Trailridge Runners 4WD Club
Thanksgiving Moab Trip 2010
by Christy Howe
Day 1 (Friday) - The Early Birds
Those who were lucky enough to arrive on Thursday evening took off Friday down the Potash Road, following some of the White Rim Trail to Musselman Arch and up the Shafer Trail switchbacks to Canyonlands. This group consisted of Darryl, Judy, and Scruffy Turner; John and Kathy Howell; and Mike and Laura Baker, who arrived from sunny St. George to meet the group. It was a typically scenic southeast Utah drive, with iffy weather which required ducking out of the wind for a late lunch. The Turners and the Bakers ended the day with a bit of jealousy, as the Howells squeezed in an extra leg down Long Canyon and saw 11 bighorn sheep! They can count themselves among a rare few who have seen so many of these magnificent animals in Utah!

Kathy and Judy on Musselman Arch

Group shot at one of the Colorado River overlooks

Day 2 (Saturday) - BFE Area, Green Day
The day started out looking OK, if not the perfect Utah blue skies that we have become spoiled with over the years. Fortunately we had not planned to run Poison Spider, as it was closed due to a scary-sounding shootout that had taken place the night before between a state park ranger and a fugitive, with the fugitive at large somewhere in that area and the whole state of Utah looking for him. This ended up being the case for the duration of the trip, as we rolled by almost every day to see a host of flashing patrol lights, signs indicating the closure of the road, local news crews, and a huge array of vehicles parked along the road off of the highway.

So off we went, into the wild (not so blue) yonder, in search of the "what me, lost?" trails that we always manage to find. Added to the previous group were now Gordy and Christy Howe; Rich, Cathy, Jordan, and Aaron Horiuchi; Roger Briden; Linda Giandinoto, Mike Moore; and Gene Francis, a potential new member who came along as Mike's shotgun. Under the (not) fearless leadership of Gordy and his (not) fearless navigator, we immediately lost our technical advantage by NOT following the trail instructions in our "Bible" Charles Wells' guide, and found ourselves in a network of confusion, with many choices to make and no one who knew exactly where to go. But find it we did, and we freeformed it up a portion of Strike Ravine looking for something called Green Day (not the rock band, but an actual trail). We thought we were going to go the easier "blue" way, not the "green" way -- go figure, it's the opposite of how they rate ski trails -- but the blue way eluded us on the way in and we had to pick it up on the way back out. The wind challenged us every step of the way but we found a reasonably sheltered spot for lunch and managed to eat outside. The trail became pretty interesting at its furthest point, when we found ourselves smack up against a rock wall that only rock buggies and crazy people would attempt, thus resulting in more wandering and backtracking on foot looking for the return trail. Kudos to Kathy, who found it hidden next to the imposing-looking wall and proved that sometimes a good set of eyes outdoes technology!

Rich catching air

The entertainment of the day was provided by the Horiuchis, when Rich decided he was going up a difficult section and caught air several times with his left front wheel, but to no avail. Eventually he admitted defeat and chose the easier route. When I commented to the boys that I heard them hollering in the back seat, Jordan's reply was "because I thought I was going to die"!

At the BFE Area entrance

We came back out at a fairly early time and retreated to town for relaxation, shopping, etc. before meeting at the Sunset Grill for an early dinner and to watch the Moab lights come on from above. I guess we never did figure out what BFE stands for; Gordy tried to look it up but all the answers he got were unprintable.

Day 3 (Sunday) - The Foot Soldier and Attack of the Tumbleweeds!
Armed with our wonderful Sunset Grill leftovers, we headed up Copper Ridge north of the Klondike Bluffs, checked out the dinosaur footprints, and continued up onto the slickrock where we bushwhacked across, trying to stay on an "un-trail", i.e. a Gordy/Google Maps creation. It turned out to be navigable despite its lack of markings and clarity and with Gordy hopping in and out of the jeep to look for the best track, we managed to stay pretty close to the track on the GPS. Again, fighting the wind, we took the opportunity for lunch in a relatively calm place as we approached an overlook over Salt Valley. The GPS did its job big-time on this outing, telling us that we had reached the end of the trail at exactly the same point that Gordy reached the same conclusion on foot. Next, we tried to explore further up another side route but this time we were turned back by two different ravines full of juniper trees, so instead we headed up towards an old copper mine via a different route. Earlier, a sign had warned us of potential radioactivity at the mine, so as we headed back down we joked about glowing in the dark. Since we were exploring paths only from Google Earth and didn't have a guidebook, additional entertainment was provided by Gordy, who probably put as many miles on his shoes as his jeep while looking for the best track or in some instances the actual trail.

Lunch overlooking Salt Valley

As the Howells and Turners ditched us to head back to town, the rest of the group headed a couple of miles up Highway 191 to come back to town through Salt Valley and Arches National Park via the "scenic route". As we headed across the flats we noticed an increasing number of tumbleweeds blowing in front of us and across the road. We started commenting on them and just about then it became almost impassable due to the tumbleweeds piled up on the road. In places it was impossible to even see the road in front of us! All we could do was to plow through them and hope we were still on the road, all the time joking that we were in The Twilight Zone. However, technology prevailed over nature, and we eventually emerged in Arches, victorious against the killer tumbleweeds after double-checking that they weren't stuck against our catalytic converters.

The Howes plowing through the killer tumbleweeds

Day 4 (Monday) - Headwaters of Sevenmile Canyon, Four Arch Canyon
Another ominous day dawned with a rainy forecast, but off we went again, north of town to the headwaters of Sevenmile Canyon for more adventure. After looking for a questionable way in and deciding that it didn't exist, we started down the alternate trail and missed the first intersection. The day proceeded in a similar fashion, with the GPS navigating and telling us more than once that we were "off track".

Mike Moore in Sevenmile Canyon

By this time, the whole group had figured out that somehow we had managed to find the "donut" of good weather for four days in a row and we found a gulch for lunch where the sun was shining and the wind was, miraculously, not blowing (too hard). After lunch we went on to Four Arch Canyon, where we saw Mosquito, Shadow, and Crips Arches, but although we thought we saw Bullwhip Arch, we found out later that it had eluded us. But we caught a cute little "bonus arch" instead. Nice views and good company made this day fun.

At Mosquito Arch

Day 5 (Tuesday) - Where Did Everyone Go?
The weather forecast was not looking good and most of the group ditched us! Mike M., Gene, Roger, and Linda had already planned to head back for various reasons, and the Howells and Turners were planning Thanksgiving in Glenwood Springs and between the forecast of snow in the mountains and Darryl's uncooperative back, they left a day early to go soak in the hot springs. Then this morning the Bakers also decided to head home, leaving just the Howes and the Horiuchis to brave it out. We headed up in the same direction as the day before but this time we went up to Dead Man's Spring. Aaron and Jordan were very excited to try out their "ghost radar", an iPod app, to see if they could locate any sign of dead guys. It wasn't to happen, so we headed back over a varied trail of sand and slickrock, looking for The Sitting Hen rock formation, which we never found. The trail and the views proved to be awesome. Lunch turned into a sandy challenge, with the boys ditching it into their jeep while the adults toughed it out next to the vehicles. I think nature won the battle this time as Rich and Cathy ate their "sand"wiches. Then we went out to the Secret Spire, challenged by both the trail and the wind the whole way. So the Secret Spire is no longer a secret to this group and proved to be well worth the trip.

Horiuchis at the Secret Spire

In the end, we ran no "mainstream" trails on this trip, dodged the weather for the most part, and saw plenty of beautiful scenery and ran plenty of challenging trails. No one broke down, no one incurred anybody damage (to his/her jeep), and lots of good company was shared and good food consumed!

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