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.
The Whole Story
Love Backcountry Discovery Routes? Check out
BDRs we've run
to find your favorite.