Monday, May 21, 2012

White Rim Road Trip - On the White Rim, Day 1

Tuesday, May 15, our first day on the White Rim Road. We were up early as we were all excited and anxious to get going. By 8:00 AM our ice chests were full of ice, our gas tanks were full of gas and we were on the road. It would be three days until we saw any services again including water, but we had plenty of food, many gallons of water and enough ice to keep things cool for all three days.

Before I go on, I want to share something I thought was interesting. While searching the web for information on the White Rim Road I found a page called the "10 Craziest Roads on Earth"
( ).  The White Rim Road was one of the roads listed and here's what they had to say:
"So, you liked the adrenaline from the Col de Turini, but you are looking for something a bit more rugged? Well have we got the road for you! Nestled in the Canyonlands National Park in Utah, White Rim Road is 103 miles of rugged twists and turns that wind down into the very bottom of the canyon its self. Not only is this a beautiful ride it is down right dangerous. So bring your 4X4, plenty of water and make sure you have on your head screwed on straight - this is one heck of a challenge, but we promise you won't regret it!"

As planned, we were taking Potash Road from Moab instead of the Shafer Trail from the Island in the Sky in the National Park to meet the White Rim Road.  Val and I were in our Toyota 4-Runner and Michael and Mikie were in their Toyota Tundra.
Our two Toyotas on Potash Road.
Potash Road starts just North of Moab after you cross the Colorado River Bridge.  It is paved for a few miles and then turns to dirt past the Potash Plant.  The first part of the road is very rocky and rough, it is not difficult to drive, but things get shaken up quite a bit, and it forces you to go slow.  You pass by the bright blue potash evaporation ponds as you make your way into the canyon.  They are blue because a dye is added to enhance the evaporation process.  Here is a picture of the ponds taken from above by Mikie when we were at Dead Horse Point State Park the day before.
Potash evaporation ponds from Dead Horse Point.
After passing by the ponds and going over some rocky ridges, the road smoothed a bit (smooth is a relative term here) as we once again followed the Colorado River.  We stopped at Thelma and Louise Point (where during the famous ending of the movie the car drives off the edge and into the Colorado) to take some pictures and stretch our legs.
Michael and Mikie at Thelma and Louise Point.
Mikie and Val.
We soon were on our way again and after several stops for photos, we reached the intersection of Potash Road, the Shafer Trail (which goes up to the Island in the Sky) and the White Rim Road (where we want to go).

We were finally on the White Rim Road, which at this point was mildly rough, but not too bad.  Our first stop was to take a short hike to the Colorado River Gooseneck overlook.  If you look near the top along the river you can see Potash Road as it heads to the right back to Moab.
Colorado River Gooseneck.
Dave and Michael on the rim.
Michael, Mikie and Val on the rim.
Back to the car.
 We hit the road again for a short drive to our next stop, Musselman Arch.
Musselman Arch

Of course, we all had to get our pictures taken standing on the arch, and here I am.
Mikie and Michael
And the whole group.  Mikie, Michael, Dave and Val.
Back on the road, but soon it was past noon so we stopped for some lunch.  There are no tables or picnic areas so you just have to stop by the road and make do.  The humidity was so low that while we were eating our sandwiches the bread would dry out, and by the time you were down to your last few bites it was like cardboard.
Lunch time.
The Monster Tower (left) and the Washer Woman (right) looked down on us as we ate.
After lunch we were back on the road heading for our campsite at Gooseberry.
 We made a few more photo stops, but we were anxious to get to Gooseberry so we pushed on.

Approaching Gooseberry Canyon, our campsite is on the other side.
We made it to Gooseberry before 3:00 and we soon had our campsite set up and were relaxing after our day of driving.  
Our campsite at Gooseberry site B
There are only 20 campsites on the whole White Rim Road so usually there are only one or two at each spot.  The campsites are quite large and are spaced enough distance apart so you really can't even see the other site(s).  Each site is allowed a maximum of 3 vehicles and up to 15 people.  There are quite a few mountain bikers on the trail and they usually travel in groups and have a support vehicle so the large campsite works well for them.  We had a group camped at the other Gooseberry site while we were there.

It was quite warm in the afternoon and fortunately Michael and Mikie had the forethought to bring a free standing awning which worked really well for shade.
Val relaxing in the shade after our first day.
Val and Mikie.

For dinner Mikie made some delicious chicken burgers which really hit the spot.  There are no open fires allowed in the canyon (although charcoal grills are OK) so everything was cooked on our trusty Coleman stove.  There are very strict environmental rules in the canyon and even dumping wash water was not allowed except on the road or into the pit toilets.  We spent the evening chatting and discussing our first days drive until we all decided it was time for some sleep.  Michael and Mikie were sleeping in the back of their truck and Val and I were using our tent.  There is a problem with mice at the campsites so we had to make sure all the food was safely put away in the vehicles before we went to bed.  It is incredibly quiet as there are no sounds except for the occasional jet flying overhead and the view of the stars was truly amazing.
Sunset at Gooseberry Camp.
We only traveled about 35 miles on the White Rim Road today, but it is so rough you have to go pretty slow and the constant jostling and bouncing really tires you. The average speed the bumpy road allowed us to go was probably between 10 and 15 mph, with a high of about 20 mph.  Val and I shared the driving as she enjoys driving in the back country just as much as I do.  The road today was not too bad and could probably be done with a high clearance 2-wheel drive vehicle if you were adventurous, but tomorrow will be another story as we have the Murphy Hogback to look forward to.  There are very few people on the road so it is rare to meet another car or group of bicyclists, which is good because the road is very narrow most of the way and you may have to back up quite a ways to find a wide spot to allow others to pass.  The worst spots are when you are on a narrow ledge with the canyon on one side and a cliff above you on the other.  Another thing to deal with is the constant dust, it is everywhere particularly for Michael and Mikie who are following us.  The cars are covered and we are covered and not a shower in sight.

One last word here from our first day; Michael and Mikie are great traveling companions. They're flexible, easy to get along with and a lot of fun to be with.  We've had a great time with them ever since our first day in Mesquite, and I am sure that will continue.  That's it until tomorrow.

Note: All the photos were taken by either Val, Mikie (thanks to Mikie for letting me use hers here) or me.

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