Trail Reports

 

Life on the trail...

I'm going post these reports pretty much in the order I ran these trails. You'll ride along with me, taking in the scenery, and I'll be providing my thoughts on each trail as well as my Jeeping experiences. It's on these trails that I get to test out my mods and learn to wheel my Jeep. 

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Let me set this up a little. My youngest son got accepted to the University of Utah. To get him moved out there, he and I decided to leave a few days early from Chicago and take in some trails in Moab, before heading up to Salt Lake and getting him settled into his dorm. This would be my first time off roading in Rubi, and I was eager to try out all of my new mods.

To help me select which trails to run, I got my hands on a copy of Charles Wells's Moab trail guide. This guide is essential for anyone heading to Moab. Many trails are found only by using odometer settings, with instructions like "look for the old barbed wire fence at 8.6 mi., and bear left". The book also contains GPS coordinates as well as detailed maps of sections of trails, and pics of what you will see on any given trail.

My thinking was to study the Wells guide and pick an easy trail to get our feet wet on. This would allow me to get acclimated with my Jeep, get comfortable using 4 wheel low, and locking the axles, sway bar disconnected and so on. I was also looking for a scenic trail, as this would be my first experience in Moab. I would later discover pretty much all of Moab is scenic.

 

Spring canyon bottom

Up first is the very first trail I ran in Moab, Spring Canyon Bottom. This trail provided a perfect venue for us. It's easy to get out to the canyon, once there, the place will blow your mind with it's beauty and ruggedness. Let's hit the trail.

On the way out to Spring Canyon Bottom, your driving on an easy dirt road. On our trip out there, it was pretty quiet. We only saw a couple of mountain bikers on various trails and side roads that fed off the main road. It's 33.5 mi. from Moab to the canyon. Here's a satellite shot that will give you an idea of terrain. You can see the relative flat areas you drive for most of the way out there, and then boom, you're at the edge of the canyon.

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This is the terrain after you leave the highway. It doesn't change significantly until you reach the canyon.

This is the terrain after you leave the highway. It doesn't change significantly until you reach the canyon.

As you approach the canyon, you will arrive at an old Forest Service gate. Always leave the gate the way you found it. It was closed when we arrived, we closed it behind us.

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In the above pic, you can see the edge of the canyon on the left, and the old gate in front of Rubi. This is where it begins to get exiting and beautiful! You can see the trail ahead snaking along the very edge of the canyon.

 

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Here is a nice overlook before you start descending into Spring Canyon. This is a great place to park and take it all in. You can see the sheerness of the canyon walls. We stopped and spent a little time hanging out here and exploring the vistas. Not knowing what is ahead of you when you do these trails is one of the best parts of the trip. It really gives your days a sense of adventure...

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This is looking down from the turnout in the above pic. You can see a lot of the trail, and that giant monolith shape you drive past...

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This next pic is one of my favorites. It gives you a idea of the scale of Spring Canyon trail.

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Working our way down...

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As you descend, you're working your way along and under this spectacular red sandstone cliff...

Checking the trail ahead...

Checking the trail ahead...

Continuing down the trail...

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We are getting down to the bottom of the canyon in this next pic, you can see the river bed...

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View from the windshield never disappoints on this trail...

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Testing a little flex, bump stop for the first time. This trail was perfect, as we were absolute beginners..

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Looking up from the canyon floor...

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Remnants of the old cable operated mining equipment...

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The trail, which at this point is called Hey Joe Canyon Safari Route winds its way down to the Green River. When you reach the river, the trail forks left or right. If you turn to the right, you're heading towards Hey Joe Canyon. The trail now shadows the Green River. They are a few obstacles along the banks that will challenge your driving skill and allow your spotter to guide you...

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We worked our way past this point for about another mile or two. We were on this trail in late summer, and the Tamarisk, which grows wild along the banks, was grown in very tightly along both sides of the trail. The Tamarisk branches will scratch paint pretty good. After a mile or so, we eventually gave up on making Hey Joe Canyon, opting to save my paint.

Spring Canyon Bottom proved to be an excellent first trail run for us. It's spectacular beauty and relatively easy trails are a great way to introduce yourself to wheeling in Moab, and getting to know your Jeep. Stay tuned, more great trails to come!

 

-Steven

 


 

rainbow terrace

 

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Having done Spring Canyon Bottom, I decided to try another trail that was just a bit more challenging. I wanted to keep developing my off road skills and learning how to use my Jeep by running trails that get progressively tougher. Not that you can say this next one is tough, but it is rated moderate as compared to Spring Canyon, which was rated easy. So, this will expose me to some different, more difficult obstacles, allowing me to learn...nice and slow.

Rainbow Terrace is an 18.8 mi out and back trail. This trail is rated moderate in the Wells' book. I would say it is mostly easy, with a moderate section. That section is where you actually climb up onto the Terrace.

On the way out, we stopped at Dubinky Well. The well was built in 1937 by the CCC's to provide water for livestock. My Dad was on a CCC crew in Montana building bridges. When I see things like this , I wonder about what that must have been like. To be a young man during the Great Depression working way out West, living in a tent, building the nation. Much of what these men built is still in use today...pretty cool!

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In this pic, you can see remains of the wooden troughs, thought to be original, though rebuilt several times...

In this pic, you can see remains of the wooden troughs, thought to be original, though rebuilt several times...

We started out to the trail early afternoon. We had planned to be out after dark to test the new aux. LED lighting I had installed on Rubi. It was midway through August when were in Moab, and the day we did Rainbow started warm with clouds moving in for a possible storm. It was one of those beautifully atmospheric afternoon/evenings that leaves a mark on your mind. It was breezy, and on the wind I could smell hints of sagebrush and that wonderful scent of rain hitting dry ground being carried on the air.

As you get closer to the Terrace, there is a section of sand dunes you will cross. On the sand, with the sway bar disconnected, Rubi felt like a ship on the ocean...gently rising and falling as we crossed the dune. This changing landscape is one of the really cool features of this trail.

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This stretch of dune was a blast to run!

This stretch of dune was a blast to run!

As you get closer to the Terrace, you approach the Entrada Sandstone outcroppings...magnificent!

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Now we are getting close to Rainbow Terrace, and the landscape is changing again...

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Stopping to take it all in...this landscape leaves a mark on your soul!

Stopping to take it all in...this landscape leaves a mark on your soul!

On this part of the trail, the sand gives way to slickrock, and boy is it beautiful!!!

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At this point on the trail, we stopped and got out of the Jeep, just to take it all in. My college age son was so moved by the beauty of this place that he took off running, literally running at the horizon shouting back at me "Dad, this is so amazing". He returned about twenty minutes later, a little tired, wearing a big smile and still blissed out! 

While you are navigating the slickrock, you need to pay attention to where the trail goes. There are sections where you are not sure you are even still on the trail or not. Look for small dash lines every few hundred feet or so, painted in white paint. That is the trail.

Now you get to some small ledges that head you down into a wash. These were fun to play on, especially for beginners.

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Now it's time to climb up on the Terrace. At this point, this was the biggest obstacle we had tried being new to Jeeping. The ledge is probably 24-28" high.

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It's great to look back on these, remember how concerned you were at the moment, trying get your Jeep over the obstacle and really sweating it. We were such novices, but this trail was a great learning experience for me as a driver, and my son spotting me. We created such great memories of doing this together...that's the best part!

It was just after getting up on what seemed to be a pretty flat stretch of bowl shaped slickrock that it dawned on me that we were actually on the "Terrace". The Terrace is the flat section that runs around the base of the beautiful entrada.

 

It's getting near dark now, and we park on the Terrace for some photos...

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So this is why we came to Rainbow Terrace, leaving town in the afternoon, to test out my aux. LED's. Being out here after dark added more to the beauty we experienced on this trail. We would get lost a couple of times heading back to Moab. The back of the trail after the Terrace runs through several washes that link up to dirt roads. We made it back...what an adventure! Having the extra light on Rubi made night time driving off-road a breeze. Rainbow Terrace was a special trail for us.

 

-Steven

 


 

fins & Things

 

My third trail in Moab was Fins & Things. Here again, I was looking to run a trail that was more difficult than my last, and Fins did not disappoint. This trail is mostly slickrock, with a few sandy areas. This trail is rated difficult. Fins gets its name from the Navajo Sandstone slickrock formations, shaped like fins. The trail is reached via Sand Flats road. It has an approximate mileage of 25 mi, with 13 of those miles being off highway. We spent most of the day running Fins. To me, the defining qualities of Fins & Things is the steep ascents and descents. Let's hit the trail...

 

The pic below is a pretty good overview of Fins, and gives you a good idea of the terrain.

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This trail is very scenic in all directions. Fins jumps right in throwing nice climbs and descents on the slickrock. There are some by-passes if you don't want the worst the trail has to offer.

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This trail was great for checking out my approach and departure angles. In the above pic, you can see where a lot of vehicles made contact.

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As I'm heading down another slickrock face, I remember saying to myself, "I'm damn glad I upgraded my brakes!". There were a few spots where I got out and walked, or more accurately tried to walk before we attempted them. Fin's has too really challenging spots on the second half. Those being Kenny's Climb, and Frenchie's Fin. Not only are you working some pretty steep angles, but also there are camber changes midway through some of these that you need to pay attention to. I wanted to check my line before heading in. Slow and steady for me. What a great learning process this was for me and my son!

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Here we are on top of one of the Fins. It's nice to stop and take it all in. It's also nice to take a break and reflect on what you just experienced and learned from the trail.

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Near the beginning of Fins, we met up with another Jeeper who had driven over from Texas. Frank was running a stock Hard Rock which he had just purchased and driven to Moab. He explained to me he had traded in his modified Toyota FJ. He would watch me do a climb, and then follow my line, as he was wheeling alone. He did nearly every trail we did, electing only once to use the alternate(easier) route. About the only difference I observed was he bottomed out/scrapped  more than we did, being on the stock suspension and tires. Remember, I'm on 35's and 3.5" of lift at this point in my build. This demonstrated to me how very capable a stock Jeep is. When we stopped for a break, I asked Frank what he thought of the Jeep compared to his former FJ. His reply was "really no comparison, the Jeep was a much better off-road machine...hands down!".

 

In this next pic, we are about half way through the trail. This section provided a nice break from the slickrock...

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In places, especially through the middle section, Fin's & Things felt like rollercoaster, set in a beautiful, challenging landscape...

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Getting ready to descend another fin. Some of these feel nearly straight down from the drivers seat...

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This trail taught me so much about my Jeep. Things like high clearance bumpers  for approach and departure angles, the beauty of the 4:1 transfer case that allows you crawl up and descend down very steep grades slowly and in control. The need for a hi-tuck exhaust, to be able to come off the steep faces cleanly. I flattened one on my MBRP exhaust tips coming off the very last fin on this trail. At the bottom edge of that, water had eroded the sand away at the base, making the drop down that much greater.

Running this trail gave me a whole new respect for my Jeep. Some of the slickrock faces we wheeled on were so steep you could not stand on them. I've never looked at my Jeep the same after this! By that I mean I was beginning tho understand what capability Jeep engineers have built into these vehicles, and I was still a novice at piloting Rubi! 

It was after running this trail, and reflecting on our experiences during the long drive home that I knew I wanted to build to run 37's.

 

-Steven

 

 

 


 

 

Ok, so it's been a year since I last ran Moab. I went home with a desire to continue to build up my Jeep. The next round of upgrades were primarily focused on building to run 37's. I wanted a more trail capable Jeep, and 37's are a big improvement in off road capability.

 

Top of the World

 

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This trail is rated difficult in the Well's book. Top of the World offers spectacular views of Fisher Valley, Onion Creek and the La Sal Mountains. Approximate mileage is 74mi total, 10 miles off highway. You take highway 128 out of Moab, which shadows the Colorado River for a good portion of the drive out. The locals refer to this as "River Road". The Entrada Sandstone is beautiful wherever it is exposed as you travel along the river. This is a beautiful drive on a very scenic road.

 

Route 128, “river road”…

Route 128, “river road”…

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Dewey Bridge before it burned…

Dewey Bridge before it burned…

Just after you turn off of State Route 128 to start the trail, you arrive at the site of the old Dewey Bridge. The bridge was built in 1916 as a way to connect Moab with Grand Junction. Prior to the bridge, there was a toll ferry at this site that was operated by Samuel King, an early settler. This is why this stretch of road was once referred to as "King's Toll Road". You can still find rocks inscribed with King's Toll Road" along the roadway. When the Dewey bridge was completed, it was the longest suspension bridge in Utah at 502ft long. It remained Utah's longest suspension bridge up to 2008, when it was destroyed by fire as a result of a child playing with matches in a nearby campground. 

 

 

We stopped a few miles into the trail to air down. The first few miles of the trail are easy graded county roads as you steadily begin to gain altitude.

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In this next pic, we are at some of the first steps/ledges this trail affords. Once these start, the trail begins to throw these at you steadily more often, and they get larger. 

Here again, my learning curve begins to take an upward trajectory... much like the trail.

Here again, my learning curve begins to take an upward trajectory... much like the trail.

We met a couple of Jeepers headed back down the trail around late morning. As we were negotiating past each other I asked what the trail ahead was like, does it get harder? His answer was " oh yes, it gets considerable harder as you go up, but you are built for it being on 37's". Both Jeeps coming down were on 35's. That gave me some confidence. 

I said this in an earlier Trail Report, but it bears repeating, not knowing what the trail ahead holds for you is part of the adventure of wheeling your Jeep. And it invariably provides the evenings conversation after you've made it through. I really like that aspect of this sport/hobby/recreation of Jeeping. You build your Jeep to take you there and back, and through the process, you develop a kind of bond with the machine.

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More trail goodness...

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Seeing your Jeep flexed out for the first time is a real rush!

Seeing your Jeep flexed out for the first time is a real rush!

We stopped at this point on the trail so I could check my flex, bump stops, and to have a quick lunch and take it all in. This was my first trail on 37's, and I needed to verify a few things.

It was a beautiful October day in Moab! As we were hanging out, having some lunch, we heard some motorcycles approaching. When one of the rider reached us, he stopped ask about the trail, what was ahead, etc.. He was an older fellow who was out from Oklahoma, and was riding with a partner. The other rider had stopped, feeling the trail was getting too gnarly. After chatting with for a while he strapped his helmet back on and headed up the trail. As he was passing us, he lifted the bike into a wheelie, flashed us a victory sign and off he went. My buddy Jason and I both ride and love serious offroad motorcycle rides. We looked at each other and laughed...wow, the old dude can really ride :)

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Moab is rugged, beautiful and awe inspiring for me...

Moab is rugged, beautiful and awe inspiring for me...

 

We keep working our way up the trail. This next pic helps you understand the size of many of the ledges on Top of the World that you get to work your Jeep over...

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Getting near the top now...

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As you get up near the end of the trail, the landscape begins to gradually flatten out a little. Before you know it, you've arrived at the Top of the World! You'll know you are arriving at the top as you see the landscape open up with larger areas of exposed rock, and western cedars that look like they battle a lot of wind at times. It's another beautiful landscape, different from what you we drove through as we made our way up the trail. 

The trail now takes you right out to the very edge of the canyon, and it is both breathtaking and a little unnerving at first. This is what you came for. This is the picture that ever Jeeper wants of his or her Jeep! This is spectacular with a capital S!!!

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Here are a few views looking down to the Valley below...

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To the right of this pic you can see Fisher Towers.

To the right of this pic you can see Fisher Towers.

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We spent some time at the top, just hanging out, taking pictures and trying to get our minds around the views this place offers you. Looking down over the edge you see Onion Creek narrows below, the scale seems hard to grasp. To the right, you can see Fisher Towers.

 

Turned around and about to start heading back down the trail...

Turned around and about to start heading back down the trail...

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Again, I learned a great deal about my Jeep and increased my driving skills on this trail. The scenery is spectacular, especially at the top. The highest elevation is 7036 ft, and you will gain 3287 ft of elevation on this trail. The trail length is 5.5mi long. Expect to be out 4-5 hrs.

In this last pic, we are heading back to town, the sun has just set, and look at this vista! What a day we had. Time to get back to town and hit Moab Diner for some dinner!

 

 

-Steven

 


Time to get back on another trail! Let’s keep making it more difficult, I need to get better at wheelin’ Rubi!

Kane creek canyon

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Before I ran this trail, I was in town at City Market getting supplies. As often happens, you strike up conversations with other Jeepers. I was looking for ideas for my next trail, and Kane Creek had come up. The guy I was speaking with had run Kane Creek the day before with his buddies. The one thing that stuck out to me during that conversation was him telling me one of the Jeeps in their party got high-sided on part of the trail and had to be winched off. They were all lifted and on 35’s. Hmmm I thought, this sounds like an interesting trail.

Kane Creek, or Kane Creek Canyon as it is officially known is 13.8 mi long, and is rated 6-10 (moderate-extreme). It’s highest elevation is 5200 ft. It’s a trail you run straight through, and normally would take you 4+ hrs.

This trail starts you off on a very scenic drive. As you leave the paved road, you head out into the wide open Kane Springs Canyon.

Another gorgeous October day in Moab…

Another gorgeous October day in Moab…

In this next pic, we’re getting to the point on this trail just before you drop down into the ravine. You can see the open valley we passed through behind us here…

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It’s right along here that the trail throws you it first big challenge. You will come around a large outcropping of rocks right along the ravine. Next thing you know, you’re figuring out how to get over the rocks and through this section. This was a great time, driver and spotter working closely together. Some of these boulders are 24-36” high. This section really helped me with wheel placement and throttle inputs.



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Next up was this section. You’ve got to get lined up correctly before you place your driver side tire on the rocks in the right of the photo. You can see in the pic below what I mean, you get lined up, and have your spotter get you up on the rocks. This will pitch you into that boulder on the passenger side. Be careful here, the boulder is midway up the door on a lifted Jeep, and is waiting to rip your rear fender flare off or worse.

On this section I began getting used to having Rubi at full articulation and dropping sideways off the boulders. Adding to the technical aspect of this section is that once you are in against the boulder on the passenger side, your nose will be up against another boulder directly in front of you. You come down off the rocks only to have to back up on them again as you make a three point turn to the right. In the next pic, this is the view from the drivers seat.

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This taught me why it’s good to have the tire/wheel out a little further…it can help keep you off the bodywork…

This taught me why it’s good to have the tire/wheel out a little further…it can help keep you off the bodywork…

Who’s havin’ fun!!!

Who’s havin’ fun!!!

You get a little break next as you work your way further along the trail. It just keeps getting more spectacular as the canyon gets tighter around you…

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At 4.6mi the character of the trail changes again as you drop down into Kane Creek. As we first approached the creek, we found it very narrow, overgrown with the native Tamarisk on both sides. It was tight enough to scratch paint. We stopped to chop and cut some of the branches back to allow us through. Note to self, add more saws to Rubi!

You will crossing back and forth in and out of Kane Creek. Keep an eye out for trail markers. The BLM marks the trail with yellow ribbons tied to branches, but storms will remove them, and it is easy to get off course here. In the pic below, we are on one of the many creek sections we encountered. This is another really cool aspect of Kane Creek, the first third of the trail was rocky, dry and dusty, now we are running in some water of varying depth. It’s worth noting here, keep an eye on the sky, you would not want to be on this section of trail when the rains come. It could get dangerous very quickly.

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We stopped at this point on the trail to have a bite to eat. This was first time I really used my Springtail Solutions folding table. It made setting up lunch easy and accessible.

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Let’s keep moving forward. There are several spots that are very sandy as you you work back and forth across the creek. This next section was particularly beautiful…

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More fun playing in the creek. The water here on this day was only about 8-10'“ deep at the deepest spots. I’ve read of water crossings that were waist high. Keep an eye on the weather. You will cross in and out of the creek up to 40 times, keep looking for the brown trail signs and the ribbons on trees and branches. We had a few wrong turns and had to back up to find the trail again. We saw no other Jeepers on the trail this day. We did meet a fellow from Germany who was mountain biking this part of the trail. Hats off to him! Watching him trying to negotiate the sandy sections looked brutal…at times he would simply get off, pick up his bike and walk through a section of sand. He was having trouble locating the trail in areas as well. He asked if we knew the trail…the blind leading the blind!

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Here we are getting near the last section of creek trail. You can see the rocky canyon walls appearing again.

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It’s time to begin climbing up and out. The trail goes from the soft, sandy growth back to the rugged rocky canyon terrain. This trail just keeps giving you fantastic challenges, terrain changes, and climates. It’s a very engaging trail to run.

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After the steady climb out of the creek bottom, you will soon be treated to a couple of really challenging sections. The next one up kinda threw me. I had watched videos of it prior to coming to Moab, and already had a healthy respect for it. We had be been on the trail most of the day, stopping to take pics, getting the drone up several times, etc. I was getting tired. We came around a sharp right turn that featured a nice pull out. I paused for a moment, looking at a natural receded shelf that had a picture and a candle sitting on it, a memorial. We stopped to look at the section ahead which climbed up and was rough with boulders strewn across the face of it. This was “Hamburger Hill”a small sign read!

I remember saying to my buddy Jason…”you gotta be kidding me”! After getting out and walking it, I finally settled in to the fact that we are going up this today. It’s late enough in the day that it’s in the shadows now.

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Midway up Hamburger Hill. I’m 6’5”, look at the height of this ledge.

Midway up Hamburger Hill. I’m 6’5”, look at the height of this ledge.

We will use the left side of the trail, avoiding the gigantic ledge you saw me standing next to. The rocks here will pitch you towards the canyon below, your driver side wheel will be right on the edge of the canyon. This was pretty exciting as you get your passenger side tire up on the rock, pitching the Jeep towards the open canyon and you are looking straight down on certain death…easy does it:)

You can see the UTV trail below that leads to the steel bridge. This was the view from my driverside window…

You can see the UTV trail below that leads to the steel bridge. This was the view from my driverside window…

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Hamburger Hill was no joke. It will get your heart pumping for sure! This next section is called Muleshoe Canyon. You work your way along a narrow ledge of beautiful Entrada Sandstone…

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Here’s shot from the drone to give a little perspective to this section…

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We’re getting near the end of the trail now, you will have a couple rough climbs up what is known as “waterfall”. I was starting to feel pretty confident at this point. Once again, I gained a whole new respect for what a Jeep is capable of. I just need to keep working on my driving skills. I’m probably only using 5/10’s of my Jeeps capability at this point.

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And lastly, you need to get up this sandy ledge. This took me two tries, as traction is hard to find. I was also on my stock gas tank skid. I knew then and there I wanted to upgrade that soon…

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I now understand while this trail is so popular. It offers such a variety of terrain and challenges. It’s rugged and beautiful. It can be easy and peaceful to drive and then require you to concentrate hard not to screw up, this is one hell of a trail! Kane Creek will forever be etched in my mind.

-Steven




Time to back on the trails! This next trail was the third we did on our 2017 trip. We were looking something moderate to difficult, scenic and we planned on spending the night on the trail…

7 Mile Rim

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7 Mile Rim is a 14 mile loop near Thompson, Utah. It’s rated moderate to difficult. Most of this trail is scenic and on the moderate side. There is a section on the back side of Merrimac Butte that is pretty tippy. This has the driver feeling like like at any moment, you could roll onto the drivers side. It makes for a good pucker, if know what I mean;/)

The trail leaves highway 191 about 11 miles north of town. It passes the old Cotter uranium mine and switches back to reach the cliff rim above the mine and highway 191. Let’s get on this trail!

On the way up to the mesa, you are given a series of ledges to play on…

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Nothing too serious, just fun and allowed me to work my skills a little more…

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Still making our way up to the mesa…

This was nice series of steps to get up. You can see where a lot of people have spun their tires on it. 4low and locked, Rubi walked right up it without any drama.

This was nice series of steps to get up. You can see where a lot of people have spun their tires on it. 4low and locked, Rubi walked right up it without any drama.

We’re up on the mesa now, and the trail is working you closer to rim. You will be on a lot of open rock areas like this. Here again, Moab shows me another landscape different from the rest…rocky and dotted with juniper trees.

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Poser shot…couldn’t resist!

Poser shot…couldn’t resist!


This is where you first come to the edge of the mesa above highway 191. You can literally see for miles from up here. To the upper left of the photo you can see the red Entrada Sandstone of Arches National Park.

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The trail meanders along the cliff edge for a bit, bending around towards the right and will take you by Seven Mile Canyon. From there, it turns you back towards the West. On the horizon, you see Monitor and Merrimac Buttes ahead of us.

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From where we are in the pic above, out to the buttes, you will cross an easy sandy section of trail. Monitor is on the left, Merrimac on the right…

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There is a spur trail that takes you out to Uranium Arch. We didn’t take it, as we were hell bent on getting out to the Buttes and finding a possible camping site. The day was warm, with overcast skies. It was setting up to be a nice evening to camp out.

The trail takes you between the two buttes. They just keep getting more incredible as you get closer to them…

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We stopped here to scout this area, eventually deciding to make camp here…

My buddy Jason working on some video. This was his first time to Moab, it really blew his mind…

My buddy Jason working on some video. This was his first time to Moab, it really blew his mind…

Here’s the view to the south as we parked between the buttes…

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We ended up making our camp here, on the backside of Merrimac Butte. We set-up camp in a nice bowl that gave us some seclusion and was out of the wind. The weather was nice for us, the low at night only going down to the low to mid 40’s.

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With camp set up, it was time to get a nice fire going, eat something and settle in for the night. As we are sitting around the campfire, taking stock of where we were, the day’s trail ride, I’m looking back up towards the ridge where I have Rubi parked. It’s then when I realize what an asset my Jeep is. While it was fun and exciting to build it up, this is why I built it. To take us to places like this. Carry gear on it’s back like a mule, tackle rough terrains, cruise down the interstate. This really is a lifestyle vehicle, and has opened up a whole new world for me.

After dinner, we gathered more firewood for the coming night, and then spent time just watching the sky. I live in a Chicago suburb, and you forget how beautiful the night sky actually is. From the ridge above our campsite, through the binoculars we spotted a group of mountain bikers in the valley below us that were still riding. We saw a string of small red lights in a line moving across the landscape…it took a moment to realize what we were looking at. Not sure where they were heading, and why they were still on the trail, must have been trying to make a specific destination for the night.

We ended up staying out late into the night, too excited to sleep. This night was a beauty, we had our cameras set up, working various exposures and comparing thoughts. As I was working on taking some photos, I would sit and watch the sky for shooting stars…I must have seen a half dozen that night. I remember us saying to each other, “we gotta do this again!”.

A perfect night on the trail!!!

A perfect night on the trail!!!

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The night stayed dry, the only excitement being some rather large hoofed animal walked though camp sometime in the early morning hours, coming very close to our tent. It was easy to hear on the slickrock. I had this happen once on a overnight camping trip in Montana. We had traveled to our campsite on horse back, and were camping at around 9400ft elevation…really out in the wilds. We had a couple of animals walk through camp in the middle of the night. In this case, I could feel the vibration in the ground, so I knew it was large, probably an elk. You lay there in your sleeping bag hoping that what ever it is, it doesn’t disturb your tent. I’m sure the animals are brought in by the smell of our food, feeling courageous enough to walk in to camp in the dead quiet of night.

The next morning, up to watch the sun rise…

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Pre-dawn camp, another adventure awaits…

Pre-dawn camp, another adventure awaits…

Looking east at the sunrise beyond Monitor Butte…spectacular!!!

Looking east at the sunrise beyond Monitor Butte…spectacular!!!

Time to get back on the trail!

Leaving camp…

Leaving camp…

We finally meet…

We finally meet…

We made a quick breakfast, made sure our fire was out and broke camp. Time to get back on the trail.

I had been in contact with AzScooter, a friend from Wrangler Forum. It turns out we were going to be in Moab at the same time, and we were hoping to possibly meet up. I sent him a text first thing in the morning, and he was already on 7 Mile Trail, coming to join us. However, he had just bent a wheel and lost air in the tire. I asked if we could head out and look for him and help him with the flat. He declined the offer and was going to try and fix it himself. Too bad, I thought, I was really hoping to finally meet Scott and wheel with him.

Jason and I were working on shooting more video, so we were taking our time. I had driven out of camera range, and was waiting for Jason to hike back to me. I was parked at a spot on the trail where several trails converge. As I sat there waiting, I noticed a Jeep approaching in my rear view mirror. The Jeep looked familiar to me…it was my buddy Scott. By chance, our paths had crossed after all!

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Scott had been able to make the repairs to his flat on the trail. This was a great example to me about being prepared. Scott carries a good selection of tools with him, including an electric impact wrench that can help make quick work of repairs. He also has an onboard air system on his Jeep.

Scott removed the damaged wheel, then using a small sledge hammer was able beat the rim bead back enough to get the tire to seat and hold air. Pretty impressive stuff right? It was clear to me I needed to add some capability to my Jeep.

Checking inflation on that repaired rim…

Checking inflation on that repaired rim…

In the pic below, you can see the trail behind us. This is where it gets “tippy” as you round the Entrada formations.

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I was looking forward to wheeling with Scott, he has so much more experience than I, and I knew I could learn a few things from him…

Scouting the next section of trail…

Scouting the next section of trail…

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After we ran this next section, we stopped to check the Well’s book. The trail in this area offers you many different directions. While we were looking at the maps, I was asking Scott about some of the lines he took, wether he was locked front and rear, etc.. His reply to that last question startled me. I rarely lock unless the trail is really bad. I was fully locked following him. This really illustrates two things to me, driver ability, and the ability of a built Jeep. I need more trail time with this guy…I could learn a lot!!! We did a few more tough little sections in this area, looking for “Wipeout Hill”, we’re not sure if we were actually did wipeout or not. The sections we did were plenty difficult for me, offer a lot of off camber work as you climbed. I did ask Scott what the tipping/roll-over point was on a JKU? I don’t know was his reply…I’ve never rolled…fair enough!

The next part of the trail has you descending elevation and dropping off a few really nice ledges…

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The trail then runs you through the sand again and then out past Determination Towers…

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The trail lead us to a wash that we ran in and out of on our way back to highway 191.

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7 Mile was another amazing trail for us. Overnighting hilighted this trip, with the chance meeting of AzScooter on the trail being the icing on the cake.

In the short time we wheeled together, I learned a few things. We’ve all heard the saying, if you want to up your game, play with someone better than you! This was the case for me. For my part, I’m trying to drive my Jeep better, using lockers only when really needed, etc.. That can only happen as I spend time on the these amazing trails. I was also shown firsthand that being prepared is everything to making it back in. I also learned a lot from my buddy Jason who does a lot of camping, that I want to upgrade and add to my camping gear. I can’t wait for the next time out…time to get busy working on the next round of upgrades for Rubi. Stay tuned Amigos, more to come!



-Steven