Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shafer trail -- or There's No Turning Back

For those following this blog you don't get to see what the last picture of the last blog really is unless you take the time to guess. We will email a copy to Michelle as she was the only one to try and guess.

Last week we decided to visit Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky section) all in one day. We started early, took a lunch and headed out. From Arches to Canyonlands is only 33 miles (remember this distance).

At the State Park we enjoyed some amazing views down into the canyon and wow what a sight. While at the point we noticed a dirt road 1500' below us with a jeep running down it. If you look closely you will see parts of the road. Now look in the top right corner and you can see that the road looks like it ends at the base of the cliffs.

Don't be fooled. As you will see in some of the following pictures, it does not end there.

We headed to Canyonlands and this looks back over the valley toward Moab with Dead Horse Point State Park at the left, on top.

This is another shot looking back toward the State Park and there is that road down in the valley again, but looking the other direction. This road is the Shafer Trail, a former cattle and later a uranium mining road.

Heading back home to Arches we decided to try and see if we could make it down the 1500' cliff and find our way back on a "4 wheel drive jeep road". We started out at the top and the road took us about 3 miles on a narrow gravel road the was pretty level.
Then we realized there was no turning back as the road turned to a one lane road with no chance to turn around. We dropped 1500' in about 2 miles with switchbacks so sharp we had to back-up to get around the corners (and prayed we wouldn't meet another car, checking constantly below for vehicles coming up).

Check out this picture close and you will see one rig going up and one down trying to find a space to pass. We did the same thing on our trip down (did have one vehicle pass when we were in a "wide" space, luckily).

There are 4 bicycles on the lower section, and they will pass the truck before they get to the bottom.

When we finally got to the bottom, Dick was able to pry his fingers off the steering wheel to get a picture looking back at what we just came down. You can see the little white dot in the middle of what looks like a slide area; that's the truck that was going up the hill.

Now that we are at the bottom it should be a piece of cake to get back to Arches, NOT... Remember this is a 4 wheel drive, high clearance road and we still have a long way to go and it's going to get dark in a couple of hours.
When we could find the road, it was still up and down rocks. We had to watch every turn to make sure we could get in and out of the washes. At one point we lost the road and ended up going down the center of a wash that still was running with water!

The road was the worst that we have ever been on but the views here exceeded both of our expectations. At times we could look down onto the Colorado river. Even after dropping the 1500' we found that the river was another 1000' below us.

As we got closer to the end of this road we continued to view sights that we could not believe existed. The sun was getting low and the red hills started to glow.

Nature's erosion created sights that make you want to just sit and stare for hours.

The wall in the center of the picture looks like it was only about 20' thick. Not sure we would want to try and walk the top edge.

As you can tell by us posting this blog we finally made it to a paved road and then back to Arches. It took us over 2 1/2 hours and when we got back we realized we had traveled 33 miles. It took us about 1/2 hour to get there (33 miles) and 2 1/2 hours to get home (33 miles).
Would we do it again? NO
But was it worth it? DEFINITELY
To be continued...


Debbie said...

Wow- sounds crazy but well worth the trip. It's like your blog post is a specific example of that saying "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey". The scenery is amazing! I love the second photo. Miss you guys!

Ray Rocks said...

What a wonderful trip and great pics.

Deanna said...

I can't believe the crazy stuff you guys get yourselves into! I hope you have some emergency supplies in that truck (NOT jeep) of yours in case you do ever get stuck! And I hope your insurance agent doesn't read this blog!

Anonymous said...

may the blessing be with you.........................................