Usually my friends and I take one car trip a year for a little R&R to get away from the daily grind, and that trip is usually a trip to the Dragon with our sports cars. This year, due to scheduling conflicts, we were unable to make it to the dragon in time (once May hits it gets too busy to have real fun on the Dragon) so I decided to do a different kind of car trip, I figured I'd take my Jeep to do some real offroading, as there is nothing within a 500 mile radius of the tristate area for any decent wheeling...a few BS fireroads, but other than that, nothing.
So, only one friend was able to go. He has a Jeep as well, but we decided since it's only us two, it would be more fun (and cheaper...gas was quite an expense) to just take my rig.
We packed up the Jeep, and headed west. The route was from NJ to Moab through I70.
We left at night, to minimize any NYC area traffic. It was nice to have 70+ speedlimit most of the way.
By morning, we made it to Ohio...which was pretty damn hilly, killing my MPG.
We got hungry, but didn't feel like wasting time looking for a decent meal since we were trying to make good time, so we just hopped into the closest rest area food joint, which happened to be a Mcdonalds. Now normally I wouldn't bother with this detail, but they had something I had never seen (you guys might have, but it was new to me....)
It was their coke fountain machine....
It was a touchscreen, and every "major" flavor ie coke, diet coke, sprite, etc, had a submenu with a heap of other flavors. I have never seen anything like it. I also noticed that the machine was very pretty looking and well styled...which seemed "odd," until I looked down....
After Ohio, it was a whole lot of nothing...driving, driving and driving. Passed through Indianapolis, which from the highway, looked like a cool city to check out...but we had no time, so we kept on truckin. Missouri was mostly farmland (along the highway) and many many religious roadside attractions:lmao:
Finally we got to Kansas, which is a lot hillier than most of us believe...my MPG took a beating again.
Once we passed the Topeka signs and neared the western side of Kansas, the terrain flattened out, and we made good progress. Speed limits were 75mph which on hilly terrain, my rig struggles to hit with the current gear setup/tires. I will pay the price for my gears (stock, 3.21s) in Colorado....
We have now been driving for over 24 hours, and we are both getting pretty tired, but decided to crack on. We were taking gas tank shifts, which on the Jeep, was about 300 or so miles (depending on terrain) and about 4 hours...so one drives, the other sleeps.
It was now getting dark, and it was my turn to drive. The flat drive in the dark (being basically the only vehicle on the road with the exception of a truck here and there) began tiresome and booooring. Finally, after a few hours, we crossed into Colorado.....which was flat as hell....my excitement dropped quickly. I pulled into a gas station to refuel, and guzzled down a 5 hour extra strength, and decided to do one more tank and let my friend keep sleeping. So I trucked on....and then I made it to the rockies.....
While I was struck by the beauty, you guys have no idea what it's like to drive an undergeared vehicle up slopes like this. 2nd was revving nearly at 5000 rpm and the temps started to climb (although not overheating) and 3rd was too low to sustain forward movement. I was forced to sit in the right lane doing 35 (speedlimit was 65-70) with my hazards on. I gained some relief seeing trucks doing the same thing. After a serious climb, it started going downhill, which was a MASSIVE relief. However, the drive up the rockies took it out of me, and I couldn't go on any longer. We needed to rest up, so we decided to play it smart and sleep for a day. We had a friend in Vail, and since it was on our way, we booked a hotel right next to the highway (holiday inn in Vail next to I70) and at 6am, checked in and went to sleep.
After a 6 hour nap :lmao: we woke up and since we were in Vail, we figured we'd do some sightseeing and offroading. We then noticed a serious absence of snow. Once we crossed the rockies, the Vail side was bone dry.....as a result, our friend informed us that it's the dead season in the area, and most things are closed for the season. Shrugging our shoulders, we decided to do some wheeling...nothing crazy, just try a couple of high passes. Looking at traildamage.com, I decided to hit the closest trail to us, which was shrine pass.
Went up there, and found this....
The trail was not "closed" but was blocked basically by 3 feet of snow. Not wanting to waste any more time and gas, I decided not to try and hit anymore trails. A local then told us to check out an old mining town nearby called Minturn, and to check out a forest road there, so off we went. There wasn't anything serious there, but we did spot a herd of elk, which isn't something us North Easterners see often, which we found kind of cool.
Towards the evening, we went to grab dinner at Vail village (a beautiful place) and turned in for the night.
We woke up the next day, and continued our journey to Moab...only 400 miles to go!
Colorado really is gods country....everytime you turn, the view gets better and better....my desire to relocate there got stronger and stronger.
Finally, after some of the most gorgeous driving I have done in quite some time....we reached the border....
After another 125 miles or so, we arrived at our digs, the Archview RV and Campground resort. The word "resort" is used a bit too liberally...but it was an incredibly convenient location, smack on 191 and 313....3 miles from arches and 20 miles from canyonlands. Time to unload!
While some say "why didn't you camp instead" the answer is simple...while I would have loved to, there is no wilderness camping allowed (meaning, camp where-ever you want.) Camping must be done on designated sites, and is on a first come first serve basis, and being that we were that far away, we couldn't chance it. It was also nice being able to take showers after every day, as we would get REALLY dirty some of the days we were there.
After 48 hours of mostly crap roadside food, we wanted a decent meal, so we went into town for a little BBQ.
I've been to Moab a number of times in my life, and it's amazing how the town is expanding and improving. Clean, hiring signs everywhere, tons of new businesses, etc. I guess their tourism is stronger than ever, as evidenced by the hotel prices.
Now, I've been to Moab a number of times (never with a Jeep) and have never EVER seen anything even resembling rain...it rained almost everyday....not to mention a blizzard, but I'll save that story for later. It was welcome for the most part, as I can't stand heat. While we were there, temps were about mid to high 70s with low 50s at night. The week that we left the temps were in the mid 90s already! As a result of the rain, the trails we were going to hit were altered slightly. The first day there we decided to hit an easy trail, since we didn't have much time left before sunset, so we decided to hit long canyon.
This was a very easy ride, but had some incredible views.
After long canyon, we were beat, went to grab a quick dinner, and turned in for the night, hoping to get a full day of wheeling in the following day.
We woke up the next day, ate breakfast, and went outside...it was drizzling lightly, but the clouds overhead told a different story...it seemed like it was going to POUR....regardless, off we went. Todays trail plan was chicken corners through hurrah pass. Now hurrah pass isn't difficult or anything but it is dangerous in the wet, as is chicken corners. If the rain is bad, you can get trapped at chicken corners since there is a creek which turns into a serious raging river...the creek divides hurrah pass and chicken corners.
As we descended hurrah pass, we came accross the creek in question....it was beginning to build, and had already swallowed a pickup....I was fairly confident that I can make it, but the 5' sand bank coming back would be a difficult hurdle...assuming the creek wouldn't pick up steam....
However, just from watching this pickup get yanked out, the creek rose by over 5"...making a safety call, I scrapped the Chicken corners plan, and we decided to hit a trail that was higher up and away from water-runoff.
As you can see, the terrain began getting worse and worse, muddier and muddier. I wanted to get some nice sunset pics, so we decided to hit up Spring Canyon...
As we were going to spring canyon, I noticed we were climbing higher and higher. This was of concern as I knew that spring canyon was a serious shelf road, which is hard enough in the dry.
Getting to the top of spring canyon, I then realized that the trail is actually DOWN into the canyon....dammit...there goes my hope of no more creeks, but to hell with it, we are already here, so here we go again.
The next day I really wanted to see picture frame arch, so we went on the trail looking for it. It was not an easy one to find, and we actually got lost.
It rained again, so the mud was epic. I didn't even know Moab had mud.
This is the Jeep in the middle of nowhere. Had no real clue where we were.
Finally after more getting lost and looking, checking coordinates, we realized it was right in front of our noses the whole time, we just didn't notice it since unless you are looking at it at the right angle, it just looks like more rock. Doh.
Hungry, we wanted to go to town to grab some lunch....but I just couldn't take the Jeep's dirt condition any longer, and didn't want the mud to solidify, so off to the powerwashers. The buildup was biblical.
Took almost an hour of powerwashing to blast it all off. Normally I wouldn't care but we were getting our clothes dirty everytime we entered and exited the rig.
After the arch, we were starving, so we needed to get some food, but we were so far from town, I didn't want to drive in to eat, so I broke out the emergency steaks and settled in for a picnic on the side of the colorado river.
After lunch, we decided to head to Arches national park. Since my friend had never been to Moab, I figured offroad or not, it's something he needs to see. So, on we went. Entering the park, we stopped to check out "the courthouse."
Really a beautiful rock formation.
After that, we decided to make a stop at the balanced rock...pretty cool to see in person.
It's now about 7:30, and the sun sets at 8:18...and we still havent even gotten to the delicate arch. We arrive in the parking lot at about 7:45, pack up whatever we need, and begin the 1.5 mile strenuous hike. We are the only idiots walking in that direction, and everyone else is walking down. It is one hell of a hike, with ankle snapping "steps" everywhere. No biggie. We kept on trucking. Got up there after the sun has already set (but still some light remained) and shot a few pics....
*note the mountains in the background for a later story...*
After shooting and BSing with a bunch of other photographers up there, it was already dark...and I mean dark...I mean pitch black, and we now need to hike 1.5 miles back to the Jeep. We said our goodbye's with the photographers and began walking back. I used my iphone flash as a flashlight, and my friend used his surefire to light up the distance (20 feet).
Things were going ok for about .5 miles then we got "stuck." The direction we were walking in took us towards a sheer cliff, so we knew that was wrong, so we went another way. After 10 minutes of looking we found the path and continued for another .5 miles. At 1 mile or so, we got really lost. I was trying to retrace our steps, but it was too damn dark. The situation has gone from haha funny to pretty serious. After not panicking and thinking, we eventually found our way back. I urge everyone to take this seriously...this is NOT a place you want to be lost in, do not attempt this hike near sunset and if you must, bring proper lighting with you. My stupid mistake could have ended pretty badly. Also make sure you carry a lot of water. It's very dry and the hike is serious. If you are stuck there for the night, you are going to need it.
After the buttclenching events from the previous night, we woke up with new vigor and were excited to continue the adventure. Before hitting Moab, I really wanted to stop in Colorado and hit the trails outside Ouray (Imogene, black bear pass, etc) but unfortunately those trails are closed through August or so, but my desire to hit a mountain pass remained...luckily, just outside Moab reside the La Sal Mountains (pictured in the background of the delicate arch photo above) and La Sal Pass takes us all the way to the top of them (almost) at 10,500 feet. So, excited, we set out on our little adventure.
We initially missed the turn and drove too far, and ran into a place called the hole in the rock....
This was originally a diner/truck stop during the times of the uranium craze in the Moab area, but was later turned into a private home of the couple that owned it...they blasted a 5000 square foot home into the rock, and the engineering in there is incredible. Perfect 65-72 degrees year round, fireplace, etc etc etc. I won't give too much away in case you guys ever make it out there, the tour is only $6 and is very interesting.
After the tour, we ventured back towards the La Sal Mountains in search of the pass. Now, the 4WD guidebook I was using recommended I do not run this pass in the wet, but my stupid though process was "this book isn't written for Jeeps, but for everyone, which includes 4wd subarus, X3s, etc...my Jeep will be fine."
So, we found the road, and ventured in...starting at 4000ft or so. I will upload my gopro video of the run later (takes time for Vimeo to decode) but it was quite a doozy.
The pass started off a 4 out of 10, with lots of rocks and shelf road characteristics. I was praying that my tires will hold up and not puncture...those rocks were REALLY sharp. Luckily, I was spared the pain of getting a flat tire on that pass. So, onwards...driving up this steep shelf road, I got an uneasy feeling, like I shouldn't be doing this....but my ******* kept going. At around 6K feet, we begin to see signs of snow, but it was the remnants of the winter snow, and it was only splotches of it scattered around....no big deal. Now the rain has started to pick up, and the road was getting muddy. The Jeep started dancing when "exiting" from taller rocks, but nothing I was concerned with on this 6K foot shelf road.
Once we crossed 7000 feet, it began to snow. It caught me offguard, but again, I kept going. At about 8000 feet, it was starting to get worse...now there was actual snow on the ground....
It didn't look too bad, and I kept at it, trying to reach the summit. Determined, onwards I went....at 8500 feet, I could no longer see the trail, it was snow covered completely with about 6" of snow. The trail also had a number of splits where I went the wrong way and ended up on a dead end, having to back up back to the split (not fun.) Finally, after another hour or so, I reached a very steep hill at 9200 feet right past a snow melt creek.....after crossing the creek, my front axle immediately dropped...for those that read my Canada winter Jeep thread, getting buried there, I learned that feeling and knew immediately that if I cross this creek Im SOL. It was the off season for this pass and the chance of someone else coming up there would be zero. I got out of the Jeep to survey the situation, stepped right into a freezing cold creek, and saw that the snow on the other side of the creek was 3 feet deep...coupled with a damn near 40 degree slope, I knew it wasn't going to happen. I finally made the call to give it up and turn back. Sadly I don't have photos of this, but I do have my gopro run (up to 8300 feet, then the card filled up (dammit) ) so I'll post that a bit later.
Lesson of the day....take the hint...some things just are meant to be left for another time. I gambled, and didnt lose, but it was a stupid gamble, and not one I would risk again. Fun? Absolutely. Dangerous and stupid? You bet your ***.
We then decided to come down the mountain, and try another pass (geyser pass) which was the easier side of the mountain, so down we went....Jeep looked pretty muddy after this descent.
Geyser pass didn't turn out to be much better. Although the road was MUCH easier and fun, it was still pretty covered in snow.
Not wanting to deal with the La Sal pass conditions, we turned around and headed back to Moab.
It was now getting late, so we decided to grab dinner, and call it an early night, hoping for a more fulfilling and less stressful day tomorrow....
Since our location (cabin) was very close to Gemini Bridges, I decided to swing by and check them out. It was a pretty quick drive there, but the views are amazing. We stumbled across a few other Jeepers there, but this was one of the few times we encountered anyone else on the trail with us.
The bridges themselves (you can't tell it's two of them)
Now the Gemini bridges have a reputation for stupidity. These are basically two "bridges" and there is a gap between them about 5-6 feet long. Many tards try and jump the gap, except there isn't much to catch you on the other side, so numerous people have fallen to their deaths here.
For the rest of the two days, we were going to random trails and checking out some cool sites. Saw a few petroglyphs....
Driving around somewhere I think it was in the Top of the World/Onion Creek area. (forgive me, I forgot which trails were which on some of the photos)
Trail during sunset....place is truly stunning...
The last day we went to check out Fisher towers and the delores river overlook...both were really beautiful places...
Entering delores river overlook area...
Everywhere you look is a god damn screensaver
Heading deeper towards delores river...
Part of the way to delores river, saw some beautiful bluffs, and figured a few snaps are in order....
Getting up to the overlook (long LONG drive, area is EXTREMELY remote) we got hungry....being far away from town, time to break out some more emergency food....
Some boars head hotdogs...best damn hotdogs money can buy.....always handy in a food emergency
And finally, some pictures of the actual overlook....
We relaxed here for the next few hours enjoy the view and the breeze, and then packed up and headed back to town. This also gave me a chance to test out my offroad lights, which didn't disappoint...it's like driving around with the sun.
And here is a crude iphone video of it in action....keep in mind, the iphone drops the exposure down, so it's actually A LOT brighter than the video depicts. On a straight road, the effective range would be about half a mile, and a total throw of about 3/4 of a mile for the 50" up top, which is a spot only bar. The two on the windshield brackets are driving beam (flood and spot combo) as is the 10" on the bumper. The headlights are bixenon HID projectors, and the fogs are 3000K HIDs.