Sunday, December 30, 2012


I was at REI today buying new trail shoes.
My Montrails are worn out and too dangerous for the steep slopes I hike.
Then I roamed the store looking for anything else to buy.
I haven't been to REI in a long time, but I couldn't find anything I wanted.
Apparently, abstinence led to reduced desire.

I pondered this as I stood in line to pay.
It reminded me of a tenet of Buddhism: desire leads to suffering.

And the irony...
I was suffering, as I stood there desiring to buy more stuff.  Any stuff.
Even though there was no more stuff I desired at that moment, the pangs of consumerism gnawed at me.

I grabbed a magazine from the strategically located rack beside the checkout line.  Clever merchandising!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Spare Tire Winch Failure

The spare tire winch on my LR3 broke.  Apparently this is common with LR3s.  After reviewing the many online forum posts on the topic, I decided to fix it myself.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After changing my flat tire in the desert (see previous post), I decided to toss the flat into the back of the truck, making it easily accessible when I take it in to get patched.  I then wound the winch to raise the cable that would normally hold the spare.  I raised it all the way to the top.  I turned it until it clicked.  I figured this was the normal indication that it was fully raised.  That might have been a mistake.

After the flat was repaired, the mechanics lowered the cable and began to raise the spare under the truck.  It got stuck about 5 inches below where it should be.  After repeated attempts, including winding the winch without a tire, it continued to get stuck at the same spot.  After getting home, I tried several times to get it working.  I even applied tension to the cable to simulate a tire hanging (admittedly, not the same load) while unwinding and winding the cable.  No change.  

I'm lucky since I've had many years of repeated proper function with this winch.  Several LR3 owners have posted comments about theirs failing upon their first or second use.  Wow.

I ordered a replacement winch from British Atlantic.  It's not cheap, but I'm positive it's a lot cheaper than having a dealership do it.  It takes only 5 minutes to remove or install the winch.  There are only 4 nuts and 2 bolts to remove, all from under the rear of the truck.  No need to squeeze fingers (or a wrench) behind to hold nuts fixed on the other side.  Here's the new replacement winch.

Here's the mounting location under the rear of the truck, and the hole seen from above.

And the mounted winch.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

West From Parker Dam

I like to drive 4wd trails on Black Friday so I can avoid the shopping malls, roads, crowds, and traffic.  This year I went to drive some powerline roads in the eastern Mojave Desert.  Starting from Parker Dam on the Colorado River, I headed northwest.  I considered driving south to visit the site of the Poston internment camps, but I was eager to get off the pavement.

It was a great day.  Temps were in the mid 70s and there was a very slight breeze.  I'd never been through Lake Havasu City, so that was interesting.  It seems to cater to the water recreation crowd.  Makes sense.  If I had a boat or a PWC, then I'd probably want to put in there and check it out.  I didn't stop to see the London Bridge.  

I couldn't drive over the dam, so I drove down to Parker, AZ then crossed into CA and returned back up to the dam before turning west.  I was disappointed when the Subway sandwich shop in Parker was out of bread.  Yup, you read that right.  My stomach was looking forward to a turkey sandwich.

The road was suprisingly crowded.  Usually, I encounter nobody on these drives.  On this road, I came across others in 4wd SUVs, quads, bikes, and desert racing-style dune buggies.  I later figured out that these people were driving up on trails from the shoreline.  It's probably nice to spend a weekend at one site and enjoy both water sports and 4wd trails.

This road was very easy.  It could be driven in any 2WD car with at least 7 inches of clearance.  One danger still remains.  I had my first flat tire while off-roading.  I wouldn't have noticed it for a long time if not for the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System).  The soft dirt, uneven terrain, and automagic ride-levelling suspension can prevent me from noticing anything.

Due to a high berm along the road, I couldn't pull off and so I changed the tire right there.  Luckily, while I could see and hear many other off-roaders nearby, only 1 quad had to go around me.  It took me 1.25 hours to change that tire.  The lug nuts just didn't want to come loose.

Some wild donkeys passed nearby.

Since I'd used my spare tire, I decided to cut my adventure short and returned home after hitting pavement.  I had planned to drive another 50 miles or so of service roads in the area.  That'll wait for another day.  Here are a few of the signs posted for this road.

The flat tire had a puncture in the middle of the tread.  The next day I got that patched, but my shop advised me to not use that one for off-roading due to the size of the patch they had to use.  I'm now planning to have 2 full-sized spares so I can have more options (and peace of mind) when adventuring in remote places.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Horse Canyon

Last week I drove up Horse Canyon to escape the heat.  It's located north of Mojave, CA in the southern Sierra Mountains.  Here's a google map centered on the area.   The road is steep and rough in places (high clearance required) and leads up to the ridgeline where an old microwave tower station is situated.   Pine trees provide plenty of shade for several primitive camp sites.  The McIver 4x4 trail starts at the microwave towers and continues another 4 miles along the ridge to a dead-end.  The trail is maintained by the Gear Grinders 4x4 Club and is moderately challenging in places.   The most difficult sections have easier alternates around them.

I didn't take photos since this was a return visit.  This time I decided to record a short video of the descent back down the canyon.  If you're afraid of heights, then you probably should not look down while on this road.  The road's in great condition.  The only real danger is from falling rocks, washouts, or an earthquake.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Garmin fenix

I bought the new Garmin fenix watch.  I like it.  So far, I've only used it on a couple hikes.  This is a vast improvement over my other GPS receiver: Magellan SporTrak Topo.

There's only one feature the Magellan has, and the Garmin lacks, that I miss.  The Magellan has a pre-loaded topo map of the US.  That's a nice feature.  But to be honest, I never truly used that.  Over the years I found myself largely using the breadcrumb track, distance, and altitude features most, and the Garmin has those.

The Garmin is really easy to use.  The display pages seem to be well laid out.  I can even operate the buttons wearing gloves.  I've only used a small fraction of the features.  Hopefully I can remedy that on some upcoming hikes.

Getting the data off the device was easy.  I plugged it into the USB port on my mac and it mounted the device.  Then I simply dragged off the gpx files.  I used the GPS Visualizer web site to convert the gpx files to kml files.  Here are a few screencaps of one of my hikes on Nippletop in Zion NP.  You'll see from the tracks that I did not reach the summit.

The fenix is a bit bulky, and I scraped it a bit on the rocks.  I'll just have to be more careful.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hot Dogs

I tried the Dog Haus in Pasadena yesterday.  It was quite good.  They've got a big menu with plenty of reasons to come back.  I got the "make your own" 1/4 lb "stray dog" and visited the counter of free toppings.

I opted for fries instead of tater tots.  Yes, they have tater tots!  Great for kids.  I'll get that next time.  Even though I've had better dogs before, I really enjoyed this.  I'm already planning to return.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Progeny Peak Revisited

On my last trip to Zion NP, I hiked Progeny Peak again.  Gene joined up with me in Zion so this time I could get him to the summit of Progeny.  On  a previous trip years ago, we tried to hike it from the back side.  That was a fun hike, but we didn't reach the top.

This time I took what I call the grandpa route; an easy class 2 walkup that skirts the class 3 sections that are steep or where the rocks move under your feet.  For example, this photo shows the southern side of the summit.  I hiked up that on a previous trip.  It's not so bad, but several of those large rock slabs near the top move when you step on them.

I was surprised to find the large stone altar on the summit had been demolished.  That's probably for the best.  I posted photos of that in this past blog entry.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find a summit log/register.  Here's a photo of the summit.

Afterward, we hiked Nippletop where Gene summited and I chickened out on the high-exposure crux near the top.  Gene is a rock climber, so it was easy for him.  I'll try again next week, without him coaching me: "Just grab this with your left hand and put your right foot there." and me saying: "Are you insane?"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Backroads of Utah

As always, I tried to take some new roads on my return from Utah.  This time I left the interstate at St. George and headed NW past Santa Clara.  I drove Motoqua Road, Indian Springs Trail, and Eardley Road.  There are more trails in that area, but I didn't know how much time I'd spend on Mormon Mesa later in the day.

All three of these are graded dirt roads and signed as BLM routes.  They were more fun to drive than the interstate.  There were some blind corners on Indian Springs Trail, north of the water tank, that surprised me.  I'm glad I wasn't driving fast, otherwise I would have easily gone off the road and down a steep hill where the road turned abruptly at a crest.  Here's the Indian Springs water tank.

Here's the bottom of Hell Hole Pass through Indian Canyon.  I'll drive that some other day.

I came across this very old car in the gully.  I don't know the story behind it.   Massey didn't mention it in his description.

These are nice easy roads that almost anyone can drive.  The high clearance helped a couple times, but otherwise it was easy.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mormon Mesa

On my return from Zion, I drove a few of the trails on top of Mormon Mesa, southwest of Mesquite, NV.  A few sites on the interwebs say Mormon Mesa is a hotbed of UFO sightings.  Although, many of those sites are repeating the same story.  Here's a google map centered on the mesa.  Here's a photo of the mesa taken from an airliner that I found here.

It wasn't what I expected.  I'm not sure what I expected really.  The road started off OK when I left the highway.

Then it slowly degraded.

Then it became a two-track.

Then it started to disappear.

And finally it almost disappeared.

To be fair, I think I got lost. 

I got bored and hungry so I returned to the highway.  Those more patient than me have explored this mesa many times.  Some go there to visit a piece of "land art" called the "double negative".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Big Horn Sheep at Zion

I stumbled upon a large group of bighorn sheep while hiking a few weeks ago in Zion NP.  I was in the saddle just east of Lost Peak, heading toward the south ridge.   As you can see in the photos, they retreated to the base of the east face on Lost Peak.

Something rare happened while on that hike.  On my return I saw fresh footprints left by somebody who followed me toward Lost Peak.  I never saw the other hiker.  It's very rare to encounter other hikers in that area.  You might see others on Progeny Peak, but I was hiking around Lost Peak and Nippletop that day and those places don't get many visitors.

The next two shots show their location on the slopes of Lost Peak.

Then I took one last parting shot before continuing my hike.

Here's a gratuitous shot of Lost Peak, taken from the slickrock bowl as you approach from the highway.  I like that bowl.  It's a nice place to rest, have a snack, and enjoy the scenery.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cow Cove Petroglyphs

I returned to Cow Cove recently when I was camping at Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert.  The petroglyphs at Cow Cove are fun to explore, and relatively undamaged by vandals.  On this visit, I explored the surrounding area and discovered more glyphs less than a half mile from the main group.

Here's a few photos taken from my camp site near Sunrise Rock.  The first one looks south across the Joshua trees toward Clark Mountain in the far distance.

The second one shows Venus above Kessler peak just before sunrise.  If it weren't for an iPhone app, I wouldn't know what that star was, and I couldn't pretend to be smart.  Technology is great.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

San Joaquin Ridge Trail Revisited

While camping in the Mammoth Lakes area last month I drove the San Joaquin Ridge Trail again.  This is a short (2.5 miles 1-way), fun and scenic trail.  It's also not well known, so the hikers along the way are always surprised to see a vehicle on the trail.  Here's the post from my previous trip.  

There are a few embedded boulders and tree roots in the trail, so high clearance helps.  Otherwise it's pretty easy.  On this visit, I hiked out over the saddle of Deadmans Pass.  

The beginning of the trail is not well marked.  Just drive up toward the Devil's Postpile NM and the Minaret vista turnout.  Right before the parks service booth for entering the Devil's Postpile area, turn right into a small dirt parking area.  The trail begins as an unsigned trail at the northern end of that dirt parking area.  About 30 to 50 yards into the road, there's a sign indicating it's open to 4wd and other vehicles.  

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Clouds Rest

I finally got around to hiking Clouds Rest in Yosemite NP.  It was long and very tiring, but still a lot of fun.  I started at Tenaya Lake, so the round-trip distance was over 14 miles.  It took me 7.5 hours.  The temperature was in the upper 70s and there were almost no mosquitos.  Here's the summitpost page for Clouds Rest.  

This is a popular hike, so I did it on a week day and was rewarded with 15 minutes alone on the summit.  That let me take photos without other people blocking the view.

Here's a close-up of Half Dome.