Member Trip Report



Moab Biking and Hiking, Utah
November 7-15, 2009

Author and Trip Leader: Bill Priedhorsky - Bio

Photo Galleries: by Momo Vuyisich, and Ross Lemons

After an exciting long weekend in Moab in November 2008, we decided that a full week exploring the canyons and slickrock around Moab would be well spent. We based our trip at the Moab Retreat House, which was an economical way to house a large party. In the short days of mid-November, we much preferred day outings from a warm base to camping in the cold and dark.

We rented the house for 8 nights. Six of us stayed for the whole trip, but most of the participants changed out on Wednesday, the Veteran’s Day holiday, when 8 folks left and 8 new folks arrived. The week-long crew included Bill Priedhorsky (trip leader), Jan Studebaker, Rosemary Irvin of Seattle, Ross Lemons, Mary Thompson, and Tom Claus. We went out for dinner one night, to the Moab Brewery, but otherwise divided dinner responsibilities with a 3- or 4- person crew cooking each night.

The action came in one or more outings each day, leaving the house between 8:00 and 8:30, and returning any time from mid-afternoon to 6:30 in the dark.

First half of the week, first wave of participants

Besides the six members of the week-long crew, 8 participants joined us for the first half of the week, November 7-11. This first wave included Kathleen Gruetzmacher and daughter Elena, Dennis Brandt, Marilyn Yeamans, Dick Opsahl, Jackie Little, Dave Chamberlain, and Jeri Sullivan.

Setting out on Saturday the 7th, we broke up the drive to Moab (about 7 hours driving time from Los Alamos via Pagosa Springs and Durango) with a scramble around Looking Glass Rock, which lies about 30 minutes south of Moab. There is no non-technical route to the summit, so we contented ourselves with a scramble into the arch. With an hour remaining before sunset, we drove to Hatch Rock, the next landmark on the map, with a view towards another scramble. But when we arrived, we found that the west valley of the rock was filled with odd houses built half in and half out of the sandstone, with solar panels on the ridges above. We guessed that the several dozen buildings were a polygamist colony, this being Utah, and viewed it from our distance. We confirmed our surmise when we searched the Web that evening.

On Sunday, our first full day for adventure, a small hiking group (leader Dick, Marilyn, Rosemary, and myself) hiked the Devil’s Garden primitive route in Arches National Park, with a close up view of long Landscape Arch and terrific views of fin country – long, narrow ridges of sandstone laid out in parallel rows – as you hike along the highest tops. The primitive part of the trail is not exactly rugged, given that signs mark the trial. On the way back we took a quick hike to Delicate Arch overlook, which takes one to a crest about a half mile from the Arch, with views of the arch in the context of its ridgetop location that are in some ways even better than being right there. The rest of the gang loaded up their bicycles and warmed up with an easy bike loop near Dead Horse Point, led by Jeri, followed by a slickrock route in the same neighborhood.

Dick, Marilyn, and Rosemary atop a fin in the Devil’s Garden.

An avenue of fins along the “primitive” trail in Devil’s Garden,
with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

On Monday, I led Sunday hikers, plus Tom and Mary, into the Behind the Rocks fin country, just over the ridge from Moab town. We parked at the mouth of Pritchett Canyon, paid our $2 per head entrance fee, and hiked a short distance up the canyon road until we saw tracks and a drainage on the left (east) side of the road. We followed this drainage up through a narrow chimney, and emerged onto an open shelf into a wilderness of fins. We worked our way to the east, along the grain of the fins. At one point we stopped for an exploration and break. Tom proved that a seemingly unclimbable fin was a walk up; from the top, we had views across the river into Poison Spider Mesa and farther east into the fin country. At lunchtime, beyond a small vegetated mesa and atop another fin, we considered options. Although it looked difficult, we decided to follow a faint trail to the north, with hopes of connection to the Moab Rim jeep trail. After a few turns, we indeed broke through into more open country that we crossed to reach the jeep trail. We followed it down, missing a turn and backtracking about a half mile, then hiked down the incredibly steep and tire-streaked jeep route to the blacktop. We tried to climb a mass of slickrock on the rim above Moab town, but were stopped by a line of low cliffs. The loop to the blacktop totaled 8.5 miles and deposited us 1.9 miles from the cars, which Tom hitchhiked and Bill jogged. The rest of the party organized a bike ride on the White Rim trail that they found fabulous, driving in almost two hours along the Potash Road. The drive out along the semi-technical Schafer Road, to Island in the Sky.

Marilyn in Behind the Rocks, a wild maze just over the ridge from Moab town.

Tuesday was the only time that all fourteen hiked together. We obtained a permit for Fiery Furnace, and hiked that sandstone maze in the backwards, clockwise direction. The Furnace was as beautiful as ever, but the adventure was not quite the same as last year. We remembered the route too well, and found our way through without a false turn. The traverse took only about two hours, with lunch atop the last rocks on the way out. The group split for an afternoon adventure. Several took the classic route to Delicate Arch, and I led the rest into the wild fin country just north of Fiery Furnace. We found a route to the top that involved fin walking, a tight squeeze, and a mantle that Tom led. At the very top we broke out of the fins, and saw an easy way down just to the south. The same set of trails give access to the top of the fins of the Fiery Furnace. We tried to find a way directly down to the road by moving to the north. This gave us a wonderful adventure in another maze, but eventually time ran out and we gave up. From the top, it was just 30 minutes back to the cars.

Kathleen ascending a squeeze on the way to the mesa top north of the Fiery Furnace.

continued on page 2

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