Upon returning to Moab our first order of business was to ride one of the newer trails there – Navajo Rocks. First opened in 2014, Navajo Rocks is a network of almost 20 miles of trails. And it’s fabulous.
I read this interview with Conrad Anker, and in it he described the three types of fun. Type I fun is something that’s fun to do and fun to talk about afterward, like going to the movies. Type III is fun while you’re doing it but not afterward, like drinking too much and having a hangover the next day.
While we sleep in the roof top tent, the dogs spend each night in the back of the truck. They don’t seem to mind – in fact, they readily jump up there (well, Bailey does. Elvis gets carried) as soon as the sun goes down.
Before we go to bed I try to them out for one last potty break. But last night neither one of the dogs would budge. This meant, of course, that they were both awake and whining before dawn.
For once that was a good thing.
Such a beautiful place! It’s hard to take a bad photo here. It’s even harder to stop taking photos here. Eventually Michael got up and set about making breakfast.
Whenever I try this move, whatever’s in the pan… ends up all over the floor. I guess that’s why he’s the chef.
After eating we packed up and drove through the rest of Valley of the Gods. It was amazing, but I have to tell you the best views were from our campsite.
The 17-mile road through Valley of the Gods is not a loop. So when we ended our tour at the west entrance, we had two options:
- Take the highway back through a town called Mexican Hat, and then north back towards Moab.
- Drive the Moki Dugway.
We took the Moki Dugway. With a name like that, how could we not?
It’s a road, by the way – a dirt road that gains 1100 feet in about 3 miles in a series of hairpin turns. Because of the elevation change, this road sports some pretty steep dropoffs – and no guardrails.
For those of you wondering where this road got its name: a dugway is dirt road that is dug out of the mountainside. The Moki Dugway was built by a uranium mining company in the 1950s as the fastest way to get from nearby Fry Canyon to Mexican Hat. And “moki” comes from the Spanish moqui, a name given to Native Americans by Spanish explorers in the 1700s.
I found this link that gives a great description of the Dugway, plus some really great pictures of the road itself, since I forgot to take any.
Then there’s this YouTube video, which makes the Dugway sound so scary I’m amazed we survived.
But we did, and here’s the view from the top:
Yeah, it’s quite a view up there.
I must have tempted fate in not being afraid of the Moki Dugway. Because for us, the real adventure came later on in the day.
After leaving the Needles District of Canyonlands NP, we headed south to another area I’d been longing to see again: Valley of the Gods.
Owned by the Bureau of Land Management, there are no trails at Valley of the Gods. It’s strictly a driving/camping tour. Think of it as the free alternative to Monument Valley.
It was a nice drive south, although not as scenic as the road that led to Canyonlands. We arrived with plenty of time to find a nice place to set up the tent.
We also had plenty of time for me to get out my dobro, practice, and ask Michael to take some pictures of me. He politely obliged.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and it sure was sweet to play under such an open sky.
The dogs had been cooped up for a few hours during the drive, so we loaded up to take them for a sunset walk.
I was also able to get some beautiful sunset shots, like this one:
There are no campfires allowed at Valley of the Gods, which was a bummer. But it allowed for me to try out something new: starry night photography. Valley of the Gods is one of those places with truly dark skies – it’s miles from anywhere. It also wasn’t as cold as Moab, since we were further south. I took a ton of pictures.
Unfortunately, most of them turned out like this:
If I left the camera on autofocus, it wouldn’t focus at all. And on manual, when I tried to manually focus… well, the above was the usual result.
This was the most usable photo.
That’s Orion the Hunter on the right. I wish I knew what I did to make this one turn out! Guess I have some research to do.
Next post: sunrise at Valley of the Gods. For once I was happy the dogs woke me up before the sun!
It’s funny how so few people seem to have heard of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Honestly, it’s fine by me – it means less crowds. But I kinda wish people would stop passing it by. During my hike here, I just could not stop smiling. This place is so beautiful!
See, the deal with Canyonlands is that it’s divided into three “districts,” or areas.
- Island in the Sky is north of Moab, and really, just down the road from Arches NP. All the trails there are nice and high up, giving incredible views.
- The Maze is probably the least accessible district, at 3-6 driving hours from anywhere. Even the NP’s website basically tells you not to go: Four-wheel-drive roads in the Maze are extremely difficult, present considerable risk of vehicle damage, and should not be attempted by inexperienced drivers. A high-clearance, low range, four-wheel-drive vehicle is required for all Maze backcountry roads. (Here’s the Link to that statement.)
- And that brings us to The Needles. All the hikes here are basically on the valley floor, or close to it. So you get to hike inbetween these cool fins, needles, and other amazing rock formations. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Moab.
Here’s an example of what you see in the Needles District:
We hiked on the Joint Loop trail, which quickly descends down to the valley floor.
Everywhere I looked were the most amazing sights. Photos just begging to be taken.
I love this next one so much, I made it the screen background on my laptop:
So, we didn’t get to hike the entire 11-mile Joint Loop Trail. Partly because of our late departure time. But mostly because I was taking so many damn pictures that we ended up moving at about 1 mile/hour. There’s only so long we can leave the dogs in the truck.
The time I spent on this trail was totally worth it.
The sun continued to shine on us here in the desert, so we packed up camp and headed for the KlonZo trailhead. Located just east of the Sovereign Trail, this network of trails was created in 2012 and is just for mountain bikers.
Michael has ridden KlonZo before but this was a new trail for me. There’s a pretty good map at the BLM website. Super fun! And considering as how it was my first mountain bike ride of 2016, I was super proud of myself.
Michael went back out for Round 2 (there are north and south loops at KlonZo), and I hung out with the dogs at the trailhead. That’s about the time when I realized that I’d left Elvis’s medication at home. Dammit. It’s arthritis medication, so it’s not life threatening, but still. He needs it. Especially since he was about to be super-active for the next 8 days.
So when we headed into Moab, while looking over the cool stuff at Poison Spider Bicycles, I looked up all the veterinarians in Moab. There are exactly two. One said they couldn’t prescribe medication without actually seeing the animal. But the other was game, so Michael called up our vet and had them fax over Elvis’s prescription.
One more adventure with dogs. Luckily this one did not involve poop.
Eventually we started our drive south towards towards the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. I haven’t been in this area since 1999. In fact, I thought I’d never get back.
Our plan was to head down a BLM road that was on my map, and find a place to camp. We found the road with no problem. The first site we passed looked cool, but didn’t have a fire ring, so we kept going. As we passed this little two-track Michael said, “I bet there’s something cool down there,” and pulled in.
We drove down this little road for about a 1/2 mile. At some point (maybe about 100 feet?) we crossed private property, before getting back on to BLM land. And then – there was something cool down there, all right:
An established fire ring, a bundle of firewood, and this view across the valley:
I mean, damn. Never in a million years did I think we’d score such a beautiful campsite, completely free. Thank you BLM!
In the morning I took even more pictures:
And we had it all to ourselves.
I was sad to pack up and leave, but it was time to go to Canyonlands!
Here’s my view on the RTT so far: it’s awesome, but not perfect. I love how roomy it is, how comfortable it is, and we can have it set up in 10 minutes. Breakdown takes a little longer right now. (I’m sure we’ll get faster.) But here’s the thing: once the tent is set up, we’re can’t move the truck… without breaking down the tent first. So the RTT decreases our mobility slightly. It’s not a dealbreaker or anything, just something to get used to.
Next post: set your eyes to stun, because the Needles District is heavenly.
We’ve made the decision to travel with our dogs whenever possible. Since Michael and I are the outdoorsy types, it’s fun to plan our travels with them in mind.
Sometimes they are the monkey in the wrench, though.
We set out for Moab on a bright, sunny Monday morning.
Everything was going great. Made it over Vail Pass with no problems. But then, we pulled into Grand Junction. Specifically into the parking lot of the Grand Junction Qdoba. I opened up the back to get the dogs, take them for a potty break, and found the back of the truck pretty much covered. In. Poop.
It was everywhere. On the cooler, smeared into the carpet and both of the dogs’ sleeping bags.
No Qdoba for us. We loaded the dogs back up and drove to the nearest car wash. I took them for a walk while Michael unloaded everything out of the back – including the storage platform, which comes out in 3 pieces – and went to work with a power washer. Luckily this place also had a wet/dry vac, so the carpet on the storage platform came out clean and fairly dry.
We had to toss the sleeping bags. Which meant we had to replace them with something, as we knew it was going to get chilly during our time in Moab. I guess I really am thankful for smartphones sometimes, because Michael used his to look up Grand Junction’s Salvation Army. Driving there we came across a pickup loaded full of stuff, surrounded by 3 cop cars and twice as many cops. There was a man sitting on the tailgate with his hands cuffed behind his back and for some reason his attire sticks in my memory: black jeans. Black leather jacket. No shirt. One of Grand Junction’s most upstanding citizens, I’m sure. He didn’t look particularly worried.
Anyway – we found the Salvation Army a few blocks later. It took us all of five minutes to find 2 kid-sized sleeping bags and go on our merry way.
This was our setup along Willow Springs Road, just outside Moab:
The addition you see is called the Annex. It came with our tent. It has a bathtub floor and boy were we glad we took the time to set it up – even thought the initial set up was a total PITA and took forever. See, it rained sideways all Monday night. And Tuesday morning. (Actually, this is also why I’m really glad we found those sleeping bags for the dogs.) All the stuff we stored in the annex? Totally dry. Just like us in the tent. I wasn’t expecting to try out the waterproofness of that tent so quickly, but I’m happy to say it passed with flying colors.
The sun finally came out Tuesday afternoon. Nothing like the desert in springtime!
Things were a bit chilly, even after the rain left – but Michael still cooked me an amazing dinner while I photographed the dogs.
Stay tuned for more adventures – more great stories to come (none of them involve poop) and I’ll go into greater detail about the pros and cons of our setup.