Trip report: my 2016 western vacation - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-22-2016, 10:48 PM   #1
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Trip report: my 2016 western vacation

On July 6 I departed OK for a 3800 mile trip, a combination of vacation and business trip (a company meeting in Las Vegas). First night, I camped for free next to Spencer Lake near Spencer, NM. I had been wondering what Red River NM was like, so in the morning I drove through there. Spotted a few bears and had to shoot them...

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... with my camera, of course! Red River is a pleasant but touristy town. I may return to that area in the future and spend some time; the area is forested with evergreens and has plenty of rushing streams and NF CGs.

Somewhere along the highway in NM, I spotted a very old, antique travel trailer. One of the earliest types :

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My next night was spent at the splendid, free campground at Navajo National Monument. The next day I continued across AZ toward the Grand Canyon's north rim. But before getting there, a stop at the Navajo Bridge yielded some nice pictures.

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I only spent half a day around the north rim. Bright Angel was interesting, but I preferred the view at Point Imperial:

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More to follow.....
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Old 07-22-2016, 11:11 PM   #2
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I neglected to mention that, being in-between travel trailers this year, I camped with my Lil Hauley. Here's a shot of the interior layout.

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Each bin had a different purpose: pantry, cookware/tableware, camp stove & related items, footwear, and so on. The Hauley has attachment points mounted here and there along the walls so I can use nylon straps to keep things in place. A bungee kept the pillow and blankets securely on the Coleman camp cot. I even took along a 10K BTU portable A/C unit to use if it got too hot.
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Old 07-22-2016, 11:35 PM   #3
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I've read accounts of folks boondocking in NF land just north of the Grand Canyon park property. Some of them even camped right along the canyon rim. Well, that sounded pretty good to me. I stopped at the ranger station at Jacob Lake to pick up a map of the forest roads. When asked, I explained what I had in mind; the ranger replied that due to erosion from the heavy usage at rim locations, they are now keeping campers at least 1/4 mile from the edge. He also cautioned me that the roads, heavily traveled nowadays, are in bad enough condition to damage a travel trailer.

With that in mind, I decided to take a much shorter drive on the gravel roads leading to the Saddle Mountain Wilderness; it's a chasm, but not on the scale of GC. The rangers explained the road numbering system:
3 digit numbered roads are in best condition,
2 digit road numbers are not so good,
4 digit numbers indicate a worse road, and
any number followed by a letter means a really bad road.
With that in mind, I set out on road # 611. It started out a bit washboardy, but within a mile or so it narrowed down and turned into a rutted road. Then it settled down and became a rough, pothole-filled, large-rock-laden piece of heck. Remind me never to do this again! I found a place to pull off and camp, though.

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It was pretty, but the flies were a bit of a nuisance. No mosquitos, however.

I decided to charcoal some fish I'd bought during the day. That's when I discovered that my fire starter sticks had absorbed moisture and fermented during storage! Boy, did they ever stink. And I could not get the charcoal to catch, even with paper towel, kleenex, and a scrap of paper. Ahhh, forget the fish for tonight, let's have a can of soup!

I had originally planned to spend the next day driving those back roads and exploring. Change of plans! I headed north into Utah and, on a whim, wheeled into Coral Pink Dunes SP. Despite this being a Saturday afternoon, I lucked out and got one of the two remaining empty campsites. Picked up some new fire starters on the way, so fish was back on the menu and an evening shower refreshed me. Here's the campsite at this sandy state park.

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Old 07-23-2016, 02:06 AM   #4
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Great write up Mike. I like your interior pic, everything in place and ready to use. You did a bunch of traveling.....did you make your meeting?
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Old 07-23-2016, 07:45 AM   #5
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Love the 2nd picture, the great grandfather of Prairie Schooner......
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Old 07-23-2016, 07:46 AM   #6
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lil snoozy

Hi Mike I see you have a Lexus pulling your Lil hauley what yr and engine does it have is it the 4.7 or 4.6 ? We just sold our Lil Snoozy loved it no real issues but wanted something bigger. We have a Escape 21 being hatched in a few months .
BTW we usually do a 2 week RV trip each Summer about 2700 miles or so with Dog and Grand-kid . we got about 13-14 mpg with our 07 Sequoia with 4.7 v-8 .
Jim
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Old 07-23-2016, 10:20 AM   #7
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Great trip, Mike and thanks for sharing it with us. Can I ask...how did you manage the heat of the SW in summer? Did you have to use the AC? Was the heat in the trailer too oppressive or could you get along okay? I don't travel in the summer as I choose to stay home and care for the yard, but have always wondered just how people manage it - especially without AC. Thanks!
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Old 07-23-2016, 10:21 AM   #8
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Thanks, all. Yep, still headed toward Vegas and the meeting at this point.

The Lexus is a GX470, so it's the older 4.7L engine. I ran about 70 mph most of the time and got only 12 mpg overall (gas is cheap right now). The Lexus did fine except a strong head wind could bog it down and make it work hard. If I'd stuck to 60 mph I probably would have been close to 14 mpg; that's about all my old V6 Highlander ever got with the Hauley, too.

Anyway, back to the narrative. Next morning was Sunday. The meetings would start Monday at 5 pm. I had made a reservation for Sun night at Watchman CG in Zion, so off I went and I arrived there about 11:30 am. Unfortunately it was a hot day, around 96*, so mostly sat around the campsite until after supper. I was blessed to get a campsite with a good view; this was the only site available when I looked to book one.

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Time to try out the A/C! Well, it didn't work out so well. The portable unit (on wheels) has a hose that attaches to the rear, to blow out the heat it produces. I ran this hose out the side window. Unfortunately, as the unit draws air from the trailer via its side grilles, it blows it out through the hose and creates a vacuum inside the trailer. The only solution: open a window! Therefore, the portable A/C drew hot air in just as fast as it blew hot air out, and interior temp only dropped 2 or 3 degrees! However, one could obtain relief from the heat by sitting in front of the unit and letting it blow cold air directly on the body. Better than nothing.....

After a supper of Velveeta shells & cheese and a fruit cup, I rode my bike to the visitor center and caught the shuttle. The shuttle buses have room for 2 bikes on a front rack. My blue Trek and I rode the shuttle all the way to the head of the canyon (Temple of Sinawava) and then I rode the bike all the way back. It is downhill nearly all the way back to the CG, so this is a very easy ride! Along the way I saw turkeys, deer, squirrels, and great views of those towering rock walls. Biking or walking really are the only good ways to experience this place; the shuttle's windows really block the view so much! No traffic to speak of... one must pull over and stop for the occasional shuttle to pass, that's all.

The next morning I set the alarm for 5:30 am and caught an early shuttle back to the Temple, so I could hike the Narrows. This involves several miles of hiking in the Virgin River. Sometimes there is a bank to walk on, but often there is none.

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Old 07-23-2016, 10:43 AM   #9
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Tom, if I'm just sitting around in the shade, with a breeze, 90* or low 90s is ok. Above that, gimme some cool air for sure! And when I sleep, I need it to be in the low 70s or cooler, or I'm miserable. My strategy for western camping this time of year is to target higher elevations where it stays a bit cooler during daytime and really cools off nicely at night. I had lows in the mid 40s some nights.

The Narrows was amazingly cool due to the towering rock walls, little or no sunlight, and the cold water of the Virgin River which begins some 40-50 miles away near the 11,000 foot Cedar Breaks NM area. Walking in this water at first seemed quite unpleasant due to the hard current and the temperature, but I was surprised at how quickly I became accustomed to it. I always had to be careful where I put my feet on the uneven rocks, but really after the first 20 minutes it became no big deal to be in the river.

Here's a set of 3 photos of the same spot, from top to bottom, to give you an idea how high and straight these walls are. Look closely and you'll see a couple of hikers at the bottom.

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There's a spot in the Narrows where a split off to the right goes into Orderville Canyon. I went beyond that split about 10 minutes, but the water seemed higher and swifter there and made progress difficult. So I stopped on a rocky bank, ate the lunch I'd packed, and turned around. Heading in early, I'd beaten the crowd and few people were present. Going back, I encountered hordes of tourists still heading in. Sometimes I pointed behind me and said, "Don't worry, I saved some for ya!" Or occasionally I'd remark that, in the days before the internet, this hike up the stream bed was the early version of 'live streaming.'

After exiting the Narrows and picking up the trail back to the shuttle stop, I spotted this nice fellow enjoying his meal:

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Old 07-23-2016, 11:07 AM   #10
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I expected to come out of the Narrows feeling exhausted, but instead I felt energized. It took about 5 hours. The slow pace of moving carefully on the uneven, rocky surfaces didn't tire me out more than a fast-paced, 1-hour walk would have. It was definitely worthwhile and I'd do it again.

BTW, the bike ride down the canyon was something I wished I could do every evening for a month!

after the shuttle deposited me at the visitor center, it was time to put on dry shoes and head to Vegas. The company put us up at the Wynn Resort Hotel from the 11th to the 14th. It was the lap of luxury. The food they fed us was excellent, especially the fish. However, other than the shower and the climate control, I would have preferred staying in my trailer somewhere out in the woods. I don't like Las Vegas! The traffic, the spirit of greed and despair that comes with the gamblers, the high prices, and the glitz are all negatives to me. One evening we were on our own for dinner and I checked out the buffet restaurant on the Wynn's main floor. Take a look at the prices:

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I walked across the street to the mall and found the food court. Even there, prices were jacked up more than normal; but at least I could eat for about $8.
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Old 07-23-2016, 11:32 AM   #11
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A/C

Mike you might want to invest in a 8000 BTU A/C unit and get the fiberglass box that it comes in from Lil Snoozy they are under different mgmt. now . Especially if you want to keep using Lil hauley for camping . We loved our lil Snoozy I fixed the blue hose in cassette toilet and then she was good to go
We have the 07 Sequoia with a 4.7 v-8 and I love the car except the fuel economy but I see that the Lexus doesn't get much better.Take care Jim
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Old 07-23-2016, 11:39 AM   #12
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It was great to get out of town on the 14th! I actually skipped the morning meetings (during this trip I'd decided to quit the company and negotiated with another rep to buy me out) so I got an early jump on the travel day. My next main target was Idaho, where I would visit my brother. But on the way I stopped near Nephi, UT and camped at the Ponderosa CG in the Uinta NF. Years ago, someone planted a grove of Ponderosa Pines in this location, and now they have a CG among those pines.

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2 nights here gave me the opportunity to spend a whole day exploring the Mt. Nebo Scenic Drive and the northern section of the Skyline Drive. There are plenty of nice valley views from these high-elevation roads. The Mt. Nebo loop is paved, but the Skyline Drive road is gravel and becomes much rougher (4WD needed) along the more southerly sections. Along the way, I spotted these pretty horses:

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On Saturday I drove to my brother's place and had a nice visit that evening. The next morning it was time to head for the Tetons.

I would normally have found a place to camp away from the crowds (either NF boondocking or perhaps at Lizard Creek CG, which is small), but I'd heard from home that a strong windstorm had hit the place back home and done some minor damage, so I decided to make my Tetons visit a very short one. I selected the most conveniently located CG, Colter Bay. The site was very un-level and I didn't like the CG layout (all campers basically pull off to one side or the other of the loop road, everyone close together) and it got totally smoky in the evening from all the camp fires. But that's life sometimes. I got up early the next morning, traveled back to the Jenny Lake area, and took some pictures.

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Afterward I hightailed it for home, leaving at 10 am and making it back to the house about 6 pm the next night. About 1200 miles, sometimes up to 75 mph. Spent Monday night at the Flying J near Limon CO... a first-time experience for me. All is well, a few missing shingles and a small pine tree that fell over onto the privacy fence were the worst of the storm damage.

The Hauley worked well and towed straight as an arrow at all times. Only 1600-1700 lbs with all my gear (I even took a tent and a Clam screen room, but never used them) and high enough on the spring axle that I never worried about where I took it. But now that I will no longer be in the book-and-gift business I have no need for a cargo trailer. So I am pondering whether to sell it and buy a ready-to-go, honest-to-goodness travel trailer again. Preferably an Escape 17B or 19.
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Old 07-23-2016, 12:06 PM   #13
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I thoroughly enjoyed your travelogue! I still dream of getting out west, and you shared a lot I've never heard from my well-traveled older brother. Thanks!
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Old 07-23-2016, 02:35 PM   #14
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I thought I'd add a couple of my more eclectic, infrared images. The first two were taken in Zion.

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This next one was in the Grand Tetons.

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