I did not do any trail reports, or take many pictures on our trip out to Moab. This trip was about getting back to the basics. Not worrying about taking trail notes or tracking mileage. It was about getting back to why I (or we) do this. It’s for the adventure, the experience, and the adrenaline rush. Moab brings the adrenaline back to this sport with the incredible climbs and descents that the grippy sand stone or “slick rock” allows you to climb. I probably couldn’t count on two hands the number of times the horizon dropped below the hood of the Jeep and all you could see was sky. What a place, its difficult to put into words this very unique place. People come from all over the world to hike, bike, and 4 wheel this unique location. The snow capped La Sal mountain range offered a therapeutic backdrop to the red sandstone formations. Now, without further ado, Moab 2015.
Thursday after work we met up at Wal-Mart in Evergreen at 5:15pm and were on the road by 5:30pm and headed west. Our goal for the first night was Grand Junction, approximately 2/3rds of the way to Moab. We made it without incident over Vail pass in one of the first snows of the season then from there it was easy to Grand Junction. I was flat towing my Jeep with my new 99’ Dodge Ram that I had purchased the day before and Zach was toughing it out, driving his Jeep. We indulged at Village Inn and made the critical stop at a liquor store before they closed. They wouldn’t be open when we left in the morning, God forbid you venture into Utah without some sort of mind-altering substance.
I was supposed to get all of my homework done that night in the hotel so I could enjoy the rest of my weekend. As 2 am rolled around I called it a night although I wasn't close to getting my homework done. We were up and at'em by 8am and on the road by 9:15am. We rolled straight into Moab and found the information center in the middle of town. There we picked up a couple of maps and a trail guidebook. We then started looking for a campsite. We wanted to get a campsite claimed and set up before they were all gone. We found one with fairly little trouble, about 7 miles outside of town, and it just so happened to be less than a quarter mile from Poison Spider Mesa trailhead on Potash Rd. After camp was set up and the Jeeps prepped we went about the process of trying to find a trail that we could hit that afternoon. Through great deliberation and flipping through the guide book and peering over maps Zach finally just said “Why don’t we just go up Poison Spider and see how far we can get. When we can’t go any farther we can just turn around and head back out.” What a brilliant suggestion. We wouldn’t know just how good until we got out on the trail.
We started up the trail passing all of the trucks and trailers at the trailhead when we pulled over for a short time to disconnect my anti-roll bar (to allow my suspension to move more). We made it up a few quick switchbacks and the trail immediately started to get gnarly. We carefully picked our lines and just kept chugging up the trail. We ran into a large group of 20-25 Jeeps who were with the Jeep Jamboree. Luckily they were all at a point where we could pass easily. Very cool Jeeps including some 4 door JK pickups. 40” tires and money as far as the eye could see… until we got passed them. We climbed the “waterfall” obstacle and then just kept going. The phrase “that is by far the toughest thing that Jeep has ever done” was constantly repeated and it was our first trail on our first afternoon. We made it all the way to the start of the loop of poison spider when we decided to call it a victory and turn around. We headed back into town to pick up dinner for camp. We were constantly impressed with our Jeeps and ourselves and were very pumped up. We blasted into town feeling like 100 bucks.
That night we struggled to get the fire started as I carefully picked out and brought the wet wood, eventually we got it going and got the brats cooked. My pops showed up around 9:30pm that night and after we got his tent set up we jaw jacked around the fire for a while then called it a night and hit the tents.
The next morning Zach and I had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go that day. First on the list was a trail called “Fins n Things” and after that we were going to hit the “Moab Rim” trail but after closer examination in the guidebook I thought maybe we could hit “Hells Revenge” as it was in the same park as “Fins n Things” and we were already paying for the park entrance fee. But first there were some Jeep modifications that needed to be made. I pulled the trailer hitch and the “bumperetts” off the rear of my Jeep to improve my departure angle. The day before on “Poison Spider Mesa” I hit them all multiple times and was tired of having my teeth rattled. I also crushed my exhaust pipe… again so we opened that back up before heading out.
The “Fins and Things” trail was one of the most confusing trails I have ever tried to follow. There are certainly plenty of “things” on this trail that were just short little off shoots that looped back around to the main trail. “Fins n Things” was a great warm up to “Hells Revenge”. “Fins n Things” opened our eyes as to what kind of climbs were possible, we had no idea how different “Hells Revenge” was going to be. There is nothing that can truly prepare you for the climb and descent angles possible on “Hells Revenge”. “Hells Revenge” was the trail on this trip that really stuck with me. It’s the epitome of Moab.
The gatekeeper on “Hells Revenge” is a narrow slick rock climb that drops off into “Lake Michigan” which was extremely full thanks to the couple days of rain prior. I can’t actually describe this trail with words it is steep and incredible. The first climb we made took both Zach and me by surprise. We stopped to air down our tires to get better traction on the slick rock, which was a first for both of us. While we were stopped to air down, local trail guide and trail founder Dan Mick passed us and let us know what air pressure he runs in his tires. He was running 15psi and we decided to drop down to 18-19 psi. It was at this point we were seriously discussing turning around and heading back. The first climb really woke us up. My argument to Zach was that if we turned back now we would have to go back down the climb we just came up. Ignorance is bliss. Not knowing what was up ahead I would rather continue on than have to go down the climb that just blew our minds. Needless to say we forged ahead and I am so glad we did, it would have been a horrible regret if we had turned around. Later on we saw a pack of coyotes on the trail. The trail went on with mind-bending climbs and descents and without incident. It was undoubtedly the most incredible trail I have completed to date. We skipped out on some of the larger obstacles due to time and the fact that our world was already being rocked by just the main trail, an incredible experience.
After we got off the trail we aired up at a gas station and went to get some dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. On our way out of the Mexican joint waiting to turn left I saw Dan Mick coming down the main drag (its hard to miss his Jeep with its paint job) and I waved and he definitely recognized the Jeep and unquestionably acknowledged me. In my mind I think he was acknowledging that he was a little impressed we made it. After finally making our left turn we split back to camp and ended our night with, some beers and roasted marshmallows.
The next morning I was up and groaning (due to a strange headache that could NOT have been induced by too much beer and not enough water) at 6:30am… ish. I put the upper doors back on the Jeep, as it was a bit nippy, said goodbye to my pops and headed out for “Potash Rd” and the “Shafer Switchbacks” with just pup and me. “Potash Rd” was easy to find as we were camping along it then I just followed it up past the potash mine and through their evaporating ponds, which were beautiful in their own right, past the balanced rock, and up to what is known as the “Thema & Louise point”. I was hoping to catch the sunrise and boy oh boy did I get a treat. It was great being out at sunrise with my dog and no one to be seen for miles. The Colorado River was a couple thousand feet below and the sun was coming up from behind the mountains. After taking in the scenery for a bit I loaded back up in the Jeep and headed back to camp to pack up and start my return trip to Colorado. I couldn’t be out all day, I had homework to turn in that night, remember?
I pulled back into camp around 9:15am and everyone was already packed and gone, not a huge surprise, as it was their plan to get going early. I got my camping gear packed up condensation and all, hooked the Jeep up to the truck, double checked everything from the Jeep to the tow bar to my gear to the campsite then started the 6 hour journey home. I had not felt so accomplished, proud, relaxed, and happy in a long time.
On my long drive home I took the valuable advice from a good friend and mentor, I scheduled my next vacation on my way home from the one I had just taken. I will be returning to Moab the third weekend in April 2016. Join us!