The morning came too soon. Before we knew it our alarms were sounding letting us know that it was time to rise and shine whether we were ready for it or not. We had given ourselves 45 minutes to get dressed, perform our morning hygienic duties, pack up camp and be ready for the 830 AM roll time set the previous night by the group. Now typically, this wouldn’t be an issue, as Malissa and I have a set of roles that each of us plays during these trips. What we didn’t take into account is that we had accrued a layer of rust that was so thick that it would virtually keep the cogs from turning.
The clock was ticking, we had roughly 20 minutes to go and no clear end in sight. The tent was still up. Coffee still on the burner. My eyes were still half closed, and I was trying to figure out where I put the keys. Malissa and I looked at each other and said, “we are going to be those people of the group, today aren’t we?” Unfortunately, that was the case. Unless I was instantly granted the ability to move like The Flash, we would never make the roll time, and it became clear that Mambo had transformed us from a well oiled overlanding couple, who could eat, get ready, and pack within 45 minutes, to this slow, clumsy couple that was tripping over one another and still trying to figure out where the strap was to finish putting away the Oz Tent (Which happened to be under the floor saver. Yeah, I meant to put that there.)
1 hour had passed. It was time to roll. Our neighbors appeared ever so kindly inquiring about our status and when we would be ready to go. I had just heaved the tent onto the roof rack using my half asleep, caffeine deficient arms, and was strapping it down. “Were ready! Let’s roll!” Before I realized the trail leader was bouncing down the trail past our site. Whew! That was close call.
Back in the saddle and on the trail, the Kokopelli did not disappoint. With ever changing terrain it consistently keeps you on your toes. We must have shifted from 4lo to 4Hi a dozen times or more throughout the day, only to find ourselves shifting back down for a randomly placed rock garden that had us slowing back down to navigate the outcrop with a few sections put in place to solely remind us that we made a great decision not to bring Mambo.
About mid-day we decided to take a side trail that lead to an amazing overlook of the river and canyon to enjoy lunch. We parked, made a few sandwiches, and headed out to some perfectly placed rocks which acted as a seat and small table, the group was happily enjoying the picturesque view as I pondered how good me eating a sandwich while overlooking a canyon would look on Instagram. This scene quickly changed as we were swarmed by an angry mob of what I like to call “flying teeth”, also known as NoSeeUms, which quickly ruined this moment. Each one of us quickly abandoned our seats flailing arms and hands keeping these gruesome attackers at bay. I myself seemed to get the worst of the assault, with the Flying Teeth making a real lunch out of my exposed flesh, leaving me with no less then 12 swollen and itchy bites that would leave me looking like a victim of the Pox for the remainder of the trip.
Side note: It is often moments like these that make me laugh out loud when I see how outdoor adventures are often made out to look like the latest cover of National Geographic on Instagram. Very rarely do we capture images of a group of travelers running from invisible foes, arms swinging, beelining towards their vehicle.
After our disastrous lunch, we were back on the trail, which proved to turn difficult again, once again slowing the rate of travel. Now, as a true review of this trail, as of this moment we had yet to hit any terrain that was so difficult as to detract a would-be adventurer reading this. If you have any off-road experience, rock sliders, and skid plates, and a capable 4wheel drive vehicle with 4Lo, then you will not find this difficult minus one section near the beginning of the day which required a spotter. When I state that the trail is difficult, I am indicating that we are forced to shift into 4Lo as to keep our speed down and avoid damaging our vehicle on the rock gardens. After about 2 hours the trail began to open back up and we were making good time again, that was until we realized that portions of the Kokopelli, which originally was designed as a MTB trail was not passable by rigs the size ours when we came face to face with a washed out section that may have been passable in an FJ40 or Willies but not an overweight hog like the 100 Series Land Cruiser. So out came the maps as we determined our next plan of action.
As this was an Overland trip, and we were determined to squeeze as much dirt trail and road out as possible, it became our goal to avoid the pavement like the plague, so we set out attempting to piece together old BLM 4Wheel Drive trails on the map. This began in the typical fashion with one rig heading off, only to call out on the radio that it was a dead end, going a bit further up the road, and trying again. After a few failed attempts, the last one which almost seemed as if it was going to pan out fizzling as we ran head on into a dried-out riverbed with steep washed out ledges as an entrance. And although it was a bust, it was a fun attempt to try and make our way across old two track roads that must have been mapped out 60 years earlier.
After our bushwhacking got us nowhere, and the sun was creeping down the sky we all decided that we were best off hitting the pavement bypassing the impassible section of trail. This decision proved to be a good one as it put us back on the trail just in time to find an amazing campsite large enough for us to spread out and included a large fire ring that we gathered around and told stories of adventure and tales of travel through the night. It was the first full day on the trail, the smell of dust was on our clothes, a cold beer in our hands, and a smile our faces. These were the moments when you realize that a 700 mile drive, just to start a trip was completely worth it.