Wednesday, May 23, 2012

White Rim Road Trip - The Trip Home

Thursday, May 17, Moab
After showering and a change of clothes, we were feeling civilized again and by 12:30 we were on our way to lunch.  We we had a good lunch at the Slickrock Cafe in Moab and then Michael and Mikie decided they wanted to walk around town for a while.  Val and I didn't feel like walking in the heat so we headed off to the car wash to get some of the dirt off the car.  After that it was back to the hotel to look at our pictures and rest for a while.

Michael and Mikie had never been to Arches National Park so we decided to drive out there around five and give them a quick tour.

Balanced Rock
North Arch
Michael in front of Turret Arch
Mikie in front of North and South Arch
After Arches, it was time for dinner and we decided to go back to the Sunset Grill where we had such a good dinner the night before we set out on the White Rim Road.  It was more crowded than before so we had to wait a bit, but it was a beautiful, balmy night out on their patio high above Moab so we didn't mind a bit.  After another good dinner, it was back to the hotel to get packed up for the start of the trip home the next day.

Friday, 18, Moab to Las Vegas
We left Moab about 9:00 and headed North to catch I-70.  We had over 460 miles to cover before we reached Las Vegas, but at least we would gain an hour when we changed time zones.  It was very windy almost the whole drive.  It was quite cool through Western Utah and we even got into a violent hail storm outside of Cedar City. The hail stones were the largest we'd ever seen.  Once we got into Nevada, temperatures warmed up into the 90's again.  We had booked rooms at the Southpoint which is way south of the Strip on Las Vegas Blvd.  

We got into Las Vegas around four and after cleaning up a bit, Mikie and Val headed to the spa for a manicure and pedicure while Michael and I wandered around the casino for a while.  After Mikie and Val were finished we all had a very good Italian dinner at Don Vito's in the Southpoint.  After dinner it was more gambling with some winners and losers.  This time I wasn't the winner, but Mikie was.

$500 on our favorite $1 Wheel of Fortune machine and she didn't even have to spin the wheel to get it.
Mikie and Michael went on up to bed as they were going to leave early in the morning, but Val and I hung around the casino a while longer losing more money.  It was a very bad night for me, but I just kept remembering my $1000 safely banked from my win in Mesquite.

Saturday, May 19, Las Vegas to Home
Michael and Mikie were on the road early and were already in Bakersfield before we even left Las Vegas.  We didn't feel any urgency so we took our time, that's the great thing about being retired.  We didn't leave the Southpoint until 11:00 and since we hadn't had any breakfast we decided to have an early lunch.  The Southpoint is a pretty nice hotel, but I probably wouldn't stay there again because it is so far away from everything else. 

We had never been in the M Hotel which is even further out of town on Las Vegas Blvd. so we decided to drive down there and check it out and get some lunch.  The M is very nice and is quite new.  It is a bit more upscale looking than the Southpoint, but again, I doubt if we'll ever stay there because it is so far out of town.  

After lunch it was onto I-15 for the trip home, but we had one more stop to make in Primm, NV on the California border.  There are outlet stores there and one of them is a William Sonoma store which is one of Val's favorites.  After a bit of shopping, we hit the road again and except for a gas stop, we drove all the way home and were there by 7:00.

What a great trip.  We had a lot of fun traveling with Michael and Mikie, and Val and I finally got to drive the White Rim Road after looking down at it from above for so many years.  It may be tame for some, but for the four of us, it was a real adventure.

This was our last planned trip until our Grand Canyon rafting trip at the end of August.  I'm sure we'll be doing something this summer, but for now, I'm looking forward to being home for a while and catching up on things.  I hope everyone has enjoyed this adventure on the White Rim Road, we certainly did.

White Rim Road Trip - On the White Rim, Day 3

Thursday, May 17, our third and last day on the White Rim Road.  We were once again up early, but this morning we were greeted with beautiful clear blue skies.

Morning at Potato Bottom
Potato Bottom campsite.
After our usual camp breakfast we packed up and were on our way for the last leg of our White Rim adventure.

Leaving Potato Bottom.
Just a bit past the Potato Bottom campsite we would encounter our second challenge - Hardscrabble Hill.  Hardscrabble Hill is not quite as steep as Murphy's Hogback, but there are some very sharp switchbacks and a longer climb to the top with a few steep sections.  Also the road has some sandy spots, particularly on the downward (for us) side.

The start of Hardscrabble Hill
The 4-Runner on the first switchback from below.
The 4-Runner up ahead.
After finishing the first part of the climb (4-wheel low required) we reached a plateau area where we stopped to admire the views of the Green River below.

The road we came up on.
A long view of the road.
Yet another view of the road.

The Tundra at the top of the hill.

Michael and Mike

We'll be headed back down to the river in this direction.
After our picture taking, it was time to get back on the road and start making our way back down to the river.

A little more uphill before we start down as we approach another tight, narrow switchback with a very steep drop-off.  These were typical of both Murpy's Hogback and Hardscrabble.

As we go down, the road runs along a narrow shelf above the river.

The shelf road above the Green River, you can see where we're headed in the distance.

On the shelf.

A sandy descent, but I'd rather have sand going down hill than up hill.
One again, we were very glad we didn't meet anyone on the narrow road as there were very few turnouts.  Hardscrabble Hill was not as bad as Murphy's Hogback, but it had it's own challenges.  We were glad to get back down near the river again.

Back along the river.

Another narrow shelf road, but not so high up.

We were right along the river here.

A bicyclist ahead of us.
We were just about done, the only problem areas left were some sandy washes.  Ever since our past desert experience of getting stuck in a sandy wash, Val and I have had a fear of being caught in the sand again, so this would be a test for us.  As it turned out, we faced our fears and made it through just fine.  It was pretty deep in places, but with 4-wheel low range, we plowed right through.  We met quite a few bicyclist is this area and I felt sorry for them.  The one thing you don't want to do driving through sand is slow down and lose your momentum. Also, with Michael following behind, his visibility was zero and if we had stopped he may have run right into us. That meant a lot of dust for the people on bikes, but there was nothing we could do.  

We soon passed out of the park and hit Mineral Road, the last leg of the White Rim Road.  Mineral Road is an easy dirt road which is passable in 2-wheel drive vehicles.  It is a little narrow and steep in places as you go through the switchbacks, but all in all, an easy climb out.

Mineral Road

Mineral Road, you can see the switchback straight ahead.
We were soon at the top and what did we see - paved road.  Not great pavement, but pavement nonetheless, it felt as smooth as glass.  We actually could drive at 45 mph.

Pavement ahead!!!

Back on the pavement.
Our White Rim Road adventure was almost over.  We hit the main Island in the Sky Road about 45 minutes later and we were on our way back to Moab.  The morning's drive didn't take long and we were back to Moab around 11 AM.  To our great delight our hotel rooms were available and we all made a run for the showers and clean clothes.

The White Rim Road was a great adventure and a lot of fun.  To be down in the canyon, on your own for three days was quite an experience.  It is a weird feeling to know there was no water, doctors, gas or anything else other than what you were carrying yourself.  The drive is very rough and challenging in places and you'd better have a 4-wheel drive vehicle with a low range and low gear and high clearance with skid plates.  As I put the pictures together for this blog, I thought "this doesn't look so bad", but believe me, it's worse than it looks.  For 4-wheel drive enthusiasts who spend their time on the more difficult trails, the White Rim Road is probably not much of a challenge, but to us casual off-roaders, this was plenty challenging.  Micheal and Mikie were great traveling companions and we all had a lot of fun together.  

That's it from the White Rim, I'll fill in the end of our trip in another post.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

White Rim Road Trip - On the White Rim, Day 2

Wednesday, May 16, our second day on the White Rim Road.  We were awake as soon as the sun rose and despite our attempts to go back to sleep, we were up before 7:00.  The clear blue skies of yesterday had given way to some heavy clouds in the East.  Rain is a concern because the road becomes very slick and it's not recommended that you drive on it if it gets too wet.  The clouds did provide for a dramatic sunrise.

Our breakfast consisted of breakfast bars and fruit, certainly not gourmet but it filled us up.  After breakfast Michael and Mikie took a walk on the Gooseberry Trail that leads up to the Island in the Sky (they only intended to do a short part of the trail) so Val and I decided to walk over to Gooseberry Canyon and check it out.

A sea of holes.
Gooseberry Canyon
Gooseberry Canyon
Dave on the canyon's edge.
The dark clouds and sun provided  some dramatic effects.
After our walks, we packed up and hit the road, we had a long day of 36 miles ahead of us.

Our next stop was Monument Basin which is much more dramatic when viewed from the canyon rim rather than from Island in the Sky above.  The drive to that point was pretty easy as the road was not too rocky, we were actually able to drive at 20 mph for a short while.

Dave looking out at Monument Basin.
Monument Basin
Dave, Val, Mikie and Michael on the canyon rim.
Back to the road.
The road got rougher as we left Monument Basin and our first real test lay ahead at Murphy's Hogback. The guidebooks describe this section as steep, rough, with very tight switchbacks, and the most difficult part of the White Rim Road. Needless to say this would be our biggest challenge on the road and we drove on in anticipation of seeing if it lived up to it's reputation.

Michael at one of our photo stops.

We finally reached Murphy's Hogback which made us all a little nervous. The definition of a "hogback" is "a ridge with a sharp summit and steeply sloping sides".  The road may not look too steep in the picture below, but I can tell you that when driving up it, it seemed very steep.  For hard core 4-wheel enthusiasts, this would probably not seem too bad, but for us, it was a real test.

The start of Murphy's Hogback.
The 4-Runner starting up Murphy's Hogback.
The 4-Runner on Murphy's Hogback.

Here is a video Val shot through the front window as we made our way up the road.  As you can see on the video, a light rain actually started on the way up, but didn't cause and problems.

We finally reached the top and took a breather.  The Murphy Campground is on the plateau at the top with three sites.  We looked around for the road down and when I saw it I thought, that can't be it, it's way too steep too drive.

The start of the road down on Murphy's Hogback.

The view from Murphy's Hogback.
Here is a video of the start of our descent (due to technical difficulties it was cut off and is very short).

On our way down.
The descent was pretty steep, but with 4-wheel low range and driving in low gear, it wasn't too bad.  In low gear you didn't actually even have to use the brakes as low gear is very low.

We made it across Murphy's Hogback without problems, but not without a little white knuckle driving.  It was very disconcerting not to be able to see the road over the hood on the very steep parts, especially if the road was turning.  The other scary part was the worry of meeting an oncoming vehicle.  There were very few turnouts so it would mean a lot of backing up on a very steep and narrow road.  The White Rim Road has very few vehicles on it so your chances are good you won't meet someone, but I still worried about it.  All in all, despite our nervousness and worries, it was a lot of fun and we all now have a lot more confidence in our vehicles.  

Back on the flat, we continued to make our way along the White Rim Road.

By this time we were all hungry so we decided to stop for lunch.

Lunchtime with Candlestick in the background.
After lunch it was back on the road.  Our next stop was a view of the Green River Gooseneck.

The Gooseneck of the Green River.  The large formation in the back of the middle is called Turk's Head.
A crack in the rock ran quite a ways along the cliffs.
Michael and Mikie making their way back to the trucks.

The weather continued to be threatening, but we only occasionally felt a few drops.  We could see blue sky behind us, but we always seem to be heading into the dark clouds.

The wind started blowing pretty hard and there was dust everywhere.  We began to wonder if we would be camping in a dust storm.  We were slowing descending and were almost down to the Green River.  Our campsite tonight was called Potato Bottom which is right down along the river.

The Green River.  Potato Bottom was about a mile down the right side of the river.
We finally reached Potato Bottom about 3:30 and we were ready to call it a day.  Except for the first section, today's drive was much rougher than yesterday's and required a lot more work.  Potato Bottom turned out to be a very nice campsite with trees and close to the river.  Close to the river though, didn't mean we could get to it, there was a heavy area of bushes and brush that made it impossible to even see the river.  It turned out the wind was actually a blessing as it was blowing out all the storm clouds leaving us a very pleasant evening and soon after we arrived, the wind stopped blowing.

Our camp at Potato Bottom C.
Dave and Val
Dave and Michael
Our home for the night.
Our campsite.
Tonight it was Val and my turn to make dinner (actually Val made the dinner and I was the gofer).  Dinner tonight was very tasty individual pizzas which were excellent.

Michael enjoying his pizza.
Val, Mikie and Michael eating dinner.
 After dinner I spent some time taking pictures of this beautiful area.

As the sun went down we settled in for the evening and rehashed the days events and talked for a while.  There was quite a bit of talk of how good a shower was going to feel when we got back as we were all getting quite dirty and covered with grit.  This was our last evening on the road and even though we were looking forward to getting back to civilization, there was also a little sadness about our trip coming to an end.  Tomorrow we have a few more obstacles to cross, but after that it should get easier as the road gets a lot better near the end.

The end of the day in Potato Bottom.