Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Hope You're Not Afraid of Heights

We left Lake Mead on the 2nd headed towards Williams, AZ where we had a reservation at Grand Canyon Railway RV Park (Passport America and a real nice CG). We parked next to our friends Larry and Jean. Wednesday moring we all headed up to Grand Canyon NP. I'm sure you've seen pictures, probably taken by professionals so there's not any I could add other than to introduce you to Larry and Jean.

On Thursday we left Williams headed to Cortez, CO and Mesa Verde NP. Along the way we stopped off at Four Corners. Four Corners is the intersection of 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. A very nice facility has been built there and it includes booths where native Americans can show there arts and crafts. Jean, Joan and I all did our part to contribute to the local economy. Several of our readers will benefit from our purchases later this year (see Christmas, birthdays, etc)

Cliff Palace - Mesa Verde NP
The 4 of us spent all day Friday checking out Mesa Verde. We were still too early in the season to take advantage of some of the ranger led tours of the cliff dwellings, so we're really thinking we may stop back in September as we drive from Nathrop back to Lake Mead. We did however hike the 1/4 mile path down to Spruce House. Spruce House is not the largest of the cliff dwellings but it is the most preserved. We stopped at several of the pull offs in the park to see pit houses, pueblos and other cliff dwellings.

The Road to Moab - La Sal Mountains just east of town
Saturday found us headed to Moab and Larry and Jean headed towards Colorado Springs where they will be working at Garden of the Gods CG. We checked out several of the campgrounds in Moab and found one that that had space for our rig. The week before Easter is Jeep Jamboree in Moab and the week after is spring break in many surrounding areas. As such many of the CG's did not have space until 2 weeks after Easter.

That's HWY 191 below our vantage point on Gemini Trail
We got set up and immediately headed out for a jeep ride. Someone had suggested we try the Gemini Trail. The trail is just north of town and climbs the face of the mountain along the side of Hwy 191.

Look Behind the Arch to see the washout
About 8 miles into the trail we came to a pull off and parked to walk down and see the twin arches. I thought these to be unusual as they don't stand above ground level; rather they were formed by a large washout on the edge of a mesa. The top of these arches are level with the edge of the mesa rim.
Joan on top of the Arch

Sunday we drove out to Dead Horse Point State Park taking a few short excursions along the way whenever we saw an interesting looking dirt trail. Once we arrived we visited the Visitor Center before taking a short hike along the canyon rim. We found a good place to stop and have lunch.

After lunch Joan was feeling adventurous so she went out on a ledge......6' wide and 1000' above the valley floor. It offered a great overlook on the Colorado River.

Colorado River - Goose Neck
Check out the road. You'll read about it later
Then we drove out to Dead Horse Point. The point overlooks Canyonlands NP. You may recognize this area as it is one of the most photographed areas in Moab and rumor has it scenes from the movie Thelma and Louise were shot here.

Sunday afternoon we met up with John and Pam of Oh, the Places They Go!  They have been in Moab for a few days already and have been out on some great hikes. We went out for supper and had a great evening spending a couple of hours just talking and getting to know them.

Monday's weather forecast was for scattered showers so we decided not to hike, but to just drive around checking out the area. Next thing you know we're on Potash Road. We stopped at Poison Spider Trail pull off to see dinosaur tracks. We saw a couple higher up on the rocks so we climbed a little further and found several petroglyphs. Unfortunately too many previous visitors have defaced or destroyed several of the petroglyphs by adding their own graffiti.

We returned to Potash Road and continued further out to discover a mining operation. Between Moab and Dead Horse SP is a large underground deposit of potassium salt that is actively mined. Potash Road connects to Shafer Basin and crosses the mining property. We drove past the storage warehouse and the pavement ended. We drove another couple of miles and were stopped by one of the mine employees. They had been prepping an area for blasting and were just about to set off the dynamite. A few minutes later there was a big BOOM and a huge cloud of dust. We continued on and drove alongside several evaporation ponds. The salt is mined by pumping water into the underground salt deposit where the salt is absorbed into the water before being pumped to the evaporation ponds. Once the water evaporates large earthmovers are used to scrape up the salt.

During our wait at the mining site we asked about the road we were on and discovered it travesed Shafer Basin and exited in Canyonland NP. That sounded like an adventure so we continued on.

There were several locations where we were driving within 10'-15' of the cliffs overlooking the Colorado.

As we got closer to the basin wall the road became rockier and rockier and we noticed a series of switchbacks that appeared to climb a huge sheer wall out of the basin to the top of the mesa.

When we arrived at the switchbacks the adventure really began. It had been raining off and on, so we had been careful to watch for any signs of flowing water in the numerous washes we had crossed. And because it was currently raining I was concerned about the road conditions on the switchbacks.

The switchbacks climb over 1000' and were single lane. About halfway up we started to see fresh clay on the road (which was turning into mud in the rain) and the switchbacks turned into hairpin turns. I locked into 4-wheel low and tried to keep up our momentum without sliding on the slick clay.

It was a little hairy but we made it without incident. Just as we got to the top we came across the road crew that had been spreading the clay. We stopped to ask a question and found out that once it started raining they had closed the road down the switchbacks because they knew it would become almost impassable. We had passed a couple of vehicles along our way and weren't sure that they would be getting out without turning around and driving the 32 miles back across the basin to Potash Road. The clouds closed in just as we exited the switchbacks onto the paved road so we called it a day and headed back towards Moab. All in all it was a great day and we enjoyed the adventure.

We had planned to leave today, but the weather forecast is for snow along our route into Colorado for the next few days; so we think we'll stay here a little longer and wait for better road conditions before taking on the mountains.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.


  1. Jerry and I will definitely have to check out Moab and Mesa Verde!! Thanks for sharing your adventures!

  2. Very cool! Definitely go back to Mesa Verde and take the tours into Cliff Palace and Balcony House, we really enjoyed them.

  3. Awesome! Cant wait to get there next month. Your pictures are beautiful! Cant believe that road and all the views!

    So glad you met Pam and John...way cool to meet fellow bloggers!

  4. I can't believe you tried that road in the rain. The pictures are much scarier than your words!

    Great getting together again! Wonderful pie!!

  5. Great pictures! That looks like the proverbial "Slippery Slope". My Jeep fever is getting so high!

  6. Breathtaking views. Am afraid I'd be gripping the edge of my seat on those switchbacks though.

    Always fun to meet fellow bloggers.