Road trip Quebec-Arizona – Adventure trip aboard a Loki Basecamp

Author : Marc-André Paillé – Photos : Jessyca Vien Gaboriau

 

Everyone has their own version of the perfect roadtrip. But I have the impression that the following story, that of our trip from Quebec to Arizona, will meet the fantasies of many adventure lovers. You be the judge…

For me, the perfect roadtrip is dotted with landscapes that make you open your eyes wide, and sometimes fill them with tears because you are so amazed and grateful to be there… to have experienced it in person.

The ideal adventure trip also includes challenges, unexpected things, a bit of chance and improvisation. A little challenge spices up the trip and makes for good stories to tell back home! But for it to be magical, you must also leave with the certainty that no matter what happens, you will have everything you need to continue the adventure until the end. For that, there is nothing like experience, good planning and having the right equipment.

This is where my story begins as it all starts with our most valuable and useful piece of equipment on this trip: the Loki Basecamp Falcon unit mounted on a 4X4 truck, a Ford F350 diesel. Our mission, through this epic journey, was to drive the Falcon unit back to Flagstaff, Arizona, to present it to the visitors of the Overland Expo West 2021.

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I had just spent three days on site at the Harricana Ultra-Trail of Canada in Charlevoix, where I was co-hosting a live broadcast for the 10th anniversary of the event. The Loki Basecamp was also on site – and it was attracting a lot of attention from athletes and visitors!

When we arrived at the Canadian-American border, I had a certain amount of adrenaline to get rid of and the excitement of the adventure that awaited us mixed with the fatigue of the last three days. Jessyca, my girlfriend and travel partner par excellence and our friend Julien Tozzi, with whom I practice almost all my favorite sports, joined me in Burlington, where our crossing began.

 

East-West Sprint

The first few hours of our trip felt like a race against time: Julien and I drove in relays, stopping only when fatigue and hunger demanded it. Since we only had 10 days to get to Flagstaff, we chose to concentrate the exploratory part of the trip on the western section of the route. That didn’t stop us from stopping at some amazing places: the roads being public in the United States, we had the possibility to camp almost anywhere. And with the Loki, we were able to set up in places where a car or a camper would have gotten stuck.

We also took the opportunity to soak up some sunsets and sunrises whose colored light seemed to swallow us up as we moved towards the horizon. As we passed, we had to get used to the intrigued looks and hand signals that the other drivers systematically gave us. The Falcon did not go unnoticed, to say the least!


First explorations: Rocky Mountain National Park and Williams Fork Reservoir

Plains and hills slowly gave way to mountainous landscapes as we approached our first stop, Colorado’s massive Rocky Mountain National Park. Imagine, against a rocky backdrop cut by cliffs, green plateaus, valleys and rivers where a wide variety of wildlife lives. Among others, you can see black bears, mountain lions, elk and bighorn sheep (those imposing creatures with their thick, curved horns that form the well-known Dodge logo) – (Photo #1 below).

After a breathless hike – our first outing at 4,000 m – we settled down to prepare dinner, our first-ever wilderness barbecue. The sun setting through the mountains and the sounds of nearby animals made the atmosphere almost supernatural. Finally, we were where we wanted to be and we were enjoying it intensely! (Photo #2 below)

As darkness began to fall, we moved to our campsite, a beach at the edge of Williams Fork Reservoir. Luckily we had a 4X4 and LED lighting on the front of the Loki to get us there: the terrain was riddled with crevasses and the rocky ground very uneven.

The next day, when I woke up, I was astonished: what I had perceived in the darkness as a simple lake surrounded by a rugged terrain turned out to be a dazzling sight. Around us, like a thousand perfect background photos, stretched a peninsula bordered by dunes bathed in orange light. And behind them, we could see the typical Colorado mountainous landscape. The atmosphere was perfect and Jessyca took the opportunity to do some yoga on the sand. Meanwhile, Julien and I quietly prepared lunch, and then we packed our bags since we had to leave quite early: more than five hours of driving separated us from our next destination (Photo #3 below).


 

Gold Mountain Trail Rides and Mount Sneffels: first offroad

As we made our way to our destination, the mountains were shedding their greenery and their rocky peaks were closing in on us. We arrived at Gold Mountain Trail Rides at the end of the day and settled in for the night. The next morning, in this scene worthy of an advertising scene, we took advantage of the place and the incredible view to take beautiful pictures of the Loki Falcon (Photo #1 below).

The distance between Gold Mountain and our next stop, Mount Sneffels, is not very long as the crow flies but to live the experience to the fullest, we avoided taking the highway as much as possible. We switched to offroad mode and tested the capabilities of the 4X4 on a road (I don’t dare to call it a road…) sometimes rocky, sometimes gravel or sandy (Photo #2 below). There were a few times when the adrenaline was pumping in the cabin and we were hot, but we had the demonstration that our Loki unit and our truck were 100% suited for this adventure.

Arrived at Mount Sneffels, we were so far from civilization that the wild cows shared our path (Photo #3 below). After this intense dose of off-road adventure, it was time to continue southwest. About 8 hours of “quiet” driving on Highway 70 awaited us before resuming our journey in Utah, this time.


 

Southern Utah and its unique panorama

The first thing that strikes the eye when arriving in Utah on Interstate 70 is the drastic change in landscape due to the dry, hot climate. Burnt orange and red tones are omnipresent and the texture of the rock formations is fascinating: through countless layers of different hues (Photo #1 below), we perceive millions of years of history. It is this view worthy of a Western movie that would be the setting for our next adventures.

Our route began through the sand paths of Kodachrome Basin State Park where, monument-like, stand 67 columns of sediment (sandpipes) formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Driving through this unique landscape felt like we were on another planet, especially since we were taking the roads less traveled. At one point, road signs were so limited that we had no choice but to trust our instincts to determine the right direction to go. We moved slowly through the sand, repeating to ourselves over and over, “Good thing we’re in a 4WD!” (Photo #2 below). Once again, we found ourselves in the middle of a herd of wild cows. This time, some of them had rather imposing horns… Not being sure if they were curious or annoyed by our presence, we continued to advance slowly and they finally moved away (Photo #3 below).

When evening came, the silence around us was absolute, almost inconceivable. We were so far away that we had no signal anymore: the moment had come to test the Loki’s antenna and its REDARC system which amplifies the signal to be able to plan the next day’s route (Photo #4 below).

Offroad and more offroad !

MEUUUUUUUUH!!!!!!! I’ll let you imagine: it’s always total silence, the sun is barely up and this sound – or rather this scream – less than a meter from the cabin, wakes us up all of a sudden. We were in the mood for adventure, we were served! After a quick lunch, we continued off-road to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This huge protected area covers more than 7500 km2, an area comparable to the state of Delaware. As far as the eye could see, the landscape unfolded, composed of plains, sedimented rock formations, orange sand, dust… and shrubs whose survival seemed to be a miracle. Being in this beautiful place, knowing that dinosaur fossils were discovered there 20 years ago, gave a surreal feeling. The space around us was both full of history… and deserted.

 

On the way to the mythical Grand Canyon

After so many hours of traveling alone in the vast desert setting of the Grand Staircase-Esclante, we were apprehensive about the crowds that would likely await us at the Grand Canyon. This place, whose name we’ve all heard before, was a must-see on our trip, but we were determined to find a way to enjoy it while staying off the beaten path. When we arrived in the middle of the afternoon, we walked along the cliff until we found the perfect place to set up camp… 10 meters from the cliff (Photo #1 below).

That evening, the wind was so strong that we prepared supper inside, in the kitchenette of the Loki. After a short night’s rest, Julien went for a run while waiting for the sun to rise, then Jessyca and I walked along the cliff. We had the impression of being alone in the world, swimming in the light and the morning mist of this almost sacred territory (Photo #2 below).

When you think that more than four million visitors come here every year, it is rather paradoxical that we could be absolutely alone all this time at the edge of this wonder of nature. All thanks to the Loki, which allowed us to go wherever we wanted without worries or restrictions. By mid-morning, we were back on Highway 89. Little did we know that this is where we would find Jessyca’s favorite of the trip : Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. (Photo #3 below).

The spectacular rock formations of Vermilion Cliffs lie at the southern end of the Great Staircase-Escalante, near the Utah-Arizona border. In the midst of these 900-meter-high walls zoned in shades of red, we stopped and stared, dumbfounded. The geological layers filled with history, the colors, the incongruous shape of the mountains, everything was absolutely disorienting (Photo #4 below). Looking back, this portion of our journey continues to stand out as the top 1 best moment!

 

Camping between the setting sun and the moon

We then continued our ascent to the north to head towards Lone Rock Beach – the only place where we paid for a camping space. This spot is known for its gigantic, lonely rock that stands like a pointy island in the middle of the water. After walking miles of rugged, rocky ground, the view of Lake Powell and its sandy beach was a welcome change! Although the area is more crowded than our last few destinations, with the 4X4 we were once again able to find a beach spot far enough away from the other campers.

Jessyca and I took the opportunity to put the paddle board in the water, happy to be able to move around and relax after all that time on the truck. Meanwhile, the sun had begun to descend on the beach and we watched in amazement as we turned around and could see the moon on one side and the setting sun on the other. The scene was incredible.

After taking a shower directly on the beach, we made a campfire and prepared dinner on the grill. Completely under the spell of this beautiful landscape, we spent a perfect evening.

Our final day of exploring began with a quick detour to take a look at the popular Horseshoe bend, a winding section of the Colorado River shaped like a huge horseshoe.

After that, we had about 220 km to go to our final destination, where the Loki Basecamp team was waiting for us to clean up and spruce up our trusty Falcon unit to show it off to visitors at Overland Expo West 2021.

 

From one journey to another

There is no doubt that Jessyca, Julien and I will remember this trip for the rest of our lives. The names of the places, the dates and the factual data will fade away for sure. But we will definitely remember the moments that filled us with vivid emotions, the ones that make every particle of ourselves feel deeply rooted in the present moment.

Adventurers know it: the end of a journey is the beginning of another one! I can only dream of leaving again soon to continue discovering new and little explored territories… and this time, we will be able to add even more sports activities to the adventure! More running, canoeing and why not, skiing if we have to!