The 100 + mile White Rim Road loops around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top and provides expansive views of the surrounding area.
Part of the group, which included Marian Johns, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Glenn Shaw, Ron Lipari and Mignon Slentz met up at Hackberry, AZ. From there, we proceeded to Flagstaff and then headed north on 89 and east on 160 to camp at Navajo National Monument where we spent a pleasant, cooler evening. Next morning before departing, we stopped at the Visitor’s Center and took a short hike on the Sandal trail to view the distant Anasazi ruins of Betatakin.
On our drive through Monument Valley, we stopped at Gouldings for a quick “look – see”and then on to Moab, Utah to locate a campsite at Upper Drinks on the Colorado River and meet up with the other participants which included Mal Roode and Ellen and Nelson Miller. Maps and books were purchased at the Visitor’s Center along with refreshments at a nearby establishment. Sunday morning, gassed and watered, we headed out to begin our great adventure.
At Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center, we checked in with the Ranger. After showing our permits and READING THE RULES (we had to sign that we actually read the rules), he printed up passes for our 6 vehicles. Before descending the notorious Shafer Trail, we drove the 10 mile mesa top road leading to spectacular overlooks and hiked a short loop to Mesa Arch for a group photo.
The White Rim Road and Plateau were both named after a thin but very hard layer of White Rim Sandstone that was deposited some 225 million years ago. Millions of years later, new softer layers of shale, mudstone and sandstone were deposited over it. Then after the Colorado and Green Rivers were formed, the softer layers began to erode away. This action resulted in the formation of a wide, flat bench of desert, The White Rim Plateau, that now lies between the river gorges below and the mesa tops above.
Before camping for the first night, we descended into Lathrop Canyon on a rugged 4 mile side trip to the Colorado River and a chance for a refreshing swim. Next morning, Washer Woman Arch and Monster Tower were visible as we started out and caused several jokes to circulate via the CB. All along the road, we made many stops to admire the breathtaking views and snap photos. At some places we could look up at the mesa top and see rows of tourists looking down.
Our most eventful night was while we were camped at White Crack. We had been watching the clouds and rain in the distance. As the rain approached, we closed car windows, folded chairs, put on rain flys and covered items with tarps and rocks. Then the 60 mph wind struck. The three tents had to be held down until the blast carrying the sand and rain drops died down. Ron’s tent pole snapped and he, along with Ellen and Glenn had a sleepless night in their tents as the wind, rain and lightning continued. We heard in the morning via Mal’s radio the tragedy of lives lost in the flash floods. Water-filled potholes dotted the landscape next morning. When the sun was right, the water holes sparkled like jewels.
Murphy Hogback, our next camp, was tucked into protective nooks of pinyon and boulders. From there we took several walks to check out the 360- degree view from the rim. The view of the road we would continue on next morning stretched out in the distance, but started with a very steep descent under overhanging rocks.
Most of the other vehicles, motorcycles and bicyclists, we met, were traveling the opposite direction, leading us to believe that maybe we were going the more difficult way. However, one group of bicyclists we met up with several times during the last days of the trip was absolutely unbelievable. The family was visiting from Ecuador and consisted of the mom, dad and two daughters age 1 and 3. The parents each rode a bicycle pulling a trailer behind. We all shared snacks with them at a lunch stop while the husband went to retrieve water along a trail he had previous stashed on a hike down from the mesa. The little girls were pretty happy with the M&Ms Glenn offered them.
We met up with the same family again at Potato Bottoms, as we were sitting down to dinner and invited them to join us and camp nearby. We were next to the Green River and some of us took the opportunity for a swim and the use of a solar shower.
Our last day in Canyonlands was spent trying to locate several points of interest. We hiked partway to some ruins at Fort Bottom, but decided not to tackle the whole trail. We enjoyed watching the kayaks and canoes float by far below us on the Green River and all agreed that was something we would like to do. Back in our parked vehicles, we couldn’t help but notice how narrow the continuing road, aptly named Hardscrabble, looked as it hung to the edge of the cliff. There was no room for passing traffic, so vehicles watched our progress from far below and waited their turn.
That afternoon we hiked to an 1836 rock inscription that was made by Denis Julien, a French-Canadian trapper. He was the first white man of record to navigate Cataract Canyon and the lower reaches of the Green River.
The last night of the trip was spent just outside the Park’s boundaries in a sandy wash where we were able to have our only campfire while enjoying a delicious spaghetti dinner prepared previously by Jean Roode and served by Mal. Friday morning we drove out of the canyon on Mineral Road and navigated its several switchbacks, and parted ways near the city of Green River, Utah. Special thanks to Bob and Ron for leading and securing permits and for all the wonderful dinners we all shared.