Saturday, May 23, 2015

moab in may: hiking (pt. 2)

On Saturday, after our MTBing at Dead Horse Point State Park, we opted for a non-park hike: out to the Jewel Tibbetts Arch on BLM land, outside of Canyonlands NP.  One of H's coworkers had told us about it and we were able to find it on our map, which was good since the sign on the road was tiny and easily missed.

Wash emptying into Hell Roaring Canyon

We drove in on a sandy two-track road about 1.3 miles to a small trailhead, then did an approximately two mile loop out to Hell Roaring Canyon and the arch, named after a rancher's wife.  The trail, faint but well-marked with cairns, wound its way through sagebrush meadows, dry washes and slickrock ledges, coming out at a dramatic canyon overlook.  We had all that spectacular scenery to ourselves too.

Jewel Tibbetts Arch

Sunday was our last day and we determined to make the most of it.  We loaded up the car and headed out after breakfast, driving down Kane Creek Boulevard which goes down the Colorado River on the opposite bank from the Potash Road.  The Moab Rim trail parking lot was full so we took a spot off to the side at the mostly empty Kings Bottom Campground just down the road.  I was ambivalent about hiking the Moab Rim trail since it is a motorized access trail, and sharing with ATVs and Jeeps seemed less than appetizing.  There was even a group of small rock-crawlers heading up there ahead of us, about ten of them.  But once I saw what they were driving up, how steep and crazy it was and how slowly they were going, I was psyched for it.

H walking out from Hell Roaring Canyon

The first part of the trail is a steep slickrock climb, about a mile long, perched on the edge of a cliff and peppered with stairs and ledges.  We passed a stranded Jeep about a third of the way up, chock stones under its wheels and a note on the windshield saying, "Broken.  Gone for parts. DON'T TOUCH."  It took us thirty minutes to complete the climb which well-earned its local nickname of the "Moab Stairmaster."

So, people drive their Jeeps up these stairs

Once at the top, we continued along the road/trail, pausing to watch three big rock-crawlers make their way through a series of giant pot holes and seemingly vertical ascents.  As we continued over sandstone ridges and whalebacks, we saw three other ATVs and met that large group of small crawlers as they were coming back down from the Hidden Valley overlook at the end of the motorized portion of the trail (you can continue on foot but it's too long without a shuttle at the other end).  Every single driver and passenger had huge grins on their faces; one of them shouted to us, "This is the best trail!"  Other than that, we really had the trail to ourselves, which was an unexpected treat.

Note the tire marks - and so steep I had to put my hands down

Because it was sprinkling, we took the shorter path to the overlook, then headed out, this time over "Sand Hill" and down through a sandy wash.  When we got back to the stranded Jeep perched on the slickrock ramp, a repair party was in full swing: five other Jeeps with winches, parts, tools, music, water, girlfriends and sandwiches.  They got it fixed (a steering gear issue) and when we got back to our truck, we were able to watch them slowly, carefully, painstakingly make their way down the rock.  It looked terrifying and I was so glad to have done it on my own two feet.

View towards Canyonlands from Moab Rim trail

We were glad to have done it in general: solitude, scenery and entertainment - the Moab Rim trail has it all and was a great last hike for our weekend.  What a fantastic trip.  We can't wait to get back to Moab.

Looking at the Colorado River from the Moab Rim trail

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