Sunday, December 4, 2022

A Rustic Trails Tiny Trailer Travelin' Man Travelogue, Part 2, Spring (April, May, June)

Saguaro National Park, Arizona, April 2022
Having spent the winter in the warmer climes of the east coast (Part 1), Allan Finlay and his canine Blue Heeler canine companion, Finley, head west to the high and dry redrock country. At Caprock Canyons in Texas, he had "an extraordinary meeting with a bull bison just ten feet off the trail." With so much country to see, the Tiny Trailer Travelin' Man wasn't afraid to clock the miles as he continued on with his multi-year exploration of the United States, towing his RTTC Kodiak tiny trailer. 

While hiking Capstone Canyons
In April, Allan visited Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas; Sitting Bull Falls, "an absolutely gorgeous pine forest" at 9,000 feet elevation above Cloudcroft, the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Rustler Park Campground in the Chiricahua Mountains of the Coronado National Forest in New Mexico; the Tonto National Forest on the Mongollon Rim and Saguaro National Park in Arizona. The list of places visited is even longer, but you get the idea--the USA is a big place, and Allan is enjoying the scenery.

Near Sitting Bull Falls, New Mexico, April 2022
On this leg of Allan's journey, the extremes of altitude (with the corresponding heat and cold), off-the-grid boondocking, and the grand vistas of the West were all part and parcel of his discovery of the beauty of America. How did Allan's Ford Ranger and Kodiak camper hold up on rough roads? How did he manage the cold and the heat? How did he deal with waste management, with water management and cooking and washing? How did his Blue Heeler hold up during the travel? In a spring adventure that begins in Texas and continues on to splendors of Utah, Finlay and Finley found their peripatetic groove.

Boondocking: Allan was determined to get off the beaten track, and he did just that as he followed the spring weather to the great American West. Completing the "homework" information assignment I (your Green Goddess Glamping blog writer) provided, Allan determined that his overall camping habits for spring and beyond have been mostly off-the-grid camping.
  • Full service campsites 4%
  • Electric only 7%
  • Forest service, picnic table, fire ring, and privy 15%
  • Fully dispersed, no amenities at all 74%
On the West Fork of Oak Creek, near Sedona, Arizona, May 2022
That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? That's a lot of backroad travel, so the obvious question is how did Allan's travel trailer and tow vehicle hold up? The short answer is that the Ford Ranger and the RTTC Kodiak have "fared well." However, Allan did break a leaf spring on the Kodiak negotiating some extremely rough tracks in Arizona. He had to drive an hour to Phoenix to buy a set of springs and then change them in the parking lot. (Allan also said he has recently changed the Kodiak’s tires but that falls outside of the April-June time frame of this article.) Regarding his pickup, "The Ranger has been fine except that I have ruined two tires on rough roads and have replaced them with heavy duty off-road tires. Other than that it’s just been regular oil and filter changes."

Broken leaf spring, April 30, 2022
It was quite an adventure when one of the Kodiak's leaf springs broke. Allan describes the experience quite colorfully. 
"Bugger!!! That is an English technical term for when something goes wrong. As you can see, the picture is not one of Finley or a lovely vista but rather the undercarriage of my Kodiak and more specifically the broken leaf spring. As you all know, I love to find campsites off the beaten track; driving to them is often an adventure all by itself. So I do expect that things will break from time to time, although I am a bit surprised that the leaf sheared off where it did. Also, I want to stress that this has nothing to do with RTTC. They use an axle and suspension from one of the leading suppliers in the industry and a generously rated one to boot. I wonder if UPS will deliver to my campsite?"
Solar Power: "My solar system has worked flawlessly, allowing me to charge my many electrical items and keep the fans, fridge and lights working. I think for next year I may add some more battery capacity but other than that I am well pleased." (More solar specifics and a photo of the deployed panels are described in Part 1 of this travelogue series.) During the spring, no photos of raised solar panels on the Kodiak's roof were posted. I asked Allan about that--too much work, dangerous in the wind, not necessary? His responses made perfect sense and reflect the RV wisdom he has gained by his time on the road. "I generally only raise my panels during the winter when the sun is low in the sky," Allan said. "By May it is quite high and up for significantly longer, so it’s unnecessary to raise the panels. The panels are fine in winds up to 20-25 mph, but I would not raise them in higher winds in case of damage. They are so quick and easy to deploy that there is no point leaving them up in iffy weather."

Heater: "My heater has last worked perfectly," Allan said. "We have had temps down to 15F, and it can keep the cabin at 70+ with no issue. I have no idea what the upper limit would be as 70 is too hot for me! I have 2 x 10lb tanks, and I have to refill one every 2-3 weeks if I’m using it every night when temps are below freezing. We spent the vast majority of the summer camped at 8-12,000 feet, and the only thing that I found is that I must keep the tanks fairly full in order to have enough pressure to fire the burner." (Heater specifics are described in Part 1 of this series.)

BLM campground near St. George, Utah, June 2022
Hot Weather:
 "My main trick for dealing with hot temps has been to camp at high altitudes with nice warm days and cool nights. The only unpleasant night we endured was at Zion with temps over 100. We moved to above 8,000’ and the problem was solved. I can run my air conditioner with my solar setup for a few hours but have only had to do that once (in Zion)." In the photo above, Allan had just arrived at a BLM campground, "just a balmy 99F at 4:45pm." After helping a camper next to him back in a Minnie Winnie, Allan struck up a very short conversation. 
Me: Hot enough for you?
Dude: But it’s a dry heat.
Me: Rather like sticking one’s head into an oven.
Dude:  (Crickets)
Allan said about his hot stay: "No hookups but I will run the a/c later for an hour or two to cool things off.  Still it’s just for the night, we’ll head to higher altitude tomorrow."

Toilet Facility: (I asked Allan if he had a particular system for his waste management when off the grid, or whether he just managed with a shovel and a hole.) "LOL I do have a portable toilet but have yet to use it. I just use a 5 gal bucket with a toilet seat on top. I use trash bags and cat litter to keep things nice and clean and odor free." 

June 2022
Packing Water:
Water usage is always an issue when boondocking, and Allan typically carries about twenty gallons of water for himself and Finley, which gets them through a week to a week and a half, depending on how often he showers. "I have the ability to carry up to forty gallons, using some deflatable water jugs but have not had the need to use them yet." He has a hot water system made by Joolca HotTap v2, appropriately named the Nomad, and Allan reports that it works brilliantly. "One super indulgent thing I love about finding campsites way off the beaten path," says Allan, "is the ability to use my Joolca for an alfresco shower, then sit in the sun and sip my coffee while drying off. The Joolca is a game changer for sure!!"

Flagstaff, Arizona area, May 2022
The Blue Heeler:
 "Finley has been a trooper," Allan says, "always keeping me entertained and on my toes!!" The dog was sick once with what seemed to be a mild case of dehydration, but it cleared up in a day or two with rest and water. Then it was off for more hikes. Regarding the photo above, Allan wrote, "We had a fantastic hike up to the inner basin today, 6.6 miles and about 1500’ of elevation gain. I was watching Finley very closely, and he was back to his usual self, constantly pulling me along!! I made sure he drank often, and we took our time on the ascent. Still, I don’t think we’ll do any longer hikes until I’m absolutely positive there are no lingering issues. It was a beautiful day in the mountains!"

East Pocket, Arizona, May 2022
All of Allan's travel experience has paid off with a spring filled with beauty and adventure. What better way to finish this article than with a peak experience of our intrepid travelers enjoying a campsite at "the end of the world," as the locals describe an off-the-grid camping area between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. On the maps it's designated East Pocket. Located in the Coconino National Forest, the road up was a twenty-three mile journey over sometimes "quite rough and rutted gravel and mud but nothing too taxing," Allan relates; however, remember that Allan drives a pickup and pulls a tiny trailer that does have some off-road capabilities. "I did not even engage 4wd. It’s recommended that high clearance vehicles and 4wd are used, but I think a normal car could make the journey if they were careful. Did not see any trailers larger than mine while up there, mainly jeeps and trucks with tents and there are signs suggesting it unwise for trailers to travel the road," Allan said. The campsite was between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, is Allan's recollection. "Weather was lovely, highs in the eighties and lows in the forties at night and very dry. No water or any kind of facilities, so you have to pack in and pack out everything." The location was recommended to Allan by Jim Cook, of Facebook's Rustic Trail Teardrops and Friends group, as one of his favorite places to camp. 

East Pocket dispersed camping area, Arizona
The best place and time to end this spring adventure for Allan and Finley is traveling off-road on the rims of the Grand Canyon. Here's how Allan relates one day. 
"Well, we drove all over the north rim, had to make two u-turns on single-track roads (not easy) thanks to downed trees but perseverance paid off in the end with a spectacular camping site on the east rim, and I mean right on the east rim! Will definitely have to watch how many glasses of wine I consume! I even have a promontory to sit with my legs dangling over the canyon. Fin is happy as there’s no one around and he’s off leash to go on a sniffari."

Grand Canyon rim boondocking, early June 2022
The next leg of the traveling duo will cover the summer months of 2022, so expect some heat and some high altitude camping! Be sure to use the email subscription below in order to not miss Green Goddess Glamping articles and adventures, such as Allan's (and a few of my own). 

Subscribe--Follow by Email

* indicates required