Having lived in Arizona only a couple of years I had never really explored the remote areas of its north. Fortunately I have friends who know many of the unique opportunities for seeing sights off the beaten path, so I reached out to them to see if they would be interested in a trailer-supported adventure.
The trip started with my friend, photographer Ross Addiego, driving his overland-prepped brick red FJ down from Bozeman, Montana to meet me at my expedition trailer shop in Phoenix.
After a little catching up we headed out to Sedona, about a two hour trip north, with Ross in his FJ and me in my Rubicon, both with expedition trailers in tow. Sedona is famous for its red rock
views, Native American history and energy vortices.
Sedona has restrictions for dispersed camping yet there are a few spots where beautiful views are visible from camp. The closest to town you can stay is off Highway 89A on Red Canyon Road. We
traveled seven miles north on a silty, dusty, red dirt road to our site for the night. If you continue down this road another couple miles you come to the Palatki Heritage Site, an area of ancient
cliff dwellings and pictographs overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. The Sedona region was sacred to the Native Americans and there are numerous areas to hike and explore, to experience their
After a great night of stars and campfire we were off early the next morning. Ross and I headed up in elevation to Flagstaff to meet our friends, Seth and Kande Jacobsen of Adventure Driven.
Seth and Kande drive a well built and fully kitted Lexus GX 470 they affectionately call “Lexy”. They are professional overlanders and know every nook and cranny of Northern Arizona. Their company takes people on private expeditions to remote areas around the Grand Canyon.
At an elevation of around 7000 feet (2100 meters), Flagstaff offered a cool and unusually overcast day, a welcome respite from the extreme temperatures of southern Arizona. As he headed out for additional supplies, Seth mentioned that where we were ultimately going was extremely remote and there were no services for miles.
As we gained elevation the landscape changed drastically. It went from wide open grasslands with few trees to a thick forest of pine, spruce, and stunning, white-barked aspens. The forest opened up in one area, probably from a forest fire that had ravaged this side of the mountain many years before. From here we could see the Painted Desert, a stark contrast to our present location. We continued up a rocky Forest Service road through pines and tall grass, and then dropped down into a small and remarkably lush green valley full of large aspen. This sight was amazing to me, as I
never thought of aspen growing in Arizona. The overcast day morphed into a sky full of enormous, fluffy, crisp, white clouds, unveiling the bright blue sky behind them.
Off to the next adventure! Ross rigged GoPro cameras to the outside of a couple of the vehicles and we were on to a new location.
We drove through a surreal landscape, an inactive volcanic field containing hundreds of extinct black cinder-covered volcanos, in the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument overseen by the
National Park Service. I grew up driving in the sands of Southern California and the dunes at Glamis, yet driving through the deep and loose cinders is an experience that caught me off guard.
What I thought was just black dirt was more like black sand. Soft sand. I hadn’t aired down so I immediately had to pull it into four-wheel drive and hit the rear locker, then the front locker. Time to pay attention.
We drove out to an isolated place among the towering cinder hills to set up camp. I popped open the kitchen in the back of my trailer and cooked a ribeye for dinner. As I enjoyed my dinner I thought it looked so strange to have pine trees growing out of the black volcanic dust. That night as we sat around the fire, I revealed the secret of the perfect margarita and enjoyed a glorious, high-altitude, starry night.
The next morning we all woke up early, excited about the trip to the Grand Canyon. We broke camp and headed north. Seth and Kande have an exclusive agreement to guide groups onto the Navajo Nation. The areas that they take people to are not open to the public, so we were in for a real treat.
We drove up Highway 89 from Flagstaff, past Cameron Station, headed towards Page. Kande called on the radio that the turn was just ahead. An unmarked dirt road headed off west. How did they find this road out in the middle of nowhere? We pulled off and aired down. We had 100-plus miles of dirt ahead of us.
As we drove through the wind-swept pastures of the Nation we passed old stone hogans. Some of these domiciles once sheltered people and were now used for housing livestock. The cattle out there roam free and we encountered them at watering holes. The most amazing animal sighting was that of wild or feral horses. We ran across five or six different bands numbering three to eight.
After taking an unmarked turn here and a goat trail road there, we approached the edge of the Canyon. Oh My. As I crept my Rubi along the edge it was breathtaking and a bit unnerving. It was probably 1000-plus feet down to the first impact zone. I gingerly pulled my rig out to the end of the line on a point. Ross, Seth and Kande followed me in and we all made camp for the night.
We were located at a bend in the Colorado River deep in the heart of the Navajo Reservation and could see an occasional group of small dots below on the water. They were multi-person river rafts floating by or pulling up on a sand bar at the bend. I went exploring around our campsite, looking for any signs of past visitors. On the very edge of the canyon I found a Spam can and a Schlitz beer can, both with the old twist key and pull tab. Nobody had been there in quite a while, I’d say.
When I set up camp and deployed my roof top tent on the trailer, I found that the ladder of the tent was no more than five feet from the edge. Needless to say, I went to the other side to climb in. I made tacos, popped a Pacifico and watched an amazing Arizona sunset above a one-of-a-kind backdrop.
The next day was our last with Seth and Kande on this trip. We backed out of our precarious location to an overgrown dirt road and headed north through the zigzag of farm roads. After a couple of
miscues looking for that one special road, we came back to the canyon’s edge at the apex of a large horseshoe-shaped bend in the river. The view was spectacular. The mix and contrast of clouds, color of the rock faces, and green of the river made my jaw drop. As I walked toward the lip of the canyon I was equally overwhelmed at the sheer drop to the river below. I have to admit I got a little squeamish.
After an hour of taking it all in, we started the journey home, traveling at a crawl at times, and pretending to race the Baja 1000 at others with Lexy, the FJ and the Rubi with Turtleback Trailers in tow. After a couple hours of good clean fun off-road driving, we were back to the pavement. We aired up at a standalone gas station out in the middle of nowhere and headed back to Flagstaff for Seth and Kande, to Montana for Ross, and me back to the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix.
Palatki Heritage Site: fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recreation/ohv/recarea
Sunset Crater Volcano Nat’l Monument: nps.gov/sucr/planyourvisit
Adventure Driven: adventuredriven.com
Turtleback Trailers: turtlebacktrailers.com
ABOUT TURTLEBACK TRAILERS
Turtleback Trailers are an Expedition Inspired™, purpose-built camping trailer hand-crafted in the USA. The trailers are CAD-designed and CNC-cut and formed to be tough, light and simply functional while being built to exacting specifications.
Purpose-built means that all the amenities are integrated into the unit rather than being a tub to carry equipment, thus making set up and break down of camp a breeze. The Turtleback offers exceptional open storage space of 25 cubic feet in its standard configuration and with the three-box storage option there are over 50 cubic feet of storage for your gear. A fully equipped unit has a dry weight of approximately 1,500 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,250 pounds, making an easy tow with a total GVWR of 2,750 pounds.
Encased in the 6’ by 10’ footprint of the Turtleback fits a full kitchen crafted from Baltic Birch ply with a stainless steel Atwood two-burner stove and stainless steel sink with hot water from the Atwood high efficiency six-gallon water heater, delivered through a Delta faucet. The kitchen also features a slide-out pantry, a pot and pan storage shelf and two drawers for utensils. Designed for extended travel, the Turtleback has 42 gallons of water on board to supply the shower and kitchen. On top of the standard roof rack there is space for your roof top tent or space to haul additional equipment.
Turtleback Trailers are available in numerous colors, with many options including upgraded electrical systems with solar systems and 110v power inverters, numerous awning and tent configurations, camp table storage, tailgate systems, boat racks and tire sizes up to 35”. OutdoorX4 Magazine will be featuring a full review of the Turtleback Trailer in a future issue. In the meantime, you can learn more about Turtleback Trailers at www.turtlebacktrailers.com.
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