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2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

Post reports and photos of Expedition adventures
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DaveK
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2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#1

Post by DaveK » Mon May 10, 2021 8:10 pm

TRIP REPORT OF SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

STATS

It has taken a lot longer to clean up, and get the camping gear and vehicles back to normal than usual. Overall, this trip, like so many, was just one of the best. So, to start things off, a few stats:

Miles traveled: 1,900+
Miles in the dirt: seemed like more than 1,900, but really only about 400-500
Days on the trail: 12
Great camping companions: all of ‘em (6)
Number of vehicles: 5
GREAT weather days: All of them (even if you count a little rain at the end of the trip)
Major or moderate vehicle breakdowns: None

BIG THANKS

1. There is not just one thing that makes for a great trip. In the end, it is a combination of every aspect of the adventure, but it all starts with a great group. So first, a very BIG thank you to John, Sami, Bruce, Paul, and Phil for making everything work as planned. The group:

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2. Big thanks to everyone who took the time, expense and effort to make sure that their vehicles were in top mechanical condition. It really paid off, especially considering the rough condition of most of the dirt trails we traveled. The fact that we had not a single significant mechanical failure on this trip, is also a testament to the off-road capabilities of each of our vehicles. The benefit of such great preparation cannot be over stated, especially considering the areas we visited, and how difficult it would have been if we had suffered a major breakdown.

2. Every one, down to the last camper, was a great chef. A lot of thought went into every meal. Thank you!!!

3. Among our many adventures, we discovered the real meaning of, “happy hour.” Every evening, we began with appetizers, some excellent wine, and some of the finest camaraderie possible. With a fine meal to cap off the day, it could not have been any better. And, as things evolved, happy hour seemed to merge seamlessly into dinner, making for 12 perfect adventure days. It certainly helped a great deal to be in some of the most spectacular and scenic places anywhere.

4. Big thanks to Jeff, WD6USA, for volunteering to post some of our adventures as we traveled.

OVERVIEW

This trip was originally captioned as the Northern Arizona and Utah expedition. Due to the lingering effects of the covid, we were forced to make some changes. In particular, the Navajo Nation was almost completely shutdown, which ended the “Northern Arizona” part of the trip. So, we quickly regrouped and focused entirely on Southern Utah. Given the incredibly vast areas of this part of Utah, we couldn’t come up with a single name that would describe the trip. So, in the end, the expedition just became the Southern Utah expedition and included the Grand Staircase Escalante, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Dark Canyon, Beef Basin, the Manti La Sal National Forest, Dry Mesa, and Capital Reef National Park (at least a drive through.) We also experienced the Smoky Mountain Trail, the 50 Mile Bench Mountain, and the Left Hand Collet (more later.)

NOTEWORTHY GEAR

1. Navigation: This category is a familiar one for any who have followed my adventures, so I’ll make it brief. I use my NG Topo! navigation program to discover new places to explore, to plan routes, to identify various destinations (campsites, scenic locations, etc), get mileage for every leg of the trip, and occasionally , to assist me when I am getting trail information from rangers and other park officials. And, of course, it is my mapping program which keeps us on the right trails after we have decided our routes. Not a single problem.

2. Airmail (or HF email.) We’ve been doing these trips for over a decade, and I have always used Airmail to communicate with everyone back home. In the past, propagation was always sufficient to send both regular text emails and pictures too. Well, this year was a little different - propagation stunk. While I never had any problems sending the text emails, pictures were a different story. I got a couple out, but it was a lot tougher than usual. For the occasions on this trip where we had no cell phone coverage (most of the time), I was able to easily communicate with family at home to handle some issues that arose during our trip.

3. The American southwest hasn’t seen a lot of rain or snow this past year, and that became apparent on almost every trail we took. Specifically, the trail dust was as thick as I’ve ever seen, which the guys at the end of our convoy can confirm!!!! In my conversations with various rangers, they all admitted that although fire restrictions were not in place, they probably would be soon. Paul can tell the rest of this story, but I will only mention that we really enjoyed his propane fire pit, as you can see in the pictures below.

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CAMPSITES & AREAS VISITED


GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA - ALSTROM POINT

Lake Powell sits in an area that resembles a cross between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. It is situated in a desert environment and is surrounded by several dirt roads, some good and some not so good. For adventurous souls, there are some very rewarding and spectacular points that are located on the mesa above the lake, some with roads leading to the actual points. Alstrom Point is one of our favorites, for the views and the fact that it has been a first night destination that we favor, after a long drive from the Southern California area. In years past, it has been a relatively quiet and a seldom used location. Not so this year, and I suspect that it had something to do with the pent up demand to get out of the house, as well as the moonless dark sky.

Despite the very low lake levels, the scenery remained spectacular.

On the Way

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Camp

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Views

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Kitchen / Dinner Table (apps too!)

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GRAND STAIRCASE ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT

The Grand Staircase is an immense wonderland of almost limitless opportunities to explore wilderness areas that most people will never experience. Much of this is due to the fact that most of the Monument is only accessible by dirt roads, many of which require 4 wheel drive. There are really no guided tours, lodging, restaurants, and the usual facilities that the usual National Park offers. You are your guide, and with some reasonable planning, there is a wealth of places to explore, and an incredible diversity of terrain and topography.

General Views - On the Way to Camp

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1. Grosvenor Arch

The Grosvenor Arch is a gigantic sandstone monolith that stands about 150 above the desert floor. It actually consists of two arches, the larger of which is approximately 100 feet in diameter, and is one of the largest arches in the Monument. There is an easy walk up to the base of the Arch, but for the hiker, there is a further dirt trail that leads up to a rise that is about the same elevation as the arch, and which offers a great view of the surrounding area. And, like so many other places in the Monument, crowds are rarely a problem here, due entirely to the rough dirt roads and the time required to visit.


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2. Deer Springs Point - Grand Staircase Escalante

DSP was one of the more unusual destination on this trip. While the trail heads toward the point, with a fantastic view, the trail ends well before we could enjoy the view. Over the years, the trail has been extended beyond the point where the “end of the trail” sign appears. Our camp was near the end of the trail, but it was our adventures while on the trail that were most interesting. It was obvious that the trail had not been used (or at least by full sized vehicles) for a long time. The brush and tree choked trail snapped of the outside rear view mirror on one vehicle, outside antennas were damaged, outside lights were twisted, and we lost one camera. And, of course, every vehicle earned a big dose of new pin-striping.

Our camp was among one of the densest pinyon pine and Juniper forests I have ever seen. Bruce had dinner that night, and it was a pure pleasure to dine in this forest, with the aid of his outstanding outside light.

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Tree branch vs Hummer

Score: Tree branch 0, Hummer 1

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3. Timber Mountain - Grand Staircase Escalante

The diversity of the geology, the terrain, the history, and yes, the soil of the GSE is enormous, and Timber Mountain is a great example. The soil in the entire area was just like beach sand, and it gave some of our group a bit of a challenge getting up one hill, near camp. And for the tent campers, we discovered that the stakes we used for “normal” soil were useless in this sand. Fortunately, one of us had sand stakes.


Sign

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On the Way

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Camp

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Views From Camp

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Sand

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4. Smoky Mountain Trail

If you ever visit the GSE, we highly recommend a ride on this road. Fabulous scenic views over mixed terrain are the reward.

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5. Left Hand Collet

The LHC holds rewards much like the Smoky Mtn Trail, in as much as the views are spectacular. The better part of the trail runs through the bottom of a canyon, with several stream crossings and wet spots. In areas where the wet spots had dried, it resembled the scorched alkali choked towns of the movies.

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50 Mile Bench Mountain

The trip to the base of the 50 Mile Bench Mountain is a long and winding switchback road that rises some 2,500 feet above the valley floor. To say the least, the views, as we climbed, were amazing. Having been there before, I had marked the location of a great campsite which was our destination for the following two days. To our great surprise, it was gone. Not to worry however, as a better one was just a mile or so down the road. It seems that the cowboys in the past, had made themselves a very comfortable spot for their crew when they were rounding up the beeves.

Camp

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Views From the Top

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MANTI LA SAL NATIONAL FOREST / BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT / DARK CANYON / DRY MESA

These areas are all contiguous with one another, and they ALL are must see destinations, if you visit. While we merely drove through some of them, they are all worthy of a longer stay. For this trip, we base camped in a very pleasant meadow like camp on Dry Mesa for three days, and it was not near enough.


DRY MESA CAMP

This was the base camp for all of our surrounding area travels, including Beef Basin.

Camp

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Keeping Bears Out

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Dinner

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Adjacent Areas

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BEEF BASIN

For the adventurous 4 wheeler, this area is a wonderland of ancient Anasazi ruins (former homes.) Some of the trails were pleasantly technical, and VERY, VERY brush choked. The overgrown trails here were similar to those at Deer Springs Point, but worth it.

On the Way

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General Beef Basin

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Ruins

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Note the "T" Shaped Door

These building ruins are 800 to 1000 years old, and today we (and that included archaeologists) can only speculate what the meaning may have been to the "T" shape of the doors. You might want to do some research for a better understanding, but you will quickly find a wide diversity of "opinions." It seems unlikely (an opinion) that this "T" shape was merely arbitrary or accidental. Beyond that, we can guess.

So, let me add mine. From my research, the explanation which seemed to offer a reasonable explanation, was that it represented an opening to the spiritual world, and was often found in or near the entrance to Kivas. Regardless of the significance, we found several such "T" shaped opening in the ruins we explored.

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Kiva

A Kiva is a ceremonial location used by ancient Anazazi or Puebloan people. Kivas can be located both above and below ground and are often circular.

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Mortar vs No Mortar

It was unusual to find building techniques for these structures which used both mortar and no mortar. One might normally assume that mortar would be the preferred technique, both for stability as well as protection from the elements, such as wind, rain, dust, etc.) The truth is however, that both building techniques resulted in rather long lasting structures.

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OUR SPONSORS THANK YOU FOR VIEWING THIS REPORT

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DaveK
K6DTK


Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

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Jeff-OAUSA
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May 14, 2021 Expedition Update

#2

Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Sat May 15, 2021 11:03 am

CAUTION-The photos that follow will make you wish you were there! View at your own risk!

Expedition Notes 5/14/2021
First two days were at Alstrom Point, on the mesa above Lake Powell. Second day was at Deer Springs Point in the Grand Staircase Escalante (GSE). Today we are at Timber Mtn, also on the GSE, with a fantastic view of the Staircase, or at least one of them. This may be a two day destination.

Pactor, and my schedule have conspired against sending pictures, but I will get to it. Honesty compels me to admit that the reason for this failure has been a combination of happy hour and dinner, which seems to become one interrupted event.

Alstrom Point
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WD6USA

The middle of nowhere is somewhere I'd prefer to be.

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."- Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States

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KK6DYO
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#3

Post by KK6DYO » Wed Jun 02, 2021 10:00 am

(Note: the 360 images will open in Google Photos which allows scrolling in all directions. Open these in another tab.)

On the way: a quick stop at Red Canyon.
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Red Canyon 360

Due to work, we joined the group at roughly the halfway point. Their location was confirmed by a combination of APRS beacons and Garmin inReach.


Grand Staircase-Escalante on 50 Mile Bench

Airing down. Perhaps two-thirds of the road from Escalante to our camp was teeth-rattling washboard. This helped, but did not eliminate the vibrations. And no, unlike The Beach Boys, these were not ”Good Vibrations”.
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Happy to see the turn off to the bench. Just a few more miles to camp!
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Greeted by a late-in-the-day rainbow.
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Breakfast on the bench.
Breakfast on 50 Mile Bench 360


Our spot.
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View from our camp area.
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Moving to the Beef Basin area.
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Beef Basin Area (Manti-La Sal National Forest and BLM Land)


Wonderful sous vide tri-tip prepared by KD6GCO.
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Day trip to the Doll House.
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On the road back to camp.
Road back to camp 360


Trail dust.
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Toyota Sequoias, at least 1st gen like mine, are notorious for the rear door mechanism failing. Mine has failed three times, twice during offroad trips. Very tough to get to your equipment if the rear door isn’t working.

I’ve tracked this down to dust causing the latch mechanism to bind which then—if forced—causes the handle-to-latch cable to overstretch or internal parts to bend / break, then become completely unable to open the back door. It’s a long job to fix this once it happens. There are many openings (e.g., around the handle) which allow dust to enter inside the back door.

If I knee the back door while pulling the handle, it’ll open without too much trouble. After this trip, I’ve started taping all openings through which dust might enter.

Result after a few years of kneeing the back door.
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Camp 360.
Camp 360


Happy hour 360.
Happy hour 360


Beef Basin
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Beef basin ruin 360.
Beef basin ruin 360


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Pottery shards that folks have found and left behind.
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Video: overgrown trail to ruin.
Overgrown trail

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Video: around a ruin.
Around a ruin


Video: morning rain.
Morning rain, continuing from most of the night


Trail back to Utah 95.
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Beautiful and historical part of Utah.
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Blowing dust out of air filter at home and this was after beating it against a trash can to remove most.


Outland Fire Bowl
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Some time ago, I got a propane-powered fire bowl. I compared it against the bulk of carrying wood, and believe it’s roughly the same as a box containing an evening campfire’s worth of wood … and I’m going to be carrying propane anyway. With the cover and carry kit (required for travel), it’s possible to stack light things on top of it. The cover and carry kit contain the somewhat sooty lava rocks, which can generate dust as they bump against each other on rough roads.

Depending of course on how long you run it during the day/night and how high it’s turned up, it’ll provide a number of nights of “campfires” on one propane tank, using maybe 2 to 3 pounds of propane per hour.

My wife hates this thing because it doesn’t have a true “campfire” smell, but kind of a sooty smell. Nevertheless, it doesn’t produce any wood fire smoke that makes your eyes water or burning embers that will melt synthetic clothing or start fires, and does provide sufficient heat for up to six people sitting around it.

Using wood would get the “lava rocks” dirty with ash. I’ve occasionally put a small wood pellet smoker box in it to generate a wood fire smell.

It worked out perfectly on this trip due to the responsibly self-imposed fire restrictions camping in a fairly dry area with low humidity.

Deluxe Fire Bowl includes cover and carry kit.


Ongoing Experiment: Milwaukee Packout

How do you store and organize all of the stuff you need to bring to comfortably and safely “overland” for a number of days?

There are a number of solutions which are quite nice, but some are (in my opinion) inflexible (e.g., ARB roller drawers) and/or expensive (e.g., Zarges cases).

I experimented with the Milwaukee Packout modular tool storage system on this trip. Boxes range from a small $30ish box that is suitable for smaller items (e.g., handgun plus ammo and maintenance supplies) to a large $90ish box (e.g., compressor, recovery gear) to two- and three-drawer boxes going for $150ish. The boxes all interlock, and can be attached to a thin base mounted in your vehicle.

Pic shows starting layout in my vehicle for this trip. Initial stack of Packout boxes near front behind fridge. Fire bowl in middle. Unused Packout base at rear. Also, note hat holders near ceiling.
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My findings will be the subject of a future product spotlight.

https://www.milwaukeetool.com/Products/ ... ns/PACKOUT


onX Offroad

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Used onX Offroad exclusively for off-road navigation. Worked fine, though in-app planning tools are weak.

Will describe better in future navigation net.

https://www.onxmaps.com/offroad/app

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Jeff-OAUSA
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#4

Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Sun Jul 11, 2021 11:28 pm

It looks like a great trip. The scenery is amazing.
WD6USA

The middle of nowhere is somewhere I'd prefer to be.

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."- Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States

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Voodoo Blue 57
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#5

Post by Voodoo Blue 57 » Wed Jul 14, 2021 8:55 am

Our first stop, after lunch was Dixie Offroad in St. George Utah (they also have a store in Moab) to replace the rear shock on my FJ. I had two different mechanics look at my suspension and both gave it a clean bill of health. But loading four 5 gallon gas cans on the roof and two 4 gallon cans on the rear tire carrier plus 10 days of camping equipment the rear shocks met their match.

I can't say enough good things about Dixie Offroad. They are a family run business and they were able to replace my shock in a couple of hours. While were were waiting we indulged ourselves with ice cream at a local burger stand.
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Dave did such a great job with his descriptions and pictures all just post a few of my highlights.

Some wildlife on way to Alstrom Point.
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Alstrom Point
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Deer Springs Point

Results of Dave's Trail Maintenance on Deer Springs Point
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Timber Mountain Views
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50 Mile Bench Mountain
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Last edited by Voodoo Blue 57 on Thu Jul 15, 2021 4:19 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Phil

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” ―Ronald Reagan

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” ―Ronald Reagan

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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#6

Post by NotAMog » Wed Jul 14, 2021 4:10 pm

Product Spotlight

Nikon 1 AW1 Camera
It takes a licking and keeps on ticking (to borrow an old Timex watch slogan)


Image

The Nikon 1 line of mirrorless digital cameras came out in 2011 and was Nikon's first foray into mirrorless digital cameras. The Nikon 1 AW1 came out in 2013 and was the "all weather" rugged variant with matching 10mm prime and 11-27.5mm zoom lenses that were also sealed and ruggedized. The Nikon 1 AW1 could also use any of the unique Nikon 1 mount lenses. The lenses and camera body also came in a choice of silver, white, or black.

The Nikon 1 series of cameras were not particularly successful for Nikon as they were technologically behind the times when they debuted with only a CX format 14.2 megapixel sensor with a crop factor of 2.7. The sensor was roughly the same size as the old 110 film cameras (9mmx13mm).

The Nikon 1 cameras were discontinued in 2018 but I'm bringing it up here as a product spotlight because the AW1 proved itself on the Southern Utah Expedition and they are still available on eBay and other used camera sites.

The AW1 variant was unique in that it was the first ruggedized waterproof digital camera with interchangeable lenses. It was rated for 15m (49') of depth under water without any special case and shock proof up to a 2m (6') drop. Overland Journal and other outdoors oriented magazines did an reviews on this camera proclaiming it to be about the perfect camera for overlanding, hiking, and traveling despite it's flaws.

I picked up this camera just before a previous expedition trip to Parashant shortly after it was discontinued by Nikon in 2018. Subsequently, I got the original camera kit with the 2 AW rated lenses and camera body for a very good price on eBay. I was also able to pick up a new VR 6.7-13mm wide angle zoom lens and a VR 70-300mm zoom lens at close out prices to round out my outfit. These lenses were not part of the AW shock proof and water proof series.

Now for the story

The 6.7-13mm zoom lens was my favorite for outdoors scenery photography and was on the camera at the beginning of the Utah trip. I had it sitting on the passenger seat along with some other gear. On the way to Deersprings Point road was quite rough and the camera kept falling on the driver's side floor. I got tired of picking it up so I decided to just leave it there.

At one point I heard a loud "bang" and stopped on the left side of the road to check out what caused it. At this point I mush have accidentally knocked the camera out of the truck. There was a high sandy/dusty berm where I got out so the camera likely fell on the berm and rolled under the truck. The "bang" was the 2m antenna getting slammed into the side of the camper when it hit a tree branch.

I didn't notice that the camera was missing when I got back into the truck and pulled out. At this point it's highly likely that I ran over the camera. Fortunately (?) it was in relatively soft sand and dust.

After we got to the camp site and started to set up I realized that the camera was missing. I was concerned but not too worried since I didn't have a great deal of money tied up in the camera and I could always get another off of eBay. Also, I figured that we could look for it on the way out and hopefully would find it.

We had passed a group of hikers earlier on the road. We weren't sure how far they were going. I was a little concerned that they may find it and pick it up and that would be the end of it.

On the way out the next morning there was a truck blocking the road and a few people by the truck talking. The truck was delivery supplies to a camp not too far from where we had camped that night. One of the people from camp asked if we had lost a side mirror, which was ripped off one of the vehicles the day before. And by the way, did you also lose a camera. The hikers had found our missing mirror and camera and taken them to their camp.

I got the camera back very dusty and dirty. The zoom lens would barely move so I left it alone to avoid any further damage. That evening in camp I cleaned up the camera and lens as best I could with a microfiber cloth and took the damaged lens off of the body. The interior of the camera body looked clean although there was some dirt on in the lens mount which I carefully cleaned off.

I put the 10mm prime AW lens on the camera and tried it out after cleaning the battery and flash card compartments. They just had sand and dust around the doors but otherwise were clean inside. I tried out the camera and was pleasantly surprised that it still worked and the picture quality seemed to be unaffected.

I continued to use the camera for the duration of the trip with the 10mm prime lens. I was impressed that the camera body had lived up to it's reputation for being a rugged camera. Unfortunately, the zoom lens didn't fare so well.

When I got home I sent the camera body and lens to Nikon for cleaning and repair. The camera body came back after a couple of weeks looking like new except for some ware spots in the black finish. The zoom lens was a different story. The mount was bent and it had some internal damage. It's still with Nikon. They said that they could repair it but are waiting on parts. I probably should have just tried to get another one used off of eBay.

In short, this is a great little tough camera if you're looking for something with interchangeable lenses to record outdoor activities. Just don't drive over over it with any of the non-AW series lenses on the camera body.
Bruce Berger
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'21 UBCO 2x2 Electric Adventure Bike

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KA9WDX
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#7

Post by KA9WDX » Thu Jul 15, 2021 6:21 pm

Check in please -Thanks - Bernie

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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#8

Post by H380 » Thu Jul 15, 2021 6:26 pm

Please sign me in: WY6R Bob.

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Jeff-OAUSA
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#9

Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Thu Jul 15, 2021 6:31 pm

Please check in WD6USA.
WD6USA

The middle of nowhere is somewhere I'd prefer to be.

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."- Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States

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Jeff-OAUSA
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Re: 2021 SOUTHERN UTAH EXPEDITION

#10

Post by Jeff-OAUSA » Thu Jul 15, 2021 6:31 pm

Please check in WD6USA.
WD6USA

The middle of nowhere is somewhere I'd prefer to be.

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."- Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States

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