After a monotonous day of work the adventure began with Sam and his dog Loulabelle meeting me at my place and heading down the road. A quick stop at Arbys for some sandwiches and we were on our way.
-- Travel time up to 4.5 hours on the following route
We met up with Kevin and Jon in Beaver where we topped off our tanks and it was down right cold around 12 degrees with a south wind that bit right through.
From there we continued towards Kodachrome State park where Mason and his pooch Willy had already set up camp and had partaken of the free warm showers in the park. Due to the freezing temperatures the fire that was burning was having a hard time thawing the ground under it (12 degrees if my notes are correct). Quickly everyone set up their sleeping arrangements (Sam in the back of his LJ, Kevin and Jon in tents, Mason in the back of his JK and myself in the back of my XJ) and decided that an early start was in order and that it was warmer in a sleeping bag than in front of the fire.
Sam started the day with some Coffee Pancakes and Corned beef hash. After we all mowed breakfast we loaded up and headed towards sheepcreek canyon at 8:40 and then down the Paria river. The first 3/4 of the trail was spectacular as we drove over the frozen river with 300 foot cliffs on both sides.
The last 1/4 of the trail was a trial on our vehicles and stress level. Breaking trail through the ice and fording the river at least 25 times. I had to be strapped at one point by Mason when my ARB decided not to work (determined later that I just didn't have the Air Pressure set correctly) and I lost traction on both passenger tires while burring my drivers side in the river.
At some point Mason lost the a cowling that goes under his front bumper (no big loss). Then I decided to squeeze my way through a tight part of the trail that the 4 wheelers usually go through and got seriously tippy. Everyone came together and hooked a strap to my rack and pulled while I got through the tippy section (thanks again guys). Kevin decided to give it a valiant try but got too tippy for his short wheelbase and backed off to backtrack and come down the river avoiding the area.
While worming their way down Sam's front track bar came apart (the Hiem Joint stripped the threads out of the weld in thread insert). We were able to get it back together by changing the axle side mounting location and threading the Hiem further in and mounting everything back up in about 45 minutes.
Shortly thereafter I sliced the sidewall of my Drivers front tire and had to change it out (later to notice a sharp cut in the drivers rear sidewall that still makes me nervous)
At some point both Sam and I caused damage to our fog lights as we both have a broken fog light.
About 5 minutes from the paria Cemetery and the Footings that are left of the Town Set I noticed smoke emanating from the back of my HEEP. I hollered over the CB that I was on fire. Shut everything down, Grabbed my Fire extinguisher and went to the passenger rear where the smoke was thickest... after a quick look the smoke was coming from my rear window switch and I gave the door a shot from the extinguisher and started pulling the door apart to find out what was burning. In the end the switch had melted and the plug with it. So we disconnected it and were on our way.
From here we headed to BigWater and filled up and headed to Alstrom Point to camp for the night. Mason treated everyone to Spaghetti with sausage and Garlic bread for dinner. while eating we took a moment to look over some of the days pictures on Jon's Laptop and soon headed off to bed (well I crashed everyone else took a hike somewhere) This was the warmest night of the trip only getting down to 20 degrees.
Since we were behind our initial plan a bit we decided to cut out the last section we had planned through the bowels of Capitol Reef instead take it a little easier and make camp in left hand Collet Canyon that night.
I provided what my family has always called a paul bunion breakfast (Eggs, bacon, Hash browns and Cheese all cooked in the same dish) to get the day started.
Then we packed up and headed to Grand bench where we got to visit with the cows and see the cow herders camp. On our way to Croton Bench Sam's rear Trackbar sheared a bolt. Luckily Kevin had the perfect spare bolt and we were on our way in 15 minutes.
Over the last couple of days my steering had been getting softer and softer and finally I had Mason or Sam or someone turn the wheel while I inspected only to find my Draglink ends blown on both sides :(
From there we headed up the Croton road the first few miles were riddled with cuts in the road both down and across caused by run-off water smoothing out from there as we followed switchbacks and ridge lines higher and higher onto the tops of the plateaus that look over the area (BEAUTIFUL).
When we arrived at the turnoff onto Lower Trail canyon that leads into Left Hand Collet Canyon the trail was impassable. Huge boulders riddled the trail for about 75 yards. Since none of us were driving a buggy on 42 inch tires we decided to head toward Escalante and camp where we could. This ended up being the Broken wheel campground with hot showers in downtown Escalante. This was potluck night we cooked our own steaks and sat around the fire talking about the trip and the next ones to come. This night was the coldest by far getting down to 6 or 7 degrees.
After everyone had partaken of the hot showers we were treated to French toast and bacon from Kevin and Jon then we headed north east on SR12 towards Torrey and saw some of the majesty of Escalante Grand Staircase... Then it was the long road home.
In the end it was a great trip with a great group of guys.. I couldn't ask for more
here is a basic Google Map overview of what we did