We woke Thursday morning to a very overcast sky. This had the advantage of substantially lowering the temperature throughout the day. Yesterday’s mid-90’s was todays low 80’s. Much more tolerable for an all-day ride through the backcountry. There was the threat of afternoon thunderstorms, and being stuck in the red muck that is much of the roadway when it is wet, is not something to be desired. Keeping an eye on the sky was going to be an important aspect of todays trip.
Don and Janet picked us up at Portal RV where we were staying again right on time at 8:30. We headed up to the Island in the Sky mesa to the Dubinky Wells turn-off, and headed off into the dusty horizon. D & J do an incredible amount of research about features, road conditions and routes before each trip. We feel totally at ease with them in control so it is nothing but fun for us. We stopped briefly at Rainbow Rocks after turning off on the first of several branch roads near the well. Rainbow Rocks is a place Mary and I had been a couple of times before. Lie everything else around here, it is all sandsone. What makes it different is the colorful layers that make it up. The lower portion is a very red color. It then transitions to an orangish color, then blue-gray, yellow then red again. It is a prominent landmark along the way that could be seen from practically everywhere we went during the day.
The cloudy skies also had the effect of softening the light, making photographing much more interesting. It took a little doing, but we eventually found the correct road that would bring us to the first of three tributary canyons leading to Big Spring Canyon. Here were some interesting sculpted sandstone chutes that plunge into the deep canyon. This is a slot canyon in the making.
We then backtracked a bit before heading off on another side road that led to Dellenbach Tunnel. I really don’t know how these places get discovered. You really have to know where it is even if you are standing right on top of it. This really is a natural tunnel – not particularly long, but chock full of pack rat nests, spider sacks and who knows what all else. Of course we plunged right in – then out the other side. We hiked a little ways around to the edge of another tributary canyon and enjoyed the scenery including some blooming cactus and some really nice Mormon Tea. After returning to the jeep, we had lunch under the shade of a nearby juniper tree.
Then it was back to the main road, and off on another spur road to an odd formation called “Secret Spire”. This turned out to be a 40 ft. sandstone column that sits on the top of another smooth rounded formation. It has a commanding view of the surrounding mesa top. It is a really strange looking thing.
The next stop we made was to an amazing view 1000 ft. above the Green River. It was a shear drop from both sides and seeing the emerald green of the river against the red of the canyon walls was a really nice moment.
Again, we headed back to the main road and backtracked a bit to the fork not taken near Rainbow Rocks. This trail wrapped around the backside of Rainbow and promised some interesting sights. It was new territory for both Mary and I, and Don and Janet. Equipped with a description of the trail and highlights, we set off to check it out. It lived up to expectations.
First was a really nice open view of the formation itself, but a little later on we found some blooming needle yucca, paintbrush and some really oddly shaped rocks unlike anything else in the area. Moving on, we came to the most difficult portion of the trail. We came to a certain point and really couldn’t decide where to go. To the left was a wash with numerous tire tracks through it. To the right was an improbable looking set of sandstone drop-offs – going up! I noticed some dabs of white paint at various points along the rocky part, and investigating further, we determined that yep, that was the trail. So with me out of the jeep guiding Don onto which rocks to put the tires, we humped and bumped up the cliffside. From there it was a relatively easy ride around the rest of the trail. We got back to Portal RV around 6 PM and had just enough time to freshen up a bit before going to dinner at Buck’s Grillhouse – Don and Janet’s reward for their wonderful hospitality over the past weeks of our visit.
Our plan for Thursday was originally to leave Moab for Green River to explore the San Rafeal Swell. Weather reports for Thursday were predicting thunderstorms for the entire Moab area. We hadn’t really experienced any rain on this trip so far. If you have never been through a lightning and thunderstorm in the southwest, you’ve missed something. We decided to stay one more day in hope of a special experience. We were not disappointed. My next post will explain.