Category Archives: Travel

Devil’s Playground II — The night hell froze over

Needing a break and some solitude I headed back out to the West Desert to a great little camping spot. Weather was in the 60’s, blue skies, forecast said there’d be a little wind, and possibly some snow in the morning. Looking at the weather satellite images it looked like the storm would miss my camp by a ways so I wasn’t worried. I tried a new way to get to my camping spot in the Devil’s Playground. I took Immigrant Rd at mile marker 33 (on highway 30) down to the turn off. I think entering from mile 33 or 24 is about the same driving time. So no matter. The night was going great, but then there were a couple drops, then it stopped. I decided to move into the tent anyway. 30 minutes later it started drizzling, but nothing bad. Then the wind picked up. My camp was in a little alcove of rocks so I was sheltered for the most part from the wind in the direction it was blowing, then it changed direction and things went downhill. The rain was horizontal. I reinforced my tent by putting a couple more stakes in at different angles and using some guy lines to tie it down. But it was no use. The wind gusts were just too much. In a brazen move I packed everything into my pillowcase, loosely rolled up my bag and darted to my truck with them so they wouldn’t get wet. By now the rain had turned to horizontal freezing rain. I dropped the tent poles and collapsed it sideways and stuffed it under my pickup bed cover and turned in for the night. It got cold, and the wind never stopped. The condensation on the inside of my windows froze and just built up thicker and thicker as the night wore on. My back window was caked with 1/2″ of ice, and every couple minutes there would be a thud as a chunk of ice that had built up on a tree landed on my roof. I had planned on spending 2 nights, but my tent was a frozen brick that would probably take 4-5 hours to thaw out, and then it wouldn’t dry enough to be usable, and I didn’t know if any other fun weather would be coming my way, so after some pics in the morning I took off. I only had trouble in one spot on the way out, it’s a steep 15 foot climb followed by a steep 25 foot climb. I made it to the top of the first fairly well, just spinning out a bit towards the top, had a little trouble getting up enough speed to make the 25 footer, and lost it right at the top. It took about 6 tries, but I managed to get up the rest of the way without having to back down and charge it again. The wind coming back was insane. There was a stretch of highway where the tumbleweeds were dancing across the road by the hundreds, just floating over the barbed wire fences on both sides. It was a sight to see. Curious to find out just how fast the wind was gusting I looked up the weather station that’s just outside the Devil’s Playground area and it said 81 MPH top gust. Wow. I believe it though. It was insane.

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Moab 2005

I biked Slickrock again this year. It was the typical experience — not too many people, the perfect weather, and still a good challenge to get through. I tried some homemade energy goop this year, a bottle of honey with some strawberry flavoring mixed in to thin it out a little and to make it taste better. It worked out really well. I took my GPS along for the ride this year so I could find out just how much elevation gain & loss there is on this trail. In total, there is 1,950 feet in elevation gain & loss. The number could actually be much higher if the GPS didn’t track precisely at the bottom and top of each hill, but it’s a rough estimate & good enough for me.

The next day I explored the Onion Creek area. Although the road is marked 4WD I decided to take lil’ red for a drive up it. The road is in awesome shape and would be a blast to ride on a mountain bike with all the stream crossings and the roller coaster like ascents & descents between the stream crossings. The geology in that canyon is incredible & will definitely be ridden later on this year when I go down again. If the stream was flowing at a much higher rate I could see some problems taking lil’ red up it, but there weren’t any problems that day.

The rest of the day was spent in Arches National Park in the Fiery Furnace. It’s one of my favorite places ot hike in the area for a couple reasons. First is the fact that not too many people can go in due to permit restrictions, and the permit eliminates the majority of people from even being remotely interested in going in there, and then there’s the need for a guide if someone in your group doesn’t know the route through the furnace — which is basically a labryinth. The temperature in the furnace is usually 10-20 degrees cooler (at least) than anywhere else in the park due to all the shade created by the tightly spaced fins. Some of the slot canyons created by the fins will have a cool downdraft much cooler than the rest of the furnace making it really nice to relax in one of those. That, plus all the cool formations, and the mild canyoneering experience you have and the ability to explore any number of areas within the furnace make this a really fun place to go.

My actual birthday was spent on a bike ride through Canyonlands National Park. Starting out on the Shafer road near the entrance to the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands I descended the road and all it’s switchbacks, stopping on occasion to take a look over the edge of the road to see where I was heading next & to give my body a rest from all the downhill. I soon hit the bottom & took a break in the shade. On this route, trees are scarce that I stopped under them whenever I had the chance. From here the route I was on follows the famous White Rim Trail. Following this trail exposed me to another side of Canyonlands NP that I’d never seen before. You’re basically in the middle of all the layers that make up the area so you have good views of all the cliffs above you and you could also see beyond into the canyons below you and actually see the Colorado River on it’s course through the area, whereas you only see a smidgeon of everything from the main roads in Island in the Sky. As you had South-East on this road (at least on this section) you’re heading slightly uphill and when you go around a corner to go North-West you’re going downhill. While the road isn’t technical in this section requiring 4WD vehicles or anything, there’s still enough obstacles on the road to make riding it fun. There are small ledges & other rocks to jump off of, sand to surf through and other fun things to do. You can overlook the Gooseneck bend in the Colorado & go up to Musselman Arch which is more of a natural bridge technically, and is quite impressive. After Musselman Arch the rest of the trail is fairly boring, taking you further away from the canyon rim. And then there was Lathrop Canyon. My shuttle service suggested walking the first sections of this canyon — whatever. This canyon was a lot of fun. It was a long fast descent with lots of obstacles to have fun with, and was definitely the best part of the ride, much better than the descent down Shafer road. That is until you hit the last mile and a half of deep sand. It’s totally unrideable unless of course you’re a glutton for punishment, really, really bad punishment. The route ended on the Colorado River. The tamarisk like everywhere else on the major rivers out West has grown so thick that it totally blocks the view of the river except for the dirt boat ramp leading into the river. I was early for my boat pick up, by about 2 hours, so I had a while to nap & relax. There was a couple moving down to NM that had a full mattress set strapped to the top of their truck. I assumed at first that one of the two would only go on a trip like this if they had the comforts of home right there, but I found out they were moving later on. This 40 foot barge like boat pulled up with some canoeists returning from a 7 day trip down the Green River — one of the ladies had broken her fibia on day 4 and managed to finish the trip and still be in good spirits by the time I met them. Fortunately they had duct tape to to bind the splint, and enough drift wood on the route for a fine selection of canes. The boat ride lasted for about an hour & then there was a slow drive back to town. All in all this was 1112 feet of climbing, and 3094 feet of descent, over 20.9 miles.

All in all this was yet another awesome trip to Moab. It might be my last annual trip down there for my birthday, but certainly not the last one.

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The Spiral Jetty/Great Salt Lake/Promontory Point

It got up into the 50’s today so I wanted to get out and explore my new area a bit. I’ve been wanting to go and check out Promontory Point for a long time, and just can’t seem to get out there. There’s basically no easy way. There is a rail line that goes over the Great Salt Lake from 12th Street straight to the tip of Promontory Point, and then continues over the Great Salt Lake and on into the West Desert, but the furthest access point is full of private property threats, so I decided to go the long way to see if I could get out there. This entails driving 20 miles North, then 20 Miles West, and then South 20 miles to get to the point, basically driving around all the wetlands & lake. I got off the wrong exit, and wound up in the middle of the Bear River Wildlife Refuge, which was an interesting drive, but not where I wanted to go. Eventually I was out there, driving down the peninsula, and I could see the lake about 1/4 mile away from the road, however all the land was private and behind barbed wires. Halfway down the peninsula that is Promontory Point you hit a point in the road where you’re greeted with that private property stuff all over again — at least this one has a sign w/ a number to call & get a permit to go down there for recreational purposes. So I was at a loss for what to do. I wanted to get to see the lake. I’ve tried many times, but it’s surrounded by mile after mile of private property, and lack of roads to access it. The only place I did know of was Antelope Island, but you have to pay to drive out there.

I decided to head out towards the Golden Spike National Historic whatever and see if I could get to the lake from the other side of the peninsula. On the way there I saw someone w/ a loaded backpack hiking down the only dirt road that wasn’t gated so I decided to see if she could give me some ideas of what I should expect where I was headed. She said I could get to the Spiral Jetty which was in the lake if I went to Golden Spike and followed the signs. While turning around my truck’s back end slipped into a ditch, the roads being muddy from the snowmelt. After a couple minutes of trying to get out I had to start thinking of something to do to get out of the ditch when this white SUV comes up the road loaded w/ an entire family. Thanks to this Mike, and his 4 sons I got out in no time — thanks Mike!

The Spiral Jetty is about 15 miles away from the visitor center down dirt roads, for the most part, they’re good dirt roads. They get worse as you go along, and when you’re really close to the jetty, they’re barely wider than my truck, and full of huge rocks, with boulders lining the sides of the road, not a big deal, it’s just really slow going. The jetty is really cool. The lake is low enough the lake starts about 1000 feet away from the jetty, and there’s nothing inbetween except a lot of salt flats. So you hike down to the old lake edge where the salt flats start, and the salt flat is just solid, and dry for the most part. There are some puddles of water here and there, but they’re just shallow, like less than a 0.5 centimeter deep, the cool thing is that they’re just reflecting everything like a mirror. It’s like a huge optical illusion when you’re trying to find the lake’s edge because the salt flat just bleeds into lake’s edge. It was seriously cool to be there. To make it even more memorable there was a guy ∓ a girl there that looked kind of hippie’ish, and seemed kind of stoned, or drunk, doesn’t matter, they were just fun to watch. They had walked out 20 feet into the lake and were playing in the water, it was so shallow it looked like they were walking on it. They were shouting stuff that sounded like it came right out of the X-Files — conspiracies, seeking the truth, bizarre manifestations….I was half expecting to find some people like that out there. All in all, it was freakin’ sweet to go there.

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