Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The White Rim (or How to really understand what the word "DESERT" means)
Well, I promised an update after our backcountry adventure and here it is. We started down the White Rim Road Sunday morning bright and early recently resupplied with 10 extra gallons of gas tied to the roof and no less than 15 gallons of water. The beginning of the road is 35 or so miles from the nearest services of any kind, and from there it's over 100 miles off pavement back to Moab, so this kind of advance preparation is absolutely necessary. You must have all water, food, gas, and shade you will need for four days, and we had it all. The road drops from the Island in the Sky into Shafer canyon via a steep series of scenic switchbacks down to the the next rim. This area is made of a harder rock than the surrounding red sandstone, so it remained relatively intact as the Colorado cut its way into the canyon. This phenomenon creates a second canyon rim of white rock, hence the White Rim. We paralleled the river to the south, but the canyon is so deep and wide that we could only see it at select points. The country is very scenic with huge buttes of red, orange, and black rock, and below pinnacles of various shapes and sizes surround the river. We reached our first campsite a little after noon and pitched the tent. About the time we were finished, we realized that it was getting hot. We set our chairs out in the shade and relaxed, but soon the wind started to howl. It was sustained at least 30 mph with much higher gusts. You might think that wind would help in 100+ degree heat, but this was a hot desert wind. It basically blows dust and sand in your eyes and cakes it all over your body. The next thing we knew the ladder to the tent was moving. We were mildly surprised and decided to anchor it with a rock. A little later, the wind moved both the ladder and the rock! We caught it and added another rock. We figured that 35 lbs. would anchor it just fine. In the meantime, we decided to make a sandwich. In the process of making it, the soft, moist bread became hard and stale like toast. After lunch we learned that we could deal with the heat and the wind if we stayed in the shade and used the truck as a wind block, but just about the time we started to feel the worst was over we hear a crash. We looked up, and the wind had blown the tent completely back on itself in spite of our anchors. At this point all we could do is laugh and right the tent. After sundown the wind finally quit, so we watched the stars for a while. Scorpius rose bright in the south. We figured out how the big dipper actually is a bear, and Sagitarius was riding across the horizon as we turned in. Our second day was the longest driving day. We changed our philosophy a little and started driving at 10 am rather than the early starts we'd been striving for. We reasoned that we should be outside while it's cool and calm and drive during the middle of the day. The scenery only got better on day two with formations so fantastic that they didn't seem real. The southernmost point on the road was a real highlight. The canyons of the Colorado and Green Rivers converge here, and the point offers 360 degree views of the canyon. It's a truly majestic sight to be absolutely surrounded by these canyons. That night we camped near the White Rim with a view of the Green River. The sunset was spectacular at the edge of the canyon. We watched the river slip along through the canyon as cliff swallows wheeled and performed acrobatics in the wind. The sun descended below the opposite rim and left a rainbow of colors on the few clouds in the western sky. Then we woke up early for sunrise and watched the warm morning light bathe the cliffs in pink and orange. The air was calm and it was so quiet you could hear the swallows fly by. We started driving late again and explored a slot canyon on the way to our final campsite. Occasional rains had carved an extremely narrow canyon into the White Rim to reach to the river. Patterns in the rock revealed where the water swirls, and the inside feels like a smooth slide. We followed the Green River often right at its side to our turnoff into Taylor Canyon. Five miles up this canyon we camped looking up to rock pinnacles called Moses and Zeus. We arrived at camp around midday again, and there was no shade to be found, so we hid from the sun under a rock for about an hour until we could strategically position the truck to give us sufficient shade. It was another hot afternoon, but that night it began to get cloudy and windy. We looked back down the canyon and saw rain falling from the dark clouds like fingers of mist reaching down, but the rain never hit the ground. The air sucked the moisture, and the raindrops evaporated before they ever reached the earth. It was really a dissappointment. The next morning we broke camp to return to Moab, looking forward to a shower and anywhere they serve icewater. The drive back was uneventful other than a warning light on our dash. We called our friends at Land Rover and they told us to go to the nearest dealer, so we spent the afternoon taking the truck to Glenwood Springs, where we are now waiting for news on what caused the problem. It's been a busy few days, but we've really enjoyed them.