The end of the Kokopelli marked another epic trail marked off on our adventure “must-do” list. We have found that during our travels through Utah, it never disappoints. This was in total our third off-road trip to the red dirt state, each bringing its own form of excitement and adventure, and even though we had just been to the region the year before, the immense variety of terrain proved to keep us entertained and as well as in awe with the sheer beauty of our surroundings. I now fully understand and appreciate why the great state of Utah has become a Mecca for Off-Road, Overland, and adventure seekers from around the globe.
Day three kicked us out onto highway 70 just West of the amazing town of Fruita, CO which bears its own fruits for those wishing to seek out an adrenaline rush. Not only does the town have an amazing vibe, but also is home to an incredible network of mountain bike trails that can put a smile on both beginners and pros, unfortunately, we would not have time to stop and enjoy the trails, nor did we have our bikes with us. Another trip would have to be in store. After stopping for a quick refuel and restock of food, we made a quick pit stop at the local auto parts store for a tail light swap out. At this point, I realized I had left my credit card at the gas station and rocketed back to the gas station which was about 10 minutes down the road. Oops.
Since we had enjoyed lunch on the trail, it was time to hit the road. We continued towards the city of Montrose which is the official starting point of the Rim-Rocker Trail, which was to be our next adventure of this 7-day long trip. We were back on pavement, but the scenery did not disappoint. The large peaks taunting us from a distance, still snow-capped waiting for summer to thaw them out for all those waiting for late summer high country adventures. Pavement is always nice after a few days on the trail, not only to give the rig a break from the constant jostling, but I have always enjoyed that first stretch of asphalt after laying down some serious miles of dirt. At that moment we were sitting around 170 miles of dirt counting the back road we took back to our camp from the meet-n-greet the first day. We set the cruise control at 70 and settled into the leather recliner-like seats of the Land Cruiser.
The day was coming to and end quicker then we had planned. Our original plan had us camping somewhere along the beginning portion of the Rim-Rocker Trail, but slow going on the Kokopelli put us just out of reach of that goal. We decided to plan our next move over some Mexican food and found a hole in the wall Taco Shop. Anyone that knows me understands my love affair with authentic Mexican cuisine. Growing up in Southern California tends to do that to you, and my mouth began watering as we pulled into the parking lot.
It took little effort to convince me that we would stay at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and I agreed to the plan in between bites of amazing tacos. After our bellies were full, and everyone was satisfied, we were back at it and headed to the NP. Our fearless leader Dave peeled off on a small dirt road that looked as if it would provide us with a nice location to camp out for the night. Of course, this proved to be a bit more difficult than expected. We passed a few spots right at the entrance, but nobody in the group was keen on camping right at the entrance of the road, so we pressed on. Now what was shocking was the complete lack of camp sites along this road. We must have pressed on down this dirt road for 30 minutes or longer before we began spotting a few clearings. Now Malissa and I were the Divas of the group, since we were ground tenting which meant we needed a level spot with few rocks. This proved to be a difficult task as all of the sites had a mild slope and were extremely rocky. We pressed on.
Towards the top of the hill we came upon a portion of forest that was recovering from a current forest fire. The growth looked as if it was within the last year or two, and all of us were a bit stunned by the strange beauty that came with it. Dead charred black skeletons of trees were jutting out of fresh green growth showing just how quickly nature can rebound from what can initially seem like irreversible devastation. After bopping down an incredibly bumpy two track trail, we found an opening that not only provided us ample room for 3 rigs and a tent but gave us an amazing view across the valley.
It is always great to see how each of us within the group have created their own unique setups, Dave setting up his Rooftop Tent, Eric with his unique internal bed platform, and us with a ground tent. Everyone steadily moving, opening boxes, closing boxes, bringing out tables, chairs, pulling out awnings, etc. Now, I know “overlanders” always get grief for the amount of stuff they bring, vehicles loaded to the top with what may seem like useless gear, and I can attest that our first few trips were a bit out of control, but we have done an amazing job at tailoring down our kit, which has also improved our ability to setup and tear down quickly.
The sun eventually extinguished itself behind the surrounding peaks, leaving an eerie feeling within the skeleton forest. What was surreal and beautiful during the day turned into the back drop of a horror movie. We all gathered around the campfire thinking over the days adventure and what was still to come. Another amazing day of adventure with an amazing group of people. I looked out at the skeleton forest and thought to myself, “It sure would be nice to be camping in Mambo.”