2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: First Trail Day
April 03, 2012
I decided to take it easy on my first full day in Moab and get the feel for the place. I'm here a day earlier than I had originally planned, so I'm not pre-registered for a spot on any of the official Easter Jeep Safari guided runs. That's OK. There are umpteen trails to choose from in all directions. I chose a path that would eventually take me to the Island in the Sky district of Cayonlands National Park.
My route up Long Canyon would take me from the Colorado River shoreline to the top of the Island in the Sky Mesa. Imagine driving up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon and you get the idea. In the process I'd be traversing the myriad layers of different sorts of sandstaone that create the dramatic terraced landscape of cliffs, towers, fins and the occasional balanced rock.
Meep! Meep! Free ACME birdseed.
The top of the mesa is at the same level as the top of the highest formation in the distance.
The going is fairly easy in the lower parts of the canyon, where eons of fallen rubble from once-towering cliffs make it easy for roadbuilders.
The trouble with driving alone is there's no one to take any action shots. The upper reaches of Long Canyon, the part where the cliffs get really vertical, contain tight switchbacks and this final slot canyon. This was rough and stepped. It would have been easy to screw up and get stuck, but I was too busy to stop and take pictures.
Once on top it's possible to park right at the edge. This could very well have been one of those overhangs, but I wasn't about to lean over and check. You could parachute from up here.
Those are the snow-capped La Sal mountains in the distance. Closer in is the Fin District, so-named for obvious reasons.
After a few hours in Canyonlands it was time to get back to Moab. I descended back down toward the river via Shafer Canyon Road, a sacry series of five nearly full-lock switchbacks just barely visible in the bowl above. The first starts at the arrow after a lengthy traverse along the edge of the cliff.
This picture, taken halfway down, doesn't begin to do it justice.
After the last bend the road straightens out and reaches a plateau, but this is merely the White Rim, a formation of sandstone that dates back to the Permian era. The White Rim is only the halfway point in our descent to the Colorado River.
The White Rim Jeep Trail starts about 2 miles ahead of me, and it runs clockwise for 103 miles as it encircles the Island in the Sky mesa. It's like being halfway down the Grand Canyon, with awesome views -- and sheer cliffs -- overhead and down below.
I tried out 5 miles of the White Rim road before doubling back and taking Shafer Canyon the rest of the way down. It's rocky, it's slow, and the view is breathtaking. They say White Rim is a 3-day trip by Jeep. Someday I'll be back to see if they're right.
Tomorrow I step things up a notch. I'm paying a visit to Jeep and Mopar, and they have some surprises in store.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,117 miles