Wednesday Day 13 - June 25

Wednesday was a great tour around Moab, UT. We awoke refreshed from a long couple of days since the bluegrass festival. Don and Jeff set out for breakfast as I opted for a more leisurely shower and a hunt for some waterproof boots to replace the cat piss boots. As I rode deeper into town I spied Don's and Jeff's bikes at a restaurant and pulled in to let them know which way I'd be heading. Since they were just about finished with breakfast I headed out for boots with them to follow shortly. I had called Fred at Arrowhead motorsports but he did not stock boots, and the only other motorcycle store in town had been tried Tuesday evening. So I hit a few outdoor recreation stores before I ended up with a choice between Lowa hiking boots and Red Wing work boots on a side street. The selection of Red Wings was small and they did not have a style that fit my needs so I opted for the Lowas. Since they are just slightly more than ankle high I grabbed a pair of nylon rain gators as well. I bid the cat piss boots adieu along with the socks I had been wearing inside them at the garbage can where I bought the new Lowas. The First Gear boots had served me well over 4 years, but Snuffle's revenge had to go.

There were some cool things to see around Moab. Being a 4 wheel drive mecca, and mountain biking mecca, and hiking mecca there were all manner of vehicles around to look at. An old Willys jeep had been fiberglassed to look just like the cliffs in and around Moab. We also saw this big foreign 4 Wheel drive beast that looked pretty tough.

We decided to ride on down to Arrowhead motorsports and visit Fred anyway. Having ordered from Fred before and knowing I'll likely order from him again I thought it a good idea to check the place out. Arrowhead has lots of KLR specific items and in general handles dual-sport and dirt bike parts and accessories. We also wanted to ask about the White Rim road around Canyonlands National Park. Arrowhead is an unassuming metal shop in a neighborhood just off the main drag in Moab. Fred came over from the house when we pulled up and gave us a tour of the place. I was pretty interested in getting a taller windshield since the wind in NM had beat me up, but Fred did not have one in stock. I did get a good look at a Laser Duro stainless steel exhaust system that may turn up on this web site again at some point.
Fred recommended we visit the visitors center where his girlfriend works in downtown Moab for nearly free maps of Utah and Canyonlands National Park and cautioned us about the distance and dehydration dangers while riding the White Rim. He said to expect a 140 mile loop with no gas stops along the way. And plan to take a full day to do it. Take plenty of water.

We zipped up to the visitor center and obtained the necessary maps and hatched a plan to visit Canyonlands but put off the full loop until tomorrow. After finding Eddie McStiff's closed for lunch we ended up at a gas station where we stocked up on power bars, dried meat snacks, gatorade, and more water. Off we went toward Canyonlands.

Note: all the pics from here down represent really spectacular landscape. So click on any photo to see a larger version of the pic.

We headed north on 191 just outside of town and crossed the Colorado river. Just past the bridge we turned left onto 279 and skirted back south along the banks of the river. It was a beautiful scene with the lush green banks of the Colorado on our left and the high cliffs on the right. I saw several historic marker type signs on the side of the road and finally my curiosity got the best of me so I pulled over to check out the next sign. "Indian Cliff Drawings". We clambered up the rocky edge underneath the huge cliff and finally found some shapes composed of dots chipped into the side of the cliff but there origins seemed questionable. In some places the face of the cliff had strange shiny black/blue coating that looked like burned oil or creosote. We wondered if fire had raged through the canyon but never found out.

We followed 279 along the river and finally ran into Potash Road, one section of the Shafer Trail (as well as the White Rim Road). We arrived at the POTASH ROAD sign board , our first indication we were nearing Canyonlands. Click the graphic for a blow up of the history of the Shafer Trail, clarity is poor but It's the best shot we got of it. While stopped at the sign board we wandered over to see the bright blue body of water pictured. The water in this area is used for salt production. Up close you could see the white salt ringing the water.

The scale of the land features here is just whacked. I felt like an ant crawling around in the dust. The photo below shows the size of the rock formations we saw on our little break. There's also a few shots down into the canyon of the Colorado river.

We climbed back on the bikes and kept going, eager to see the interior of Canyonlands National Park. We followed the road up and down hills, mostly up, and gradually gained some elevation over the Colorado river we had crossed way back at the beginning just outside of Moab. We stopped at the top of a rock outcropping to get a good look at the river off to the left, with even higher cliffs jutting up on our right. It was a good opportunity to stretch out a little and drink some water, a constant requirement in the near 100 degree F heat and dry air. And, oh yeah, take some pictures. The view down onto the river was spectacular. The greenery lining the river banks contrasting with the red rock of the canyon walls topped by fluffy white clouds on bright blue sky with mountains in the distance. Wow.

After our brief pause we headed back to the Shafer Trail and continued up the canyons. On a brief downhill I was fortunate enough to be leading at a SLOW pace when I came up on this tight right hander around an outcropping of rock, right on the edge of a 500 foot drop off. Egg sized rocks on a hard rock surface made the going somewhat precarious, wheels tending to slip as you braked down the hill. The next photo shows Don and Jeff preparing to come down the hill and around the ledge. This is not a place to err on the side of speed. No guard rails. No ambulances. No phone coverage. Nothing but mountain trail for at least 20 miles.

After surviving the switchback cliff above we eventually turned off the Potash road onto the Shaffer trail proper, which would lead us up into the paved roads of Canyonlands National Park. But we were not finished with the switchbacks, not even close. Check out the set of switchbacks on the left. For scale the dot in the red circle is a red jeep making its way up the side of the canyon wall via the switchbacks. You might need to click on that photo to view the larger version to identify the jeep. That's a tall canyon wall and some very steep switchbacks.

The friendly folks on the right are Heather and her brother Adam the passengers of the red jeep. Coincidentally Heather was a contact in Georgia Jeff had made on the internet before the trip while searching for (and eventually finding) a place for us to stay during the Blue Grass festival. The camppground had been sold out long before Jeff secured our second hand tickets. We had not run into Heather at the festival and were shocked to see her here on the canyon. She saw three big dual-sport bikes with NC plates sitting on the bluff and waited for us to return from our picture taking hike to say hello. We made plans to meet in town for dinner and help celebrate Adam's birthday and we were on our way. While we climbed onto the bikes to go a Harley idled by -- it's apparently disapproving rider sneering at us as he chortled by with a young child on the back of the bike headed down the switchbacks pictured. We were dumbfounded.

After our visit we continued on toward the park's paved roads. If you go, rent a jeep like Heather and Adam and ride at least part of the Shafer trail, the scenery is so much more spectacular when you are out in it. The paved roads in the park lead south to the "Island in the Sky", a bluff overlooking the White Rim road. The photo below on the left is the view of the White Rim. Notice the white color of the ground as it approaches the drop-off into the canyon. That namesake of the road is actually bare white rock. We were to get a taste, taste hell, a steady diet of this the next day on our trip around the White Rim road. You can see the road cutting accross the photo, very close to the 500-1000 foot ledge at times.

After tooling around in the park and burning up Jeff's hot knobbie tires on the curvey tarmac we decide to split up and meet back at the hotel. Don headed out on paved roads and Jeff and I decided to take Pucker Pass to Dead Horse Canyon back. We started out on a wide smooth dirt road that encouraged 60 mph speeds. We were beginning to wonder why anyone had dared to call this 'pucker' pass. It proved to be aptly named. Eventually this wound down to another switchback trail up and down the canyon. Check out Jeff coming up the switchback on the right. At least there's lots of stuff to help you bleed off speed should you run off the road.

For a 4Mb movie of me taking off on a deceptively dangerous downhill run click the movie icon. Just before I took off Jeff said "Alright, you've got 35 seconds." So I took off, not knowing there was a deep sand wash surrounded by boulders just around the corner on a steep grade. When my tail light comes on in the movie I am having a major "oh shit" moment. I stood on the pegs and went over the sand and boulders at about 20 mph and somehow stayed upright. It's a hoot to watch the movie double sized and watch the bike wag around as I come to the sand and boulders near the end of the movie. After I got through it I tried to park the bike and run back to warn Jeff, but I could not find a spot level enough that the bike would stand up on the kick stand, the road was too steep and I was still trying when Jeff came around the corner at a more prudent speed and fully in control of the 'Strom. Oh yeah, that would have been nice ... I'll try it that way next time.

Awaiting us at the bottom of the sand wash hill was a huge boulder laying up against the canyon wall. You had to ride under the boulder to get out of the canyon. This hill was a lot steeper than it looks. We had a little more rocky scenery to ride through as we snuck out along the bottom of the canyon floor.

After reaching the paved road, 279 which we had come in on, Jeff suggested that I take that look at Arches National Park I had missed the day before. We headed on back to 191 and turned north heading just a little bit further away from Moab to the park. We passed through the park gate free using Paul's donated National Parks card, again, and the gate keeper stated his assumption that I was Jeff's brother and therefore could enter free of charge as well. I said "thank you."

This is me, tired but entertained, in front of what I think is the edge of the Devil's Garden in the park. The landscape in Arches is so diverse it's amazing. We followed the signs to delicate arch, wanting to see the long, thin arch that looked so dramatic in the pictures we had seen. Delicate arch turned out to be a small arch that we thankfully only walked a quarter of a mile each way to see. It was not the one we had come to see.

Arches are formed when the inner portion of the rock is eroded, leaving the outer rim to form the arch. Jeff and I were pondering what had happened to all that missing rock when we came upon this family playing in the sand between two huge rock walls. I guess all that rock turns into sand, and blows away.

We finally made it to Landscape Arch, the big daddy of the park. about 200 feet in length it was quite impressive to behold. Unfortunately we could not get close to the arch, blocked by a split rail fence designed to protect us. On the way out we passed a Japanese tourist carrying, of all things, a can of Budweiser. Trying to go native I guess.

After our 1.5 mile hike to and from the arch, we mounted the bikes and checked the GPS for distance back to the hotel. Oh crap. 67 miles. How could that be right? We flew out of the park and stopped for gas at a lonely RV campground. We were so tired we stood and stared at the clerk while buying beer for the evening, unable to calculate the appropriate amount of change. He eventually chased Jeff outside to give him more money back. We were bushed. The hotel turned out to be about 10 miles away, thank goodness. We grabbed hot showers and hit Eddie Mcstiffs again with the whole crowd to celebrate Adam's birthday. Adam and Heather appreciated the opportunity to take turns in our shower as they had been camping at Negro Bill (don't ask) for the last few days, with several camping days still ahead of them. A warm soak in the spa during a surprise power outage (ah, the relaxing darkness) and a cool dip in the pool finished off the evening.