Part 9: Dead Horse Point and White Rim Trail, UT Part A


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The Trip

Having been out in the boondocks for a week, we needed a re-supply stop to drain our tanks, fill water and do laundry.  We stayed at the Canyonlands RV park and it was within walking distance to restaurants and had the facilities we needed.  Plus, it was clean.  After completing shopping, we decided to go to Dead Horse Point to see the awesome view.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

These formations are called "Monitor and Merrimac".

A multi-shot panorama stitched together with PTGUI Pro.  Click on image to see full size image.  The air was somewhat hazy and looking south into the sun is problematic.  Technical issues notwithstanding, the La Sal mountains are visible on the horizon on the far left and still have snow on them.  The evaporation ponds for the potash mine are visible below the La Sal range.  The Abajo Range is visible on the horizon in the center of the photo and both the Colorado River and the White Rim trail are visible in various portions of the foreground.

The La Sal mountains and the potash evaporation ponds.  Note the anticline uplift in the left-center of the photo.  The curved bedding is due to upheaval.

The potash mine dissolves the minerals into water and then pumps the water into the evaporation ponds to recover the minerals.  Cobalt coloring is added to increase heat absorption to speed evaporation.

From Dead Horse Point the Shaffer Trail is visible.  We would be on this trail later in the day.

A portion of the White Rim is visible on the bench a thousand feet below the view point.

The White Rim Trail ends at the potash mine.

We went to the Canyonlands Visitor's Center to see about availability of space on the White Rim Trail.  Since the trail is 100 rugged miles, there are few campsites and a permit is required for backcountry travel in the park.  We were amazed to discover that there was on slot open at 3 successive camps for us.  So, we signed their disclaimer and paid the $30 and prepared to head down the face of the canyon rim via the Shaffer Trail.  Above is the view from the Visitor's Center parking lot looking toward the La Sal Mountains.

As we head down the Shaffer Trail, we got great views of the canyons below.

The Shaffer Trail was constructed by uranium prospectors in the late 1940's.  It is very, very steep.  A portion of one of the switchbacks is visible at left-center of the photo above.

Just before the start of the steep grade we could see the east end of the White Rim trail.

The east end of the White Rim Trail is in good shape.  It is graded and is relatively wide.  This is not the case on the west end.  In the photo above, you can see the junction of potash road and the White Rim Trail (WRT).  The WRT forks to the right.

We got our first clear view of the switchbacks.  In the end, we had to back up to make the turns only once.

The road is steep and the switchbacks are tight.  But, the road is relatively wide (by trail standards).  Canyonlands gets plenty of "day trippers" on this portion of the trail so to minimize their own hassle they keep the road in good repair.

We only met one oncoming vehicle.

By the time we get to the bench below, we will be 1,000 feet below the rim.

Thor took up more than 1/2 of the road.  But, that is only an issue when there is oncoming traffic.

Looking back up to the rim, the amount of altitude drop is obvious.

The face of the rim is huge beds of sandstone.

Finally on the lower bench, we got great views of the valley.

The White Rim is named for the hard sandstone that forms the caprock of these hoodoos.

From one of the side canyons we got a glimpse of the Colorado River below.

It was quite hot on the bench but we stopped at the river overlook for photos.

From the overlook the muddy Colorado is clearly visible.

The river cut huge canyons in the sandstone.  Kathleen is standing at the edge of a sizeable cliff.

Thor handled the terrain well and with reduced air pressure in the tires produced a reasonably comfortable ride.

The harder sandstone formations produce tight hoodoos and towers.

When hard caprock overlies a softer formation it frequently results in "balanced rocks" formations.

The late afternoon sun highlighted balanced rocks on the western slopes of a ridge that we passed.

The canyons along the WRT were thick with hoodoos and balanced rock formations.

On the sun-side of the ridges, the rich red color of the rock is revealed.

A set of balanced rock formations were visible from the trail.

The late afternoon sun highlighted the haze and dust in the air.  Just a few hours before we were on the rim looking down.

The white rim caprock is clearly visible in the photo above.  The bench we were traveling was on the caprock which provided a reasonably level trail.  For now.  Tomorrow would be a different story.

We finally had a line of sight view of our assigned campsite for the night: "Airport".  From our location looking east back to our path already traveled, you can see the tight notch that goes over the ridge.

We took our assigned campsite (there were 4 at "Airport") but the closest other site was 200 meters away.  The furthest was perhaps a kilometer away.  The camp was flat, but unshielded from the wind or sun.  The wind picked up after sunset but died down by dawn.  We BBQ'd a steak we purchased in Moab and it was great.

Dead Horse Point is one of our favorite places.  We stop for the view every time we are in the Moab area.  This visit provide just as gratifying as the others.  The Shaffer Trail is scary, as always.  Having done it several times, I knew what to expect.  But this was the first time in a vehicle as large as Thor, so our angst was high.

Tomorrow, we head to the "Candlestick" campsite.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014, all rights reserved.
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