Our Overland Rig

Treve and Joann with their new Four Wheel Camper

Several people have asked me about our venture into four-wheel camping, so here’s the story in a nutshell. On Monday, September 11, we drove our truck to the Four Wheel Camper plant in Woodland and returned with our new camper.  We’ll be taking it on the road for a two week road trip later this month. The story behind this purchase started on our road trip to Utah in May. (Well in all actuality, it probably starts much earlier that that with many camping and backpacking trips.)

While our Subaru Forester was a capable vehicle for taking us on camping adventures, we started looking at other rigs on the road and thinking about what the ideal vehicle might be for us. We like to get off the beaten track, so a four wheel drive with a small footprint was a priority. We looked at Sportmobile, and with a year-long wait and a price tag that was a bit intimidating we decided to look at pop-up campers. The Four Wheel Camper facility is basically in our back yard, an hour’s drive. Everything we read seemed to give Four Wheel a top rating. We determined that a visit to the Four Wheel Camper plant was in order, so on Saturday morning, May 20th, we planned a visit.

A visit to the facility and a look at the features available and we were sold.  Having decided on a camper, we would also need a truck. The sales staff at Four Wheel suggested a Toyota Tacoma. Following our morning visit to Woodland we stopped in Davis for lunch, and I suggested we stop at a Toyota dealer on the way home so we could look at a Tacoma. Long story short; we ended up driving a Tacoma TRD 4×4 Off-Road long bed, double cab off the lot. And now three months later we are ready to roll.

 

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BASK Skills Clinic Day 10

September 2 found me on the water again with fellow BASK Skills Clinic students and our amazing crew of instructors. With a heat wave baking the San Francisco Bay Area, playing on (and in) the water was the place to be. Following our intro day and four weekends of skills training, this was an optional day.  We opted to spend the morning practicing paddle strokes and rescues. I typically wear a dry suit when paddling on the Bay, since the typical weather pattern is a cool wind and cool water. With temperatures approaching 100 degrees though, I opted to wear my short Farmer John and a t-shirt. Along with the spray skirt and PDF I was quite comfortable in the boat, and in the water. After spending the morning on drills, somebody suggested we paddle to Treasure Island, and off we went. Here’s a link to our track if you want to see our route. We have one more adventure left in the skills clinic; that’s an overnight kayak camping trip on September 23. Stay tuned.

BASK Skills Clinic Day 6

 

Today marked our third weekend and day six of our BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) skills clinic. The amount of information the instructors and coordinators have packed into the clinic is amazing and almost overwhelming. A great experience to be learning from some very skilled instructors and volunteers. Today, the eight students broke into two pods of four paddlers. Each group of four students was accompanied by four instructors. Our assignment was to prepare a float plan to paddle from McNears Beach to Point San Pablo. With the prediction for light winds in the morning and a flood current, we formulated a plan to paddle out to The Sisters, two rocks just off of McNears Beach, assess the wind and current conditions there and then set a course for The Brothers Light House, which would angle us into the wind and current with the expectation that our true course would be towards our destination. At that point the wind was blowing more than we expected, but a survey of the group indicated that the consensus was to follow through with our plan. As we made our way across the Bay though, it became apparent that the wind and current were setting us back and we decided to abandon our plan and return to McNears Beach.  The wind and current had set us well north into San Pablo Bay, and we were now continuing to struggle into the wind and current. With some paddlers starting to tire,  tow ropes were put into service to tow the tired paddlers, and we broke into two groups of four paddlers. Four of us managed to paddle to China Camp, not too far from our original launch point,  and four hitched a ride on a police boat back to our point of origin. One of the lesson I learned from this experience was the importance of good communications. From the use of handheld VHS radios, to paddle signals and hand signals. A tiring day. Four hours of constant paddling into the wind and current without event a break for a snack bar. To stop paddling, even for a moment, would mean loosing ground against the wind and current. You can see a track and stats for our paddle here.

Quick Trip to the Coast

Sunday, June 25th found us packing our camping gear for a quick trip to the Sonoma coast. One of our goals was to look for dog friendly beaches. We had reserved a campsite at Gualala Point Regional Park, a walk-in site, since that was what was available at the late date we decided to go camping; a lovely site on the river and quiet.  This park is managed by the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Unlike the state parks that are not open to dogs on trails, most of the Sonoma County Regional Parks are open to dogs on a leash. There is also beach access at a number of places along Sea Ranch. Our beach explorations took us through redwoods and along fern lined trails and out to the coast. A refreshing get-away for two humans and a dog.

Horseshoe Bend

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Five miles below Glen Canyon Dam the Colorado River makes a 270 degree turn resulting in a spectacular view. When we were planning our trip, this is one destination we put on our list of potential stops. Little did we know how many people we would find there at dusk. We made this visit on May 5, parking in the dirt parking lot and walking the .7 mile walk to the lookout point. If you have any fear of heights this will give you a good case of vertigo. It’s a straight drop 1000 feet to the water with no railing and just the jumble of sandstone rocks on the rim. Once I had my camera set up I was afraid to move. Not because of the height, but because with wall-to-wall people, if I had given up my spot there would be little chance of finding another location. Arrive early and stake your claim. This was as much a social experience as a photographic experience. While I waited for the sun to set I chatted with the folks on the rim, finding out about their trips, and attempting to give them advice when they figured I must know what I was doing. There was also a wedding going on, a couple of unruly dogs, and drones flying overhead, although the drones came down when an irate visitor started yelling at the drone pilots to warn them that they were flying illegally.

There are probably two options for the best lighting on this scene; late morning when the sun is high in the sky and shining down into the canyon, or dusk. At dusk you have the challenge of shooting into the sun with the canyon in shadow. To compensate I captured multiple exposures and blended them using a tool for high dynamic range photography (HDR). This is a good technique when a subject such as this displays an extreme range of light values from highlights (the sun) to the dark shadows of the canyon.

Hiking Wire Pass

 

 

On May 4 we made this hike into a 3.4 mile out and back, from the trail head on House Rock Valley Road to the narrows of the slot canyon. Our dog Carson was happy to hike with us off leash, one of the advantages of hiking in remote areas of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. The trail does connect with the Buckskin Gulch system, so you can certainly make a longer hike out of it. The hike follows a wash for about a mile before you enter the narrows. We walked through the narrows until we came to a large bolder with a 10 foot drop. At that point we turned around, hiked back out of the canyon and found a trail going up and and around the narrows, at which point we entered the canyon again from the other end, hiking back to the bolder. While in the canyon, I broke out the camera and tripod to see what I could do with the sculpted sandstone. The light and shadows and vertical sandstone walls give this canyon an other-worldly experience. Two-wheel drive with high clearance is recommended and we had no problem driving the road in with our Subaru Forester. The road was dry. Wet weather might be another matter so check with the BLM office regarding road conditions.

More photos here  and a map and track of our walk here

 

Gray Day on the Bay

There were just two of us today, Danny and myself, for the BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle.  We launched from China Camp State Park Beach in a light rain with little wind, and headed south around Point San Pedro, past the quarry, paddling inside the pilings to avoid the stronger incoming current  further out.  We ended up at a little beach just off of San Pedro Road near the brick kilns. There we found a couple chairs and a table and broke our our lunches. A cool breeze and the overcast created a bit of a chill, so we were happy to get back in our boats to paddle back to our launch point. Back on the beach we were intrigued by a couple of guys that were arranging pebbles in various locations and taking photographs of them; reminiscent of an Andy Goldsworthy installation.  You can follow a track of our paddle here and more photos here.