White Rim September 2007!
The National Park Service says about Canyonlands N.P. that it "...preserves one of the last, relatively undisturbed areas of the Colorado Plateau, a geological province that encompasses much of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Carved out of vast sedimentary rock deposits, this landscape of canyons, mesas, and deep river gorges possesses remarkable natural features that are part of a unique desert ecosystem.
The foundation of Canyonlands' ecology is its remarkable geology, which is visible everywhere in cliff profiles that reveal millions of years of deposition and erosion. These rock layers continue to shape life in Canyonlands today, as their erosion influences elemental features like soil chemistry and where water flows when it rains.
Known as a "high desert," with elevations ranging from 3,700 to 7,200 feet above sea level, Canyonlands experiences very hot summers, cold winters and less than ten inches of rain each year. Even on a daily basis, temperatures may fluctuate as much as 50 degrees."
Indeed. What a beautiful place this park is. So when the question was asked about a combination bike and 4WD trip, I threw my hand up and "Me, me, me!"
The task of a permit and planning fell as de facto on me, since I'd put together a trip previously. This was a task that I did not mind in the least. The trip ended up being my bike partner-in-crime Steve and fellow Rising Sun member Terry. With me we were three and so Steve and I basically ran the trip as though Terry was that weird rich uncle who takes the gambling junket to Las Vegas, a position he did not mind too much I wouldn't think. So Steve and I loaded up Imelda to the gills and headed west. We got a very late start on a work night, but we drank lots of Coke and cranked the tunes to stay awake. We pulled off I-70 at Rabbit Valley and put the WilderNest to full advantage, finding a hidden spot just out of view and getting a couple of hours of sleep.
The growth of America's nuclear arms program in the 1950s created a high demand for uranium. Geologists thought that Utah's canyon country contained a significant amount of uranium, but the rugged terrain made access difficult. To encourage prospectors, the Atomic Energy Commission offered monetary incentives and built almost 1,000 miles of road in southeast Utah. In Canyonlands, these roads include the popular White Rim Road at the Island in the Sky.
Though the region produced substantial amounts of uranium, miners discovered very little in what is now Canyonlands. However, the newly created roads led to other discoveries. For the first time, much of Canyonlands could be seen from a car. Tourism slowly increased as more people learned about the area's geologic wonders. By opening canyon county to travel, the miners blazed the trail for the creation of a National Park."
Wednesday we get up and head down to Moab. Sky is clear, air is still. Steve and I stop in town, get some additional ice, top off the gasoline and stop for breakfast at Mondo Cafe. I opt for the cinnamon roll and coffee. Biggest, heaviest cinnamon roll I've ever gotten. Thing must have weighed a pound! I had to eat it in stages, stopping periodically to let it settle. We made it to the Islands in the Sky Visitor's Center at about 9AM and I got us fixed up with the permit while Steve and Terry got aquatinted. Spent the next hour moving stuff around, shuffling and repacking to get it all to fit in the truck. While we are filling out the paperwork for the permit (basically license plates and emergency contacts), one of the rangers comes up and asks the nice lady helping me if this was the Armbruster party. Well, yeah, I know you were waiting for them. Me, I'm confused at this point. The ranger explains that he'd been waiting for us to show up because he went to college with a guy named Earl Armbruster and he was wondering if I'm related. "Nope, but I get that more often than you'd expect with a name like Armbruster." Funny how true that is here in Colorado, I guess the Armbrusters are famous and so far it's always that someone went to law school or knew one as a kid or something. At least it's not that my wife ran away with an Armbruster or that son of a bitch Armbruster stole my money.
Today I was to drive, so the two riders took off while I finished the last tweaks, getting things buttoned up. I caught up to them on UT313 just outside the entrance shack, passed them,
jumped out and snapped a couple of photos. Back on the road and it only took a few minutes to catch back up. I turned down Mineral Bottom Rd. at about 10:30 and immediately encountered a couple of riders with their support truck. Doing it counter clockwise meant seeing groups would be the rule rather than the exception, since most people run the road clockwise. I stopped and talked with the group for a bit. Turns out a couple of them were from Glenwood Springs and the rest from Arkansas. What a fantastic trip for them! I took my leave of them and got free roam of the road, hitting 50, 55 MPH in spots flying down the road, radio up, windy rooster tail behind. So much fun! I made it to the Mineral Bottom switchbacks at about 11:30 and took a few pictures. Another couple stopped not long after I arrived, in a white rental car. I said hello and immediately recognized that they were German tourists. Opportunity to test meine deutschen Lektionen!
"Guten Tag. Wie ist deine Reise?"
"Es ist ein schöner Platz."
"Meine Ferien sind Spaß, danke."
"Deinen Tag genießen."
Apparently I talk like a drunken sailor at Octoberfest with pretzel in his mouth. In other words, a pretty bad accent, though they can understand me. However, their English is slightly broken but certainly miles ahead of my German and they seemed to genuinely appreciate my attempts anyway, even if they seemed surprised and a little weary of such awkward and forward Americans. They took their leave and so I waited for the fellas to arrive, reading a little. When our riders arrived, I helped them top off their water, get a bit to eat and generally just relax. I let them descend first, knowing that I would be much slower than them. Since I was pretty much alone, I stopped to look at the wrecked car near the top of the switchbacks and ended up turning off to see the Mineral Bottom boat launch before heading back over to the National Park boundary. I caught the riders again not far into the park, they were taking a break from the sun behind some rocks. Those same rocks reminded me that I still had my bike on the roof of the truck. CRASH! I hit the handlebars on an overhang, twisting the bars around and generally making a mess of things. Seems no major damage done, though. But I still move the bike to the hitch rack and cross my fingers.
I once again catch the guys at the bottom of the Hardscrabble climb, where I leave them for good on the day. I do stop at the Ft. Bottom trailhead, however I don't have my hiking boots handy and so I decide not to attempt a 1.5 miles, 500 foot climb with only Chaco sandals. I end up heading down to camp and setting up the EZ-Up for shade in preparation for Steve and Terry. Potato Bottom is our first camp and there isn't a lot of relief from the sun and heat down here. Day one ends well, though, with some beers and Steve's awesome salmon dinner. Oh, so good.
"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." -- Capt. John Parker
Last edited by DaveInDenver; 08-26-2010 at 10:16 AM.