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Discussion Starter #81 (Edited)
I got off of work at 10am this past Friday (woke up at 4am). Went grocery shopping, ran home, loaded the FJ and hit I-70 just after noon. I got to the Colorado - Utah border around 5pm. I was headed into slot canyon country for three days and nights of camping, shooting, off-roading, drinking whiskey, and night sky photography.

There was a massive storm on the horizon, but out there you can see for 30 to 40 miles, so I didn't know where the storm actually was. Rain dozens of miles away leads to flash floods that kill every year in the slot canyons. Plus, most of the soil where I was going is an incredibly fine decomposed-rock silt that becomes quicksand after the rain.



When taking I-70 through eastern Utah heading west, you go through miles of desert hills, then you hit the San Rafael Swell and massive rock outcrops appear from nowhere.



I stopped and checked the weather and saw that the rain had mostly passed and mostly missed where I was headed so I decided to go off the pavement and into the desert. I passed this sign as soon as I got off the highway.




I used Google maps to lead me to the historic Swasey cabin in the Head of Sinbad area of the San Rafael Swell in South Central Utah. Google maps took me on an ATV trail that was too narrow for my FJ in most places instead of taking me on the well-maintained gravel road that leads there. The ATV trail twice went around sharp turns on a narrow shelf above a draw, and twice I had to put my driver side tires up high on the rock next to me, leaning farther than the 30 degree roll indicator inside the FJ reads, with my passenger tires inches from the edge of the draw. I picked up a lot of new pin striping on that trail as well. I wasn't happy.

My plan was to cook dinner by the cabin, set up some lighting on the rocks behind the cabin, then wait until dark and photograph the milky way above the cabin. The cabin sat at the mouth of Eagle Canyon so after shooting pictures of the cabin I planned to drive the four wheel drive trail into the canyon, take pictures of the Milky Way over the Eagle Canyon Arch rock formations, then drive out of the canyon. After that I would drive a few miles further into the Swell and get some shots of the Milky Way over the Dutchman's Arch, then drive around until I found a good spot to camp for the night.



It kept raining off and on when I was at the cabin. I took a short walk behind the cabin and explored a few ice caves that the Swasey family used as a refrigerator. Water dripped into the caves and froze in the winter. The ice was sheltered from the sun and would remain through the spring and beginning of summer. Joe Swasey built a trough to catch the water dripping in the caves and used it to water his horses. The trough, and a metal basin to catch overflow water, is still there today.





I found a geocache behind the cabin



I didn't make dinner, but I did boil some water and make coffee. I leaned in the doorway of the cabin, sheltered from the rain, single action Colt revolver on my side, and sipped my coffee. I wondered how many times Joe Swasey, who built the cabin out here in 1921 and rustled wild horses in the desert for a living, leaned in that doorway and watched the daylight fade to night as I was doing.







The clouds started to break about an hour after sunset so I tried to get my stuff set up and take some shots of the cabin. I couldn't get the lighting just right and the clouds were heavy, so I didn't get the shot I wanted. Here's the best shot I got:



Finally the clouds started to break so I drove into the canyon.
 

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Discussion Starter #82 (Edited)
The drive into Eagle Canyon was much rougher than the online trail descriptions state. There was a lot of erosion on the trail and even though I have 33" tires and a 3" lift on an already high clearance vehicle, I hit my skid plates several times in the canyon. The moon hadn't risen yet and it was incredibly dark in the canyon. This was the first real test of the lights I had installed on the FJ and they were great for long distances in front of me, but didn't light up the area directly in front of me very well and there is almost no spillover to the sides of the FJ. The Rigid D2 Hyperspots on my cowl were blinding when they hit rocks or the canyon walls at close range but would light up half a mile down the canyon when I had that line of sight. They are definitely for wide open terrain and not tight trails.

Anyway, I got to the Eagle Canyon Arch and the clouds were breaking up nicely. Here are a few shots I got in the canyon.





 

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Discussion Starter #83 (Edited)
I left Eagle Canyon and drove a few miles to Dutchman's Arch. I took too long at the cabin waiting for the skies to clear and by the time I got to Dutchman's Arch the moon had risen which washed out the sky and made my photos look like daylight.



I only took a few shots at the arch and decided to call it quits for the night. It was about 11:30 when I left the arch and started looking for a campsite. I had used the Google Maps satellite view to scout out some potential campsites and saved the GPS coordinates of them to the Gaia Pro GPS app on my phone. The sites were all nearby, at least on the Google Maps website. Several had trails to them that just faded away into oblivion. One came to an eroded section with a 4 foot ledge in front of me that I couldn't get up or around. A few looked great in the satellite view but were actually on very steep terrain that I couldn't set up a tent on.

It was after midnight, I had been up since 4 am and drove about 7 hours, and I was exhausted. I remembered a campsite I saw over by the cabin and decided to drive to it. I was coming up to an intersection in the trails so I stopped and looked at the GPS app to see which way I had to go. I needed to make a right turn. I sat my phone down, hit the gas, and a second later I felt like I was falling, heard a loud crunch, and saw nothing but dirt in front of me. I felt the FJ flipping forward still, then a sudden jolt and it fell backwards. WHAM!

WTF?

I had a tough time getting out of the FJ because the front end was about four feet lower than the rear. I had driven into a sinkhole. The front passenger side was in the dirt. The back tires were off the ground. I looked at the front end and didn't see any damage. I am certain the FJ would have flipped onto it's roof but my stinger front bumper served it's purpose and stopped me from going over. I saw the FJ was resting on it's frame rails dangerously close to the transfer case. I didn't see any fluids under the FJ, that was a relief.





I climbed back into the FJ and started it. When I shifted out of park an idiot light on the dash lit up AT/P. I went into reverse and hit the gas, but the car acted like it was in neutral. The RPMs increased but the tires didn't move and I didn't feel the transmission shift. I tried drive and got the same results. When I shifted into Park there was a weird grinding noise. I got out the owners manual and looked up the AT/P light. It stood for Automatic Transmission Park error. Oh "F***" I thought, "The FJ's transmission is stuck in park". I checked my cell phone. No signal.

I got back into the FJ started it, shifted into 4 Lo, and then into drive. I actually felt it shift but I didn't move anywhere. I tried reverse and didn't move either, but it did shift. I put it back into park and heard that grinding noise again.

I shut the FJ off and took a good look at the situation. The front driver tire was down about 3 - 3 1/2 feet, a little above the tire's height. The passenger tire was down over 4 feet. Both back tires were off the ground. In Colorado, the Rocky Mountains are aptly named, so in a situation like this all I would need to do is stack rocks behind the front tires to make a ramp and back out of the hole. I walked a quarter mile radius around the FJ and found no rocks. Nothing but hard packed soil and sage brush.







I got out my shovel and MaxTrax traction aids. I only had a Cold Steel shovel with me, the small wooden handled one that is sharpened like an axe. I tried digging a hole to put some dirt under the back tires. This was caliche, sun-baked desert clay that is hard as a brick. I used the edge of the shovel like an axe to chop into the soil and made two mounds under the rear tires. I kicked the MaxTrax panels under the tires, got back into the FJ, and shifted into Drive. I moved forward a few inches until the front bumper dug firmly into the caliche. I went into reverse and backed up a few inches until the frame rails caught on the edge again. I rocked it forwards and backward several times, but could only go an inch or so each time.



I got back out and tried to figure out the best way to get out of here. I couldn't back out because the frame rails were getting stuck. If I was able to go forward when the back tires went over the edge my back bumper would catch and it would either rip off or would catch the ledge and leave my rear tires hanging off the ground. My front driver tire was against the edge of the hole and the rear driver tire was to the side of the hole. I decided I would clear out the caliche in front of the FJ and drive forward bearing to the driver side. I hoped the driver front tire would hug the wall of the hole, the driver rear tire would stay out of the hole next to it, the passenger front tire would be on the ground, and the passenger rear tire would be elevated and off the ground the whole time. If this worked I would be free. If it didn't work I'd roll over on my passenger side.

I spent two hours chipping away the caliche in front of the FJ and throwing it around the front tires trying to create a ramp to drive up. Finally I had it dug out and it was time to roll (no pun intended). I got in the FJ, put on my seat belt, and shifted into 4 Lo, 1st gear, front and rear lockers on. I fought the steering wheel to turn all teh way driver and touched the gas. The FJ moved an inch or two and stopped. I gave more gas and it lurched forward. I was slowly moving forward, Then I felt the rear passenger tire go over the edge. The FJ teetered back and forth a few times but didn't tip on it's side. I slowly moved forward, the FJ leaning more and more to passenger every inch. Just as I thought I was going over sideways I felt the passenger front tire hit the ramp I dug and begin to climb up. This moved the FJ back to the driver side away from the rollover point. I drove out of the hole and stopped a few feet beyond it.

It's hard to see these shots, This is the hole I drove into and was stuck on. I was tired and not paying attention and my lighting was great straight on, but didn't throw any light to the side so I didn't notice this drop and drove right off of it.





I decided to drive back to the highway to a rest area to sleep and check out the FJ good in the daylight. It seemed to drive fine and I made it to the rest stop in about 45 minutes with no issues. By now it was after 4 am. I had been awake over 24 hours. I slept for an hour or two but my body is used to waking up at 4am and didn't let me sleep much. When I got up I walked around the FJ and tried to open the passenger door. It hit the front fender and opened, but with a loud pop. I noticed two dents in the passenger fender and some big gaps between it and the grill. That was the corner that I landed on when I went over the edge of the hole. There is a big scrape on the stinger part of my front bumper. I'm certain that the stinger hit and stopped me from flipping over.







Other than the fender the FJ looked fine and drove well. However, I was worried that there could be something damaged I didn't see that could break miles into the desert with no one else around, so I decided to play it safe and drive home. Today (Sunday) I looked at the fender more. I'm going to see if I can move it back enough to clear the door. It only needs to move about 1/8" so it might be possible.

My lessons learned from this? Carry a better shovel. Get side lighting. Drive slower at night off-road. Don't use Google Maps to scout out desert locations.
 

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What a night! I’m glad you made it out! You took some gorgeous photos on this adventure .


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Discussion Starter #88
I'd re position the two 2" pods on your bumper to shine out to the sides
Those are amber LED fog lights. They are great for improving contrast in rain, dust, and snow.

I ordered a set of the Dually D2 diffused flood pods and I'm going to put them on the bumper angled to the side a bit.

I'm also thinking of moving the hyperspots that are on the cowls and the 10"light bar to a custom made bar across the front roof rack. At night when going up and over berms and some big bumps and rocks they cast a strong shadow on the other side of the object. Getting them up higher would eliminate a lot of that.
 

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Discussion Starter #90
Love my Dually D2 diffused floods. :grin

How's the glare on the hood from the cowl lights?
The hyperspots are a very tight beam. They don't really light up the hood at all. I have a blackout decal that may help with them, but the beam really doesn't spill or spread. I thought about putting the D2 Dually floods on the cowls when I move the hyperspots, but I think the floods would cause some hood glare and would cast shadows directly in front of the FJ.
 

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Those are bright! And they cast a nice even light..I can’t see any strong hotspots


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Discussion Starter #99
New YouTube video!

This one is on pavement, but it's a very cool drive. Capulin Volcano National Monument in north east New Mexico protects a 30,000 year old volcano cinder cone. There is a shelf road that spirals to the top and ends at the trailhead to a hike into the volcano crater. The shelf road climbs several hundred feet above the valley floor and it's narrow with no guard rails. There is a beautiful view of the valley below, and you can see many other extinct volcanoes from the road.

 
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