Earlier this month, I was able to attend the first annual Expedition Utah Overland Skills Camp, which my wife and I began to affectionately refer to as “big boy scout camp”. No merit badges, but lots of time spent out camping with a bunch of guys off learning new skills.
The event began for me by waking up Friday morning at 6:00AM so that I could arrive in Price, UT by 9:00AM for a trail ride to the event site. The drive from Herriman down to Price was uneventful, but a peaceful one for me. It was slightly rainy, but that only added to the calm of the morning.
After arriving in Price, I topped off the truck’s tank, grabbed a snack, and gathered with the other attendees for a short drivers meeting and some introductions. Once everyone was ready, we loaded up, and were on our way.
Our first stop was at the Museum of the San Rafael Swell, in Castle Dale. The museum had a great range of exhibits, from the prehistoric to early 20th century items. Our tour guide at the museum had a lot of great information to share with us, and had some insights that you can’t really get from just staring at something and reading the placard in front of it. Honestly, sometimes I envy folks that work at museums – a job where you can casually use a line like “I knew we had a stegosaurus foot upstairs somewhere…” just seems like it’d turn out be an interesting one.
Once the tour had ended and it was time to hit the road again, we lined up our trucks for the obligatory poser shot of all of the vehicles. It was a good-looking crew, and one thing I love about ExpUT runs – while Toyota may be the patron saint, it’s still mostly a non-denominational group.
We left the highway soon after, and were on our way to the Wedge Overlook for lunch. The Wedge has been on my list of places to go for a while, but for one reason or another, I’ve never made it. After arriving there, I just sat and took in the view, wondering why I’d been putting it off. Especially after I realized how close it was to home – my excuses started to feel pretty weak at that point, and I began to make plans for coming back and bringing the family down as soon as possible.
While at the Wedge, lunches came out, and I took some time to try and get to know some of the other attendees. I’ve met a few of these guys in the past on other runs, so it was nice to catch up, while most of the faces were new to me.
With our bellies full, we hit the trail again, wandering around taking photos, and just enjoying the view. I did have to endure a bit of ribbing from some of the others – warning me that there was a chance that nice new blue paint on the truck might earn some pin striping from the trail, but I figured I’d have to break the truck in eventually, right?
We continued on to the Buckhorn Pictograph Panel, which features rock artwork from the Fremont people that lived in the area between 2,000 and 700 years ago. From there, we swung by the swinging bridge over the San Rafael river, and made another stop to look at Matt Warner’s signature up on some rocks.
Eventually, it was starting to get a bit late, so we started to make our way towards the event campsite in Sunnyside. As we arrived and checked in, the volunteer staff handed out some swag bags, and directed us towards our campsites for the weekend.
As we gathered around the campfire, we enjoyed a pie iron cooking demonstration, which was very helpful for me. I received a pie iron of my own last year for my birthday, but have proceeded to screw up nearly every attempt at using it since. Having some experts on had to show me the right way to use the thing was very helpful. I tried grilled cheese, and while I passed on the pizza, the pork potstickers we made really hit the spot. I likely ate nearly a dozen of the things, doing my part to help control the potsticker population.
The night concluded with a presentation from Dave Connors, who left us with a great message about just getting outside and seeing the world.
The next morning, we listened to Steve Jackson’s presentation on the history of the area we were staying in, with lots of interesting info on the mining operations that used to run in same spot we were. There was also a class from Scott Howe on first aid, as well as some good info on planning trips and different navigation tools from Dave Wilson.
After lunch, the presentations continued, with Ryan Davis providing information on ham radio and communications. We also had a presentation from Kurt Williams on setting up your vehicle, and some ideas on how to prepare it for overland adventures. Kurt also was kind enough to let folks explore his Land Cruiser a bit, and see how he has his vehicle setup.
For me though, the highlight of the day was the presentation and hands on experience of vehicle recovery that the folks from the Utah Off-road Recovery Team gave. After rolling “Flip” over onto its roof, there was a demo on how to get it back on its feet again. The real fun came when we sent the thing down the hill over some rocks, and I was able to participate in the recovery, helping winch Flip back up the hill. I’ve never done something like that, so it was fun to actually do something I’ve only read about so far.
(For a better video of the recovery class, I’d suggest you checkout this video by Red Rock Crawlers.)
After we had our fun with the Jeep, a catered dinner from the folks at the Miner’s Trading Post arrived, and it was delicious. I really ought to make another trip down this way just for a bite to eat. We concluded the evening with a presentation on land use and the importance of Tread Lightly principles by Stephen Nielson. A movie on Utah’s mining history was shown, but I was a bit tired, so I decided to call it a night, and head back to my tent.
While it had been threatening to rain most of the day, and even sprinkled a bit throughout the day, the rains really arrived Saturday night. A light rain started just as I zipped into my tent, and didn’t let up until the morning. I slept like a log, and didn’t wake up until the morning, which is when I discovered that my tent was a bit leaky. My tent had several small lakes inside, but luckily I had draped enough blankets over me that between them and my sleeping pad, I stayed perfectly dry inside my sleeping bag. My blankets though were soaked, and I was able to pour water out of the tent before rolling it up. I was warm and dry though, so I was happy.
After packing up our things, we had a short meeting and took some photos before the group left for a guided tour of the Green River Missile Base. Our tour guide had lived in the area for years, and knew all sorts of stories and bits of info about the area. It was a good time, getting to hear some of the history and info from someone that knowledgeable sure beats just reading about something.
After our tour of what remained of the base, we returned to Green River for some lunch. I had some tacos, then had to hit the road. The remainder of the group would be continuing on to the John Wesley Powell museum for a tour, but I needed to begin the drive home in order to unpack and get a few things ready for the week to come. I’ll just have to hit the museum another time. I said my goodbyes to the crew staying in Green River, then took my time driving home, just enjoying the ride.
I grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this event – while some of the info presented was something I was already familiar with, it’s always great to get someone else’s perspective on something. There’s nearly always something new to learn. I also got to participate in a few things I’ve never done. It was fun to catch up with a few folks, and make some new friends. This was also the first real trip offload for the new truck, and it handled things like a champ. While I do miss the old Bronco, and being able to turn on a dime while not worrying about the paint job, it’s also pretty nice not having to worry about whether that noise you just heard was just a usual creak, or a sign of impending doom. That, and getting close to 21MPG on the trail with a 32 gallon tank means that the gas can I brought turned out to be decorative more than anything else. (And for the record, I didn’t find a single scratch I wasn’t able to buff out.)
A big thanks to the staff of Expedition Utah – all volunteer, mind you – and the hours of work they put into this event to make it such a success. It was a great time, and I hope to particpate again in the future.
I didn’t take a ton of photos, but the full collection of what I did take can be found in an album on my Flickr page.