Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Valley of the Gods, Utah
While on contract in Fort Defiance Arizona (staying in Gallup, NM)
CAIRN TRAVELER VLOG
For the longest time, I’ve avoided extended trips because I hate moving the camper (prior to this contract the parks in California were smaller and cramped so moving often would have been stressful). I’m one of those people who like home situated just so and feel out of sorts when home is not put together. I consider taking a tent and car camping but then I think, why would I do that when I have an RV, and then of course nothing happens at all. Well that stops this year, and I’ve decided to just be comfortable with being outside my comfort zone . . . and that’s where all the adventure happens anyway right?
Valley of the Gods has been one of my favorite places in the world since camping there for 14 days back in 2019 with the RPOD. After hanging out at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, this was my next stop after starting the nomadic life. This beautiful place truly captures the magic of the wide open spaces and skies of the Southwest. Other than Valley of the Gods Road, there are no overt trails here, Hiker and I just picked a direction and started walking each day.
Day 0 - Breaking Down Camp in Gallup and Arrival at Valley of the Gods
Everything in the Airstream held together pretty well with the exception of a case of DMD (aka Diet Mountain Dew) on the top shelf of the closet which knocked the door open and then spilled cans across the floor (thankfully only one can actually opened). I was particularly happy to find that the rather delicate connections in the recent bathroom LED lighting project held together through the entire bumpy journey.
I never disconnected the truck from the Airstream and we stayed hitched the entire time. I did chock and put the stabilizers down to keep any rocking controlled. I did also put the jack down (while leaving the truck hitched) to correct for some front to back leveling but the side to side was mostly level and any variance we just put up with.
Valley of the Gods is a Bureau of Land Management area near Mexican Hat Utah, and located approximately 45 minutes from Monument Valley. This was my first time (after living full time in the Airstream for over a year) dry camping or “boondocking” (i.e. without “hookups”) and I got to test out several off-grid systems such as using the water tank, water pump, and electrical systems on battery only. I also tested the Airstream’s durability on some very bumpy back roads. This video includes some truly awesome drone footage, hiking and adventure in the Valley, and the installation of a fan hood cover for the Airstream. I also test out the Solo Stove Bonfire (though I unfortunately found out later that fires were not permitted in this area). Sit back, relax, and enjoy some vicarious adventure in an amazing place!!
A note about cell service - I actually had better cell coverage this time around than I did back in 2019. That being said, I have the same Apple iPhone XS MAX that I had then. I do have AT&T now rather than Verizon and have found for this area, the coverage is better with AT&T. With a full weBoost Connect RV 65 cell booster I had several bars of 3G back then and with the weBoost Drive Reach I had several bars of LTE now. Regardless, this was not enough to stream video content but was enough to receive messages and email. There was one particular location that always seemed to have decent coverage (i.e. enough for streaming) so this would be ideal for a camp site.
Day 1 - Settling in and Wandering Around
The first day we just chilled out, hiked to a high point, hiked a gulch, and had some more great food. Temperatures were mid 40s at night and between 60-70s during the day and conditions were usually partially cloudy with a steady wind. We stayed warm easily at night though I did break out a second blanket and used the furnace for about an hour one morning to warm things up. Because I run the Airstream fan most of the time for the white noise, the silence took a little getting used to, but we did have a good steady wind most of the time. My office system is set up to be run completely off my Goal Zero Yeti 1400 lithium power bank and I got to try this out along with breaking out the Goal Zero Boulder 200W Briefcase for the first time in over 2 years and both worked great - this is also my dry camping solution for recharging the house batteries (using a dog bone adapter to 120v).
For all intents and purposes I found this to be all the comforts of home but on the road . . . which is the whole point of having a camper right?
Day 2 - Airstream Modification Projects
I had several projects I intended to do while on this trip. I installed the Fan-Tastic Vent U1500WH Ultra Breeze Vent Cover successfully which should protect the fan from both snow and partially protect from wind interference (at least from 3 sides). Shown in this video, one amazingly handy and compact item for life on the road is the WolfWise Aluminum Telescopic Extension Multi-Purpose Ladder. I also started but did not finish converting a cabinet to a shoe drawer (I planned to finish this the last day but as the winter storm blew in, road conditions deteriorate and I decided to leave early while I could). When I finish this project, I’ll post it as a separate video. While on this topic, please note that these are gravel and dirt “unimproved” roads with a ton of washboarding and I would seriously heed the sign “Road Impassible when Wet.” Unlike winter conditions, chains wills not be of any help here - any wetness (rain or snow) in the desert and everything turns into a mud pit until the sun and wind can dry it out again.
The rest of day 2 was just spent hiking around with the pup.
Day 3 - Hiking to “Lady in a Bathtub” and Cedar Mesa Wall
Day three was our big 10+ mile hiking day. Hiker and I made our way out to “Lady in a Bathtub” and did some precarious rock scrambling up to one of the highest levels. One of my goals was to do a “point of interest” video with the drone (circles around an object) but the winds were crazy this day and despite several attempts, the drone just couldn’t keep up. We made our way back down (fearing every step might cause a landslide) and out across the plain towards the mesa wall. I had hiked up to this point back in 2019 and left a small pile of red rock there on a stone boulder and amazingly we found our way back to that same spot and added a few more rocks to the pile. After this we continued our ascent up to the highest point we could reach and I was finally able to get some decent drone footage from that spot. It was a long walk back home and Hiker was pooped but we enjoyed some good food by the fire and a beautiful sunset.
Day 4 - Winter Storm and Packing Out
As I said before, I would take absolutely seriously the sign that reads “Road Impassible when Wet” which is true of any “unimproved” desert roads. We woke this morning to the valley walls obscured in mist as the clouds flowed in and over Cedar Mesa. It was already intermittently sprinkling. I had intended to finish the shoe drawer project and spend one more night but decided to call an audible and head out early. Due to the rain, it became impossible to continue to make the cuts needed for the drawer material and hiking and hanging out outside were out due to the growing mud. We didn’t have any trouble getting out and I was pleasantly relieved to find the Airstream’s clearance was enough to get out without any scraping (this may not be true of the entire VOG road though as some places became more rugged). Noting the deteriorating conditions of the road as we drove out, leaving early was absolutely the right choice and I highly doubt I would have been able to get by the next morning (and thus would not have made it to work that night).
I was absolutely happy with the reserves in the Airstream and I think we could have easily gone an entire week without issues.
Power (see the notes above regarding using the power bank for office/media stuff): In terms of usage, I did run the furnace one morning for a short time, used the water pump frequently, the powered awning several times, and otherwise just used the lights. We ended at 12.0 volts.
Water: I filled the water tank before leaving (first time and first time towing with a full tank which worked out fine). The water pump worked well though is quite noisy. Because it was not too hot, I never felt like I got too grimy, so I usually just washed my feet off and never took a full shower. We ended with 38 percent remaining.
Propane: The first propane tank ran out the first day but I think there was only a little left in it. While at the campground, we have a big 100lb tank provided for long term stays so it had actual been a while since I used my 40lb tanks. That being said, I used the second tank the remainder of the time and ended with approximately 70 percent remaining. I used the AP Products 1212.13 024-1000 Tank Check LP with Monitor Kit which I’m pretty happy with and find generally accurate.
Grey Tank: We started the trip with this empty and ended at 56 percent full.
Black Tank: We started the trip with this empty and ended at 10 percent full.
I plan to go back later in the year once I get a mountain bike and GPS map the Valley of the Gods Road with Gaia GPS as well as time-lapse the drive through the Moki Dugway with the GoPro. This was the “greenest” I have ever seen the Valley and I’m curious to see what it looks like later in summer. Due to the weather, some of my photography goals didn’t happen such as night photography and a sunset time-lapse (due to cloudiness each evening). I also didn’t get to drone the Airstream driving though VOG as the wind proved an impediment.
Editing: Adobe Premier Pro (Creative Cloud)
Music: Epidemic Sound, MUSICBED, Soundstripe, YouTube Music Library
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