The trip to Coyote Buttes and White Pocket led to many lessons about the Arizona back country and “off-roading.” In the end, I’ll be checking out Overland Journal a lot more! I’ve also subscribed to their RSS feed from the blog as well. I’ve got a lot to learn still, and I think Overland is an outfit that can help! Check them out when you have the chance, their magazine is amazing and the photography really jumps out.
Two lessons from the trip stand out in my mind, so let’s cover them.
Lesson 1: Respect the Nissan Titan
At the start of our trip I was a little concerned. Checking in at the Paria Ranger station a helpful woman gave her opinion and advice on the current road conditions. First she looked over Ken’s Jeep and told him he’d have no troubles. Then she looked over the Nissan and suggested we ride into Paw Hole, Cottonwood, and White Pocket in Ken’s Jeep. Heh…..that didn’t bode well.
The first trip of the first day we took her advice. A truck had recently been extracted from Paw Hole, and I didn’t want to end up in the same boat. Nerves, plain and simple.
When trip number 2 of day one rolled around we decided to take both vehicles into Cottonwood. The “long” way. Deep sand was present, and you know what? The Titan performed admirably. Better than that…….it exceeded expectations. That’s when Ken made his comment over the radio about respecting the Titan.
After the initial trip into Cottonwood we drove the short way back through Paw Hole. Very deep sand, some jagged rock outcroppings in the road, and some areas that seemed to need higher clearance. All obstacles were passed through with no issues. On a few occasions my momentum slowed down due to deep sand, but we rolled through. At one point Josh thought I was braking, but I was actually stepping on the gas to get through the sand pockets.
Clearly, the Titan can handle this stuff as well as my old Jeep and Ken’s Jeep. It’s not just a tow vehicle for my Airstream!
Lesson 2: Respect the driver
There is no point in my history where I’ve thought of myself as an off road expert. The simple fact is this…..I’ve never been an off roader. Yes, I’ve owned Jeeps. Yes, driven around Pawtuckaway to go climbing, and that was “off road”, but not intense stuff in my mind. Driven the North Country of New Hampshire, but those tracks were firm, not soft. So, there was a concern in the back of my mind not only about the Titan’s ability to get through, but my ability as well.
What I found last weekend was a lesson in confidence building. Driving in deep sand isn’t so tricky. As a matter of fact it felt similar to driving in deep snow. That’s something I have a lot of experience with (13 years). I remember one blizzard where I found myself at Logan Airport picking up my house sitter for the Appalachian Trail hike. The Jeep ended up on Route 95 heading north in a blinding snow. No plows were on the road. 4 hours after leaving Logan we arrived in Sandown, New Hampshire. All was well, the 4 wheel drive did its job, and we made it home, unlike so many stranded vehicles we passed that evening!
As I negotiated the sand last week I reminded myself. Slow and steady. That’s all you really need to remember. And unlike blizzard conditions, the sand held no ice packed under it. Careening off the path into a tree wasn’t as likely, and that made me feel even more confident!
I’ve now got a little more respect for my own driving skills. Off roading can be accomplished with what I currently have, although there are a few things I’d like to add in……
Getting the right gear
My other take aways from the recent trip are all about gear. No, not running out and getting a new Jeep (although that would be nice). Instead we’re talking about smaller gear additions.
First off, I’d like a better cargo management system for the Titan’s pickup bed. I’m thinking a bed storage system that slides out. I’ve seen them in many trucks, and now I’ve got to find the right one and right fit for the Titan. If I do this right I’ll be putting a board across the entire bed where I can setup a sleeping area. Gear below rolls out on the slider, and bed above so I can be lazy and not have to erect the tent as often!
The next item I’d like to add into my gear inventory is an air system for the tires. I really liked Ken’s bottled air. We aired down my tires and his on day 1, and re-inflated when we headed out. I had a generator and air compressor with me, but it sure would have been easier with the air system Ken had. So, that’s on the wish list. Oh, and the tire deflator that Ken had too…..gotta get one of those!
In addition, I’m also consider a hand winch. Just in case you know? Ken had all that recovery gear handled, but I’d like to go out on my own now and again, so I’ll be investigating recovery gear further. Of course, I do have my Max Trax Sand Ladders, and I think they would work well in the sand. Just want to cover all the bases!
Finally, I need to seal the back end of the truck. There’s a lot of openings along the back gate that allows way too much dust into the rear. If I’m looking to sleep back there I’d like a little less dust at the end of the day!
Lessons and take aways wrapped up!
So, there you have it. With luck I’ll be providing many more trip reports in the coming months. A second trip to Coyote Buttes in November is already being planned. White Pocket too! And mid-October I’ll be returning to Cottonwood Canyon Road for a few days to shoot Yellow Rock, hike all of Hackberry Canyon, and visit a few other spots that I’ve been wanting to see. Might even wrap that trip up with a visit to Bryce!