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Old 05-05-2010, 11:38 PM   #1
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Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Last week, I headed off to Moab with my brother, brother-in-law, and three other guys. We had an ER doc, two firefighters, two engineers, and a forester/computer whiz/jack of all trades, so we were ready for anything. Fortunately, all went smoothly. The main reason for the trip was to spend a few days on the White Rim in Canyonlands National Park, and then to spend as much time mountain biking as possible.

I'm going to cover the whole trip, but most of the detail will be about the White Rim. This might be better suited to a separate site like AdventureDuo's, but I don't have one, so here it is.

Van 1: 2002 E-350 EB 7.3, Quigley 4wd, Voyager top, Goodyear MT/R 305/70-R16 @ 45psi, total weight ~10,000 lbs.
Van 2: 2003 E-350 EB 7.3, Quadvan 4wd (2" lift), BFG AT 285/70-R17 @ 45psi, ~9,000 lbs.
Van 3: 2002 E-350 EB 7.3, Quadvan 4wd (4" lift) - didn't go on White Rim

We left Portland on a Friday about 3pm. Took a short ride up the Syncline across the Columbia from Hood River to stretch our legs.

Then we hit the road for the remaining 17 hours to Moab. We arrived and rode the easy slickrock and singletrack at Klondike Bluffs, and enjoyed the dinosaur footprints there.

On Sunday, some friends from Moab took us on another easy ride at Bartlett Wash while my brother rode the entire White Rim on his motorcycle. It was part scouting, and part just so he could do it. Bartlett Wash was a fun play spot and a good warm up for the afternoon ride.

Later in the afternoon, we rode the Slickrock Trail. One fellow ran his air pressure a little low and blew the tire off the rim on a side hill. I broke a spoke and ruined a rear suspension bearing, but we all made it back in one piece.

On Monday morning we made the long climb up Amasa Back. Here is a shot of the bike rack setup on my van. It attracted a lot of attention from folks at the trailheads.

Monday afternoon it was time to hit the White Rim.

White Rim Statistics:
Start: Monday 4/26/2010
End: Wednesday 4/28/2010
Total miles: 105.5
Total time: 11 hours 20 minutes driving
Average speed: 9.3 mph including short stops, 8.4 mph w/o Mineral Bottom Rd.

Summary: While the White Rim is described as mostly a high clearance, two-wheel drive road, don't get the impression that it is smooth. My brother did the White Rim in 145 miles from Moab and back on his motorcycle in six hours, but it was slow going in the heavy vans. The road is well within the Sportsmobile's capability, but it is often rough and slow. We rarely got out of 2nd gear, and were usually in 1st. We were in 4-low down Shafer, up Mineral Bottom, and up and down Murphy Hogback, Turks Pass, and Hardscrabble Hill. There were 5 or 6 other short, steep ascents or descents where we would be in and and out of 4-low.

We never dragged the bottom with either van, but it would have been possible in a couple of spots. While there were several tight spots here and there, only a couple required spotting. A short switchback just after Vertigo Void and before Murphy Hogback was the toughest climb. The descent off the north side of Murphy was the only real sketchy section. Hardscrabble Hill was narrow and steep, required careful tire placement, and required some backing up in the Quigley van, but otherwise was straightforward.

Day 1: Shafer Trail TH to Airport CG
Total: 18.4 miles, 1 hr 30 min

We started down the Shafer switchbacks around 5pm. The road is wide and smooth at first, but narrows a bit on the switchbacks.

Airport B was our first campsite. The doctor cooked up penne pasta with salmon, scallops, and shrimp swimming in alfredo sauce and covered in gorgonzola cheese. Very nice.

Day 2: Airport CG to Potato Bottom CG
Total: 50.3 miles, 6 hrs 35 min

Airport CG to Gooseberry CG, 10.7 miles, 1 hr 30 min

After a very calm, comfortable night, we had eggs, bacon, and blueberry pancakes for breakfast and hit the road just before the folks from the other three Airport campsites. For the most part, you can enjoy the view and dodge the rocks, but in a few spots more attention was required. A deeply rutted ledge after this off-camber turn required some spotting.

There must be a dozen spots with vertical or overhung ledges. Here is one:

Gooseberry CG to White Crack Jct., 8.2 miles, 45 min

After Gooseberry, the road finally smoothed out for a bit. This was one of the few places were we could get up to 25mph or so.

2002 E350 EB - Voyager top - 7.3 - Quigley 4WD
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:57 PM   #2
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

White Crack Jct. to White Crack CG, 2.8 miles round trip, 15 min each way

The trip out to the White Crack was rolling and sandy in spots. Great views from the cliffs past the campsite, and then lunch under the awning. It was great to have the place all to ourselves.

White Crack Jct. to Murphy Hogback, 7.6 miles, 1 hr 10min

The next section was the crux of the drive. Just past Vertigo Void, there is a tight left switchback with ledges that required spotting, but the big, heavy vans both climbed it fine. Sorry, no photos of that one. Then came Murphy Hogback.

The bottom part up the second ledge is the steepest part.

After the ledge, the road levels out a bit and goes from "feels like vertical" to very steep to just plain steep. This is the very steep part just after everything in the front of the van ended up in the back of the van.

Murphy Hogback to Candlestick CG, 10.3 miles, 1 hr 30min

After a short break on top of Murphy Hogback, we descended the north side. This was the only really interesting part of the whole trip, with an angled ledge followed by loose rock as we passed through the rimrock. One of the other guys has a great photo which I will post when I get it.

Some overhangs after Murphy made for a good shot. No problems with the Voyager top.

Following Murphy, there were some short, steep descents and then some tight rolling corners. If we were going to drag the tail of the EB vans, this would be where it was, but we didn't have any problems. After Murphy, Turks Pass was just a bump in the road.

Candlestick CG to Potato Bottom CG, 10.7 miles, 1 hr 10min

Our reservation was for Candlestick, but it was windy and uninviting, so we headed on hoping to poach a site at Potato Bottom. We passed more overhangs and Holeman Slot (a slot canyon), and then the road got very rough and rocky just before reaching Potato Bottom. (There are couple more shots in my gallery).

We got lucky at Potato Bottom and found a very nice spot for the night, which turned out to be calm and not too cool. Dinner was burgers, brats, potato salad, and PBR.

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Old 05-06-2010, 12:12 AM   #3
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Great report, thanks can't wait to get there...
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Old 05-06-2010, 12:26 AM   #4
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Day 3: Potato Bottom CG to Mineral Bottom Rd TH
Total: 36.8 miles, 3 hrs 15 min

Potato Bottom CG to Hardscrabble Hill, 2.1 miles, 20 min

Wednesday morning, after french toast and more bacon, we started up Hardscrabble Hill. There is a pretty good ledge at the bottom. After that, it is just steep and narrow. I had my driver's side mirror folded in, and I would have folded in the bumpers and fenders if I could have. I'll post some more shots when I get them. Good thing we drove Murphy yesterday, or this would have felt difficult.

Hardscrabble Hill to Labyrinth CG/Taylor Jct., 3.7 miles, 50 min

After passing the trail to Fort Bottom, the road contours along a shelf well above the river, then drops down some loose, rocky sections to Hardscrabble Camp.

Between Hardscrabble and Upheaval Bottom, there are some overhung ledges that were a little tight with the Voyager top. Note the jeep just making the turn ahead of the van.

Upheaval Bottom is very sandy as you cross the various washes. If wet, it could be ugly. But it was dry for us. We headed up Taylor Canyon to see Moses and Zeus. (a couple more photos in my gallery.) The road was sandy and relatively smooth, so we made good time.

Labyrinth CG/Taylor Jct. to Taylor CG, 5 miles, 30 min each way

We hiked the steep climb up to Moses and Zeus in 40mph winds, enjoyed our lunch back at the trailhead where it was mostly calm, and then headed back down Taylor Canyon to Labyrinth, our reserved campsite for the night. We thought about setting up camp, but with sustained winds of 30mph and gusts to 60-70mph, we found ourselves pelted with pebbles while sheets of water were torn off the Green River and dust devils scoured the hillside across the river.

Labyrinth CG to Mineral Bottom Jct., 6.4 miles, 30 min

Eventually, we gave in and headed out. Amazingly, the guys on the bikes got back on and headed for the climb up the Mineral Bottom switchbacks. A couple of overhung rock sections just after Labyrinth were a little tight with the Voyager top, but I made it through. Once we hit the BLM lands past the park boundary, the road smoothed out and sped up.

Mineral Bottom Jct. to top of Mineral Bottom Switchbacks, 1.5 miles, 15 min

After everything else, the climb up Mineral Bottom felt like a superhighway. Still, it makes for a good photo.

Mineral Bottom Switchbacks to Mineral Bottom TH, 13.1 miles, 20 min

We hit the top just after sunset, loaded the bikes and then headed toward the pavement and our friends' driveway in Moab.

The rest of the trip

The high winds on Wednesday were the front end of cold front that took our 75-80 degree temperatures down to 40-50 degrees. We rode Gemini Bridges and Arth's Rim on Thursday and even had some snowflakes. I bashed my knee on that ride, so on Friday, after dropping the doctor off at the airport, I took a trip into Arches while the rest of the crew rode Porcupine Rim (in the snow and rain). I was happy with my choice!

On Saturday, we loaded up and headed for home. We had snow on the pass west of Price, and then we fought headwinds all the way across Utah and Nevada. I had never been across the Bonneville salt flats or I-80 through Nevada, so we headed to Winnemucca and then up through Burns. There is a whole lot of nothing out there! One interesting thing was the livestock signs in Nevada and Oregon. Apparently, the Nevada cows have a lot more style than the Oregon cows.

19 hours on the road brought us home safe to Portland. The new bike rack performed well, but the big headwinds at freeway speed made me a little nervous with the bikes sideways up there. Maybe I would feel the same if they were facing forward on top of the car, or maybe not. One thing is certain - I could not have driven the White Rim with a hitch mount bike rack. No broken swaybars on the white rim, but I can see how it could happen. I probably should have disconnected mine, but I didn't.

Overall, great trip. Not long enough, but are they ever? I'll post a few additional photos of some of the tight spots when I get them.
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Old 05-06-2010, 06:52 AM   #5
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Thanks for the excellent trip report! I found it valuable to have an opinion of the White Rim Trail from a Sportsmobile perspective, since I have mostly read or talked to folks that do it in much smaller vehicles.

I have hiked and floated all around that country, but haven't biked or driven the trail yet. On our canoe trips down the Green River in Canyonlands National Park, I have always been impressed with the skill of the shuttle drivers from Tex's Riverways, who drive a 4WD Quigley van loaded to the gills with canoeists and towing a trailer filled with gear down the road and around the switchbacks to Mineral Bottom. And they do it nearly every day in season. You either get good at it or dead.

Thanks again for the great pics and thorough description of the trip!
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:32 AM   #6
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail


Great trip report, looking forward to doing the same trip someday soon.

2009 White E-350 Modified EB-43, 4x4, 6.0 PSD
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Old 05-06-2010, 11:39 AM   #7
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Wow, that was excellent, thanks.

Looking forward to making that trip myself in the next few years.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:07 PM   #8
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail fantastic trip report. You're steering me in another direction to visit.

Pun intended concerning the Nevada sign over the Oregon sign
You think the Texas sign looks like this

I plan to visit a buddy within the next few weeks...that area would blow him away. Did you have to make reservations to run the trail?
Nice trip.

edit... I just read another post about the white rim trail
Originally Posted by pjpvi
I just did the White Rim Trail first week of May and it is stunning scenery. The trail itself isn't that technical, but enough to make you pay attention in places. I highly recommend it, but make your campground reservations WAY in advance. We were more in the mtn biking frame of mind by the time we settled in at Sand Flat, so didn't do any wheeling around Moab proper.

Does anybody have an idea on a good day trip on that trail (maybe just in and out) that would not require a permit of some type?
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Old 05-07-2010, 08:50 AM   #9
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Great trip report! Super pictures especially the night shot with the vans and the stars.

You give a good preview of the trail.


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Old 05-07-2010, 09:17 AM   #10
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Re: Trip Report: Moab and White Rim Trail

Jack -

Great photos and trip report. Really makes me want to go back.


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