Friday, October 02, 2015

Slickrocks, Domes, Bowls, Fins, And Things

Above is our chariot - the Arctic Cat Wildcat Side-by-Side UTV - that carried us through the dirt and over the rocks during our adventure in Moab, Utah.

We were told by the UTV rental place, that we'd enter the trail over what they call a "fin".  A fin is just what it sounds like - a pinnacle shaped rock that looks like a shark fin.  It juts upward - and if you can imagine the shark swimming past you, with its head going left and its tail following, rather than seeing the fin from the front, you're seeing it from the side - you'll be going over it from the side.

So when we got to the trailhead, our first climb was up and over a fin. Which, maybe to make it easier to understand, is like 20-foot high speed bump. Once we got over the fin, this below was our path - a skinny strip of rock, as wide as the vehicle, that we had to traverse. There was a drop on either side and the dark tracks you see are made from thousands of tires, the "path" if you will, that one follows all throughout the park when climbing over rock.  

We were in the Sand Flats Recreation Area of Moab, Utah.  This was one of the scenes - miles of rocks and dirt, just waiting to be explored.
According to the Sand Flats website, Sand Flats is a “high plain of slickrock domes, bowls and fins, it rises in the east to meet the colorful mesas and nearly 13,000 foot peaks of the La Sal Mountains.” Their “famous Slickrock and Porcupine Rim bike trails, and almost 40 miles of jeep trails are world-renowned for their combination of challenge and awesome scenery. Sand Flats is also popular for camping. Approximately 150,000 visitors enjoy this 9,000 acre recreation area annually.”
Here's a picture of me, the passenger, waiting to continue my adventure.  I have to say, this little dune buggy UTV thingy was quite comfortable. We have a cooler strapped to the back - provided by the rental company - that, after the fact, we realized really wasn't stocked with enough water (or anything else, for that matter) were we to get into a 127 Hours situation.
This is part of the Slickrock Bike Trail, which was in the area we were exploring. I can't believe these guys are actually pedaling up these hills and over these rocks. I will say, however, that the bike trail seemed to be marked a whole lot better than the jeep trails.
One of the vehicles we came across was a Hummer carrying about 8 passengers. It was coming down the hill we were getting ready to go up. It may not look like much of a hill from the photo below, but it was a doozy.
This is what it looked like going up.  Our vehicle was almost vertical, climbing this hill without effort. I was absolutely amazed at how this vehicle handled. I really had no idea. None at all. I couldn't believe how it just pulled us up, tires gripping the rock, all the while feeling solid and secure, and oddly, safe. Although I'm sure that had more to do with my confidence in Ed's ability, than the machine.
We took a trail called Hell's Revenge - one I later learned was "not a suitable place to learn basic skills", after I read the Safety Tips for Backcountry Travel brochure.  Probably should have done that first.

When we got to the top of Hell's Revenge, there was a lookout area where you could view the Colorado River snaking through the plateau. 

To reiterate the warning about Hell's Revenge - the Bureau of Land Management website says, "Hell’s Revenge consists of a six and one half mile roller coaster ride across the slickrock fins east of the town of Moab. It is extremely difficult, and recommended only for very experienced drivers with advanced equipment." Or, two idiots with a few hours to kill.

We did not take one of the more advanced trails, which looked like this:

If you're familiar with snow-skiing terms or trails, this area is full of moguls. Here they're made of rock, not snow. Very steep, very dangerous.  Ed came across a few guys who had attempted this trail who found themselves flipped over at the bottom of it.

Their jeep got oil in the cylinders as it sit prone in its flipped position, and after they righted it, they had to clean the oil out of them. That's where Ed found them, at the top of the mogul trail - one of the other jeep drivers used a winch to pull it up so they could get it going again.

In this photo that Ed snapped, you can see me (tinier than I've ever looked) standing at the top of the rock with the UTV. The couple below, sitting on the rock, were from Colorado.  They were with the guy's parents, and had been here before so gave us some pointers. They were traveling in two jeeps, and apparently did this kind of thing often.  
On our way out - which was really impossible to determine since the map was essentially a big red line drawn in a squiggly oval on a terrain drawing - we followed a few jeeps. They looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going.
Turns out they had no idea where they were going - this was their first time here too.
Our map was marked with a series of X's that indicated it was part of the trail we weren't supposed to go on.  Somehow, we wound up on that trail.  I kept telling Ed, "This is not the way we came in.  These rocks don't look familiar."

Don't ask me how I know they weren't the same rocks, I just did.  I'm a landmark driver and I may not know the name of a street or highway, but I know whether I'd been there before or not. And, contrary to what the brochure and website say, the Hell's Revenge trail IS NOT "clearly marked". I think I saw two yellow flame symbols the entire time, which is what we were supposed to be following.

The trail out was horrible. Rocky and with no rhyme or reason to it. We were getting a little stressed out because we had to have the machine back to the rental shop by 5:30 and it was almost 5. When we got past the washed out rock trail, this was one of our last descents.

It was like being at the top of a roller coaster looking down. Straight down.

You can see our little shadow there on the left. I held on as Ed crept down the hill at a snail's pace. I held my breath through most of the ride. I only started to breathe a little easier when we got over the last ridge and I saw the town below. 

We made it out to the main road with enough time to get back to the shop.  I let out a full sigh.

Which is when Ed sighed deeply and said, "Boy, am I relieved."

I said, "Why?"

"Well, for a minute there I thought we were lost and we weren't going to get out of here in time."


The entire time he acted like the picture of confidence, like he had everything under control, like he knew exactly where he was, even though I held the map. What the hell??

That's Ed, though, cool as a cucumber under any kind of stress, pressure, or uncertainty.

Never let 'em see you sweat.

This was definitely an experience, and even though it was completely out of my comfort zone, I'd probably be open to doing it again.

Except next time I'll be packing a change of clothes, enough food and water for a week, my GPS system, and hiking boots instead of Keds

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Have Another Piece Of Cake

2013: I Was Searching For Leather Goods And Found Something To Dream About
2012: Tomatoes Under Glass
2011: The Best Seat In The House
2010: Countdown To Pisa
2009: Eddie Goes Waaaay South Friday
2008: Port Of Long Beach
2007: Layers Of History
2006: Would I Be Cheesy If I Said I Wanted To Drive THIS Rig??
2005: Paper Glow


dlg said...

Beautiful pictures and no doubt an amazing experience!

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Mr Hummer said...

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