Tuesday, December 20, 2022

A Rustic Trails Tiny Trailer Travelin' Man Travelogue, Part 3, Summer (June, July, August)

Zion National Park, June 2022
Two ways to introduce this summer of 2022 continuing Rustic Trails Tiny Trailer Travelin' Man Travelogue came to mind. Since summer is the season of growth and expansion, we decided to go with both! 

The First: "It’s hotter than hades here [Zion NP], so it’s up the mountain for sure tomorrow." (June 9)

The Second: "Well, it finally happened. After 111 days, it actually rained last night. As an Englishman used to more than 200 days of rain a year, this dry period has made me feel, well, like a fish out of water. These drought conditions out west are no joke!" (June 24)

To cope with the heat (even if it's a dry heat), Allan Finley took the high road for the summer leg of his multi-year expedition through the American West. With his intrepid Blue Heeler dog, his Kodiak Stealth model Rustic Trails Teardrop Camper, and his Ford Ranger pickup, he stuck it in low and headed up the mountains, posting inspiring photographs and commentary on his exploits via the Facebook group page Rustic Trail Teardrops and Friends. Below are some examples.

"We went down a rough rutted two track road [in Dixie National Forest] and found a great spot up on a knoll with a view of a lovely alpine meadow. It’s open range and as there are a couple of watering holes just below us, cows and other animals visit for a drink." (June 14)

"I just might be getting the hang of this boondocking thing. It was 97F in Moab, so we hightailed up into Manti-La Sal NF. Leaving Moab at about 4,600 feet, we climbed up to 8,850 feet and are enjoying very pleasant 78F temps with a light breeze. The views on the way up and at the site are gorgeous and it’s free!" (June 29)

Arches NP, Devil's Garden
Devil's Garden Hike, July 8
On a July 6 Facebook post, Allan really provides a taste of what his life on the road is like.

"So exactly six months ago today, Finley and I left home in western North Carolina to go on a walkabout. So far we have covered 11,810 miles at an average fuel consumption of 17.9 mpg and have visited eleven states so far. We had picked up the RTTC Kodiak last August and put about 5,000 miles on it before leaving on our trip, so we have about 17,000 miles under our belts in total. We have experienced temps as low as 16F and as high as 103F.  We boondock almost all the time now that we have arrived in the West. In fact, we have not plugged in for 106 straight days now. We go down some pretty rugged trails, so I think we have given the Kodiak a pretty thorough workout and I have to say I’m super impressed! All systems have functioned perfectly, keeping us safe, dry, warm/cool and comfortable. 

"I have only experienced three issues with the camper. 

"1) One of my leaf springs broke going down a gnarly two track. This is not an RTTC issue as they use industry standard springs. I managed to locate spare springs about 100 miles away, and I quickly fixed the problem. 

'2) The caulk around the front cabinets has separated. I imagine this is due to the constant jostling and maybe also the humidy from the Deep South to the western deserts. No big deal, I just removed the old caulk and reapplied some DAP 320. Super easy!!

"3) The bloody license plate holder is just way too low. It used to be above the rear light and now is below. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve have to bend back the plate. Finally I just took it off and stuck it in my glove compartment.

"That’s the sum total of my issues, and they’re all pretty minor or unforeseeable. Without a doubt RTTC makes an extremely well-made camper, and Finley and I look forward to continuing our little adventure for the next 3-4 years."

"The Rig" just before climbing Ophir Pass
Allan's adventures couldn't be complete without writing about his "superb off-road jaunt over the Ophir Pass." In Silverton, Colorado, Allan ran across the Scott Pesek family, who also owned and were traveling in an RTTC Kodiak. Scott suggested that Allan take the Ophir Pass, a 13-mile gravel road with the pass summit reaching 11,814 feet. Considered an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) road, 4-wheel drive is recommended. 

Ophir Pass, Larry Lamsa photo
Allan said that he "had many compliments from people in jeeps and such saying that I was the only person pulling a trailer on that trail. RTTC builds a GREAT product!" Here is a link [Ophir Pass video] of Allan on the gravel pass road. The video is six minutes long, so Allan jokes to bring some popcorn! Stating that the road "wasn’t that bad," he added, "but you definitely don’t want to be scared of heights or suffer from vertigo." 

"Rocky Mountain High" is the theme song to Allan's adventures during his summer travels, as he always tended to seek the high mountains to avoid the heats of summer. He was successful, for the most part, and also experienced some great camping! Below are some of the "high" experiences that he shared on the RTTC Facebook group page. 

Uncompahgre National Forest, July 2022
One boondocking spot was the Uncompahgre National Forest. "After a lot of exploring yesterday," Allan said, "we managed to find this gorgeous spot to camp in a glade within the Uncompahre NF up at close to 10,000 feet." During his stay, he managed to catch a rain storm (or the storm caught him!) On their last night, they were treated to "a nice little storm." Finley, his Blue Heeler dog, sat close by Allan, "but was not stressed out at all." Once the rain started to slow down, Finley was already off to round up some cows. "I actually quite like being out under the awning when it’s raining," Allan said regarding the storm, "and especially like the smell of the air when the rain has stopped. Probably something to do with my English roots. I have really enjoyed our time here. Definitely a spot I’d come back to for the wildflowers alone, plus there are lots of hiking trails nearby, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison is just over an hour away."

RTTC Grizzly campers pulled by Mini Coopers
Moving on, Allan left the boonies for more civilized digs, camping at Golden Eagle Campground in order to rendezvous with owners of other RTTC campers. Arriving a day early, he was luckily able to grab an extra night until his fellow travelers arrived. Maybe it was good for him to arrive early so that he'd have a little time to acclimate to RV city life! "It’s been a while since we camped in a private campground, and they sure do pack everyone in. After all the wonderful solitude we have enjoyed recently, the sounds of voices are a little jarring." The two Mini Cooper families, the Schaberts and the Mahaneys (both also on the RTTC FB group page), provided a nice change of pace for Allan and his dog. "It was fun to camp with them for a few days. Finley is sad to see them go as they gave him so much love and attention, not to mention bacon!"

The Schaberts on their way to the Golden Eagle Campground
The Mahaneys, tucked in beneath their 12x12 canopy at the RTTC get-together

Pike and San Isabel National Forest
"After the luxury accommodations of a campground with hookups," Allan said on his next Facebook post, "we are back to our usual wild camping. After negotiating many tricky forest roads and single tracks, our tenacity paid off handsomely with a beautiful site at 9,600 feet in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest. We are surrounded by 12-14,000’ peaks and a site within an alpine meadow bursting with wildflowers. Finley is loving being off leash again and able to explore and chase things at will.  Even a little hummingbird popped by to say hello, and I managed to get quick snap of him. Not a soul around, this is paradise."

Roosevelt National Forest, August 1
Roosevelt NF boondocking
Back on the road again, Allan worked his way to the Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado, finding a campsite high up in the forest. It was definitely bear country, since they'd seen lots of sign even though no actual bear sightings. "Elk, mule dear and moose, yes, but no bears yet," Allan posted. "We have great views of Longs Peak, which is over 14,200 feet; and several other peaks over 12,000 feet dot the horizon. Finley loves it here, and it does my heart good to see him romping around off leash, chasing anything that moves. I could stay here for another month at least, but we will probably leave tomorrow and head up to South Dakota."

Custer State Park, August 2022
Heading up north, Allan and Finley discovered the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, passing through, that is, on the way to Custer State Park. "We are spending a week at the marvelous Custer State Park in South Dakota. So much to see and really nice hiking, too! We are staying in the Center Lake Campground, no services but all the sites are day of reservations, so it’s easy to get a spot. I’m actually surprised that there is hardly anyone here, which can’t be said for the roads that are buzzing with Harley Davidson riders, one of whom almost became a hood ornament. There is something called Sturgis going on nearby. So far the Black Hills are quite lovely."

Happy Birthday, Finley!
The time at Custer State Park included scenic hikes and also birthdays--the Kodiak trailer was one year old, and Finley celebrated three years of the dog's life (treats, the outdoors, and a loving owner). 

"It’s been a birthday weekend here in SD. Our Kodiak turned 1 on Friday. I gave her  a loving pat and checked her tire pressure. We now have over 20,000 under our belts, and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. We certainly have already had a few adventures with many more to come, I hope! Yesterday my little buddy Finley turned three years old, and to celebrate we did his favorite thing, hike! (Well, second best really, first is always treats! And he had a few of those, too.)"

Heading to the Badlands National Park provided the opportunity to see bighorn sheep . . . but also brought on the heat! "It’s a scorching 104 degrees in the convection oven that is the Badlands," Allan posted. "Hard to get motivated to get out of the truck and capture good photos. Finley enjoyed meeting Bighorn sheep and cows at the campsite last night. Luckily he was on leash, so nothing untoward happened! We need to get up to higher altitude for some cooler temps!" 

Heading higher is just what they did, into the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. "Another day, another great campsite in the mountains," Allan wrote. "The 100+ degree weather of the last few days was a drag so up, up and away! At over 7,000 feet, temperatures dropped by over 20 degrees with cool nights in the upper 50s, perfect for sleeping. Extra benefit--not a soul around and especially no Harleys!" 

In the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming, the two travelers almost overloaded on spectacular vistas and secluded boondocking sites. "We found a lovely private camping spot deep in the Bighorn NF on the boundary of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Not a soul around except for the occasional lost ATV rider." Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and points in between, free off-the-grid camping was the norm. With Facebook posts filled with wonder and whimsey, there is no doubt to be had of the high quality of Allan's (and Finley's) daily experiences. 

"We had a great hike in Tongue River Canyon yesterday. Perfect hiking weather and Finley got to cool off at several places along the way. We have really enjoyed our time in the Bighorns and will probably head west on Monday. Little to no cell service up here, so I haven’t posted much of late.

"It’s been a good day at Yellowstone. We’ve seen loose moose and bears in the woods and had an up close and personal with a bison. Also had a very pleasant chat with a raven, talkative chap.

"Gosh, I really love Wyoming. We left Yellowstone to visit its neighbor Grand Teton National Park. We found a really secluded spot with lovely views of the Tetons. Finley is off on a sniffari, and I can hear his little bear bell tinkling away. He hates it! I’m sitting with a glass of wine and watching the sunset. It’s been a really fab day."

September 2, 2022, near Grand Teton NP
A photo of a campsite such as the one above deserves some explanation of how Allan finds his boondocking campsites. Here's how he does it: "I make sure I pick up or download any maps of the area, especially the MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) put out by the forest service. I also use apps like Campendium, The Dyrt, free campsites.net, etc., the paid version offers. Lot more detail, which is useful. Then it’s a matter of nosing around and generally going where other campers can’t! That’s where you find the best spots."

And what better way to end this summer travelogue idyll than with Finley the Blue Heeler off on a canine wanderabout, with Allan sitting in camp, kicked back with a glass of wine, and wilderness as far as the eye can see. Next stop, autumn and the Pacific Northwest! 

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  1. Awesome story and such awesome pics!!

    1. I enjoyed gathering the information, but the photos truly are awesome.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! At least one more article is planned, which will make an overview of the first year of travel.