Great weekend in Northern Arizona

We decided to meet up with a group to do some off-roading and camping. Great group of folks. Brandon the lead took us up to Sedona where we bounced up Schnebly Hill Road and then crossed I-17 and continued on dirt road toward Flagstaff. Northern Arizona has gotten quite a lot of summer rains so everything was green and gorgeous. We found a power line road and worked our way to Potato Lake. It was getting late so we cut back to Flagstaff for some gas for the thirsty trucks before finding a campground in the Cinders OHV area.

We found a nice big group campsite, and quickly set up our camp. It’s kind of neat with all the work that I put it over the years. It takes about 10 minutes to set everything up. Although with the rain coming, it took a little bit longer for the awning. we just made sandwiches for dinner, and then sit out by the fire until the rains came. The group quickly retreated to the awnings and we lit up our camp box fire. We had been up since about 4 AM that day, so we turned in around 9 PM with all the dogs up in the tent with us.

We got up around 6:30 in the morning, quickly made some coffee and breakfast, and then I think we packed up around 730, 8 o’clock in the group headed out around nine. We did a bunch of trails in the cinders, climbed a pretty steep mountain And did some racing across the cinder field. we spent the day up on the mountain, and then came down and did another cinder cone before peeling off from the group, which was heading back to Phoenix.

We headed back on 89, and turned off at a fourth service road and headed behind the San Francisco peaks. We found a really nice campground, set up camp for the evening, made a delicious Dutch oven enchilada, and then went on a hike. There was no rain this evening, and we turned in and had a great nights sleep.

The next morning we packed up, spent a couple hours four-wheeling, and then hooked up to I-40, on to Ash Fork, and then down into Prescott where we visited some relatives, before finishing off the drive back home.

Lava Box Review

We attended the overland expo in Flagstaff in May of this year and found this really interesting product called the Lava Box. It was a bit of an expensive replacement to the Amazon propane fire pit we used. We decided to drop a huge pot of cash on this product.

Well we had a busy summer and finally got out camping again on labor Day weekend. Up in the mountains of Arizona, a rainy chilly night pushed away from the burning embers and we set this little guy up just outside the awning. It came on, and we felt some heat. But the flame was not adjustable with the dial on the regulator. Kind of weird. We hung out for a while and turned in.

The next night we fired it up again and a little flame entertained us for a while. But it didn’t create a significant amount of heat and sent one of us off to bed to warm up. I fiddled with the regulator a bit and found it to be the defective piece. At some point while turning it up, it will click, and an uncontrolled inferno erupts from the Lava Box. I’m talking 6 foot flames and a roar of gas causing me to lurch back. Several attempts to regulate and I gave up and watched the little flame dance in the breeze while I zipped up my fleece.

The last attempt on our final morning of camping I played with the regulator, vacillating between a minuscule flame and a fireball that chased my girlfriend away until I tweaked it to something that provided heat without signaling the forest service with a heat signature that might indicate danger.

I’ll call their service department and have them send a new regulator. Lesson for me, test equipment at home.

AT Day 1 – Springer Mountain – Southern Terminus

Started hiking the approach trail at around 12pm. Somehow I passed my group and it’s too wet and cold to stop. Had a break at 2 and again at 4:30. Made it to the top at 5:20. The official northbound start of the Appalachian Trail.

I waited for my crew for about 75 minutes and watched the sunset. Decided to just go to the campground and set camp. It was cold and really windy but the tent setup was easy and warm inside without the wind. I was soaked from the waist down and peeled my clothes off and out on warm dry thermals and socks. Went to sleep at 7:30. Woke at 3:30 to pet the bears, and then woke again at 7:30. Breakfast was a mountain house skillet and coffee. On the trail at 9 and waiting again at the summit.

Approach – Day 0

Stayed with Moose’s uncle outside of Atlanta. Interesting man, great conversation. Now off to pick up the last guy and head to Amicalola falls.

Definitely a nice place for coffee

Still driving. We are somewhere in Arkansas.

We’ve been on the road for 24 hours already, tag teaming the driving to keep momentum. The original map estimate said 26 hours. It looks like it’ll be closer to 34. Dropping the trailer tonight, picking up another hiker, getting a few zzzz’s and we should be at Amicalola Falls in the afternoon tomorrow. Hiking starts Friday. It’s raining now and forecasted to stop Saturday as we follow the storm east.

Overland Expo West 2021

I was not paying attention that the overland expo west had been postponed to September and after seeing a post by A2A expedition (Graham Bell) that they were racing to be there. I headed up the night before and camped overnight and managed to make it to the Bell’s presentation. What a neat story and a great journey and such a nice family. (

Graham Bell -A2A Expedition

The interesting thing for me at this expo that was so much different than the last one two years ago was that I was not comparing trailers and sale tactics for the trailers we were representing at the time. I also noticed that all of the tools and gadgets are not needed in my setup. I was looking for two specific things; a better cook system and a solution for more comfort for the next big trip.

Old Jeep truck like my dad’s

I did not find something for cooking that was what I was looking for…but I did see something in a product that resonated with what I was thinking. It is not a bolt in solution, but it is something that I might be able to create or adapt. I did some searching afterwards and still there is nothing like it out there. I am letting the idea percolate and we will see.

Dream vehicle. 89 Landcruiser troops.

The second thing is a more comfortable environment when out on long-term travel. I like the van conversions but there are sometimes places I want to go that those vehicles will not take FJ is amazing and can get just about everywhere, but when Carl and I were above the Arctic circle and mosquitos were insane, it would have been nice to have a couch to sit on or a kitchen to prepare meals. It also has to be as easy to set up. With this in mind, I opened my mind and looked around. Truck slide ins caught my mind.

I found one that really appealed to me. It was open and airy and had a simple setup. Th problem with it was the hefty price. I can probably find a good truck for $30-40k if I look around, but adding on another $45k seems excessive. There were several other brands and some that caught my attention were the ones that had the basics, but also could be modified. That is my sweet spot. And after some looking on Craigslist and some other sites, it turns out there are several models in the $15-20K range or less if I get a good used one. So now my head is spinning and I am working a plan.

Potential options

Maybe my better half can find some time to connect with me and we can discuss what I am thinking.

Camping again – A long time coming

I had not camped with the FJ since May 2021 and I had to get out. I did a trip to Maine by airplane and hiked 87 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which was fun and painful. It is so beautiful up there.

Abol Bridge campground at sunset

Finally in September I got tired of the incessant heat here in Arizona and headed up to northern Arizona. I first did a bike ride on a day trip and then did a two nighter bike trip with the FJ Cruiser Overlander. It is funny now that I have tuned it to such a point that all I have to do is find a fairly level spot and within 10 minutes I am completely set up with a chair and beer in hand.

Camping mongolion rim
Camping mongolion rim

I noticed I wanted some better camp lights and had a friend years ago that used rock lights under the truck. I ordered a set and will have them installed this week so I am ready for the Moab camping trip in two weeks.

Biking the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail
Camping with the elk herd

Power solution nearly complete

After moving to Mesa, AZ, the fridge gets incredibly hungry in the summers. Basically, what would last 2-3 days on an AGM battery in Colorado, lasts barely a day in this incessant summer heat. So I abandoned the AGM battery and upgraded to a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery. The advantages of these batteries are surprising. The best thing is that a 100AHr battery will discharge 95% before going dead. An AGM is done after 45% discharge. The LiFeP battery is also less than half the weight. These batteries are not suited for hot environments, so engine compartments are not ideal. I have solar attached to the FJ, but even in direct sun, can get 5-6A max, so if the battery is at 50%, it will take 10 hours to recharge, ridge running.

I decided to move my RedArc DC/DC charger from the engine compartment to the rear cargo area. In the cargo area, with my cargo there is exactly enough space between the side and the small space under the rear pocket window. I fished a 2g battery cable through the firewall and to the rear compartment and created a fused link to the DC/DC charger. Due to the solar low charge capability, I purchased a 20A AC/DC Renogy charger to manage the battery more efficiently. And as long as I was doing this, I purchased an AC plug adapter used in RVs and mounted it through plastic rear quarter panel into the cargo area. Since these were two AC wired one up to the charger and the other to the fridge. The effect of this is when in the garage, I can plug in AC to the back of the FJ, and it will power the charger and switch the Fridge to AC. Perfect for FJ while I work from home.

The only thing I have left, is to add in a fuse box and an DC/AC inverter. This will allow me to power computer and a monitor for working on the road, and possibly will power a cook-top, leaving the need for propane to emergency only.

I’ll add some pics, but in all reality, it is boring as the wiring, battery, and charging are tucked away and hidden.

next project….water pump connected to power and with and ability to take a road shower when needed.