 2023

      Yeah, we were definitely in search of higher elevations for camp sites. Managed to get out of the worst of it every night (except for the first in Mexican Hat).

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