Thursday, January 25, 2024

Wilco Off-Road's Hitchgate Solo solves spare-tire issue, but can pose hurdles

There is no law of physics, nature or probability that assures only one flat tire will occur when traveling wildland roads.
Wilco's Hitchgate Solo mounted on our 4Runner.
That's why we carry two all-terrain spare tires, and recommend that our clients do so as well.

However, the problem of where to carry a large, 70-lb. (32 kg.) or heavier second spare wheel is difficult to resolve.

To get the the added security of a second spare tire, we opted a few years ago for Texas-based Wilco Offroad's Hitchgate Solo, a spare-tire carrier that mounts on the tow hitch. Initial fitment difficulties, and subsequent difficulties getting Wilco to fulfill our order for small replacement parts (worn Delrin washers for the swing arm) left us no option but to give a luke-warm early recommendation, with warnings.

Now, after thousands of backcountry miles, we've resolved these issues, but only after some effort by us.

The Hitchgate Solo remains solidly mounted, wobble free and easy to use regardless of the terrain. The only maintenance has been to snug up the swing arm's pivot bolt, a simple and infrequent task; and replacing the Delrin washers on the swing arm, also an infrequent task. (They do wear out, so order spares.) We've found that it does indeed provide the peace of mind that a second spare tire provides, as well as a place for our trash container and extra-fuel can.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Don't let weather, wildfires and work derail your wildland travels. Just ask for 'Plan B'!

As potential consolation for the risks posed by wildland travel's three dreaded "Ws" -- weather, wildfires and work -- we'll be offering 2024's clients exclusive free use of our GPS-guided "Plan B" data file with routing through the most beautiful part of Idaho, in the American West's northern Rocky Mountains.

Travel-season storms can make many of the West's dirt roads impassable. Wildfires can close backcountry roads, forcing travelers onto long highway bypasses.

Perhaps worst of all: Your phone ... and the office has your number.

For clients who suddenly must shorten or even cancel their journeys on our western wildland routes, we've compiled as compensation a free, plug-and-play GPX route file that can guide them along spectacular day trips that are second to none.

These routes -- all readily accessible from a single base -- traverse terrain that is more mineralized than clay-based, and thus more resilient to inclement conditions than many western regions.

The region is more open and less forested, and thus less prone to fire. It also is convenient to the airport and amenities of Idaho Falls, a dynamic small city just west of Wyoming and south of Montana.

The routes can quickly be accessed from a backcountry campsite or even a rustic motel.

Each route is selected and documented via GPS not only for its beauty, but also for, soils that are less likely to turn to mud when wet, abundant RV and tent camping opportunities -- both dispersed and in campgrounds -- as well as lodging, alpine hiking, fishing, and mechanized trail riding, a mountain setting that is authentically Idaho, proximity to Yellowstone-Teton country, Ketchum/Sun Valley, the Sawtooth Range and ghost towns.

So be assured that if the three "Ws" find you, our "Plan B" just might save your trip -- while still providing the memorable wildland adventures you were looking for.

Contact us soon at backcountrybyways at gee mail dot com

Friday, October 6, 2023

Heart of the West Adventure Route: USA's convenient multistate wildland journey

Heart of the West Adventure Route -- the plug-and-play solution to the risks of planning an overland trip -- will continue in 2024 to provide wildland travelers a GPS-guided network of interconnected loops and routes that remains unparalleled in North America.

This premium service delivers convenient and customizable routing for travelers in SUVs, or on dual-sport and adventure motorcycles.

H.o.W. will remain an adaptable, GPS-guided 2,800-mile-plus loop along backcountry roads through some of the American West's most iconic landscapes. We've also chronicled optional routing that can extend the experience far beyond H.o.W.'s core six states. Using supplementary routing, backcountry travelers can journey from Canada to Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean or even the Mojave Desert for a fraction of the cost of guided trips.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Start planning now for the 2024 season!

The first step in planning your wildland journey is simple: Just send us a note saying that you, too, would like to take advantage of our plug-and-play, GPS-guided wildland routes.
That initial contact will be followed at a convenient time by a telephone visit to go over your vision, and how we can help you achieve it.
You will find our personalized, traveler-direct process to be time well spent, as we explain the products and services you will receive from us, and answer your questions.

Contact us today!


Friday, November 11, 2022

Day-use reservations, park pass required at Grand Canyon north rim's Tuweep area

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Arizona -- Beginning July 21, 2022, day-use reservations are required in a pilot program that the National Park Service has implemented to manage increasing visitation at the remote Tuweep Visitor Area, on the Grand Canyon's north rim.

Woman taking photo of Grand Canyon at Toroweap Point, Arizona
Only six private-vehicle ticket reservations will be available daily to reserve up to 120 days prior to a visit. Reservations for the remaining 12 private-vehicle day-use tickets to enter the Tuweep area will be available to purchase daily, two days prior and up to the day of a scheduled visit.

The Tuweep area, an ancestral homeland of the native Southern Paiute people, is commonly accessed via long stretches of unpaved, sometimes rough and muddy roads from Fredonia, Arizona, and St. George, Utah.

Reservations are required for four-wheeled vehicles and motorcycles.

Tickets to visit the Tuweep area, which includes the breath-taking Grand Canyon overlook at Toroweap (photo), can be reserved online at

Visitors must have both a day-use ticket ($2 in 2023, non-refundable), and a park-entrance or site pass.

More information is available on the park's website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Cyanide leach mining: What is it? Why so dangerous? And why you pay the bill.

BISHOP, California -- To spread awareness of the threat that taxpayer-subsidized, cyanide-based gold mining poses to public lands and waters in the American West, the Owens Valley-based Friends of the Inyo provides an instructive presentation on YouTube that explains cyanide leach mining.

The presenter of "The Dirty Truth About Modern Cyanide Gold Mining," Bonnie Gestring, is Northwest program director at Earthworksa Montana conservation organization. The devastating consequences and costs born by Montana taxpayers compelled voters there to ban new cyanide leach mines in 1998.

We're sharing Gestring's talk because eastern California's rural Owens Valley and Inyo Range face the same threat as Idaho's Centennial Mountains, in rural Clark County.

Road closed signAs Gestring explains, industrial-scale cyanide-leach gold mining operations, like those now devastating and closing off landscapes in Nevada, are an existential threat to the American public's access to and use of Western public lands.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Sierra to the Sea Adventure Route: Motoring through the wildlands of Northern California

Note: The condition of Sierra to the Sea/Sea to Sierra Adventure Route (S2S) in Northern California could be uncertain in some places due to erosion and wildfire impacts. Travelers might need to improvise go-arounds.

Sierra to the Sea/Sea to Sierra Adventure Route (S2S) is our 825-mile, eight-day, GPS-guided backcountry motor route from the Sierra Nevada to the largest coastal wildland in the Lower 48, the fabled "Lost Coast."

S2S is focused on Northern California's most scenic, historic and remote unpaved backroads. The objective: To guide select overlanders, adventure motorcycle riders and other wildland travelers through some of California's wildest vehicle-accessible backcountry with data that is accurate, useful and current.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Rare GPS-equipped cameras, data loggers can precisely I.D. wildland photo locations

In the days when we shot photographic film for our wildland-travel guidebooks and magazine features, it could be difficult months or years later to match an image with a dirt road or other feature we needed to depict.
A lineup of cameras that are equipped with GPS sensors
GPS-equipped cameras and accessories
That’s because photographs of deserts, mountains, plains, forests and such often lack features that make exact location unclear.
So, since adopting digital imaging many years ago, we’ve put considerable effort into acquiring cameras and accessories that can embed GPS (global positioning system) data into our photographs.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Tow strap, folding hand saw can keep forest deadfall from ending your wildland journey

Now and then we encounter forest roads blocked by deadfall ... trees felled by fire, age, drought, insects or wind. Often they can be cut away with the folding hand saw we keep in our moto and SUV tool kits.

Tow strap being used to move deadfall
Sometimes, however, they need to be pulled off the road using a tow or recovery strap.

We've never used our 30-foot-long recovery strap for its intended purpose: hitching to a second vehicle to be extracted from a hole of some sort. We find that good judgment, used preventively, is the better tool.

We have used the strap a number of times to pull deadfall either completely out of the roadway, or far enough to make room to pass. (Why 30 feet instead of, say, 20? We find that a longer strap can probably be made shorter with wrap-arounds; but a shorter strap cannot by itself be lengthened if necessary.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

There is a nail waiting for a tire along every wildland road, so be ready for the inevitable

"Flat tire!" adventure-motorcycling videographer Sterling Noren called out from his BMW F800 as we rode from our campsite along the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route. He was there to film the Touratech USA- and Butler Motorcycle Maps-sponsored inaugural ride of the border-to-border route. I was there to write about it for RoadRUNNER, the motorcycle-travel magazine.

COBDR campsite where Sterling Noren's BMW got a flat tire.
Sterling's words are among those that every ADV-style motorcyclist dreads, for they proclaim the inevitable along America's wildest roads.

It was the second flat of the trip.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Southeastern Idaho site memorializes worst massacre of Native Americans in West

Interpretive site overlooking area of massacre
At 6 a.m. on January 29, 1863 -- the coldest time of year in southeastern Idaho's Cache Valley, perhaps as cold as -20 °F that morning of deep snow -- the U.S. Army attacked a Shoshone Indian encampment on the Bear River in what was then southeastern Washington Territory, a few miles north of today's city of Preston.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

More than 80 years later, a byways journey reveals remnants of '30s 'Dust Bowl' country

After decades spent documenting wildland roads of the American West, we opted in 2018 to focus on historical backroad travel through what once was the Dust Bowl.

Dust Bowl region of southeastern Colorado

For several days, we traveled in our 4Runner along the often unpaved and remote county roads in the Great Plains where the states of Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma meet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Backcountry Byways LLC's web address changes to ''

Backcountry Byways LLC's web address has been changed to

The change enables us to better reflect the range of premium, personalized services we've provided to wildland and overland travelers since 1993. The URL previously directed web visitors to our ground-breaking Backcountry Byways guidebook series.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Utah's Comb Ridge, Bears Ears shelter America's ancestral-Puebloan heritage

It is a privilege to experience the homeland of America's ancestral Puebloan people, whose centuries-old cliff-dwelling culture mysteriously vanished centuries ago, yet reaches out to us today at places like Utah's Comb Ridge.

Utah Hwy. 95 ascends the west face of Comb Ridge.

The dramatic sandstone uplift barely survived the Republican Trump administration's downsizing of Bears Ears National Monument -- authorized by Democratic President Barack Obama -- by 85 percent in December 2017.

Monday, December 11, 2017

For SUV adventures, your smart phone or tablet can replace a dedicated GPS unit

For easy backcountry navigation using our plug-and-play GPS data, many of our wildland-travel clients are switching from dedicated GPS units to smartphones and tablets, both Android and iOS.

Detailed GPX tracks make backcountry navigation easy.
These devices are equipped with GPS sensors, which is why Google Maps can provide directions and routing. This does not require an internet connection or cell service; it relies on GPS satellites. That makes is easy to follow the plug-and-play "tracks" we provide.

But sunlight screen readability can be a problem. (See our post on that issue.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Smartphones can work for adventure motorcycling, but know the pitfalls

Many adventure motorcylists who come to us for routing services see no point to loading our detailed, GPS-based navigational tracks onto expensive and bulky dedicated GPS units.

Instead, they want to use the device they already have and use all day long: their phones, both iPhones and Android phones.

Garmin Montana (left), Samsung S5, iPhone 5

While our GPS data files work well on smartphones, especially when traveling in the shaded interior of an SUV, those devices can have important shortcomings when used in the daylight and the demanding conditions of adventure motorcycling.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

'Asphalt & Dirt: Life on Two Wheels'

We've just received a copy of the new book Asphalt & Dirt: Life on Two Wheels, by Aaron Heinrich.

The book is packed with engaging profiles of individuals who've been engaged in advancing various genres of motorcycling ... including yours truly, of Backcountry Byways LLC.

The 365-page paperback ($22.95) is published by Florida's Road Dog Publications (
Kindle versions are available from Amazon, and Nook versions are available from Barnes & Noble.

Give it a look!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Utah's anti-Moab: Green River, and the nearby San Rafael Swell and Book Cliffs

Green River, Utah -- We once did what most travelers wouldn't do when spring arrives in canyon country: spend a week based at this forlorn hamlet, which barely clings to life in the shadow of Moab, the outdoor-recreation mecca just 50 miles away.

Book Cliffs, near Green River, Utah
There are reasons to bypass this quasi-ghost town. Although there are some remodeled and contemporary lodgings, Main Street is lined with the dilapidated hulks of abandoned motels, vacant lots and derelict gas stations. Instead of Moab's brew pubs, mountain-bike shops and espresso bars, there are boarded-up bars and bygone cafes.

These are ghosts of the era when old U.S. 50 -- not nearby Interstate 70 -- was a major cross-country route, and the Cold War search for uranium brought a level of prosperity but left the region pocked with abandoned mines that still pose hazards today.

With all of its warts and woes, Green River appeals to me. It is authentic Utah, and there are reasons -- access to gorgeous backcountry roads, spectacular sandstone canyons and ancient rock art -- to make Green River a destination, and to stay for a while.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Utah's Escalante country seems overlooked by Moab-bound masses -- and we're glad!

Note: To learn more about adventure driving in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, as well as Capitol Reef National Park, pick up a copy of our guidebook, Utah Byways. This post includes videos and a Google map.

Escalante, Utah -- We may not be done with touristy Moab, but more and more we are drawn to Utah's remote, often overlooked (and underappreciated) portals to canyon country -- humble hamlets like Green River, Hanksville, Boulder and Escalante.

Table with a view at Kiva Koffeehouse & Kottage
To my traveled eye, these hamlets remain authentically Utah: rooted in the lore of Mormon pioneers; minimally or not at all commercialized; unwaypointed by auto navigation systems; away from it all. (State route 12 wasn't paved until 1985.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

'Backcountry Discovery Route' maps for Washington, Utah rich in planning info

Utah BDR
Wash. BDR
Two innovative motorcycle-travel maps that depict "Backcountry Discovery Routes" in Washington State and Utah span the divide between print and digital publishing, providing trip planners with essential cartographic data and access to video.

And they're available now, in time to plan this season's backcountry ride or drive.

Butler Motorcycle Maps' information-packed Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR; 575 miles; 925 km) and Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (UTBDR; 871 miles; 1,402 km) ($14.95 ea.) can help travelers more efficiently plan full or partial trips on these two off-highway road systems.