Xjack_TAP_5

Bushranger Exhaust Jack- Recovery Device for the “Soft Stuff”

Truck and SUV Tents-Camping Options for the Overlander

September 9, 2016 Comments (3) Adventures, Home Page, National Parks, Overland Trails, Utah

A Journey Through Canyonlands

nels-larson-miller_71_tap_canyonlands

The following article comes from an interview I conducted with Nels Larson of Slumberjack.  The commentary, photos and captions will take you on an extraordinary excursion through Canyonlands National Park. Check out this epic four day photo journal and… TAP into Adventure!

Our original plan was to go on a trip as a Slumberjack team event. I was eager to test a prototype shelter I had been working on that will be released in spring 2017. I had reservations booked in the Maze, but when push came to shove, work scheduling conflicts got in the way of a team trip.  So, it evolved into a personal trip with Justin Michael, from finance, his girlfriend Nikki, Dustin Miller and Aaron Bodrod both of whom are friends of Michaels. We decided to give up spots in the Maze in favor of a different route primarily through BLM land that skirts Canyonlands Maze district and goes through the Needles. We went with the non-booked sites to give us more freedom in our route finding and campsite selection. It also gave us creative control over where we would end up each night.

Our plan was to go from Moab to Chicken Corners, around Lockheart Basin, through the Needles district via the Elephant Hill Trail, then take Bobby’s Hole up to Beef Basin Road, then back to Moab. We expected it to be an epic adventure and it was!

nels-larson-40_canyonlands_tapjpg

photo: Nels Larson

Day 1: Moab to Chicken Corners.  We all met in Boulder CO, rolled into Moab, took a right on Kane Creek Road then worked our way slowly through Kane Springs Canyon, to Chicken Corners. [It’s said that Moab area guides allow “chicken” passengers to walk, rather than ride, past the narrow sloping section of this route.] Chicken Corners is moderate wheeling, mixed sand, double track, sandy slickrock ledges, dry creek crossings with some moderate navigational challenges.

“The Crew” day 1 Chicken Corners. Dustin Miller’s V8 4Runner: Fox suspension lift, CBI rear bumper, Shrockworks front bumper,  RCI Offroad belly skids, sliders, CVT RTT. Nels Larson’s Tacoma: CBI Moab 2.0, Aluminum front bumper, CBI Bushmaster 2.0 high clearance rear bumper, CBI front & Mid belly skids, Slee Sliders & Icon UCA skids, Fox 2.5 Factory coils, Fox performance rear shocks, Dakar rear leafs. Justin Michael’s V8 4Runner: Fox suspension lift, CBI rear bumper, Shrockwork front bumper, RCI Offroad belly skids, sliders    photo: Nels Larson

Camp set-up for the night

Photo: Dustin Miller

Slumberjack Roadhouse Tarp to be released this Spring 2017    photo: Dustin Miller


Day 2: This was definitely a day that tested our navigational skills.
We continued driving through Chicken Corners toward Lockheart Basin. Linking up to Lockheart Basin was a challenge and we ended up going in the wrong direction many times.

nels-larson-miller_72_tap_canyonlands

“Brief team meeting discussing our location and route finding in search of the climb up towards Lockhart Basin. As usual, Justin “the navigator” was suggesting the correct route, while I (Nels) was completely turned around.” photo: Dustin Miller

One of our attempts ended us up in a box canyon.  Another time we got turned around and had to go back up an obstacle to get on the right trail. Time and time again, Justin got us back on the right path. He became our chief navigator, he’s got the best head for it.

nels-larson-6_tap_canyonlands

Even though there was a posted sign saying Lockhart Basin/Chicken Corners, about 1/2 mile down the turn, it was very difficult finding the correct route. The road seemed to split in 4 different directions. We picked the 3 wrong ways first!  The correct route actually hairpins back to the NE, up a hill that is blind. In this picture, the road is right above the middle truck with the RTT.  photo: Nels Larson

Justin Micheal spotting Dustin Miller as he nears the top of the climb in Lockhart. We had some intermittent rain and hail that day. It reduced traction on the slickrock slightly but nothing that a easy throttle couldn't control. photo: Nels Larson

Justin Micheal spotting Dustin Miller as he nears the top of the climb in Lockhart. We had some intermittent rain and hail that day. It reduced traction on the slickrock slightly but nothing that a easy throttle couldn’t control. photo: Nels Larson

This was probably the most technical part of the entire trip because of the large rocks and loose material. The rain was actually a bit of a help, damping down the loose sand and dirt. Most of the obstacles were clearance based not traction based. We spotted each other to limit risk and help with visibility. Some of the ascents were at such steep angles that we couldn’t see the obstacles in front of us.

nels-larson-canyonlands_TAP_16

Photos don’t typically show technical terrain very well. This was the most technical section of trail. We all made it through on the first try without incident. Using a spotter was very helpful. photo: Nels Larson

For the average overlander, this would be advanced wheeling. To the average Jeeper or someone used to Moab, this is fairly easy stuff, considering how aggressive Moab can quickly become. That climb, working our way up and around the canyon in a loose loop, was a lot of fun. We had lunch at the top of Lockheart Canyon, then went on to Lockheart Basin.

nels-larson-canyonlands_TAP_LP

Nikki, Justin and Aaron enjoy a brief lunch break while a beautiful thunderstorm grumbles.  photo: Nels Larson

Here’s where the story of our recovery of a crippled Disco comes in.  Towards the end of our loop around Lockhart Basin we encountered a Disco with two rear flats blocking the trail.  The couple were in happy spirits, but in need of assistance.  After a brief discussion, the owner agreed to let us help pull his crippled rig up onto flat ground and off the trail.  We hooked up Justin’s winch, and pulled him up.  To limit continued damage to his vehicle, we used Dustin’s Maxtrax to fill the gaps in the rocks for the rear wheels. It took some doing, but we were able to pull his disco up and out of the way.  At this point, I asked them  if they wanted to join us and ride in my truck for the next two days as we wandered back to Moab.  They declined, he was going to ride his mountain bike into Moab, rent a Jeep and come back with tires while his wife held down the fort at the vehicle. They had ample food, water and camping gear.  I asked them several times to join us, feeling guilty about leaving them there, but they were happy and comfortable with their plan.  So with a handshake we said goodbye and continued on.  

nels-larson-miller_74_tap_

We used some soft shackel mounts and a tree strap to create a 3 point mount on the front of the Disco. We slowly marched him up the hill and pulled him off to the side. The Disco basically ended up where the towing vehicle is shown. photo: Dustin Miller

Then there’s the story of me loosing my fenders that same day. Before our trip, I had put on new, larger wheels, tires and put in a new front suspension, but because my rear suspension was old, the rear of the rig was sagging a bit….. so the wheels were basically chewing up the fender mounts.
nels-larson-31_tap_canyonlandsjpg

My new suspension and tire combo decided to remove my fenders for me. Oh well…as we say, “Roll with it!” I have since remedied the situation. photo: Justin Miller

 

nels-larson-36_tap_canyonlands

The beauty of Lockhart Basin. photo by: Nels Larson

We camped at Lockheart Basin for the night.

nels-larson-2_tap_canyonlands

Lockhart Basin – Utah. You can see the Needles district in the far top left. photo: Nels Larson

Day 3- Needles District-Elephant Hill and Bobby’s Hole: We finished driving through Lockard Basin and hopped on the highway to the Needles District. We got a free day pass from the ranger station, then hit the Elephant Hill trail.

nels-larson-46-canyonlands-TAP

Needles District, Canyonlands National park. This is part of the Elephant Hill Trail. Backcountry permits are required for day use. The good news is that they’re free! Just stop in at the ranger station and make friends. photo: Nels Larson

Elephant Hill: 

This is a challenging trial that starts with  a very steep concrete reinforced slope of slick rock, then a series of short, tight switchbacks up to the top and down over a ridge.

nels-larson-42_tap_canyonlands

Heading up the beginning of Elephant Hill.         photo: Nels Larson

After the initial climb, the trail comes around a corner to a steep slickrock climb up a short, smooth hill (there is a bypass around it to the left, but this climb is a fun one). Soon you come to the top of a rock and it seems like the trail disappears off the edge. There is a sign with a picture of a Jeep with an arrow pointing down. This is a good place to get out and see what’s ahead of you. This is a very steep rocky downhill section, called Switchback Hill.

nels-larson-43_tap_canyonlands

This is one of the obstacles along Switchback Hill [part of Elephant Hill]. The angle was 50 degrees down on slickrock. photo: Nels Larson

The first few turns after this are fairly easy to make, but when you get closer to the bottom, the switchbacks become a series of 120 degree hairpins with signs that instruct the drivers to pull forward then reverse down. We backed down the switchbacks, as regulated by the signs. There were also multiple hairpins that required 5 to 6 point turns

nels-larson-48_tap_canyonlands

Elephant Hill Trail, Switchback Hill. photo: Nels Larson

nels-larson-miller_68_tap_canyonlands

Nels, navigating the last semi-technical section, tight left turn, of Elephant Hill. Aaron with the birds eye view. Photo: Dustin Miller

 

 

 

Silver Stairs, Elephant Hill Trail:

nels-larson-50_tap_canyonlands

Sllver Stairs: Elephant Hill trail. Dustin bounces down as Justin spots. photo: Nels Larson

Silver Stairs, Justin shown spotting. Photo: Aaron Bodrog

Silver Stairs, Justin shown spotting. photo: Aaron Bodrog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Squeeze”, Elephant Hill Trail:

Here, pull your mirrors in, get a spotter, go slow and you’ll be fine if you are driving a mid-sized vehicle.

nels-larson-45_tap_canyonlands

This is the infamous “squeeze” along the  Elephant  Hill Trail.  To quote my grandfather Palmer,”If you don’t know what you’re doing….go slow.”  photo: Justin Miller

This is one of my favorite images. Justin spots my rear quater pannels while Dustin holds the camera.

This is one of my favorite images. Justin spots my rear quarter pannels, while Dustin holds the camera.  photo: Dustin Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a group ahead of us towing a teardrop that actually got stuck in the squeeze because of a roof rack that was too wide to make it through. We had a short delay while they worked to remove their roof rack, then pull their equipment through. It worked out fine. In the squeeze, it’s helpful to have both front and rear spotters. It’s good to have someone watching not only your approach, but also your body roll. This is a phenomenal trail, I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat, if I didn’t have such a long list of other places I’d like to explore!

That night we camped in a super cool spot.

nels-larson-img_1746

Campsite on day three just outside of the Needles District. Rad spot. This Image is looking down the valley towards Beef Basin and Bobby’s Hole. photo: Nels Larson

nels-larson-img_3_tap_canyonlands-copy

A bit to the right, there’s a slot canyon you can hike up.  Having a fire ring under this nice overhand was a welcome reprieve because, as I said, we had steady rain off and on throughout the trip.    photo: Nels Larson

DAY 4:  Bobby’s Hole to Beef Basin Road

Bobby’s Hole is a short, 1/4 mile climb with very deep sand in spots.  It ended up being a bit more challenging than expected, due to the erosion and loose soil. We spotted each other, not because of the technical nature of the obstacle, but because of the angle involved. Driving up, all you could see was your hood!  Thankfully, the recent rainfall improved our traction through the soft sand.

nels-larson-25_tap_canyonlands

Bobby’s Hole. The climb up to Beef Basin Road.  photo: Nels Larson

nels-larson-miller_69_tap_canyonlandsjpg

Traveling up Bobby’s Hole  photo: Dustin Miller

nels-larson-miller_70_tap_canyonlands

photo: Dustin Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Basin:

Beef Basin is a mellow, double track, flat, sandy and compressed clay road, that goes from 5,233 feet to 8,262 feet. It wraps up and around the mountains and exits at a river valley.

nels-larson-28_tap_canyonlands

Beef Basin…not sure how they came up with that name. photo: Nels Larson

Along Beef Basin road we explored several ruins of Anastasi dwellings, they were very cool.  As these sites are unregulated, everyone is free to wander amongst them and take in the magic. This privilege comes with personal responsibility, please respect these ruins and leave them just as you found them.

nels-larson-53_tap_canyonlands

I believe this is an Anasazi Ruin called the “Tower Ruin”, located on Beef Basin Road. There are many excellent ruins in the area.  photo: Nels Larson

We had some interesting descents that day, the recent rains and light snowfall quickly turned the hard packed clay road, classic to Utah, slick as grease. Mind the road warnings, this mellow road can turn nasty very quickly.

nels-larson-img_1797

The conditions went from hard pack to grease in a heartbeat. I slid a bit down one section of the trail. The mud here was literally pulling my shoes off.  photo: Nels Larson

nels-larson-41_tap_canyonlands

Indian Creek crossing heading south. This creek is approximately 10 miles from Highway 211 if heading north. photo: Nels Larson

nels-larson-57_tap_canyonlands

Bodge sets up camp on our last evening. The coyotes sang us to sleep.  photo: Nels Larson

On our final night we camped by the river.  The night sky was clear and we were happy.  We’d had an amazing trip through beautiful country with some fun obstacles along the way.   The next day, we headed back through the Needles district to Moab, then home. It had truly been an epic adventure!

Check out Slumberjack’s camping and hunting products

Here are the links to all component companies listed in the article:

Maxtrax
CBI Offroad
CVT RTT
OME Dakar Leaf Springs
Fox
Icon
Shrockworks
Slee Offroad

sjk-hunting-gear-logo-400x233

 

  • nels-larson-47_tap_canyonlands
    Elephant Hill Trail photo: Nels Larson
  • nels-larson-49_tap_canyonlands
    Elephant Hill photo: Nels Larson
  • nels-larson-miller_63_tap_canyonlands
    Dustin in the Squeeze photo: Nels Larson
  • Nels-Larson-miller_65_TAP_Canyonlands.jpg
    Coming out of The Squeeze. photo: Nels Larson
  • photo: Dustin Miller
  • nels-larson-img_4626
    Nels Larson's Rig photo: Nels Larson
  • nels-larson-img_4648
    Home Sweet Home! photo: Nels Larson
  • Devil's Lane-Needles District photo: Nels Larson
  • nels-larson-img_0918
    Near the top of the climb up Lockhart Canyon

3 Responses to A Journey Through Canyonlands

  1. Uncle Dick says:

    I’ll take wetlands.

  2. Stacy Lake says:

    Nice write-up. I’ve done Lockhart Basin and finding the left-hand switchback / uphill ledge took us a couple of tries also. Elephant Hill is definitely one of my favorites and you will have to go back and do the whole loop next time as some of the best obstacles are past the turn off to Booby’s Hole. My only nit-pick is that your photos of Silver Stairs are mis-labeled. The Silver Stairs are a couple of miles past the hill in the photo to the right of the T-intersection where you took a left to go to Beef Basin. All-in-all I’m sure you had a great time!

  3. Mamalars says:

    Truly enjoyed your words and pictures. Must be a relative of mine.