In the last issue I related how I got started off-roading and ended up with my first off-road vehicle, a 1976 F-150. Now that I had four-wheel drive and was learning how much more capable they are, I was looking for more remote places to go camping the more remoter the better. I had been car camping in the southern Vermont area for a number of years. The campsites available to my car were several miles from a lake, and the campsites are closer together than the houses were where I grew up!
One thing I did like about camping with the truck instead of the Volkswagen rabbit was how much stuff I could bring. After I loaded the truck with all the camping gear that I normally took in the rabbit I had a lot of extra room, so I filled it up with stuff. I guess that would be one of the 10 laws of vehicle camping, no matter what size vehicle you use… you will fill it up, and want more space!
By the second year (1988) I was ready to expand the plowing business, and so I purchased my first Jeep. I used the Jeep in the first snowstorm, and sold the truck. Ah, remember the law about camping and vehicle size! I was really surprised when I found out that my Jeep Wrangler did not hold as much camping gear as my Volkswagen Rabbit.
I started going out trying to find new remote camping areas. Places that I wouldn't be able to hike to and couldn't drive a car to. I found a place at the north end of a lake. It was everything the doctor had ordered. Access to the lake, a bubbling brook, and no people. The road had very little use, it was about a mile long and followed the brook that led to the lake. The road was pretty flat, some rocks, some mud (have I told you I hate mud) and one mud pit! The trip down to this campsite takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 15 hours, depending on Mother Nature. Once I spent 8 hours at the mud pit. I got through in my Jeep, my friend Ron in a F150 used a little to much gas and dug himself in. I think his right front tire was so deep it was pulling up rice! This was before I had a winch (a little Jeep has a hard time pulling a BIG pickup truck out of a Mud hole) but we made it! The campsite was fantastic; from the tent I can cast out my fishing line and reel the trout in. In all the time I have been there I have never seen anybody else. Oh did I mention this lake has loons!!
I was pretty new to this off-road stuff. I didn't know there were 4x4 clubs, there was a lot I didn't know. Since I only went out alone or with one friend, between us there was a lot we didn't know. I don't recall that I even knew about mud tires. I started learning a whole lot more when I went out with people that knew what they were doing (I'll be getting to that later).
I started reading off road magazines they have a lot of magazine space devoted to Jeeping out West. And in particular everybody seemed to be excited about MOAB. To make a long story short I got a job that required me to drive a small utility trailer (loaded with an RPV (remotely piloted vehicle) in this case, a radio controlled airplane with a 14 foot wingspan to test the pollutants that ICBM rocket motors produce.) Out to Salt Lake City. I would be out in that area for about two weeks. Looking at the map I noticed that MOAB was only about four hours away from where I was going to be working. I thought oh boy, I can tow the trailer out with the Jeep, do my job and take a couple of weeks of vacation and check out what all these magazines are talking about. I even signed up for "Hole in the Rock" Jeep jamboree.
The trip out to Salt Lake City was rather uneventful, in that between Boston and Salt Lake I did not have an opportunity to try any four-wheeling. I did however see quite a bit of the USA. And contrary to popular belief Kansas is not flat! Indiana and Illinois, now that's flat! Some of those grain elevators are huge! You can see them from more than 12 miles away.
I did have opportunities to do some mild exploring. If I got into an area that was interesting I would get off the highway and go down the road less traveled. Eastern Colorado is not only flat but without irrigation it's a desert. Here is where I ran into my first encounter with what I think were fire ants. The more established ant hills were maybe 2 feet across, all vegetation for about 3 feet around them was gone. Now this is why I think they were fire ants, boy did they hurt when they bit! And 20 minutes later it felt like you had been burned by a cigarette. By the next day you had a hole in your skin! By the way magpies in real life are not the magpies in Heckle & Jeckle cartoons, the ones in real life are in much prettier.
Okay with part of my job done I headed down to MOAB. Some of the magazines I have gave club contact information. Ber Knight, was the information officer for the Red Rock 4 Wheelers. There are two main ways to get to MOAB from the north. One way is Route 191 and the other is Route 128. Ber told me to come down Route 128, “its a much prettier ride”. He would meet me at the car wash at the south end of MOAB at 9 a.m. I left Salt Lake at 5 a.m. the trip down to MOAB goes through mountains and valleys and forests and desert all in about four hours. But the really amazing part starts just north of MOAB at Route 128. The map shows the road connects with the Colorado River and follows it to MOAB. You start off with scruffy, hilly, bumpy desert type of plateau. In the distance you can see where the ground rises like it was tilted, with a channel is cut into the rising plateau. And behind that you can see some snow-covered mountains rising above the plateau. When you get to the river you cross over on a bridge, it's then that you realize you are entering a canyon! The sandstone is in tilted layers of tan, white and red.
As the road winds along the edge of the river the canyon continues to rise higher and higher above you. The different layers of sandstone emerge from the ground and rise up at an angle, higher and higher the further south you go. While the layers are at an angle the sides of the canyon are, Impossibly vertical. The lower third of the cliffs are a jumble of rock that has broken off. You better watch out on this road while the scenery is fantastic the road is unforgiving. This is not an East Coast road, you have a sheer wall of rock rising on your left and on your right sheer drop off into a raging river and no guardrail!
My first trip out I took over 360 Pictures! Every time you went around a corner it was another “O my God” take another picture! I finally got to Moab about 9:30 a.m. Ber gave my Jeep a quick look. I had a stock 1991 Jeep Wrangler with 30” tires. He said, “are you going to disconnect your sway bar" I said why, Ber said “it will give you more wheel articulation. And let some air out of your tires ”. I got my tools out disconnected the front sway bar and let some air out of the tires. Ber asked me where I wanted to go. "I don't know you know the area, someplace with a view". “Well” Ber said “lots of people want to do Hell's Revenge Trail it has a lot of slickrock that you don't get back East”. With the CB on channel 4, we headed to the trail. WOW! WOW! WOW! More to come!