My First Visit To Moab

 

by John Lee

 

This was my first visit to Moab, so I was really excited. I had been looking forward to this trip ever since I had seen the videos from last year's trip and corresponded with some of the people who would be on this year's trip. After the trip was over, I knew that this was one of the best offroad experiences I ever had. What follows are some of the highlights from the trip.

 

The Road To Moab

Ho and I left Los Angeles and met up with Ron Ammon just outside Barstow. We then convoyed together to Las Vegas, where we picked up Rob Hamilton at the airport. Rob was to be one of the drivers on the Moab trip, but unfortunately his vehicle was sidelined with a mechanical problem. After picking up Rob, we headed for Moab.

We made several stops along to the way to Moab, both to refuel and to answer the call of nature. Here are some photos of one of the rest stops. Ron's Classic is looking pretty mean next to Ho's Disco. This was my first trip with my new Michelin XZLs, so I was eager to try them out.

Ron leads the drive into Moab. As the rock formations got larger and their color more red, I knew we were getting close.

 

Arrival In Moab

A stone sign on the edge of town greets all visitors. We arrived at night, however, and I missed this sign. As we drove on the main highway into town, I caught a glimpse of numerous Land Rovers parked in the parking lot of the Big Horn Lodge. Finally, we had arrived. Let the festivities begin!

Old friends Mike Peters and Ron chat in front of Sean Wolf's 110. It had been a while since Ron, Ho, and I had seen Mike since his relocation to Tennessee. The rest of us got acquainted in the parking lot of the Big Horn Lodge. I previously did not know the majority of people on the trip, and it was really cool meeting people I previously knew only via e-mail.

We dined at the Moab Diner. Pictured here left to right are Brian Jackson, Kevin Korinko, and Axel Haakonsen. I had met Brian before this trip when Brian visited Los Angeles, but it was my first time meeting Kevin and Axel. Great guys.

The people who were already in Moab had been there several days before we arrived, so after dinner, we watched videos of the day's action on the trail. Axel has a great digital video camera and the video was really fun to watch. The next day, we would run Pritchett Canyon.

 

Pritchett Canyon

After a good night's rest at the Big Horn Lodge, we proceeded toward Pritchett Canyon. I hadn't wheeled in several months before the Moab trip and was a little rusty, so I was bit nervous about tackling Pritchett Canyon the first day. But the trail turned out to be great fun. Here are some of the highlights of the trail.

Kyle Van Tassel and Heather Matthews descend the first obstacle of the trail, followed by Sean. Pritchett Canyon is pretty cool because the first obstacle is difficult enough that turning back would be just as difficult as moving onward. Similar to a crossing the Rubicon sort of thing. Nothing like the initiation into Upper Helldorado, but still interesting.

Kristian Meyers let Ami Knoefler drive his Disco down the first obstacle. Kristian spotted the way down. Ami did great.

Rob Hamilton was without his vehicle for the trip due to a mechanical problem. Being the good sport that he is, Rob wheeled with us on his mountain bike.

Here are photos of Kyle and Ho ascending one of the early obstacles. Traction here is good and if your vehicle has the clearance not to drag you'll scamper right up.

Just before Rocker Knocker, there exists a small rocky portion where it's fun to play around. These are some photos of Kyle, Axel, and me playing around.

Following the playground, Rocker Knocker is the next obstacle, and it's a tough one.

Here's a pic of me on Rocker Knocker. Though you can't see it in the photo, I was winching myself up with my Superwinch Husky 10 Worm Drive. We witnessed a Jeep make it up without help and have heard of some Land Rovers doing the same, but no one in our group made it without winching.

Kristian looks on while others try stacking rocks under his wheels. This photo is the opposite of what usually occurred, as Kristian was piling rocks for others throughout the trip.

Rock formation visible from the Pritchett Canyon trail. This is not the famous Pritchett Arch, but still very beautiful.

After Rocker Knocker, the next obstacle is the Rock Steps. In the left photo, Chris von Czoernig ascends the Rock Steps while Mike and Ho add some ballast to Chris' slipping front wheels. In the second photo, Chris returns the favor to Ho. In the third photo, it's Kevin's turn. Abe Then and Mike are next. You can see in the photos that it's starting to get dark.

After the Rock Steps lies Suicide Hill. Suicide Hill isn't that difficult, but there is a sharp and deep drop-off to the right of it that makes the obstacle a little hairy. Also, there is a solid rock ledge at the top that almost all vehicles had clearance problems with.

The sun was setting as most of us were on Suicide Hill. Lisa captured these magnificent sunset shots.

Darkness began to fall as we finished Suicide Hill. Many of the winching operations were in the dark and therefore even more dangerous than usual. Out came the obligatory Hella Auxiliary Lights. I've got to get some lights for my vehicle.

Ho sharpens his tools of the trade. Ho is a master of the grill and he made sure that we were well fed with Italian sausages, tri-tip, and beef short ribs. There's nothing like a campfire and the camaraderie it brings. Add good company and good beverage and you have a recipe for a great time.

A bird's eye view of our campsite the next morning. Between Ho's Disco and Sean's 110 lies the Rockpile. In the right photo, Kevin mugs for a self portrait. What a great photo! If you have ever seen Sean 110 and know just how large it is, you will know how high Kevin is perched.

With the rise of the sun the following morning, we hit the Rockpile. As with Rocker Knocker, no one in the group made it without winching. Actually, nobody really tried. If you have seen the Rockpile, you will know why.

Here are some views of different Discos climbing the Rockpile. From left to right are pictured Ho, Kevin, Chris & Lisa, and Axel.

Rob and Kristian watch as Sean just walks up Yellow Hill. This was the first time that anyone tried the line that Brian picked out, and it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for the 110's long wheelbase.

Ho ascends Yellow Hill. I love this photo: a yellow Disco on Yellow Hill.

Taking a cue from Sean, I took whatever line Brian told me to. The wind was blowing wildly throughout the second day of Pritchett Canyon. In this photo you can even see the large amounts of dust whirling about the trail. The rest of the group and Kevin look on.

On Pritchett and throughout the entire trip. Rob Hamilton was the the man when it came time to help out with securing safety straps and winch cables. Wherever help was required, Rob was there.

Here are some views of Pritchett Canyon from Yellow Hill. Much of the trail looks like this.

Brian spots Axel up Yellow Hill. Kevin helps with the winch cable as Ho, Rob Hamilton, Kyle, and Mike look on.

After Yellow Hill and some miscellaneous trails, a dirt road leads you onto the main highway. This was a good opportunity for some of us to play Ivan Stewart. I'm still wondering how Axel took these photos from inside his vehicle while driving!

Where the dirt road meets the highway, there are access points for more trail fun. Next year, perhaps we will have enough time to visit Behind The Rocks.

On the way out, we discovered that Pritchett Canyon had claimed yet another victim. Kevin's rear differential was making unusual noises and was probably broken. This was a surprise to everyone, since Kevin was so smooth and didn't bang his vehicle on the trail.

 

Big Horn Lodge

Upon returning to the Big Horn Lodge, Kevin disassembled his rear third member and found that his differential was indeed broken. Note the lack of the cross pin that previously supported the two spider gears. It's anyone's guess why the cross pin gave way. Kevin telephoned Bill Davis at Great Basin Rovers and ordered a Detroit Locker for delivery the following day. The Detroit was delivered to the front desk of the motel the following morning. This was the second year that Bill came through. Last year, Bill overnighted two Detroit Lockers after Kristian and Sean Arney broke their rear differentials on Pritchett Canyon.

Kyle installed Kevin's stock ring gear onto the Detroit Locker and then put the assembly into Kevin's third member. Kyle also had the forethought to bring his dial gauge for setting the proper backlash. Note the high-tech method of holding the third member vertical to check for proper backlash. Some may laugh but when you're doing a field repair, you make do with what you have.

 

Hell's Revenge

That same day, Abe, Rob Hamilton, Ho, and I went to the Sand Flats Recreation Area for a day of easy wheeling. We would leave for the Hole In The Rock trail later that same night and wanted to get in some slickrock time before leaving Moab.

On the way to the Sand Flats area, we stopped to run Lion's Back. Here is a view of the collection area where one must tender $5.00 to the gatekeeper for the experience. Lion's Back is in the background. Unfortunately, the gatekeeper would not permit us to run Lion's Back on the ground that rain was imminent. I must admit that I was a bit relieved. Though it does not look too ominous in this photograph, Lion's Back is very intimidating.

Not being allowed to run Lion's Back because of potential rain, off to Hell's Revenge we went.

The gatekeeper was correct about the rain. As soon as we hit Hell's Revenge, the skies opened up and it started to rain and hail heavily. Still, the slickrock on Hell's Revenge gave more than enough traction. I don't even remember slipping a tire.

Soon, the rain and hail stopped and the rocks began to dry out.

Just as quickly as the rain came and soaked everything, the sun appeared and dried the slickrock.

Ho drives back toward the trail head of Hell's Revenge.

 

Lion's Back

Because the incoming portion of Hell's Revenge was sunny and dry, we decided to stop at Lion's Back to check if the conditions were good enough for the gatekeeper to let us try Lion's Back.

Luckily, the gatekeeper agreed that the conditions for Lion's Back were safe enough, and I decided to give it a try. I asked Rob Hamilton to accompany me to share the experience and also to spot me at the top. I was more afraid of having to turn around at the top than I was ascending or descending the sloped portion of Lion's Back! Rob Hamilton agreed and off we went.

Here, Rob and I are ascending the lower portion of Lion's Back. According to the gatekeeper, the bottom portion of the hill is 45 degrees and the rest is only 20 degrees. But the mental challenge of Lion's Back is not slope on the face. Rather, it's the absence of slopes on the sides! I was so intimidated by the sight of the obstacle that I didn't even realize my transfer case settings. We had driven to Lion's Back from Hell's Revenge on the road, and I first tried to ascend with my transfer case in high range and unlocked. When my vehicle wouldn't move, I thought "oh, my diff lock isn't engaged" and I locked the transfer case. When I still wouldn't move, I finally realized that my transfer case was in high range. I pushed the transfer lever forward and up we went.

Just after the steep lower section, Rob Hamilton and I were ascending when we heard a loud "POP!" and the vehicle lurched backward a few feet. Needless to say, the pucker factor was very high at this point. After hitting the brakes and assessing the situation, I realized that my transfer case had released into neutral from my not pushing the transfer lever fully into low range. In this photo, you can see Abe running up Lion's Back to check on us.

After engaging fully engaging low range, the rest of the ascent was uneventful.

View from atop Lion's Back. Thanks to Rob Hamilton's great spotting, I had an easy time turning around at the top for the journey back down.

Here are some views of the journey down Lion's Back. I don't even remember seeing these views, as my eyes were securely glued to whatever line I was taking. I also don't remember ever looking to the side to admire the view, although I certainly wasn't blinding myself to the view on purpose. Strange what nerves will do to one's mind. I must return to Lion's Back in the future. Hopefully, I will appreciate the view more next time.

There was more bad news when we returned to the Big Horn Lodge. Dan Wagman and Ron ran Pritchett Canyon the same day we ran Hell's Revenge and Lion's Back, and Dan suffered front and rear broken halfshafts. Dan had spare rear halfshafts on hand, but not the fronts.

But Dan, ever the good-spirited one, took his woes in his usual style. Dan also ran the rest of the trip's trails with us using only rear-wheel drive.

Got milk? The Milk Truck and the Industrial Milk Truck pose for the camera. I have to get a roof rack for next year's run. There is so little room inside my Defender that Ho had to carry a substantial portion of my equipment. Also, our Defenders will match a little better that way. This was the last time the two Milk Trucks were together, as Kevin, Axel, and Sean had to leave for home. Unfortunately, they would miss the Hole In The Rock trail. All of us said good-bye and the foursome from the East hit the highway.

Later that night, Paul Kleinkramer, Rob Davison, and Simon Arenas arrived in Moab. Paul, being the stealthy guy that he is, brought Simon and Rob Davison without letting anybody else know that that they were coming to Moab. What's even funnier than that is that neither Simon nor Rob Davison knew that the other was coming, so they were both waiting in ignorance at the Las Vegas Airport for Paul to pick them up.

After Paul, Simon, and Rob Davison arrived in Moab, the reconstituted Moab group set off on the long drive to the Hole in the Rock trail. It's appropriate that this photo is blurry, for that's how my eyes felt. The drive from Moab to the Hole In The Rock trail head is very long.

 

Hole In The Rock

Ron, Dan, and Mike left Moab for Hole In The Rock several hours before the rest of us left, and they were waiting for us at the trail head We arrived very late that night, but many of us still stayed up most of the night chatting and enjoying each other's company. Most of us slept in our vehicles because it was too late to set up camp.

Here is a view of some ruins near our campsite. It was so dark and I was so tired when we arrived that I didn't even notice these the night before.

Kyle leads the way into the trail.

Ho crawls down one of the early obstacles on the trail. Unlike some of the other trails in Moab, Hole In The Rock contains many types of terrain, from flat dirt trails, to slickrock, to jagged rocks.

Rob Hamilton mountain biked the whole day, which wasn't easy. Unlike Pritchett Canyon, which is basically a dirt road with several near-impassable obstacles, Hole In The Rock is a trail in the classic sense, and there were several flat portions of the trail where Rob must have peddled like mad to keep up with us.

Dan descends one of the numerous obstacles on the trail.

Abe ascends an off-camber hill while Simon videotapes the action. To Abe's right is a big drop.

After ascending the rocky hill, there are several miles of smooth plateau. The views from the plateau are spectacular. The last photo is of one of the numerous fingers of Lake Powell.

Here is a view of the end of the Hole In The Rock trail. Beautiful.

Abe was unfortunate enough to slide into a deep hole, causing his Disco to roll severely. But for Paul Kleinkramer's magical shaman dance, who knows what would have happened?

Dan and Mike enjoy some playtime on the trail.

Coming out of the Hole In The Rock. It's starting to get dark.

Rob Davison also got in some playtime on the trail while driving the Milk Truck. Paul was also kind enough to let Simon drive Paul's Disco.

Here are some photos of our campsite. We tried to pick a secluded spot that was relatively sheltered from the wind. Apparently, our plan didn't work well enough because the wind blew Brian's tent several hundred yards away.

We huddled around the fire that night because it was so cold and windy. Pictured clockwise from the left are Brian, Simon, Mike, Abe, Rob Hamilton, Ron, and Dan. Rob is fast asleep from an exhausting day of mountain biking. While the rest of us did Hole In The Rock in our vehicles, Rob rode his mountain bike all the way in.

Chris and Lisa broke an upper shock mount the previous day. Fortunately, Mike Peters had a Premier Power Welder on his Disco. Kyle welded up Chris' shock mount. The welder is yet another toy that I must get someday. The finished product looks pretty good, too.

After we left Hole In The Rock, the group split into two, with the West Coasters heading out West and Kyle and Heather heading east. However, Mike, Chris, and Lisa were going to take a southerly route and came with the rest of us West Coasters.

 

Valley Of The Gods

We stopped at a viewpoint for viewing the Valley Of The Gods. What a beautiful sight.

From the viewpoint area, we descended the twisty gravel road down to the Valley Of The Gods. The road is very slippery and narrow. Not the best road for enjoying the wonderful view. The views coming down the road are majestic.

 

Mexican Hat

We also stopped off at Mexican Hat to refuel. The town is named after a rock formation called Mexican Hat, pictured here.

After Mexican Hat, our group split up. Mike headed for Tennessee while Chris and Lisa headed for the Grand Canyon. Brian and Abe were going to Los Angeles to visit and drove with Ho, Simon, Paul, and me toward Las Vegas.

Once we reached Las Vegas, we dropped off the two Robs so that they could fly home. We were all exhausted, but Ho, Abe, Brian, and I decided to drive on while Paul decided to sleep in Las Vegas. I should have stayed with Paul and the Robs. I was so tired, I pulled to the side of Highway 15 and slept till morning while Ho, Abe, and Brian drove straight to Los Angeles. For all I know, Paul probably passed me on I-15 while I was sleeping!

Fortunately, everyone got back home safety. Once in Los Angeles, Brian dropped off Simon at Los Angeles International Airport the next day for Simon's flight back home.

It was a great trip and I'm still reeling from the fun as I write this three weeks after returning home. This was my first trip to Moab, but it certainly won't be my last.

I wish to thank those on the trip for their kind permission for me to use these photographs. The photos contained in this write-up are but a small portion of the numerous photographs taken on this trip and the trails run by other members of the group. To view the complete collection of all of the Moab 2001 photographs, please visit DiscoWeb.

If you are interested in seeing the action from this trail on DVD, check out the DiscoWeb Hole in the Rock DVD.