Moab (Day 1) Sep\Oct 2014

MOAB 2014 – The Trails

The disclaimer –

It is not only the trails you do in Moab, but who you do them with that make them memorable.  There are some quite popular trails here that we didn’t do this year.  Some I’ve never done. Helldorado in area BFE was run after I had to head for home in 2004, and beyond Auto M’s equipment in 2008 – although I did walk the trail in 30 minutes.  The same trail took 3 or 4 hours for the big dogs to drive, but it sure was fun to watch.  Also – never done Rusty Nail and won’t ever.  I’ve had enough brushes with LLO’s (life limiting occurrences) thus far in my existence to not wantonly beg the fates further.  Moab Rim Mary and I have both done twice, and figured we’ve had the “pew-wah-diddly” scared out us of enough for 1 lifetime.  (John also recalled fun and games on Moab Rim in 2008 in his CJ with the joys of axle wrap, an ailing front locker, and inverting a front spring getting twisted up on one of the big off-camber ledges.  (Been there, done that, changed my underwear once I got my rectum to let go of it….)  Plus – in the rough and ready wheeling we’ve done in the past, we didn’t get to some of the more tame, but also exquisitely scenic trails.  So – if you don’t see a trial, er – trail listed here you wish you could hear more about – plan the next big club trip to Moab – and have at it!  (You won’t be sorry – well – unless you die – and then it won’t matter anyway…..)

I will say – in runs of Moab past – it is the nudge from other Tamers that pushed me past what I thought were my limits – and I had few regrets at the time, and none in retrospect.  I know that while they pushed me the places of new confidence, they also did so with care and concern for safely conquering both the trails and my internal constraints.  Also – you learn that your rig, properly prepared and sorted out – is likely far more capable than you EVER anticipated. And that is another joy of spending the most of 2 weeks wheeling every day – to bond with and understand just what your rig will do for you.

Run 1 – Onion Creek and Rose Garden Hill
John and Gina – JK Rubicon 4 door with mild Old Man Emu lift and 33’s (plus factory lockers and 4:1TC)
Curt, Wendy, Emily, Kaylee – in a lightly modded Rental JK Rubicon – 2 door, mild lift, rockers, 31” BFG mud terrains etc, etc.
Me and Mary – Modded TJ – Rubicon Express long arm suspension 4.5” springs, ARB’s front and rear, 4.56’s and 33” Goodyear MTR’s.
All of us automatic – (We don’t need no stinkin’ clutches – we only got 2 feet!)
Onion Creek Trail is wonderfully scenic – wending its way up through a canyon.  You can see orange rock, red rock, gray rock, green rock, purple rock, brown rock (and probably a few other shades in between.  There are deep canyons and rock spires.  (You feel just like you are in a road runner cartoon!)  There are over 30 stream crossings as the trail heads up to a mesa – made extremely interesting this year by the fact that it had been raining in Moab (unusual – but great for keeping the dust non-existent, and also great to make for very slippery areas of mud and clay) plus thunderstorms blowing through (read that – keep an eye out for flash flooding during those drives through the stream crossings and washes!)  The drives through the crossings were mainly recreational – but did make me think.  I was waiting for Curt and Wendy and the girls to get to one crossing – and in the minute or so we waited – the stream visibly increased in depth by 8 inches, and then by the time John and Gina made the crossing, it had receded by a few – the response to thunderstorms elsewhere in the locale being that volatile.

Once you break out of the canyon, you do make a number of really sharp, steep turns up a few last switchbacks before you break out in a high desert valley – where you then see a huge livestock ranch!  I don’t know how they get their stuff (food, fuel, livestock irrigation pipe, equipment) in and out – because that road I think is the only one into the area.  Pretty amazing.

Once on top, we engaged in at least 1 ceremonial TTT (Timber Tamer Turnaround) to head over the Rose Garden Hill.  The trail in this high valley was clay and sand, and I was actually pretty surprised that, wet as it was, it wasn’t giving us any problems.  As we slowly picked our way through Juniper scrub and cactus, the rain was slow but constant, although the sky was darkening more.  A couple of big flashes of lightning followed by thunderclaps rent the skies – as we got poured on by not only buckets of rain, but also ice pellets.  We crossed a little off-camber step ledge that wasn’t as bad as it first looked – but as soon as we got across, we paused.  The rain diminished, but as we regrouped from crossing the ledge, 3 separate streams of red-infused runoff cascaded towards us, then diverted off the edge of the canyon in waterfalls.  I was pretty excited – in a good way – because I had never personally witnessed that type of rain/mini-flash flood cause and effect before.  It was pretty cool!  By this time – we also had gotten our first glimpse of Rose Garden Hill – and between it being the first day in Moab, and the lack of perspective you get in that big country – my heart was elevating itself up towards my throat.  The trail really looked like it went straight up, and I was none too confident in the traction.  This isn’t like driving on the overwhelming traction of the sandpaper-like slickrock of Hells Revenge or Fins and Things.  This was wet clay I could barely stand on, interspersed with small boulders that looked like a giant’s marbles.  And – I couldn’t tell what the top looked like.  The Moab Trails book in the most recent edition – says that there are some big ledges at the top that would be best tackled with highly modified rigs with high clearance, going in a group.  Not that I believed everything I read in that book – since the author appeared occasionally to engage in soaring hyperbole.  In subsequent trails – some obstacles he listed as difficult to cross in any but the most modified rigs, Auto M and I were able to drive right through them without even hitting the lockers.  Still – day 1, rain, a rental Jeep, and ours being the most modified (read that – not particularly hard core like some other rigs in the club) I reconnoitered a bit.  Under the rubric that you should never drive something when you don’t quite know what’s ahead of you – I did walk the hill.  I think we actually could have easily driven the first ¾ of the hill (Mary had led this as a trail run under dry conditions in 2004) but there were some awfully big and tall dished out ledges near the top that brought me some misgivings.  If Karl, Chad, or Tom Baker had been ahead of us – I might have felt different – but it seemed that with the wet and equipment available – today was not the day to become outrageously brave explorers.  (That line between being a hardass and a dumbass being incredibly fine…..)  We turned around, and wandered back through a loop.  Of course – with me in the lead – I appeared to have gotten us on an ATV trail (Casey – stop snickering!)  but that eventually got us back to the main trail.  We had to drive through a deep (20 feet) old irrigation channel that was all mud – and surprisingly – we did need a little foot to climb out of that – but no one had any problems getting back on top of the trail.   30+ more stream crossings and back down route 128 – and we headed to LaCasa to download pics off phone, ipads and GoPros.

Dinner out together, then wheeling dreams ensued – and thus endeth Day 1 at Moab.