Monday, May 8, 2017

White Rim Trail - Day 4 and 5 - April 2017

White Rim Trail Pop-up Camper Expedition - Days 4 & 5 of 5

Day 4

April 4, 2017

For an introduction to this trip and an explanation of the White Rim Trail, see Day 1.

Click any photo for a larger version!

Bob had expressed the desire to hike up the trail to Upheaval Dome. It was a longer hike than any of the rest of us wanted to take, so he started off on his own as soon as it got light. If he was still parked at the trailhead when we drove by, we'd leave a note with the time. Otherwise we'd meet at the next campsite.

I heard John shout to his brother that he could see Bob driving up Hardscrabble Hill.
Dan was able to quickly grab his camera and get this shot. Do you see Bob's truck & camper?

Bob took this photo of the start of the steep climb. See the post in the upper left? That is on the left side of the road just past that switchback. The switchback was so sharp that even with our small trucks, we had to reverse once to make it.

Dan, John, and I broke camp at our usual time and headed up Hardscrabble Hill. This is another section where 4 wheel drive LOW is strongly recommended. This was a much more challenging climb than Murphy Hogback. There were two very steep sections with switchbacks, one of which even our short rigs had to reverse to negotiate the sharp curve. The road surface was also much, much rougher with large rocks and holes.

The climb starts innocently enough.

And after the first climb there was a level spot to take photos.

I stopped at the top of this climb to photograph Dan driving up. Note the intermediate level below and in the upper right you can see the lower level.

Here is a wider angle taken moments later. You can see Potato Bottom in this image.

View from the top of the climb looking upstream. If you look carefully, you can see the WRT cut mid-way up the red slope in the upper right. You can also see bentonite clay in the hillside. That's what makes the other side slick when wet.

And here is a view downstream from the same spot as the previous photo. You can see the WRT bottom right.

Illegal rock art at the top of the climb.

This was the top of the climb up the south side, but not the highest elevation of the road. The road continued from there along a cut higher up, but not nearly as steep. The road then made a sharp right turn. There was a sign indicating the Fort Bottom Trail right at the curve. I pulled over as did Dan. We knew where the trailhead was on the map, but did not realize in advance that it was essentially at the top of Hardscrabble.

Dan and I wanted to hike the Fort Bottom Trail. The guide book reports that there is an ancient Indian ruin at the end of the trail, as well as an old cabin next to the river that was used as a staging point back in the day. As John was on crutches due to his foot surgery, he would not come along, though he had bravely ventured shorter distances out to various overlooks and sights. Dan carried John's chair and some provisions up a small hill by the trailhead and I loaned John my binoculars.

John surveys his domain as we started our hike.

There was also conflicting information as to the length of the trail - one map said 4 miles, the guide book said 2 miles, another map said 3 miles for the round trip. I carried my GPS and it reported 3 miles, but we didn't hike to the very end, either.

After rounding the initial hill by the trailhead, the view opened up. Essentially we would be hiking out this "peninsula" into the gooseneck of the Green River.

The trail drops down on the north side to skirt a hill.

This was a very enjoyable hike, not too rough for my bum knee, but still wild with great views. The trail crossed a couple of "neck" sections, the second of which was quite narrow with a drop-off on both sides.

The first of the neck sections of trail. The lens makes it look wider than it actually was.
It seemed to be made primarily of bentonite clay.

Looking south from the trail where the river bends.
Those foothills across the way were gorgeous colors, unfortunately the camera failed to capture their full beauty.

This is the second neck. It was much narrower, but of firm rock. You can see the trail climb the next hill.
This was our first good look at the butte out at the end of the trail. You can see the Indian ruins on top.
As I didn't carry my heavy telephoto lens on the hike, this is the best photo of the ruins I got.

The trail squeezes between these two rocks.

A colorful resident.

After hiking to the far side of the butte, we had a good view of the old cabin.

The Indian ruins were at the top of the hill. The trail that led up there looked like more of a scramble than Dan and I wanted to venture. We also didn't feel any need to hike down to the river to look at what was left of the cabin. So we sat on a rock ledge with a gorgeous view and had a snack before heading back to the road.

We sat admiring the view where the trail either continues down to the cabin or climbs the butte.

A beautiful landscape was ours to admire on our way back.

Here is the trail going between the rocks I showed you in an earlier photo.

Dan is almost to the narrowest of the two necks.

And he steps across a bit of a gap in the neck.

Dan rounds the hill near the trailhead. You should be able to see the WRT curve around Bighorn Mesa.
You might be able to just see the little dots of our vehicles parked along the road before a slight climb.

We then descended Hardscrabble Hill. This section is not as steep and rough as was the ascent. However, the road on this side is composed of clay in many places and would be difficult or impossible to travel when muddy. There was then a long sandy descent.

This is the view north as we begin our traverse and descent of Hardscrabble Hill.
You can see the WRT down below and where it curves to head upriver.

I was surprised that Bob's truck was not at the Upheaval Dome trailhead. We drove on.

There were long sections of the road that were deeply rutted, obviously difficult when muddy. When we arrived at our final camp, Labyrinth, Bob was sitting in his chair waiting for us. I asked if he'd abandoned his hike before reaching the dome, but he said "no" he'd made it all the way and back, that it was a fairly easy hike.

The Labyrinth Camp was initially disappointing as it was the smallest we'd been in and there was a large section of dried, crusted mud right in the middle that made for difficult walking. Later after we set up and as evening began to set in, we ignored the defects and gazed enraptured by the amazing cliffs on all sides. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before we set up, we left my truck at camp and I rode with Bob as Bob and Dan & John drove out Taylor Valley. The junction was right by our camp and leads out to the Taylor Camp and a bit farther to views of the Zeus and Moses Towers. We elected not to hike the trail to the towers as Bob said the views from the trail were not much better than those we had at the end of the road. We took photos, admired the views, and drove back to camp.

Zeus and Moses Towers on the left and a nameless finger of mesa on the right.

A view of Zeus and Moses with the telephoto lens.

Dan took this photo of our campsite.

After setting up, Bob and I walked the road in the direction we'd take in the morning. We didn't go far, just wanted to get a bit of the lay of the land. I saw a bunch of cool mudstone pieces along the road cut and had to take photos, but I've decided not to subject the casual blog reader to those - if you do want to see photos of rocks, click here.

This will be the route we will take in the morning.

The moon rises above a rock bank along the WRT.

The moon rose above the mesas and it was a pleasant evening though a bit breezy, as was much of the trip.

The moon above Buck Mesa.

The last color of the evening.

White Rim Trail - Day 5

April 6, 2017

Here's our camp from a different angle as we load up and get ready to head out.

This morning was the last and shortest section of the trail. The road followed the Green River, sometimes by clinging to the very edge.

The road, in shadow, clings to the very edge about 10 to 20 feet above the river.

We stopped at the park boundary for a group photo using my tripod and camera timer.

John, Dan, Bill, and Bob pose for the Official Group Portrait as we leave the national park.

Dan took this photo of this low section of the road.

There were more rutted sections of road. Reportedly when the Green River runs high this area is inundated and it's one of the few times they close the road. We came to the Mineral Bottom junction and started up the switchbacks.

A view of the Mineral Canyon Switchbacks from part way up.

Looking down Mineral Canyon from the top. Mineral Bottoms in the distance.

The pavement is about 12 miles beyond the top of the switchbacks. We stopped there to air-up our tires and we said our good-byes to Dan and John who were headed back home from there. Bob and I would meet up in the town of Green River for gas and provisions, then head for the San Rafael Swell. This part of the journey is contained in my Prologue & Epilogue WRT blog entry.

Thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions about our trip or the White Rim Trail in general.


  1. Loved it! Kinda spectacular, awesome, wonderful, colorful.....yea you know :)
    Thanks for the ride. Hope to do it myself in a year or 2 :)

    1. Thanks, Happyjack, I'm glad you enjoyed my WRT story. It's a great trip, hope you get the chance... or make the chance!

  2. Thank you so much for such a detailed and exciting trip. In 2015, my wife and I had planned to take the same White Rim trail but to our dismay, it started to rain. At the advice of the Ranger's, we changed our plans and stayed on pavement instead. Still was a wonderful time and got to hike to the False Kiva!
    I travel with a Hawk and noticed that you had some traction mats mounted on the back of your FWC. Can you share how you did the mounting? I've been struggling trying to find a good way to attach mines without having to put it on the roof (too much weight). Thank you!

    1. Thanks, photohc! Too bad you were rained out, but there are a few places where the road is clay - and one of those is on the side of a high, steep hill.

      I do intend to do a post on about how I mounted my MaxTrax, but will give you a preview: I made a "stirrup" out of flat shelf brackets, screwed into the bottom of the overhang, into which I stick one end of the ramps. I used 3M Extreme Mounting Tape™ to hold a painted board to the back of the camper. The board is a little wider than the ramps & 4" in height. That height, combined with the corrugated profile of the camper siding, allowed me to slide a velcro-type strap between the board and siding. Email me at the address found in the header above for more details or a photo.

  3. Hey Bill, thanks for the great pictures. My wife and I have done the White Rim three years running in early September on our bicycles. Temps generally in the mid 90's We are thinking of doing it early april 2018 (probably around the 11th) and wondering what kind of day and night temperatures you experienced. Looks a littl chilly, especially in the mornings!

    1. I suspect you got a pretty good idea of the temps by looking at what we (and the cyclists) were wearing.

      Days were cool, but comfortable. You might want a long sleeve jersey and likely a wind breaker for downhills.

      Mornings and evenings were very chilly. A warm sleeping bag would be in order.

      Have fun and thanks for reading.


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