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Sunset Landcruiser Overland truck

Southwest to the Northwest – Post-Expo Overland Trip 2018 (Part 1)

I just realized I never wrote a post about last years post-Overland Expo trip. Doh. That ain’t gonna happen again!

Overland Expo was a little overwhelming this year. Twice as big both in attendees and square footage (mileage?), so I couldn’t wait to get some much needed trail time away from the throngs of people and noise and traffic and fast food and… We had planned out this years trip back up to the PNW some time in advance due to access and campground restrictions inside Canyonlands National Park (our main and only actually scheduled stop). This year’s was a longer trip and we saw some truly amazing sights, so in the interest of saving you from reading a 5-page blog post all at once (and me from writing one) I’m going to break this into two parts. And without further ado, or rambling, here’s part 1.

We ended Overland Expo 2018 with a night in a local hotel for a much needed shower (sorry those of you I’d talked to on Sunday after 5 days of dust and sun and no real cleanliness) which allowed us to hit the road early Monday morning and head out into the desert. First on our itinerary was a brief overnight at Monument Valley where I’d been many times but Laurie had not and really wanted to see it. I gotta admit, it’s still an amazing place after a half dozen visits. We camped overnight, rose with the sunrise and did the valley trail loop, stopping at every single outlook point.

Monument Valley Road

Monument Valley Hike

Just one of the many overlooks we stopped at in Monument Valley.

Next we headed North to Mexican Hat for a little wheeling fun and a relaxing walk along the river. I love Mexican Hat, it’s a cool little town and a great launching pad to some truly gorgeous desert areas. The Hat should be an official overlanding kick off and staging point for anyone looking to explore Southern Utah.

Using the lockers in Mexcian Hat

Off-roading in Mexican Hat

After a great lunch at the local Mexican restaurant we headed out and did the Valley of the Gods road loop. There’s a lot of camping out there but damn is it dry and hot. Maybe in the shoulder season, but I can’t see camping there in the summer being very much fun… We did pop the tent for a brief photoshoot.

Valley of the Gods overland

Next we headed up Moki Dugway to find a place to camp for the night. Disclaimer: I got the coordinates to this campsite from a friend who made me promise not to tell a single soul. So, I’m sorry. I can’t divulge the location. But if you reason it out and explore you shouldn’t have too much difficulty locating it. As is our regular habit we poured ourselves a glass of wine and went on an evening walk. This was Laurie’s first time really exploring the Southwest, and I think she liked it…

All smiles first time in the desert

She’s a happy camper!

Off-road camping above Mexcian Hat

Late night dinner at camp. Being organized feels so good.

Rooftop Tent Camping Utah

You can’t get more epic than this! Sorry, can’t share location :(

The next morning was our long drive up to the Maze District in Canyonlands National Park. I’d been to Canyonlands before but never to the Maze District, and it was definitely unlike the other districts in the park. Let me back up and explain that Canyonlands is broken up into (three) different districts: Island in the Sky to the North, Needles to the East, and Maze to the West. It’s organized this way mainly because a) Canyonlands is a HUGE park and b) Each district is inaccessible from the others due to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. To help visualize I’ve attached a map:

Note that there’s no visitor center in the Maze District as there is in the others. That’s because The Maze is very, very (very) remote and gets very (very?) much fewer visitors. To give you an idea, there are only two official entrances to the Maze – one at the Northwest about 60 miles on rough gravel roads from the nearest highway, and to the South after about 35 miles of sandy rugged trails. This brings up the first thing to note about spending any more than a couple of days traveling around The Maze: fuel. As in, you need a lot of it. It’s not just the distance between gas stations (note there is no fuel available within the park), it’s the terrain – Maze District is extremely rugged and you can estimate your fuel economy at around 5-10 miles/gallon depending on your rig. We covered about 167 miles within Maze District and went through almost all of our 45 gallons of fuel between entering at the South and exiting at the Northwest.

Glenn canyon access to Canyonlands

Scale is important – this is part of the long trail out from Glenn Canyon to Canyonlands. Can you spot the truck?

I’m going to conclude this post here because it kind of makes sense, plus I need lunch. Please reply with any comments or questions, and I’ll have Part 2 up soon!

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