This was the first year for me at Moab. What an experience! Running trails for 7 full days….ah yes, it just don’t get no better than that. I left the house early on a Saturday and pulled into base camp around 4:00 PM that afternoon. Joe Ruby and Jack Dell (aka., Texas Jack) had been in the general area for about 6 weeks and were on hand to meet me. I had Joe’s wife, Joyce, riding shotgun in my TJ so he obviously had some incentive to make sure I got to the right location! I got my camping equipment out and set up and then we sat down to discuss the week’s schedule.
Jack had friends in from Texas and I would be running some trails with them. One of theirs was a stock YJ with open differentials, so we stayed on the easier trails with that vehicle. Jack and Joe’s CJs were locked front and rear and had 33″x12.5″ tires and and appropriate lifts to clear them.
Here are a few pictures and a run down of the trails that I ran while in Moab. I hope you enjoy them…..I sure did!
This was the first Moab trail I ran. Joe took me on it as sort of an “Intro to Moab” kind of run. It provides a little bit of everything that Moab has to offer for you Jeepers; ledges, slick rock, tight spots, rubble, and some GREAT views of the area. It also hooks to the Golden Spike trail which we played on for an hour or two. The trail is popular with both the 4 wheel vehicles as well as those on two wheels. A few motorcycles were on it and lots of mountain bikers where using it as well. Of course, there was no shortage of Jeeps. We were fortunate and didn’t get behind any break downs or problem spots, so the day went very nicely and we were able to finish the trail and a couple of obstacles on the Gold Spike before calling it a long day.
Lady is making her way up the “Wedgie”. A slip of the tire here will result in one of two things; a rollover or grinding sheet metal. One is more likely to slip the passenger tire off the rock. If so, the sheet metal on that side will be badly damaged. You can see that about a third of the front tire is actually in contact with the rock. The sidewalls take a lot of abuse as you work your way up this long obstacle. Keeping a steady right foot will help you get to the top, where you have a ledge to negotiate before you are in the clear.
This was the first slickrock decent I encountered. Yeah…it is pretty steep. Notice the fluid path going down the middle? We found lots and lots of these little “trails” all over Moab. Blown diffs, transmissions, and transfer cases are a fairly common occurrence….or, they just don’t keep the lid screwed down tight on the bottle of gear lube!
Many of the popular trails are marked with painted symbols on the slickrock. The Poison Spider Mesa trail uses a little Jeep, complete with a spare tire. The front of the Jeep points in the direction of the trail. It is extremely easy to get lost on the vast expanses of slickrock. If you get lost, retrace your track back to the last point and then explore on foot to find the trail. Staying on the designated trails is an important factor in helping keep our trails open and available for our use!
The above picture helps give you an idea of why you are standing on the floorboards when you come down a steep one. Notice the passenger side corner of the front bumper…..it is about 6″ off of the ground. The bottom of my bumper is usually 22″ above the ground, except when things get a bit steep, like here. Low gearing is a big advantage in these situations, as using the brakes often times causes the wheels to lock up which the prevents you from steering.
From the top of the mesa, you can see the Colorado River, the highway, and the start of the Moab Rim Trail, if you get lined up properly while looking through Little Arch. Moab Rim is rated a 4+ trail is judged as being the 3rd toughest trail that is run during the Annual Easter Jeep Safari. There are a couple of crosses below the cliffs (not visible in this picture) marking the locations where drivers have rolled high up on Moab Rim and dropped to their deaths.
Lady is coming down the “Wedgie” on the way back to camp. It had been a long day and I asked Joe to spot for me. He cried out, “Hold it right there….don’t move!” I thought I was in a bad way, but then saw Joe running down to his Jeep and coming back with his camera. Boy, that was a relief! This was the best photo taken on the trail that day. A great shot to wrap up a most excellent day on Poison Spider Mesa!
Near the end of this trail, we took the cross-connect over to the Golden Spike trail and tried a couple of the obstacles there. You can see a few photos of this by clicking here.
(our little detour for fun)
From the the Poison Spider Mesa Trail, it is possible to join up with the Golden Spike Trail. Actually, you can now run the Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, and Poison Spider Mesa trails all together if you are so inclined (that is a lot of wheelin’ in just one day). While we were on Poison Spider, Joe took the hop over to the Golden Spike trail. He wanted to show me a couple of obstacles and give me some more experience on the steep slickrock.
The first obstacle we came to was the Launch Pad. Anyone that has visited Moab has heard of this steep slickrock obstacle. Low gearing, a good line, and steady gas pedal are three of the prime ingredients that will make this a success (when you are climbing it). Forget the gas pedal part when you are coming back down it, which we had to do in order to get back to Poison Spider Mesa and wrap up the day.
Joe’s wife, Joyce, is standing off to the left, trying to get a picture of me coming up the Launch Pad. Joe’s CJ-7 is parked at the top. He managed to work is way over and onto the hill we just came down to snap this picture for me. Do you see that pair of tire tracks going off to the left? They stop about 1/2 way up and from the looks of things at the bottom by the small trees, the vehicle rolled. What makes this hill challenging is that once you are ready to climb, you are staring right up at the big blue sky. There is nothing that resembles a trail in view! About two-thirds of the way up, you encounter a fault line in the slick rock. Too much speed and your tires will hop on you, which can quickly turn into real trouble if you aren’t careful.
This is a view from the top, looking down. Notice the painted spike marking the trail? The markings were in pretty good shape from the recent Jeep Safari’s use just days before we ran the trail.
Another view from the top of the Launching Pad. You can see the tire tracks from the vehicle that got off the correct line and resulted in a roll over. 4 Wheelin’ is a great sport, but it can be dangerous just like so many other sports. Never let your mind wander when tackling these extreme trail obstacles.
Joe leads the way, in this picture, to the top of a slickrock dome called Skyline Drive. If you look carefully, you can see the painted white spikes just below and in front of his CJ-7.
After we stopped on top of Skyline Driver, we finally retraced our tracks back to Poison Spider Mesa. If you though going up the Launch Pad was steep, going down it is worse! You are literally standing up in the Jeep. Again, low gearing is a big benefit. I am so grateful that I swapped out my 3.73 gears for 4.56 gears earlier this year. I would have not enjoyed this trip nearly as much had I not done this.
3-D and Long Canyon
The 2nd day of my Moab trip was a bit slower paced. After driving all day Saturday and doing Poison Spider Mesa on Sunday, I was ready for an easier trail. Joe’s friend Jack had some Texas guests staying with him and they had a stock YJ. The front sway bar was still connected and they couldn’t get it off with the tools they had on hand. So, we decided on 3-D. A nice trail that covers a lot of beautiful countryside. What the Moab Rim trail offers for a challenge during the 1st nasty mile, 3-D provides you the same level but in beautiful views. So, most of these pictures won’t be awesome crawls over the obstacles….they will be some nice pictures of the Moab area. (oops, well, not all of them….there was that sand hill I got to climb!)
We find the start of the trail just a bit off of the highway. From this view, it looks pretty much like something I would find here in Arizona. There were 4 Jeeps in the group this day. Mine was the only TJ so I seemed to get a fair amount of ribbing about having coil springs. However, at the end of the week, no one was giving me a bad time about the TJ. She did just fine, even if the shocks were just a bit too soft.
A couple of miles down the trail, we came upon a big sand hill. This was unlike any sand I have rode on. It was extremely fine, the end result of millions of years of erosion of the slickrock. Even driving down the steep hill was difficult. It took a fair amount of speed so that you were actually going faster than the sand was sliding. If you did not travel faster than the sand, there was no way to steer and you would roll the vehicle in a matter of seconds.
The view from on top of the sand hill. As you can see, it is pretty high. It took quite a bit of speed and engine RPMs to power my TJ to the top of the hill. I was not able to do the steep sections of the hill. These require big V8s, paddle tires, and excellent driving skills to reach the top. With my TJ taching about 4000 RPMs, I was able to get to the top on my 2nd attempt. I was lucky to have the Detroit Locker in the rear, else I never would have made it. Coming down was kind of like floating on air, except that I had to do it in 3rd gear and continued to accelerate all the way down the hill to keep ahead of the shifting sand. After all was send and done, I could still feel the adrenaline rush of climbing the hill.
Here is the stock YJ (with sway bar still attached) going up a section of slickrock. With open diffs and limited articulation, this section of the trail caused some concern for the driver. A good flexing suspension and lockers is a requirement for almost all of the challenging trails in Moab. I had to strap the YJ up a hill later on in the day. Previous drivers with open diffs had dug out a few holes on a steep section of the trail and once a tire lifted, you were stuck in that spot.
Slickrock comes in many textures and colors. Not all of it is super smooth. This section we encountered was rather “lumpy and bumpy”, forcing you to run it in a fairly low gear. Since this was not a heavily used trail, there were no painted markings to follow. Instead, we had to be on the constant watch for tire tracks and cairns (small stacks of rocks). It is very easy to take a wrong turn and get yourself lost. I strongly suggest using a good map and compass at a minimum. If you have a GPS and are fortunate to get a track made by a buddy, that is a really good way to navigate a new trail. Remember that a GPS is NOT a replacement for a good map. It is but another tool which will make your Jeepin’ experience just that much better.
Here is a beautiful pic of a slickrock fin that has eroded away over the countless centuries. The colorful layers are exposes as the rock weathers away. Water is no longer the driving force of the erosion. It is now wind and sand that sculpts most of the rock. Millions of years ago, the water carved the rock into the shapes we still see today.
After finishing the 3-D trail, we drove down Long Canyon trail on the way back to Moab. This is pretty much a gravel road, with a couple of narrow spots along the way to keep your attention focused on the trail and NOT the beautiful scenery. Here is a large piece of cliff face that gave way several years ago and dropped down onto the trail. Luckily, there is enough room to get by underneath it. Wow, could you imagine if you had to crawl up and over it? To the left is a drop off that goes down a 100′ or so, making that a non-option way to get around this obstacle. Although I did not see any, there are big horn sheep in the Long Canyon area.
The day ended with a late return back into Moab. This was one of the longer trail combinations I did during my stay in Moab. If you want a fairly easy trail with really nice scenery (and don’t have lockers for the hard stuff), I would recommend the 3-D trail.
Fins N’ Things
I wasn’t quite sure about Fins N’ Things when I first heard the name. The fins refer to the weathered slickrock formations that jut out as long fins. The trail takes you from one fin to another. It has some challenging sections in it, but they are usually not really long. As such, they are a good warm up, if you would, for the more intense slickrock trails, such as the premiere slickrock trail called Hell’s Revenge.
The trail is not very old. I believe it has only been run for about the last 10 years or so. A local 4 wheeler obtained permission from the BLM to open this trail. As I understand it, it took her about 3 years to map out a suitable and challenging trail. The trail resides inside the boundaries of the Sands Flat Recreation Area, which is just a few miles from Moab (the famous Lion’s Back challenge is just around the corner). Admission to Sands Flat was $5 and gave you admission for 3 days. We did Fins N’ Things on the first day and then came back two days later for Hell’s Revenge, also located in the Sands Flat area. The money is used to keep the area looking good and helping to manage the trails. It is very important that you “Keep on the Trails”, as the BLM folks are always nearby. Did I say you should keep on the trails?
The trail has a mixture of short and steep sections of slickrock, some sandy trail sections, and long fins on which to drive. Here is a short (~200KB) movie of the stock YJ going up a sandy section of the trail. It took multiple attempts before he made it all the way to the top. Joe said that a typical Jeep Safari run will spend about an hour here on account of the vehicles with open diffs having a difficult time getting to the top. This little hill was nothing compared to the sand hill we ran on the 3-D trail, although the sand was of the same type….very fine and difficult to walk and drive in.
A nice view of the slickrock in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. As you can see, these fins are really tall and long, making excellent trails. Getting on and off of the fin can be an exhilarating experience, as the sections can often times be very steep.
With the snow capped Manti-LaSelle Mountains in the background, you can see part of the our trail in the middle of the picture as it goes across the slickrock. For those who are worried about the tire tracks on the rock, it weathers off over the winter and is not visible in the spring. If you are inclined to do some early season Jeepin’, be sure you have a GPS track or a very detailed map because you won’t find much evidence of the trail from the previous years use.
OK, so I had to sneak a shot of lady into the story here. As you can see, some sections get pretty steep. If you have full steel doors, such as I do, getting the door open so you can get in and out is no easy task. To get back into the Jeep, I find that climbing up on the rear tire and then stepping into the vehicle is much easier than somehow jumping 4′ into the air and onto the seat!
Well, you have probably her of “cow tipping”, but have you heard of “Jeep tipping”? Joe is having some fun with Ken’s stock YJ. The sway bar links are still connected which makes it very easy to lift a tire, as shown here. The other YJ (not stock) and a CJ took the same line and also lifted the tire, but not nearly as much. I am proud to say that Lady also tried but all 4 tires remained on the slickrock. I love her suspension.
After a fun day on the slickrock, we head back towards camp. Here is another view of the immense slick rock fins that are in the area. The Sands Flat Recreation Area is a great place to spend a day (or two), and we will find out just how great when we come back in two days to tackle Hell’s Revenge!
Moab Rim Trail
The Moab Rim Trail is one of the top rated trails in the area. Depending who you talk to, it is ranked as about the 3rd most difficult trail that is run during the Easter Jeep Safari. Regardless of where it falls in the 4+ ranking category, it is an awesome trail to drive. The trail head begins right off the highway and climbs to the top of the rim in the 1st mile of trail. This “1st Nasty Mile” can take a toll on your vehicle, and has claimed lives over the years. Rollovers are all to easily done and the close proximity to the cliff edge provides no margin for error. If you want to enjoy the breath taking view, I strongly suggest you do so after safely parking your vehicle.
After the 1st mile, the trail continues to challenge you with a variety of difficult rock ledges and very steep slickrock for both Jeepers and mountain bikers. At the end awaits some very good Indian petroglyphs. A portion of your return trip is via another route, but ultimately, you will return to the top of the rim and you must descend that “1st Nasty Mile”. This is when the tipovers most often occur.
Joe is at the top of the “Z turn”, found on the first mile of trail, and just getting ready to make a hard left turn (with lockers, you have a tendency to plow forward into the rock rock face. Texas Jack, is negotiating the center section of the same obstacle.
Here is Lady negotiating the “Z turn”. Half way through the obstacle, you find yourself in desperate need of being lined up for the next batch of rock ledges, but you are pointing the wrong way. A slip of the tire going up and that big rock just off of the right rear quarter panel will eat the side of your Jeep!
This is a nice shot of Lady and I driving up the steep slickrock dome. If you don’t have the low gearing to pull this off (ie., taking it slow and steady), you will get some tire bounce which can lead to problems if you aren’t’ careful. Can you say steep? Every now and then, the pucker factor picks right up on this trail!
This YJ belongs to Dave, a new found friend that hooked up with us on the trail earlier in the week. He and his wife are from Idaho and were great company on the trail. I hope we can get together again next year at Moab. Dave, Jen, did you catch that? Here is a movie (350KB) of Texas Jack powering up the last portion to the dome.
We played tag with a group of mountain bikers all morning, and caught up with them at the top of this really big slickrock dome. We also provided them with 4 gallons of our spare water, as they were from the northeast and did properly prepare themselves for the Moab climate (ie., the HEAT!).
My buddy Joe Ruby (the guy that doesn’t have spandex shorts on) and several of our mountain biker friends. The guy in the rear is getting ready to climb up through a crack in the rock to gain access to the Indian dwelling on the next level up.
Some of the Indian writings that I was able to get close enough to and snap a picture. These are out on the side of the cliff and have no protection from the elements. I was told that they date back about 1200 years, to the Anasazi Indians that lived in this area.
After some tippy spots and more rock ledges on the trail, you are rewarded with the Moab Rim overlook. We stopped here for lunch. In the shade, the temperature was about 75°. A most excellent location to have lunch and discuss the obstacles we all encountered.
Moab Rim Trail
After exploring the top of the rim, we headed back to the “1st Nasty Mile”. Part of the trail is a loop so we didn’t have to backtrack all of our route. We were able to go down a nice sand hill, similar to the one I did on 3-D, but smaller in size. Still, it was fun fish tailing down the trail, trying to outrun the sand and still stay in control.
Back at the “Z Turn”….I HATE GOING DOWN LEDGES! Well, I guess I should say that I like going up them a lot better. Joe was telling me about the pile of rocks that they finally dumped into the hole on this obstacle. You can see them just forward of the driver’s side front tire. Prior to the rocks, there seemed to be an abnormally high number of role overs at this obstacle.
A couple of nights before writing this, I was searching the web and came across this picture which was taken during the Y2K Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. It is the same spot that I am coming down in the above picture….the “Z Turn”. That big rock that is into the hood is the same one that I said would eat your passenger door on the way going up if you are not careful You can not let your mind wander for a second on this trail. When you put metal against rock, the rock will win every time.
OK…So I didn’t let my mind wander. I was so focused on watching Joe’s line over this next ledge that I completely missed the fact that the Devil’s Crack was getting way to close to my passenger front tire. As luck would have it, I dropped Lady’s tire right into the crack. Boy, talk about feeling stupid (and we had a line of Jeeps behind us that was following us down). Yep, I made it through the “Z turn” without rolling over and then I pull this little trick!
Just in case you were wondering how big the Devil’s crack is, it is big enough to swallow my 32″x11.50″ tire with room to spare! Yes sir, I set her down nice and easy right on the lower control arm.
We had a pow-wow about how to get Lady “unstuck”. By this time, quite a crowd had gathered….probably hoping I would break the axle off or crack the rim (those blood thirsty Jeepers!). Well, with a bit of careful maneuvering, and without a strap or winch cable, I managed to drive Lady out, under her own power. Not even a scratch on the wheel! Since the rear wheel takes a different line going through the turn, it was able to cross the crack without encountering any problems.
A few more hundred yards and we were at the trail head and done with Moab Rim Trail. The memories of this trail will stay with me for a long time. It is the toughest mile I have ever driven (twice) and it will certainly give me a thrill the next time I tackle it. Would I do it again! IN A HEARTBEAT I WOULD!
I couldn’t leave this one out of the this write up. There were a lot of these little cactus in bloom. I saw about 5 different colors of this cute little guys. The desert sure is a pretty place!
On the 5th day of Moab, we did what Joe Ruby calls Moab’s premiere slickrock trail, Hell’s Revenge. It is located in the same area as is Fin N’ Things. The best way to describe Hell’s Revenge is to put Fins N’ Things on steroids….a whole lot of steroids. The slickrock is never ending. Steep climbs and descents are frequent. Obstacles such as the “HotTub”and “Tip Over Challenge” wet your appetite for more adventure.
We opted not to drive the HotTub. It is an very deep and extremely steep sided hole in the slickrock. As you approach it, you can smell gear lube and tranny oil. It reminded me of when I was growing up….a good friend of the family had a little two pump gas station. The smell brought back many memories….however, where as the little service bay in the gas station was used to fix vehicles, the HotTub was obviously doing the opposite. Gouges in the rock where bumpers and sheet metal had tried but lost were everywhere. My buddy Dave climbed down into the hole and started counting the different colors of paint that still remained on the rock. Yes, the HotTub was left for another day.
This is the first large slickrock climb you make on the trail. It seems to go on for ever, and it darn near does. It was obviously well traveled during the Easter Jeep Safari. By the spring of next year, you won’t see these tracks, as the wind, sand, and rain will have washed them away.
Another shot of the trail and the great slickrock it affords. Low gearing is a requirement, as are lockers, for this trail. If you don’t have the gearing, you will be riding the brakes on the down hill sections and climbing too fast on the uphill parts.
We stopped for lunch and a group of Toyota’s caught up with us. This obstacle has no official name that we are aware of, so we call it the Bathtub. It is a bit milder than the HotTub but as this Toyota driver proved, you can’t let your mind wander on Hell’s Revenge or else the rock will win! It is possible to roll as you enter the obstacle, which is where most folks have a problem. We are not sure how this guy managed to roll as he was exiting. Oh well, it made for an interesting lunch time show!
Here is a shot of Dave taking his ARB locked TJ down into the Bathtub. When you first see this obstacle, it is more intimidating than it really is. Having someone spot you coming in does help. We all “took a bath” here after lunch before we moved on!
Here is Dave after getting up to the first ledge of “Tip over Challenge”. As you work your way to the top, it gets more and more off camber. One of the Jeeps in our group did not get quite the right line and lift his front wheel about 3’~4′ before he clutched it in and brought it back down. One thing that we discovered is that I could take a very different line up this obstacle with my TJ (compared to the leaf sprung YJs and CJ. My compliant suspension kept all four on the ground and kept me in a better position near the top.
Here is a view from the side of the upper section of “Tip over Challenge”. Careful tire placement is critical here to prevent a tip over. A large tree just a bit further down the obstacle had been knocked out of the ground from the various vehicles that had rolled into it. Lady went right up this obstacle like a walk in the park. I had walked it and discussed the line I was going to take. Anytime you are doing a new obstacle, take some time to study it. Going into something like this blind leaves you wide open for major trouble!
Once again, here is my famous “Jeep Cam” perspective (900 KB), this time of “Tip over Challenge”. It is getting harder and harder to walk up some of these obstacles.
We wrapped up Hell’s Revenge shortly after this obstacle. It was a most excellent day for Jeepin’. Everybody came out with no damage, and we brought with us some great memories of one of the best slickrock trail in Moab.
Gold Bar Rim & Gemini Bridges
I had not planned on the Gold Bar Rim trail when I was headed for Moab. It kind of just happened….you know, a somewhat unexpected sort of thing. How you say? I had met Dave and Jennifer (from Idaho) earlier in the week when they hooked up with us on Fins N’ Things. As Friday grew near, Joe and Texas Jack made plans to take a jet boat ride down the Colorado River (something Jack arranged). I was all set to go but as Friday got closer, I was enjoying the trails more and more. Heck, I had come to Moab to go Jeepin’, not boatin’. So, I did what any honest American Jeeper would do, I suddenly remembered that I get motion sickness when I am on the water! (no…I really didn’t do that….I just told Jack I was going Jeepin’ with friends).
The problem that Dave and I had was that between the two of us, we had about two weeks worth of experience wheelin’ in the Moab area. (most of that was from earlier in the week). So, out came the trail book and we came up with Gold Bar Rim. It is a 3+ rated trail, which means it would be fun but not so difficult that we couldn’t get ourselves out of a situation. Dave had friends from Idaho coming into town on Thursday afternoon. Two of them were renting Jeeps from Moab Offroad (locked and lifted CJs) and the third had a YJ with ARB lockers and 30″ tires. One of the CJ drivers was really new to off-road driving so we decided this would NOT be the time to do a repeat of the Moab Rim Trail! Yep, the Gold Bar Rim trail looked just about right.
I checked with Joe for a GPS track log of the trail….he didn’t have one! Ouch…that was not nice. Well, the trail book had about 10 GPS coordinates in it. I figured that if I punched those into the notebook and uploaded them to my Garmin III+, we should be able to find the trail most of the time. After all, we had the book with directions like….go .2 miles and turn left at the bush….or something like that.
On Friday morning, I put a few gallons of gas in the tank (I was learning that a big day at Moab was about 4 gallons for me). No use dragging a 19 gallons of gas around the trail when you are only going to use about 5 gallons worth. I pulled up to the motel where Dave and Jennifer were staying and found Dave and his friend under the hood of the YJ. Seems that the ARB compressor was leaking air and cycling too much. After reminding Dave that my Detroit Locker never leaked air, I let them finish the parking lot repair (hey, they only had to do it one more time on the trail!). After the fix it up, Dave told me I had been elected trail leader since I was the only one that had a GPS (you did put in the coordinates, right?).
So, we loaded up and headed out to find the trail, armed with two copies (you always need a backup) of the trail book (Dave and Jennifer bought one after looking through mine earlier in the week) and a GPS crammed with the local Garmin database trail data.
The road to the start of this trail is shared by several other trails in the area. Once again I was able to drive by the famous “Gooney Bird” rock formation. Legend has it that if you drive over the Gooney Bird’s toes, you will have bad luck and break something that day. I made sure to keep my distance from that petrified pigeon’s feet!
After 30 minutes of carefully negotiated travel towards the trail head, we come across this trail aid. Yes sir, those GPS coordinates must be right on the money! What I found was that some of the popular trails have a few signs pointing the way to them. While we were on the slickrock sections of the trail, there were little gold bars painted on the rock (using white paint), like the Jeep and spike that were painted on the Poison Spider Mesa and Golden Spike trails.
Dave eases his YJ down a rock ledge. The ledge is about 3 feet tall. (I hate the way these pictures appear to flatten out the terrain.) By the time we got to this point, our novice CJ driver was getting the hang of things, after bouncing the vehicle down a couple of ledges. I got him to watch me as I spotted for him and he got really good at following my directions. By the end of the day, he was working that CJ over the ledges just as good as the other guys. Way to go, Jed!
Lady pauses on an incline while I pop out to grab this picture. It was harder getting pictures of this trail since Joe was off boatin’ down the river. He usually takes a good number of great pictures each time we are out.
We had to stop on the way down for a couple of quick pictures. This one was taken to counter Joe’s picture where he was pushing the white YJ over. I had to shop him that I could lift Lady with just one hand! It was nice in the shade too.
Here is a picture of the Gemini Bridges. They are a pair of arches, separated by about 6′ or 7′. You can see the ground far below through the arch. Dave it walking on top of one of the two arches.
Here is the view standing out on one of the arches, looking down (as close as I will get) between them to the ground below. A couple of years ago, a young kid attempted to jump from one arch to another and didn’t quite make it. He clung to the rock as onlookers raced to his aid but were too late to grab him as he slid down the side of the arch and fell to his death.
This picture is dedicated to this young life that was lost on Gemini Bridges.
It was Saturday, the last day for Jeepin’ in Moab. Texas Jack and Joe had safely returned from their river boat trip, and I was looking for one more good trail to run. I had wanted to do the Golden Spike trail, but Joe was really not too excited about doing it. His CJ-7 has a spot on the frame where a welded patch is letting go and he really didn’t want to do the Golden Crack as it really does put some twisting stress on the frame. So, Metal Masher was chosen as my last run.
I might as well tell you right now, I didn’t make it up the “Widow Maker”. It was the last obstacle on the trail and all day long, I was getting myself psyched up for it. Maybe it was bad karma…..the stars in the wrong phase….or maybe just a couple of pounds too high in my tires. I am not sure. But I was bummed to say the least. We got to the hill just as a couple of Jeep Cherokees were attempting it. One had some difficulty and the other took it on the first attempt. Here is a movie of the locked Cherokee that had no problem. He did it justice for sure! I didn’t want to get my right foot into it too hard, as this is another obstacle that can easily claim drive train components. As we were kicking around at the bottom of the obstacle, we found broken u-joint parts in the sand…..enough said! It will be there next year and I’ll give it a try then. This was the only required obstacle (not optional ones) that I did not make during the entire 7 days. What a way to end the trip!!! ARGH!!!!!!
This is an optional obstacle on the trail, called “Rock Chucker”. It is another famous one for taking its toll on the vehicles who attempt it. Joe and Jack were teasing me about doing it but it did no good….Lady and I both agreed that this was not in her immediate future! However, Lady decided that it would not hurt to climb up on it, just a bit, and pose for a couple of pictures (you know how females are!).
Getting back in is no easy matter when the front sits about as high as you do. I found the rear tire was in a pretty good spot and afforded me a good location from which to hop into the driver’s seat.
After Rock Chucker, the trail goes just a bit further and you find yourself at the beginning of Mirror Gulch. I picked a good line through the lower portion and did not have to fold my mirrors in, although as the name implies, it has taken a few of them off in the past. This photo was taken about half way through Mirror Gulch, were you encounter a steep rock ledge. As you can see from the tire tracks, just a bit of rubber is laid down while getting up to the next part of the obstacle.
We cleared Mirror Gulch and continued on up the trail. Soon we encountered some slickrock switchbacks…..pretty tight ones I might add. I had done a lot of slickrock during the week, and had done a few switchbacks, but I had not done slickrock switchbacks. Boy, talk about the tires howling in these tight turns! Lockers are great for climbing ledges, but they hurt when you got to do a tight one (OK….all you ARB folks can now stand up and cheer!) But remember, I wasn’t the one making repairs on my Detroit Locker in the parking lot and on the trail! OK….that will keep you air folks quiet!
Joe clowns around and poses for a picture at the bottom of the “Widow Maker”. Yes sir, it is the tallest ledge I have seen all week! And they have the nerve to rate this trail as a 4? Who are they trying to kid here? Well, all I can say is that I will give it a try (or two) and see what happens.
After the Cherokee cleared it on the first attempt, I was a bit nervous to say the least. Everyone was standing up on top looking down and the guy that spotted the Cherokee up was motioning me to get into position. Oh boy….I hate crowds, especially when I don’t even know these guys! So I gave it a try and didn’t make it.
I gave it a second try and I still didn’t make it. My rear tires were hopping a bit on the rock and I didn’t really want to pop a u-joint, driveshaft, or an axle shaft when I was scheduled to be driving home in under 18 hours. After everyone left and things calmed down, I thought it over a bit. (I also hadn’t seen the above picture at that time either, although now I wish I had because I think attempt #3 would have been done.) I probably should have dropped a couple more pounds of air from my tires. I believe I also crawled too slowly at the beginning of my attempt….just a tiny bit of momentum is required on this one when you have a short wheel based Jeep (again, my opinion). In the above picture, I had made it several feet up the rock when this shot was taken. I am not sure it I was still on the way up, holding my own for a split second, or already starting my back slide when Joe took this picture. Which ever the case, another couple of feet further up with the rears would have put me onto the rock. Oh well….there is next year and I already have my plans as to how to try it again!
Oh yeah…this is what it looks like when you slide back down the rock. On solid ground, the departure angle that exists between the rear tire and the bumper misses the spare tire completely. In this soft sand, everything settles in a bit, including the spare tire. Sure am glad I had it mounted as high as it was.
Texas Jack must have had the same black cloud over him that was following me around. He tried 4 times but could not make it up and over. This was a first for Jack as he has done this obstacle many times before and has always made it on the first attempt. Both lockers and a Tera 4:1 LO kit didn’t help him get over….I didn’t feel too bad considering I was only running a rear locker and stock t-case gearing. Yes sir…it will be there next year and we’ll do it then!
Reluctantly, Jack and I backtracked the mile or so needed to catch the bypass trail to get around Widow Maker. We took the remaining ledges in stride as we headed off of the rim we had struggled up all day. After we got to the highway, I stopped and aired up, the first time in 7 days. The new BFG MTs had done there job and were ready to take me back to Phoenix.
Well….you are probably wondering if there was any damage? A couple of little scratches on the right rear rim (right on the lip). A few new ones in the gas tank skid (oh yea, we whacked a couple of times), and a couple of scrapes on the front bumper from nudging the rock ledges while trying to get a tire up on them. Other than my pride, that was it. A solid week of Jeepin’ on some of Moab’s toughest trails and I went home looking pretty darn good. Next year….oh yeah…next year will be the year that the Widow Maker becomes another obstacle that Lady has done!
I hope you have enjoyed these Moab pictures. If you haven’t done Moab, you need to really give it a try. Find someone who has been there before and let them show you around a bit. It is a place where beauty and testosterone run neck and neck (at times).