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.

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