I've been meaning to post this up for quite some time, so what better time than sitting on the couch Thanksgiving morning (would rather be in the van somewhere though).
I do an annual guys trip with a few friends. We abandon our families for up to a week and try to pick somewhere new to us every year. This year we headed out to the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument also known as the Arizona Strip. This is in the far NW corner of Arizona. Our end goal was Kelley Point Overlook. We departed the pavement at Mesquite, NV. This was in late May and temps max'ed out around 110F.
Three of us left in the SMB from the SF Bay Area, stopped short of Las Vegas for the night in a remote spot I've used a few times when driving to Vegas.
In the morning we headed into Vegas to join up with another friend in his FJ / trailer package. Then off to Mesquite for some last minute supplies and hit the dirt. The terrain varies quite a bit between the pavement and Kelley Point. First just a lot of meandering dirt roads / trails. We got lost for a bit putting in a few more miles than necessary. Maps and signs and GPS weren't always agreeing.
The last third of the day before camp was on a trail that was quite overgrown in places.
We were all feeling a bit beat up from a long day and finally pulled off the trail in a somewhat open area. We were treated to an incredible sunset. Given the abundance of dry brush around, we broke out the gas firepit this night. Sure didn't want to be responsible for a wild fire!
Next day, we continued on to Kelley Point. Ended up on some more graded dirt roads then a rather long rocky stretch out to the end. If you do this, make sure you have a bow saw. It got a lot of use to fit the van all the way down the trail. My van was already very pinstriped from past trips, but this one made sure that there was not a square inch on the sides of the van that were not striped. There is nothing terribly technical about the trail. A few tight sections and a couple washouts to deal with (besides all the tight foliage).
After a long bumpy ride, we arrived at Kelley Point. Not another sole around. In two days on the dirt, we passed two guys on quads and that was it. Just what we were looking for. We would call this camp for two nights.
After a couple days of hanging out, hiking, target shooting, taking in sunsets, good food and probably more than our share of cocktails, it was time for a couple photos next to the canyon then start to head back out.
On the way out, we stopped for the night at an old ranch we passed on the way in. It wasn't until we were all set up that we noticed the no camping sign. Given that we had not really seen anyone, we just made sure not to leave a trace and stayed. We also noticed the Hantivirus warning signs. We stayed out of the buildings. A peek into the old outhouse revealed a thick layer of rodent droppings.
This happened to be the day of the eclipse. We were ready with our official eclipse viewing glasses.
After studying maps and looking at remaining gas for the FJ (they really need to make larger gas tanks in those things), we decided to find the faster graded road back to pavement. We got lost again, but stumbled on a couple ranchers whose truck was broken down (no, this isn't a picture of their truck). They helped point us in the right direction. We let them make a call on our sat phone and we were on our way.
After some back and forth on where to head for the night, we opted to run to Alabama Hills. The views there never disappoint. Just wish I'd actually get there durring daylight some time to select a spot to call camp.
The next day, a quick check on the internet revealed that Tioga pass was open, so we returned through Yosemite.
All in all a fantastic trip. Quite hot at times and roughly 200 miles of very dusty trails. The views were exceptional. I wish we had more time to explore the area. We could have easily spent another 3 or 4 nights looking around.
Now it's time to figure out where next years trip will take us.