Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “off-roading”

Spearfish Trail Exploration

Overlooking Spearfish, SD from many miles away.

This is mainly a video post, and the video presented is not for entertainment purposes since, if it were, it would be just 5-8 minutes long. Instead, it’s a punishing 42 minutes in length – all of it dashcam – which means that few will watch it all the way through. That’s okay. What this is for is to show anyone who is interested just what I typically do to hunt for undocumented boondocking campsites along relatively easy trails that do not require 4WD. (Token high clearance is needed here.) This particular hunt is unusual because it happens to be quite successful. Two campsites on two trails, and not all that far from each other!

Why bother watching? Well, if you live vicariously through this blog and dream of getting out there to the kinds of places I do, this video may kick an assumption or two out of place. It might make you want to stick to published and popular campsites, or to RV parks. Or it may add to your wanderlust – I don’t know.  I find the ever-changing scenery quite Read more…

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Wickenburg Descent

At the end of the roll down the hill, the tires had to be aired back up in order to press on to Chino Valley.

At the end of the roll down the hill, the tires had to be aired back up in order to press on to Chino Valley. That’s a tire gauge on top of the rear tire, for a final check, since the dial gauge on my pump reads 4 pounds high.

The quarter-mile trip down Mt. Niitaka needs considerably more care than the climb, because the trail up continues back down in a sort of extended loop, with its own set of challenges. Mind you, I watched an old Jeep Cherokee cruise by camp, having had no difficulties, and once or twice a day, an open Jeep Wrangler went past with a few tourists, its driver stopping now and then to tell his stories. A nice, narrow 4WD vehicle with high ground clearance is all that’s needed, and I’m sure even a 2WD vehicle with a limited-slip rear axle could make it up the trail I came down on.

2WD without a limited-slip diff, which I affectionately call “one-wheel drive”, well, good luck and make sure your spare tire is usable – should your vehicle prove unsuited and you insist on proceeding up anyway, you may slice or otherwise overtax a drive tire. Forget trailers of any type unless they are small, lightweight, and off-road specific – or you don’t mind dragging your converted cargo trailer over deeply embedded rock projections. It’s your money. The cell signal in this area is generally very good, by the way.

The trail as shown in the video below looks flat and featureless, but keep in mind that I’m picking the smoothest path down it. It’s practically a cruise in a small-enough vehicle, but get wider and longer, and you can start grounding things out. At a couple of points, it’s a choice of evils and there is no “best” path. Classic utility or sport utility vehicles will find it fun and very easy. Bigger, lower vehicles with overhang and more cargo capacity, not so much.

I decided to take the advice I’d received and lower the Ford’s tire pressures in an attempt to soften the jarring violence of 70 PSI when going over rocks. I’d noticed on a walk-through that some of the Read more…

Climb Mount Niitaka!

The top section of the ascent.

The top section of the ascent.

Well okay, what I’ve nicknamed Mt. Niitaka is actually a high hill on the outskirts of the Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness at Wickenburg, Arizona, where Rincon Road plays itself out into other dirt paths. The lower approach going up the hill is actually the worst as far as pitching and heaving goes, mainly because it looks flat, but isn’t. You don’t know it’s coming, and a walking pace is way too fast. Then, suddenly, the truck is tipping left and right with a vengeance, and for no apparent reason.

This is the basic approach up the mountain, which I previously wasn't able to climb in 2WD on all-season street tires. Now, with the camper in back and some serious Coopers, it's do-able, with slippage. 4WD low makes it much easier all-around.

This is the basic approach up the mountain, which I previously wasn’t able to climb in 2WD on all-season street tires. Now, with the camper in back and some serious Coopers, it’s do-able, with slippage. 4WD low makes it much easier all-around.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This “day of the climb” began an hour and a half north, in Prescott AZ. My delivering dealer for my FWC camper, Adventure Trailer, was to reposition the camper in the bed of the Ford Super Duty, A.K.A the “Mighty Furd”. It’s rearward end had somehow Read more…

Live And Learn

Not much to see here: the side-gap between the camper and the truck bed wall.

Not much to see here: the side-gap between the camper and the truck bed wall.

The prior (and first) “adventure trip” up to a remote campsite involving a difficult climb and descent from my dream campsite on BLM land near Wickenburg, Arizona prompted a routine check of the camper mounts, which hold the camper to the truck bed floor. It’s routine because after the camper is installed, you’re supposed to check the mounts for tension a few times over the next several hundred miles.

And the gap on the passenger side, which no longer matches.

And the gap on the passenger side, which no longer matches.

While fumbling around to access a wrench and screwdriver, I noticed that the rear of the camper was no longer centered in the bed – but the front of the camper was. Hmm. Not good. What was the situation with the mounts? A tension check of the rear mounts showed that the driver’s side mount was a little loose, which was odd because that’s the side with the extra gap. The passenger-side mount was Read more…

What Goes Up, Should Come Down

This is a Coyote automatic tire deflator, which does the same thing a puncture does, but without a repair being needed.

This is a Coyote automatic tire deflator, which does the same thing a puncture does, but without a repair being needed. 😉

…or vice-versa, when it comes to tire pressure. One could call tire pressure control “the poor man’s winch”, since lowering tire pressure tends to elongate its contact patch or footprint on the ground. That increase in gripping surface area increases traction on difficult surfaces. Airing down tires in off-road situations is old hat to 4WD enthusiasts, but new to me. It is considered at least as effective as jamming traction boards under the tires, if not more so.

I normally wouldn’t consider it because of its drawbacks:

  1. While you’re airing down or pumping tires back up, you can be sitting beside the road for considerable periods of time.
  2. If you hit a perfect patch of ground for making time in the middle of badness, you cannot pick up the pace on it to gain time – going too fast on a deflated tire can cause overheat and handling issues.
  3. Heavy vehicles on high-pressure tires benefit less from lowering pressures – but do still benefit.
  4. Play Baja Racer, and the doughball handling can put you in a ditch or over an embankment, pronto.
  5. Go too far with lowering pressure, and you can unseat the tire bead, effectively dismounting the tire.
  6. There is a risk on rocky ground of compressing a sidewall enough to pinch it, resulting in damage or puncture.
  7. Overall, operating a vehicle on underinflated tires is a direct trade: increased traction in trade for increased odds of tire failure or vehicle mishap.

I have to admit, I’ll occasionally be lowering my tire pressures not to conquer new trails, but as a last desperate act when I’ve underestimated a trail’s traction difficulty or roughness. Roughness? Yes, and I’m not talking about climbing over grapefruit-sized rocks. Idling over Read more…

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