Riding the Red Rocks of Utah: October 1-10, 2004

Click the smaller pictures to see big ones


Lin and I left town the day Mount St. Helens erupted. It wasn't a big explosion like in 1988, but it filled the south-eastern sky with steam clouds and made for a beautiful sunset. We had our 250cc dirt bikes loaded on the trailer, along with Laura's DRZ400. Since there are three rails on the trailer but only two seats in the truck, Laura rode her BMW to Moab via a typically circuitous route and met us there a few days after we arrived. Also in transit was Rick from Oregon, Tom from B.C., and Laura's parents from Colorado. We had directions and GPS coordinates from Rick to his favorate camp spot on Kane Creek just outside Moab. The only thing threatening our perfect weekend was the possibility of my "sharing" my cold with anyone who came near me. By the time we arrived, Lin was showing all the symptoms...

According to Expedia, it would take us 16 hours to travel the 1,070 miles from Seattle to Moab, Utah. It actually took us a bit longer, but we didn't care. We were on vacation!

Friday night we camped at Catherine Creek State Park in Oregon. It's a very pretty park situated in a little valley in Eastern Oregon. Next morning when we got up, I felt like I had been very cold the night before and my fingers would hardly work to roll up my gear. I didn't say anything to Lin, fearing that I was being a lightweight but when I turned on the truck, the thermometer read 37 degrees! So it had, indeed, been cold that night! I was relieved. We drove the twisty, scenic road to North Powder and had breakfast at a little diner near Highway 84. That night we met my sister and her fiance in Salt Lake City for dinner at the Red Iguana, home of the second best mole sauce I've ever had (yours is best, Al!). We decided to continue driving a couple of hours and camp at Price Canyon Recreation Area. Alas, though, Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally's 2002 atlas had the turn for the campground mismarked and we had to drive through to Huntington State Park. That was nice, too, but was a bit close to the highway. I just pretended the traffic noise was ocean waves, though, and slept soundly.

Catherine Creek State Park (OR)

Huntington State Park (UT)

The lake at Huntington

We ate in Green River, UT that morning, at Ben's American and Mexican Restaurant. If you ever pass through there, the chili verde omelette is not to be missed! Lin also bought a couple of melons for the coming week. We were getting excited as the passing landscape grew more and more dramatic and we approached Moab. We arrived around lunchtime and after brief stops at the visitor's center and the grocery store, we hit the winding gravel road down Kane Creek Canyon to the campsite, which turned out to be as lovely as Rick had descrbed. Lin claimed the site in the cave while I set up near the creek across the road. Laura arrived soon afterwards and as soon as we unloaded the bikes, we hit the dirt. We travelled up to Hurrah Pass that night, with Laura on her GS since the DRZ decided it didn't want to start, despite our fiddling with it. The view was spectacular and we even made a friend in Richard, from B.C., on an older Yamaha XT 225. He rode with us a while that evening and returned the next day for more exploring.

The bikes safely tucked away

"God's Golf Ball"

my pretty green pal

cottonwood trees around our camp

On Monday morning, the DRZ miraculously started up. We're not sure why, although perhaps my removing the battery from my bike scared it a bit. Anyway, off we went, back up over Hurrah Pass and down the edge of the canyon on the other side. At the bottom, we paused to check maps and rode toward Jackson's Hole. We didn't make it all the way around the Hole, though, as the sun was beating down upon us fiercely by 3pm. We high-tailed it back to the campsite and set about having refreshments.

Hurrah! Pass!

Lin in the distance

Rick arrived on Monday afternoon. By then Lin was quite sick and I was starting to cough. We didn't sound good, and Laura was determined not to catch the bug. Tuesday was exciting as we took our first trip out onto the Slickrock Practice Trail and rode up and down Little Lion's Back. Later that afternoon, Rick led Lin and I on a wonderful adventure down the Kane Creek Canyon Trail. The going was dry and rocky, then quite wet as we crossed, re-crossed and rode upstream in the Kane Creek more than two dozen times. Then we entered the canyon and worked our way up several intimidating pilees of rocks getting back out. We got some rain and even saw a spectacular rainbow. The canyon was lovely and Rick was very helpful as we each got stuck riding in the difficult terrain. That night we ate at McStiff's, showered at the Lazy Lizard Hostel, and slept like rocks.

Rick says it's radioactive

My bike playing hide-and-seek with me


DRZ hiding from the Federales

Wednesday I decided to take the day off of motorcycling and drive to see the Hovenweep National Monument, a series of Native villages that dated back 10,000 years. Lin went with me, as she wasn't feeling well and was curious, so off we went. Hovenweep is just over 100 miles from Moab, but the drive was beautiful since the surrounding countryside was in the midst of several large storm systems. We didn't get rained on much at all, but could see lightning and ominous black clouds all around us. Hovenweep is a big place and we only had time to hike a two-mile trail around one village that day. The masonry and dating of this village were very similar to Chaco Culture and it was really interesting to see. We also saw a small rattlesnake on the trail. I plan to go back, though, and camp there someday so I can see the rest of the ruins this Monument has to offer. It's not far from Mesa Verde, but is so far off the well-traveled highways that it gets very few visitors. On the way back to camp, we stopped to admire the many petroglyphs on the rocks near camp.

What does it all mean?

Birthing Rock (ouch!)

Why's his hand so big?

Beehive Rock, outside Moab

Thursday, we rode more of the Slickrock trail and Hell's Revenge. The weather was hotter, but we barely noticed as we honed our riding-at-a-45-degree-angle skills. It really is amazing how tires stick to the rock! Tom had joined us, too, so we were a group of five motorcycles now. And Laura's parent arrived, to there were seven of us at the campsites. The weather remained perfect all week. Thursday afternoon, Lin, Tom, and I rode out though Chicken Corners and walked to Pack-Off Point, so named because the clearance around the sharp bend is so low that you must take off your backpack to get around it. It was a great ride, as we saw the catacombs rock formation along the way. We explored in there for quite a while.

Spooky catacombs rock


Lin being careful

very careful indeed

Steep sides = quick trip down

Lovely point, though.

On Friday, I met my sister, her fiance, and their two friends at Dead Horse Point State Park, about 30 miles from Moab. We hiked a 6.4-mile trail around the rim of a mesa there, peering down into the 2,000-foot deep canyon. At one point, I realized we were directly across the Colorado River from Pack-Off Point, where we had been the day before. The views were all amazing but the afternoon turned quite hot around 3:30pm when we finished the loop. We relaxed at their campsite for a while and then drove to Moab to do a little shopping and meet my friends at the Slickrock Cafe for dinner. There were 11 of us and we had a terrific time comparing notes about our trips so far. Lin was on the upswing from the cold, but Rick and Laura were just getting the throat-tickle that boded ill for them...I apologized profusely and made drugstore runs for medicines and tissues. Luckily no one held it against me. Saturday morning came all too soon and we had to bid farewell to Moab's red rocks. We said good-bye to our friends and all scattered to the various winds: Lin and me to Seattle, Laura and Tom to her land in Colorado, Rick to his home near Eugene, and Laura's parents to their own lives. It was so special that we all came together for that week. There were so many trails we didn't have time to explore! I think it will take years to see them all.

On the way home, Lin and I stopped at the Four Jacks casino in Jackpot, NV. We didn't win anything but we had to stop anyway. We camped that night at Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho. It was windy but we were on soft green grass. I slept fitfully, knowing we had to return to Seattle the next day, and then back to work on Reality Monday. We did see a wonderful sunset that night, though. The trip home was uneventful and we arrived around 6pm. Lin was coughing her way through the end of the cold I gave her and my cough was almost over. It was good to be home but as I looked through the pictures on my compact flash card, I could almost believe the whole thing was a dream...what wasn't a dream, though, was my pile of laundry, my dirty house and 1,479 emails waiting for me at the office. Oh, well!

View of Pack Off Point from Dead Horse Point.

Ronna at the edge

The sky is burning

Goodbye, vacation.

page maintained by