Lake Tahoe and the Rubicon Trail (October 7-9)

Oh my! What a trip!!

A lengthy drive from Holbrook, AZ to South Lake Tahoe had these pups (Marley and Lucy) wiped out.
After driving for about 16 hours and sleeping for six hours, the new winch was fitted to The Black Pearl. Here is the proud owner now with her new 12000 lb. winch standing next to her prize Jeep.

The real purpose of this trip was to visit the famous (infamous) Rubicon Trail and try out The Black Pearl on the holy grail of Jeep trails. More on this later…

After a wrong turn, and more hours behind the glass, we finally arrived! The excitement was building as we dropped the transfer case into low range and eased over the rocks to the first obstacle, “The Gatekeeper.”

Then, disaster struck. As we approached the gatekeeper, we paused to lower the tire pressure and noticed a passenger rear shock was dangling beneath the Jeep. With no replacement bolt, the decision was made to remove the shock, completely, but with all the trouble we had encountered to make it this far, we were starting to believe that God just didn’t intend for us to make this trek.

Along comes a fella in a stoutly built Toyota FJ40 and announces to us that he is a trail chaperone of sorts and lives mid-way on the trail. He asks if we have brought camping gear and where we plan to stay for the night. When we reply that we are starting a day trip (it is getting late in the day), he informs us that the Rubicon Trail takes 2-3 days to complete if you have never been there. He eyeballs our baby Jeep on 31” tires and gives us a trail map and some advice. Then, he flags down another Rubicon visitor and secures a shock bolt for us.

James walks the first two hundred yards of the trail (The Gatekeeper) and returns with a broken ego and enough humility to forego this trip. It was a difficult decision because who knows when we may be this way again with the Jeep.

We return to the hotel, grab the kids and head out to show them Lake Tahoe.
We visited Emerald Bay and marveled at the beauty of Lake Tahoe.
Shelly, Caity, Mason and Maddy enjoyed this 4×4 trail in South Lake Tahoe while James sulked over missing out on the Rubicon Trail.
The Black Pearl in the foreground of another beautiful sunset.
We said goodbye to Lake Tahoe and would like to come again. Next time, we will be better prepared to conquer the Rubicon Trail.

Hooray for Ouray!! & Telluride (Sep. 27-29)

We left Moab with a new lower control arm and headed over to Ouray, CO for a little more 4-wheelin’ fun! We booked a tent site at the KOA and bedded down for the evening with thoughts of Black Bear Pass on our minds

Along the way, we stopped at this old mine. Shelly really enjoyed our visit there
We saw some baby pine trees (complete with cones) and I was tempted to bring one home.
The scenery was spectacular and it was nice to see some trees and some fall colors!
The Black Pearl has been in more states than most people.
We made it to the summit of Black Bear Pass and had to celebrate with some Ale-8-One.

We drove along the narrow switchbacks and took in scenery that only God could create.

This waterfall was breathtaking and there was actually a home atop this cliff!!
Dirtiest Jeep on the trail, and that’s not a bad thing.
The ski resort town of Telluride in the distance

We stopped for lunch in Telluride and had some great steamed burgers. Who knew?? Then, we headed out to find the trailhead for Imogene Pass to take us back to Ouray.

Along the way, we paused at the ruins of this mining village. It is hard to believe that horse-drawn coaches brought miners and mail to this site, weekly. The perseverance of our ancestors is unquestionable.
The summit (that we could attain) was over 13,000 feet! It was windy and much colder than we experienced in Telluride.
The terrain was rocky and we bumped along slowly, much to Caity’s dismay.
The Black Pearl getting her shoes wet.
We made it over Imogene Pass before darkness fell on the box canyon of Ouray.

With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, we went exploring for some sources of heat and were able to sleep comfortably on our last night in Colorado

The next morning, we packed up camp and headed back to Holbrook, AZ to plan our next adventure.


September 26, 2020

We started the day with a few petroglyphs! Very cool! These were on the way to Canyonlands.
More ancient Native American art (communication).
Ancient Aliens??

So, James turns 54 today and is clearly the senior citizen of this group. Anxious to get to the trails, we made a pit stop to check out some ancient artwork and wonder about the meaning of it all. The Colorado River is running alongside these cliffs and there are a few bathers. It looks refreshing on a hot day.

The Colorado River (a destructive/artistic moving body of water).
The drive out to “Top of The World” was extremely beautiful, and peaceful, yet a little long…
This trail was rated a 6. I was unaware of that and I’m not sure why, but it was a tremendously fun day of ‘wheelin’. There were lots of stair steps , off-camber sections, steep climbs, and steep declines.
This was one of the less threatening looking obstacles but required perfect tire placement for the “baby Jeep”
Seriously folks, these videos do not do it justice. This was one of the easier descents but there were plenty of ledges to fall off.
The Black Pearl AKA “Baby Jeep”

The scenic beauty of the “Top of the World” trail cannot possibly be described in words or depicted in photos. It was a fun, challenging, and beautiful afternoon drive to one of the prettiest destinations I have ever seen.

A view from behind the wheel of The Black Pearl
Reppin’ Kentucky with Ale-8-One!
The songs “Livin’ on the Edge,” by Aerosmith and “Standing on Top of the World,” by Van Halen came to mind here. (In front – Mason and Maddy, in back – Caity, Shelly and James, in the Jeep – Bella, Lucy and Marley (the three finest Jeepin’ dogs around!)
The newlyweds took time to savor the moment. I surely love this woman!
“Top of the World” is a viewpoint on Waring Mesa, that overlooks Fisher Valley and Onion Creek. The La Sal Mountain range can be seen to the south. (This is a view to the west.). I enjoyed this as much, or more, than the Grand Canyon.
What is 4-Wheelin’ without a little carnage?? The passenger rear lower control arm gave up the ghost. This resulted in a 2-hour ride back to the campsite @ 20 MPH. We smiled the biggest smiles knowing we actually broke something while using The Black Pearl as she was intended.

Back at the campsite, little did I know that the biggest Birthday Party of my entire life was about to unfold. I received cards, letters, and ca$h from family and friends, carefully selected gifts from my lovely wife, a birthday cake, and even had a beer with Mason (he drank cream soda). It was the perfect ending to a great day!

Thank You, Shelly Hinkle, for making my 54th Birthday a day/week/month to remember! I love you to the top of the world and back!!

It’s Really Happening! MOAB!! September 25, 2020

It has been 32 years in the making, but my dream to go 4-Wheelin’ in Moab, UT has finally been fulfilled!

We started with a loop in Spring Canyon, running an abbreviated version of this trail. Led by Mike Kelso, President of the Red Rock 4-Wheelers Club (hosts of the annual Easter Jeep Safari for 54 years), we followed a scenic route through the Canyonlands.
James and Mike Kelso
Mike’s JKU with the Red Rock 4-Wheelers badge
Airing down the tires to hit the trail
Shelly, Bella (the 4-wheelin’ dog) and The Black Pearl in front of FrankenRock on the Deadman Point Trail.
FrankenRock- Notice the Frankenstein monster lying on his back with a tombstone at his feet. Use your imagination!!

Mike was a gracious host and led us on a “family oriented” trail, rich in history and scenery. During our visit to Canyonlands, I earned his seal of approval as a driver capable of piloting a Jeep in Moab, UT. He gave us a few pointers on driving some of the more notable Moab Jeep trails, and we said farewell as we headed back to camp to retrieve kids and dogs and explore on our own.

And… here we go!
Fins & Things was our first choice on the list of must-drive Moab trails. It was a 4-Rated Trail and although a few folks questioned The Black Pearl’s trail worthiness, she performed beautifully!
The Black Pearl in action on Fins & Things
Too much fun!
Up ‘n’ Over
Happy Campers as the sun sets on Moab

We ran the rest of Fins & Things after dark! It was a great adventure that we will never forget.

Arches National Park – Moab, UT (9/24/20)

WOW! Just Wow! This was on Shelly’s bucket list and I was happy to help that dream come true for her. What I didn’t know (and I’m not sure how this escaped me) is that Arches would surpass The Grand Canyon, for me, in natural beauty and wonder.

They call this Nefertiti and it is located on “Park Avenue” just inside the National Park.

We enjoyed a full day of driving through the park and seeing these breathtaking rock formations.

The variety of rock formations is amazing!

The temp was 91° and the sun was hot but we loaded up on water and ignored our hunger to take in these wonders.

I thought this looked like a woman closely followed by a little girl, but everyone has their own interpretation.
Shelly in front of the famous “Balanced Rock”
Everywhere you cast your eyes, the vistas were beyond belief!
Believe it, or not, this tree is not dead. It is going dormant to keep the roots alive until it rains again.
We are having the best time!
You know where we are headed!
Another beautiful sunset!
The moon rises as we say farewell to Arches National Park and prepare ourselves for another day of adventure and fun in Moab, UT.
We finished our day with some BBQ at BLU PIG! Shelly and I had burnt ends (the best)!

What a fabulous day to be alive! God is quite the artist, and we are so thankful to have had this experience.

Farmington, NM Fun

September 23, 2020

We made it to Farmington and as soon as we unhooked the Jeep we were off to hit the trails!

Shelly and kids on board for some 4-wheelin’!

We asked Siri to point us in the right direction and landed at Glade Off-Road Recreation Area.

James piloting The Black Pearl

We did not hit any of the “rated” trails, but the scenery was beautiful and we did climb a few play rocks.

My view from the driver’s seat was spectacular
Downhills are fun!
We are like a couple of kids! We love this 4-wheelin’ stuff!!
Mom and Maddy are Jeepin!
Mason & Mom for the Selfie!
It’s tough out there on the trails.

Tomorrow, we head out for Moab and new on and off-road adventures. Please comment if you have been to Moab and would like to suggest a trail, a restaurant, or a must-see attraction.

The Birthday Weekend Begins!

And they are off! A quick re-route on travel eve and we are headed to Farmington, NM instead of Zion. A brief geography lesson, last night, helped us with this determination. While Shelly is somewhat disappointed, I am excited for some off-roading at Chokecherry Canyon. We are about to find out what The Black Pearl is lacking. It will be fun, even if we have to take the bypass routes. We will also detour to take in the obligatory 4-Corners. Angel Peak is also on the short list.

1998 Jeep Wrangler – The Black Pearl

And… I received some of my Birthday gifts today!! While Shelly has been giving me some of my favorite things all month, I received a beautiful buffalo leather computer bag that I can’t wait to put into action!

Very nice!! Thank you, baby!

We will check in later with an update on Farmington. Be sure to check in for some amazing pics and details of our adventures.

Tent Camping

As a rural “farm kid,” I did lots of camping on the family farm. Now, I’m not talking about camping in a fancy tent, with LED lights and instant pop-up accessibility, I mean sleeping under the stars with an old army blanket and waking up mosquito bit and damp. I used to make fun of the folks who had tents, and RV campers were just city slickers pretending to camp (I believe pretenders are called “posers” these days). So, when Shelly (my lovely bride) told me she loved to camp, my almost 54 year old body creaked and groaned a little louder and my brain went into panic mode. Here’s what happened next…

A snapshot of “tent city” (two tents connected by a 10’x10’ canopy and covered in several tarps to protect from the elements)

To continue, Shelly mentioned setting up “camp” in an actual campground (KOA). Now, remember, I’m a farm kid. That ain’t real camping. Real camping involves finding a remote spot, building a real campfire, and communing with nature. Fast forward, and my body tells me that having running water and electrical hook-ups, not to mention real toilets and hot showers, is not all that bad. Imagine that!

“Camping… where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person“

Author unknown

So, here we are are killing it! Multiple tents (for honeymooning purposes) and a plethora of camping apparatus have been begrudgingly purchased and incorporated as part of daily life. I believe we are on “Week 8”. To be fair, we have had a few breaks where we traveled away from camp and stayed in hotels, but usually I find myself curiously drawn back to camp life. Who knew?? – James

The newest addition to Tent City

P.S. Our latest tent purchase arrives on 9/22, via Amazon. See the quote above…