May 2016: We reluctantly left Capital Reef National Park and ambled off in the direction of Moab, stopping along the way for a visit to Goblin Valley State Park. Goblin Valley is famous for its rounded hoodoo formations which, if you let your imagination soar, take on fantastical shapes of goblins, toadstools, whale tales and all manner of interesting things. What do you see?
But ever since we had our Jeep mods done in December (lift, larger tires, armor & skid plates) we’d been itchin’ to get to Moab to play on the slickrock, so we didn’t stay long with the goblins. Moab is famous among off-road enthusiasts for trails like Hell’s Revenge, Fins & Things, Poison Spider Mesa, Steel Bender and Metal Masher. While we certainly didn’t want to bend or mash any of our metal, we couldn’t wait to see how we did on some of the moderately difficult trails. And as if that wasn’t enough of a reason to be in Moab, there’s a brewery, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and you can’t walk half a mile without finding a dinosaur footprint. I know, right? So fasten your seatbelts and come along for the ride!
We arrived in May which is a tough month to find a campsite. Spring in Moab sees all sorts of gatherings and rallies: Easter Jeep Safari, the Powerwagon Rally, the Bronco Rally, The Willys Rally, etc. etc. In addition, mountain bikers were everywhere and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their own set of gatherings during the spring months. But we arrived mid-week and managed to score a decent spot on Willow Springs Road, which offered free camping and great sunset colors on the La Sal Mountains.
Almost immediately we got our slickrock feet wet on an awesome trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park: Elephant Hill. Parts of Elephant Hill are rated difficult and there are lots of challenging bits. We had reached out to some folks we followed on Facebook who were in town for the Powerwagon Rally: @boldadventure. They’d been to Moab several times and Eric had reached out to them to ask questions about a few trails. They generously invited us to run Elephant Hill with their group. We got an early start and picked up our off-road use permit at the Park. The first 3 miles of the trail are rated difficult, with tight switch-backs, lots of stairs and ledges, and the very narrow Devil’s Pocket. We were ecstatic with how well the Jeep was handling the obstacles. There was absolutely no way we could have done this before the upgrades!
We negotiated the Silver Stairs and headed out to Confluence Overlook, where the Green and Colorado Rivers meet. After a short hike to the confluence & back, we headed back up the Stairs, up S.O.B. Hill, and out to the Joint Trail where we had lunch and then hiked to a neat slot canyon. Rather than returning the way we came, we exited the Park through Beef Basin, which has gorgeous fields of tall grass surrounded by rock formations. I kept imagining what it must have been like for cowboys to drive the herds up here in the spring for all the lush grazing. I would have stayed all summer if it was me. Cowboys weren’t the first people here though, as we could see when we made a stop to see some Native American pictographs. We exited the trail at sunset and aired up our tires in the deepening dark, then headed back to town for post-trail dinner & adult beverages at The Blu Pig. Most of the Powerwagon guys admitted that they had rolled their eyes that morning when we showed in a Liberty (of all things!), but by the end of the day they were impressed with how well Lana handled the tough spots in the trail and they were a little jealous of her short wheel base & tight turning radius. Liberty CRD for the win!
With the first trail run out of our systems, we took the time to do a bit of exploring in around town. Moab is a great little town to explore on foot as most everything is clustered along the main drag. The Visitor’s Center is a great stop if you’re having trouble deciding where to go and what to do, the River Walk is pretty, and there are lots of good restaurants and a food truck with some fab quesadillas. There is even a great quilting shop (It’s Sew Moab) where I narrowly avoided spending a lot of money on fabric I definitely didn’t need (it’s a quilter thing).
But nobody comes to Moab for the quesadilla truck, tasty as it may be, so we took an afternoon and headed over to the Sand Flats Recreation Area to run the extremely fun Fins & Things trail. While it has plenty of technical challenges, Fins & Things is like driving on a roller coaster – what a hoot!
In a happy coincidence, we found out through the magic of social media (it is good for some things!) that our friends and former Key West residents Margaret and K.T. were coming to Moab for a long weekend! In another example of road serendipity, we were at the right place at the right time, as Margaret’s beloved Subaru died a tragic and utterly complete death a few miles outside of town. We were able to drive her around to car shop (saving the cost of rental), Eric was able to offer mechanical advice on a replacement vehicle, and we towed her old Subie to the dealer who paid to dispose of it after he nabbed a few parts for salvage. We a great time hanging out with dear friends and sightseeing. Ginny (another Key West ex pat) even detoured to stop by on her way to Kansas after seeing we were there. We hit the highlights around Canyonlands, visited Dead Horse Point State Park for a beautiful view of a Colorado River gooseneck, and clowned around in Arches National Park. K.T., Margaret & I even hiked up to Delicate Arch, one of the most photographed spots in the Park. Arches may not be a very big Park, but it certainly is spectacular.
But even good visits with friends must come to an end, and as everyone else headed home we headed back to Sands Flats to console ourselves on the legendary trail Hell’s Revenge. Since it was Eric’s birthday he got to drive the whole trail. Hell’s Revenge is more challenging than Fins & Things and we were eager to see how we did. We didn’t run any of the optional extreme obstacles (Hell’s Gate, Mickey’s Hot Tub, the Escalator and the Tip-Over Challenge) because both front and rear lockers are required (we only have a rear locker) and “major vehicle damage is not unusual.” Enough said! We are a little crazy but we’re not dumb. Lana took every challenge in stride and Eric had a blast on his birthday. If you’d like a little taste of what the trail is like, here’s a quick video of us driving over the Baby Lion’s Back. Eric’s mom can’t watch it.
I’ll leave you with a few images of our drive out to Gemini Bridges. Next time: Canyonlands and the White-Rim Trail.