Friday, May 11, 2012

White Rim Road Trip - Prelude

Back in 2004, Val and I made our first visit to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.  The Island in the Sky is just what it sounds like; a peninsula of land jutting out, overlooking the canyons 1000 feet below and the Colorado and Green River canyons below that.  What caught our eye as we looked down at the spectacular scenery from the various viewpoints was a small dirt road far below that wound its way along the rivers and over the ridges all the way around the Island.  After checking at the visitor center, we found that this was called the White Rim Road, a 100 mile long, moderate 4-wheel drive road that goes down one side of the Island, circles it, and comes up the other side.  We decided we had to drive this road, but we didn't want to do it alone (we're a bit more wary after our ill fated adventure in the Nevada Desert in 1996).  We made several more trips to the area over the years, but no one we knew was interested in taking the White Rim Road trip; that is until this year.  

We were talking to our friends Michael and Mikie about our October visit to Canyonlands and told them about the White Rim Road and they said, "Let's do it" and the trip was on.  You have to get a back-country permit as there are limited camping sites and they limit the number of vehicles in the canyon.  These permits go fast, so we applied in February for our May trip and we were in.  You can do the trip in one day, but that's a long day so most people do it in two.  We decided to take three days so we could take it easy and do some hiking and exploring.  There are only 20 campsites spread out along the road and we were able to reserve ours for our two nights spaced just right to divide the day's drives pretty evenly.  100 miles may not seem like much, but on a rough 4-wheel drive road, it is difficult to make good time.  The campsites are primitive, they do have pit toilets, but there is no water in the canyon.  You carry in all your own water and carry out all of your trash.

Below is a map of the Island in the Sky and the White Rim Road (click on map to enlarge).
 The darker roads in the center are the paved roads on the "Island" which is about 1000 feet above the canyons.  The yellow highlighted road is the White Rim Road with our campsites circled in red.  On the top right of the map you can see a road highlighted in green, this is Potash Road.  Potash Road is an easier road and can be driven in a 2-wheel drive vehicle if you're adventurous, but it's pretty rough in places and I would take a 4-wheel drive.  Instead of driving into the park to get to the White Rim Road, we will be taking Potash Road, which starts just north of Moab just past the Colorado River Bridge.  We have done this drive several times and the scenery is spectacular.  If you've seen the movie "Thelma and Louise" you have seen this road.  They filmed many of the final chase scenes on Potash Road including their final "drive" over the edge and into the Colorado River.  You can go to that spot which is now called Thelma and Louise Point.

As you can tell by how much I've written, we really love this area and are really excited about doing this drive.  Friday we are doing our usual thing when we head to the Southwest, getting a jump on the trip by leaving in the afternoon for Tehachapi where we'll spend our first night.  Saturday night we'll meet Michael and Mikie in Mesquite, Nevada.  Sunday we'll drive on to Moab, Utah where we'll spend two nights before hitting the White Rim Road.

I am planning on updating this from Moab before and after our White Rim Road drive, but there is obviously no Internet in the canyon so posting will be sparse until we get back.  I can guarantee there will be plenty of pictures to see.  :-)

A picture taken last October from an overlook on the Island in the Sky.  If you look at the lower left side you can see the White Rim Road.  Deeper into the canyon is the Green River (click to enlarge).

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