Thursday, May 24, 2007

Moab, Utah

Moab became home base for Arches and Canyonlands, and to explore the area. It was hard to believe that I was still in Utah. Nothing about this town and its people reflected what I had experienced in the preceeding month. In a nutshell, Moab rocks! I can't say that I have ever seen so many jeeps concentrated in one area before, along with an eccectric assortment of other 4x4's and atvs. But, they definitely "walk the walk" with them. I saw some incredible feats with vehicles, where their "sticking power" was definitely put to the test. Creeping down "elephant knees", following deer trails up cliff rims, descending near verticle into canyons, they were having a ball. Just not on my list of fun things to try I guess :] The best scene I witnessed was a jeep coming down off of rim trail after dark. It was several hundred feet above me and the paved road, tilted 45 degrees sideways while pointing nearly straight down! It was inching along (brake on/brake off) while a passenger held a spotlight ahead. I did not hang around to watch the full descent, but just hope that this wasn't some yahoos in a rental!

If you have never heard of slickrock trail, it is made up of relatively smooth sandstone and is infamous for mountain bikers. But, it started out as a motorcycle circuit! All of the descriptions and warnings, plus the fact they have full-time rescue/EMS on hand led me to skip this ride. I did a few of other rides to measure myself against the slickrock practice loop, and I decided no way! The best ride that I did was Klondike Bluffs. It starts as a jeep trail, covers a mile and a half of slickrock an dthen ascends up into Arches. I did not follow it all the way to the end, but did cover all of the slickrock. It ain't as smooth as the name implies, and definitely unforgiving! I got a laugh though, as, even with my uphill climbing on it, I was keeping pace with jeeps and whatnot that were traversing it : ). BTW, watching a H3 (hummer) do the drive...all I can say is what a waste of money ;')! There were a couple of divits where the slickrock domes (actually they are petrified sand dunes) joined, and those were murder on the vehicles. Even the jeeps were dragging bumper trying to bridge the gaps. Best part about Klondike was the dino tracks...Along the slickrock's seam to the rocky hillside were scattered prints. Stewards had placed rocks around them to help preserve them, and it was obvious that I was riding along a trail that they had taken so long ago. Awfully cool :).

One hike worth noting here is "Negro Bill" canyon. Sorry, not my idea for the name. He was the first non-white settler into the area. I suppose that the fact they named a canyon after him was a show of some respect... The trail winds up along a nice little perennial creek through the canyon to a side canyon that leads out to the sixth longest natural bridge in existence. Morning Glory has a span of 246 feet, and is unusal in that it sits right against a cliff wall. I only suppose that the runoff from the cliff is what eroded the arch...On the way out, I entered another side canyon for a cache, which is evidently a respite from the crowds during the heaviest of the hiking season. This in itself could have made for an all day hike had I prepared properly for it.

My first day into the area, I camped out along the Colorado, in a BLM camp. This was too funny to not comment on: The latrine :). It was just a vault with an open fence around it, no roof! The design allowed privacy, from below anyways. There was a chain with an occupied sign on it that you could link across the opening to prevent surprise visitors (two legged anyways). However... I could only invision a climber from the clifftop a hundred feet to the north waving a good morning salute down as I tended to business ;'). sheesh... I drove out Potash road checking on possible put-in/take-out sites on the river, ending up at the end of the road and the processing plant. A gravel road continued all the way up into Canynlands. I drove a half dozen miles out, admiring the scenery. I knew I should turn around already, but some lakes further up were intriguing me with their coloration. Come to find out, these were evaporation ponds for the potash plant. They inject water into the ground to dissolve the potash, pump the water up to these ponds and then add a blue dye to speed up the evaporation pocess. It still takes a year tp dry a pond. Very unusual sight out here. I had met up with a couple of cyclists who were trying to make it all the way in on the road. They were encouraging me to follow, but I did not think it was worth the abuse on the tobox to try. As I later found out from up top in Canyonlands, I stood no chance of actually having made it if I'd tried.

I explored the Colorado river eastwards during my stay. I chose not to kayak or raft the river, so this was the alternative. I would have liked to do the loop drive through the La Sal mtn range, but a closed road and poor weather ruled this out. Sure was some nice country along the way though. I got a laugh at a resort ranch during one of these drives. Some of the horses were in a corral next to the road, and they were sure in a romping mood : ). Two pairs of them were chasing each other and standing toe to toe, raring up on the hind hoofs, the whole nine yards. it was quite a sight to watch. I managed to get a couple of pics that came out ok. Well, this went on for some time and then all of sudden, they changed their disposition entirely!? What's up with that? Oh, here comes the ranchhands riding up with a group back from the trail. Sheesh. It was like "shhh, here comes mom"! :') Very funny indeed.

The Fisher Towers are a series of rock formations eroded from the cliffside, east of Moab. Titan is the largest tower at 900', and the formations all reminded me of Goblin just on a larger scale. I managed a cache here, which led me off of the main trail to a pretty neat view point of the "goblins".

Dewey Bridge (see pic) surprised me in that it was the main span on this hwy until 1986! I guess that is why 128 is a scenic backway and not a main route.

Because of the large number of pics associated with this post, I am posting them seperately, below. Let me know how this works...

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