Moab Utah USA.



This is the second trip report from your roving club members, the Hall family. When we decided to come to the USA I had two Four Wheel Driving things I wanted to do. Firstly to run the Rubicon: something that I may be doing in July; and secondly to run the trails around Moab, Rock crawling central USA. With the help of the Solihull society I have just had the chance to start satisfying my second wish, visit Moab. Moab is located in Utah and has a population of 6,600 people. Its elevation is 4,021 feet above sea level and for those club members who are into GPS its co-ordinates are Lat 300 35N Long 1090 33W


Each year the Solihull Society runs an annual rally somewhere in the USA. The rally normally has over 100 vehicles participating from all parts of mainland USA. This year the event is to be held from the 12th 14th September. This trip, being 25th 27th April, was to be a reconnaissance weekend for the various trip leaders to come out and run the trails as a precursor to the September event. I was fortunate enough to convince Trish to work from home for 3 days and look after the kids, Alex and Connor, so I could tag along with this trip. Moab is basically a 7-hour drive West from Denver, approximately 45 miles into Utah and 30 miles south off the I 70 highway. As most of you are probably aware Utah is the home of the Mormons, polygamy and the 2002 Winter Olympics. I am not sure if I met any Mormons, I missed the Olympics and the closest I came to polygamy was trying out the Polygamy Beer brewed locally [Polygamy tasted fine but do not tell my wife].


Day 1. Kane Creek Canyon


Kane Creek Canyon is the easiest of the Hardtrails around Moab and its districts being on the borderline of medium to difficult. It is recommended for standard 4Wds with under vehicle protection, minor suspension upgrades and decent tires. I agree with this assessment although I also consider that experienced drivers need to be in the group to assist people through the hardest sections.


This trail winds back and forth along Kane Creek Canyon with many creek crossings. Most of the crossings were very shallow, although this would be a result of the lack of rain in the area. If there were a lot of rain the first section would be extremely hard to complete.


The trail took us about 4 hours including a leisurely lunch break. The start of the trail is located approximately 12 miles heading west out of Moab. To get to Kane Creek trail we had to drive along most of Hurrah Pass, which is classified as an easy trail in the Moab area. It is a wide dirt road most of the way although it becomes a little rougher towards the end. A normal sedan can take this trail with confidence. It has some nice scenery along the way with many Indian Petroglyphs to be found.


Trip Participants


David Dye and Julie                Range Rover        1992        

David & Heidi Nowakowski                Discovery        1997

Mark & Paula Handlovich                Jeep Wrangler        2001

Larry & Carrie Grubbs                Range Rover         1990

James Shackelford & Austin Molegi        Discovery         1995

Nick Weede                Discovery        2000

Yours truly                Range Rover         1988        


Mark and Paula should be commended as they chose this occasion to leave their 8-month-old son, Dylan, for the very first time and get away for a romantic few days of four wheel driving. What better way to spend your time!


David & Heidi volunteered to be the trip photographers, guaranteeing to take at least 400 shots over the weekend. This sounds worse than it is as they were using a digital camera and took most of the photos that accompany this report [I took a few just to be different].


We had headed out from Moab to link in with Kane Creek track and at the trail head ran into Nick Weede. Nick was not part of the original trip, however had recently retired and had driven over from Chicago Illinois [a 24 hour drive] to start his retirement. Apparently he had just joined the club and hoped to catch up with us and tour around. How lucky can 1 person get to pick the right track, the right day, right time and meet us. One of the reasons that Nick could meet up with us was that he had started the Kane Creek track however had to turn back due to an abandoned Toyota FJ 40 blocking one of the creek crossings. Luckily we were able to find a safe and convenient route around the obstacle.


On the first major obstacle Mark & Paula's Jeep almost rolled. To recover he connected his winch cable to car in front and slowly bought his wheels back onto the ground and slowly drove through the obstacle. He was the only vehicle to end up on the end of recovery equipment that day. All Land Rovers made it through without recovery.


Part way along the trail we all stopped for Lunch by the side of the track near a waterfall that was part of a small picturesque stream running through the center of the canyon.


After about 12 miles we came across 2 horseback riders who took great delight in watching us overcome a tricky stepped rock ledge area. It was made harder as we had to cross a small creek then do a sharp left had turn before negotiating some rock steps up out of the area. With no room to maneuver it required sound wheel placement and some external guidance.


At the end of the day after our quick run back into Moab we all met at the Moab Brewery for some light refreshment and harmless stirring of the only Jeep who got stuck. The day was a great success in no small way due to our Trip Leader David and his able assistant Julie.


Day 2 Poison Spider and Golden Spike.


These two trails are mostly run together being rated the 7th hardest and 3rd hardest in the area respectively. This was to be my first introduction to slip rock. Slick rock is basically smooth rounded rock that you drive over for mile upon mile, imagine driving over Ayes Rock and you know what I am talking about.


Poison Spider is a very hard trail with many difficult obstacles including tight switchbacks, off camber ledges, steep slick rock and areas where one can tip over easily. Traction on slick rock is usually not an issue, well except when you are driving up or down at more than 350 which we had to do on several occasions. The trail is made easy to follow with small flat white 4WDs painted on the rock to guide you. Apparently this is one of the most popular trials around Moab, which is understandable from the fun we all had.


We bypassed the loop section of this trail and then joined straight onto Golden Spike trail, which despite what the books say, was very easy to find by merely following the painted spikes on the rock.


Golden spike trail is also considered one of the most difficult trails in the area due to the many climbs over slick rock, steep descents and regular high rock ledges to negotiate. This trail is really a hard core 4WDrivers wish come true and includes well know challenges such as The launch Pad, Skyline Drive, Golden Crack, Golden Stairs and Double Whammy. Unfortunately we did not get to do all of these as explained further down. A lot of the trail rings the edge of high cliffs and at times overlooks MOAB.


Three more club members turned up today although they were to recon different trails to those we traveled. They were:


Ali Valy                Range Rover         1993

Mark Stolte                Defender 90        1997

Dave Thomas                Range Rover        1995


The arrival of these three, two having just put new tires on their trucks, allowed Larry to drewl over what tires to put on his Rangie next, Carrie just shook her head and turned away. Mark and Paula Handlovich were to be our trip leaders for today. It was a little hard at first to be led by a Jeep, however after about half and hour we all forgot about this minor inconvenience.


On our way to the trailhead we passed a large number of people preparing to climb sheer cliffs right adjacent to the road we were on. We all agreed that they had more guts than any of us to attempt such a dangerous activity.


The trail starts off as we climbed up a switchback trail from ground level to the top of the slick rock. After about 2 miles the track flattens out at a section called tie-Rod Flats. Mountain bikers followed us for a while through this section, enjoying our attempts to drive up some very steep slip rock obstacles. Shortly after we entered a canyon and the first major obstacle for the trail known as the Waterfall. This is basically a steep steppy ascent followed by a 7-foot tall slick rock ascent of approximately 400 .  Mark and Paula drove straight over in their highly modified Jeep, Unfortunately the first Rangie was next in line and yes Larry and Carrie were the first in need of assistance as they got stuck. They had to be snatched over Waterfall rock ledge. The rear of the Rangie basically sat on the base of the slope making rearward movement impossible. With a lot of wheel spinning and slippage the other vehicles made it through the Waterfall.


This was not the end, merely the start of things to come.


Straight after the Waterfall there were several other steep ledgy rises to overcome. After a few more miles we came to an obstacle called Wedgy. This is basically a natural cut through the rock, which required careful wheel placement in order to negotiate. Any error would have seen vehicles slipping into the wedge and significant panel damage resulting. Since the rock has such good traction this is not a major concern, more a psychological concern.


Soon afterwards we were able to go back into high range for a quick dash across high Speed Mesa which boasts magnificent views of the Canyon country. We just had to look out for all those Mountain bike riders. At a small cairn marked for bike riders the trail ends and we start Golden Spike Trail.


Launch pad is an interesting obstacle. In itself it is not difficult, however you descend down slick rock at approximately 35o into a gap just wide enough for your vehicle, you then go straight up slick rock again at 35o which makes for some psychological fun. If you do not get your momentum right you can lift your front wheels off the ground [like I did] for stop on the way up making for an exciting reverse back down the slope.


Half way into the track Larry broke a front axle on his Rangie, which resulted in a decision being made to back track to the bitumen as a safety precaution. At the time it was unknown whether it was just the axle or whether something in his transfer case had also gone. The return trip was fun, requiring the reverse attack of all obstacles, although uneventful.


Unbeknownst to the trip organizers, Moab was to host the Fat Tire festival this weekend. A weekend of Hot Roads and mussel cars! There was some debate amongst the group as to how many millions of dollars in cars were being driven up and down Main Street Moab. I saw a Tucker which is some of the rarest US built cars in existence [hire the movie Tucker to get the full story]. Some of the vehicles were absolutely immaculate and incredible to look at, they also sounded fantastic.


Day 3 Rose garden.


The group split up today to each basically go their own ways. In our group we retained David and Heidi, Larry and Carrie and Mark and Paula [not forgetting myself]. Larry was driving his rented Jeep as a result of yesterdays indiscretion and Mark had some problems with radius arms so he and Paula jumped into our cars.


All the women rode in the Discovery, and since Heidi was to be the trip leader for the Rose garden track in September, the ladies were put out in front. You have to ask the question how can a carload of people equipped with GPS, maps, books and directions get us lost? Well they did. We drove up a spectacular canyon for approximately 10 miles before the trail ran out. They had obviously taken us down the wrong garden path and onto some ranchers private property. Some compensation for the detour was the sighting of a 30 strong heard of mule deer, something we would otherwise of not gotten to enjoy.


After some debate and Larry taking the lead in his rented Jeep we were back to the highway and found Onion Creek Canyon Road, we were on our way, or so I thought.


Onion Creek Canyon is one of the easy Trails in the Moab area. It is a well-maintained road however has many washouts as it crosses the creek on many occasions. The creek was just a trickle for us however it is easy to imagine it becoming a raging torrent in times of heavy rain. This road is suitable for passenger cars although you would have to take it quite slow to avoid bottoming out at times. This area is the base camp for many mountain bike riders etc. One interesting point is that all campers have to take portable toilets with them and take out their human waste as well as the usual garbage.


After driving for approximately 9 miles along some spectacular creek canyon country we turned off at the designated corner, ooops was all that was heard after about 2 miles, yes Larry and David had taken us the wrong way and they also had a GPS, maps and directions. Well it was almost 12 noon before we found the turn off, all correctly sign posted and marked for easy identification. Finally we were on the right trail.


After about 5 miles we came across a very worried looking person hopelessly stuck. Apparently he was the support vehicle for some mountain bike riders, he had decided to meet up with them part way along the trail so had taken his 2WD 20 foot long Sub-Wagon along a 4WD trail, oh I forgot, he was towing a U-Haul trailer. He was sandwiched in a wash away with his rear tires both of the ground. We managed to unhitch the trailer and move it out of the way then tow him backwards to safety. This is a perfect example of why you do not go somewhere alone, or ill equipped, or with no knowledge of the terrain you are entering. Even if his friends on the mountain bikes had found him, they would not had been able to extract the van from its wedged in position.


We continued on after clearing the track to the main obstacle for this trail, one almighty hill that was steep with loose rocks, boulders to climb over and rock ledges. It was decided that for safety reasons the Jeep rental and Discovery were not going to make the hill, however we wanted to see what the hill was like so Mark and I braved it in my Rangie. I am pleased to advise that we drove all the way to the top, with only some guidance being needed to negotiate some of the rock ledges at the top. Everyone else walked to the top to take photos and enjoy the view. The girls hopped into my Rangie for the roller coaster ride back down, yes we made it safely.


After the hill we decided to have lunch then turn around and retrace our steps. Other than the girls getting stuck on the way out it was an uneventful return trip. That was until we were almost out when we ran across a team from Land Rover UK doing a photo shoot and test run of the new Range Rover, the new Freelander, the new Discovery Series III and the new Defender 110. We all stopped, introduced ourselves and spend about half an hour looking over the new vehicles and getting a run down on what the team were doing with the new vehicles. They seemed just as surprised and as happy as us to see some Land rovers in the Bush and meet members of the Solihull Society as well as an Aussie Range Rover Club member [yes I had my Victorian Range Rover Club T shirt on].


The trip ended when we returned to Moab and all those Hot Rods.  We extensively used Charles A. Wells book Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails over the weekend. I have also plagiarized a lot from his book to complete this trip report, Thanks Charles! Also check out website for more information. Thanks should also go to those Solihull Society Club members who welcomed me into the group and arranged a fantastic few days off road.        


To paraphrase General Douglas McArthur [Moab] I will return!

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