Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Our ride on the White Rim Trail.....AKA..... Are you kidding me????

My eldest brother is a dangerous person.  You wouldn't know it upon first meeting him because of his quiet, subdued, gentle manner...... but don't be fooled.  He can put bizarre ideas into peoples' heads, including the head of a certain Husband o' mine, who is susceptible to thinking that said bizarre ideas would be "really cool" to do.

Ideas like driving the White Rim Trail in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.  According to Elder Brother, this drive, which totals roughly 100 miles......with sections, said he, where you can easily go at least 30 mph, is "totally doable in one day."  No problem.

Well maybe ..... if one doesn't mind bouncing the fillings out of one's teeth, nor scaring the bejeebers out of the passengers (namely me)..... or as one niece-in-law (and fellow victim of Brother's bizarre ideas) put it.... leaving one's self to deal with "post traumatic stress".

Here's how it all began ......

We were planning to revisit our favorite spot on the planet -- Moab, Utah, (and surrounding countryside) for yet another fix of off-the-charts beauty and grandeur.  Every time we go there we are blown away by the scenery.  En route we spent a couple of days with said brother who trotted out several books including one titled "Back Country Adventures Utah", while expounding on the great fun he had had (twice!) by forsaking normal, rational roads and coaxing a perfectly innocent car onto this narrow, rutted, cliff-skirting goat path, meant only for ..... well..... goats.

"You'll love it!" He urged.

Side note:  If you have been keeping up with this blog, you know that we recently purchased a camper trailer which required a vehicle suitable for towing, so we bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee.  It's purpose was trailer-pulling.  That's it.  Off-roading did not enter any one's mind.  And on this trip we just happened to bring our trailer, pulled by our Jeep.

Upon hearing about this insane White Rim Trail thing, Husband realized ...... Hey, we have a 4-Wheel Drive!  We can do this!

So, in spite of my lack of excitement about an all-day, bone-rattling, back-road Jeep ride, we did it.  Because we could.  And because that's the man I married.

Leaving our trailer safely parked at our favorite campground in Moab, we arrived (7:00 a.m.) at the start of a preliminary but equally daunting goat path called The Shafer Trail which connects with the White Rim Trail.   Here we began an experience I will never forget.  Nor will my rattled bones and dental fillings ever forget either.  (We texted our son so as to inform another human being what we were about to do and asked him to call us that night..... just in case the services of the local Search and Rescue group might be needed.  I hear they're kept fairly busy around here.)

No, I am not kidding.  That IS the road.

We drove/crawled over constant rocks (solid and loose), pot holes, sand, dips and bumps and, according to the guide book, through a gazillion "washes" which we couldn't identify until late in the day when we realized a "wash" was a dry and very obscure stream bed.  The guidebook, "Backcountry Adventures Utah" kept saying, "Cross through wash", over and over.  One might think a "wash" would be somewhat wet, at least some of the time.  It never was.  But hey, we're from Oregon.  What do we know?

There was so much red dirt and dust that, two car washes later, it's still dribbling off our car.

But OH MY GOSH ..... what we saw!

Still not kidding.  That was the road!


At the recommendation of some campers we met along the way, we diverted down a side road to the White Crack campground where they said there was a view worth seeing.  They were right.

We occasionally met up with other groups, some of which were driving support vehicles for mountain bikers.  Apparently it's a popular sport in these parts and they take several days to do this trail, camping along the way.  And there were actual campgrounds (flattened dirt) about every 10-20 miles or so, with fresh-smelling and well maintained pit toilets, meaning they each sported about 20 rolls of toilet paper.

I felt genuine gratitude and pity for the poor soul who restocks the TP holders.  One can imagine the conversation when he/she gets home:
"Hi Honey, what did you do today?"  
"I refilled the toilet paper in five bathrooms.  Only took me ten hours this time."  
That there is some expensive TP!  But, if you ever find yourself on that horrendous trail with all the you-know-what getting bounced out of you, you will soon agree, it's tax dollars well spent.

We never encountered any others who were also driving the WRT in one day.  I am not sure which I'd recommend ..... one day or several days.  There are pros and cons for both.  One thing is for sure though, IF you do it in one day ...... start EARLY so you are sure to finish in daylight.  Driving this in the dark, in my opinion, would be suicidal.

The biking support vehicles were longer-style pickup trucks and I marveled at their courage.  Some of the hairpin curves were extremely tight, with a rock wall on one side and an abyss on the other.  I would NEVER choose to do this in a vehicle any longer than ours.  And I would have preferred even a shorter one, say... an army-type Jeep, with a shorter hood because as you ascend up a steep hill and reach the top with the nose of the car still pointing skyward, the ground suddenly drops down again, leaving us unable to see the road ahead for a brief and unnerving moment.  It was not unusual for us to be hanging out both sides of the car trying to see the road because there was no telling what its next surprise would be.  Husband, the driver, would be saying with raised voice .... I can't see the road!  I can't see the road!  And I, the not-driver, would be saying with similarly raised voice .... Turn right!  Turn right!

I must give credit to our Jeep as the hero of the day.  A couple of times while crawling up a steep and rocky hill,  it would start to spin its wheels and then, as if to say, "Don't worry, I've got this".... would kick in its macho 4WD action and pull us right up.  Husband acted like a proud father and was relieved at the end of the day that it weathered the ordeal without a scratch.

"What a good Jeep", he'd croon as he patted the dashboard.

After nearly eleven grueling hours of feeling thrashed and beat up, we finally reached the end of the White Rim Trail.  We were both exhausted and more than ready to return to actual pavement and I had followed the guidebook like a hawk, anticipating this moment.  The book frequently and carefully had us zero out our odometer at certain spots along the way so that we could stay in sync with its directions and mileage.  Twenty more miles.  Ten more miles.  We're almost there!

But when we reached the "end" and were supposed to emerge onto a road with an actual highway number rather than with a name ending in "Trail", we realized we were being sent up yet another goat path with more switchbacks and hairpin curves.

T'was at this point I thoroughly deserved to indulge in few cuss words.  However, so that my children know, I didn't.  But I was not happy and was feeling significant malice towards Elder Brother.  Where were the freakin' sections of road where we could go 30 mph??!  In roughly 80+ miles thus far, we had not been able to exceed our tedious average of 5 - 10 mph.   We were still picking our way over boulders and crawling through "washes".

FINALLY we came to a wide (two lane) smooth dirt road, where we marveled at being able to speed up to 30-40 mph.  It eventually brought us, feeling deeply grateful, to pavement(!), civilization(!!), and a carwash(!!!).

In the end, I am glad we did it.  (Elder Brother, the malice I felt towards you was short-lived.... at least until your next hair-brained idea.)  Wow!  What a ride!  It was the highlight of our trip!  We saw unbelievable sights.  Sights we EARNED the right to see.  And they were worth it.

But never again.

Musselman Arch.  It was wide enough to easily walk across, but there was no way THAT was happening.  It was as creepy as it looks.

(Thanks to Husband-Dear-Rugged-Jeep-Driver for producing most of the photos.  And for bringing us safely home.)