Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elephant Hill

This week was our first trip to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. We have visited and camped in the Island in the Sky district and wanted to try something new. We trusted our Charles A. Wells book, Moab, Utah Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, regarding the Elephant Hill 4 x 4 trail when he said that this was one of the most enjoyable trails he has ever driven. The Needles district is actually about a 75 mile drive from Moab. The National Park's description of the trail is: "One of the most technical four-wheel drive roads in Utah, Elephant Hill presents drivers with steep grades, loose rock, stair-step drops, tight turns and backing. Over the hill, equally challenging roads lead to various campsites and trailheads, as well as to BLM lands south of the park. Challenging mountain biking." I took a ton of photos and so I am putting a lot of them on here. Every time we drive a new trail, I can't get enough of photos and descriptions while searching on line. If any detail I show helps someone out in the future (or us if we drive the trail again) that makes me happy!
The beginning of the trail is immediately difficult. This was a shot out my window.
A look back down at the first section.
Climbing over Elephant Hill.
Jay got out and checked out the first big obstacle. I have a video of the Jeep climbing this at the end of this blog post.
You know you are headed for something steep when you see a Jeep sign with an arrow pointing down.
Looking back up the steep hill we just came down.
There is one stretch of road about 100 feet long that you have to back down (and up when returning) to be able to make the sharp turns. Jay thinks he could have made the turns, but we did what the park ranger had instructed us to do. The sharp turns were no worse than Black Bear Pass.
More details of the road.
On the other side of Elephant Hill there are several long stretches of easy dirt road, relaxing and giving you time to catch your breath.
I got out to see if Jay would need my help through this part, but it isn't as bad as it looks.
I'm not really a great spotter, so sometimes if I was spotting I would still ask Jay to get out and look at the road and tell me exactly where he wanted the tires to be. Honestly, Jay is so good at driving roads like this that he barely even needs a spotter.
The narrow slot is a famous area of the trail, though not really an obstacle.
This is as narrow as it gets. I can't imagine driving anything wider than our Jeep through this!
Looking back at the narrow slot.
We actually went to the Devils Kitchen and camped for one night, but I'll post that in a separate blog post. This post is dedicated to just the Elephant Hill trail and not the extra spurs.
The famous Silver Stairs kind of reminded us of the steps on Black Bear Pass, although the Jeep has much better traction on the Silver Stairs and there are no loose rocks (or steep dropoffs where you could fall to your death).
You have to go back over Elephant Hill the way you came in the first time. The stretch of road on the right is where you have to back down/up for 100 feet or so.
Looking back in the canyon.
Jay driving back down the first big rock obstacle. The Rubicon handles it like a piece of cake, plus no worries about the approach and departure angles.
Almost finished! You can see the parking lot on the lower left side. We were really glad to see the trail end since we had been deep in the Needles for over 24 hours. The 95 degree heat wasn't really that bad, but it's always nice to get back to civilization. We honestly didn't have even a scratch on the Jeep, but as we came over the last big rock at the end of the trail we did ding the tailpipe, but on a trail like this if that is the only damage, that is quite an accomplishment!
This is the only video I took on the trail, and though it isn't terribly exciting, it shows just how easy it handles the trails here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The 37th Annual Bluegrass Festival

This year's Bluegrass Festival brought a lot of big names that I missed like Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Bela Fleck and Court Yard Hounds (the sisters from the Dixie Chicks). I only went to the festival on Sunday, but that was okay because the big name was Brandi Carlile who I'm a big fan of! Savanna and Maralee bought shirts at Mama’s Home Tie-Dyes and had their picture taken for the website. This store is usually here for Bluegrass and Blues and Brews and belongs to a nice family from Albuquerque.
This was the view from our chairs. We didn't sit very close so we could get to the kids area easily. It didn't hurt to be this close to the food, either! (Or did it?)
Maralee did some of her own face painting.
Time to line up for the childrens' parade.
The pirates of Bluegrass.
Childrens' group picture.
I get most of my festival food at Sisters’ Pantry. I recommend everything there! The owners are super nice people from Boulder.
That's me with my mother-in-law, Barbara on my right. Check out the hula hooper behind me.
Savanna with a Chinese yo-yo.
These are the only close-up shots that I got. At Bluegrass they don't allow anyone to stand in front of the stage, you have to be walking through, so I would very quickly stop and take photos. These are the Drepung Monks from Tibet.
Vaasen from Sweden.
Here are a few shots of Brandi Carlile and her band. Her voice is as great live as it is recorded. Her song "The Story" is one of my favorite songs ever.
This was the crowd behind me during Brandi Carlile. It had been a long, warm day in the sun with all of these bodies baking. Word is that the town emptied out $5,000 (yes, that's $5,000.00) of quarters out of the town park showers. Great to hear that a good number of people were bathing this year!!
Maralee tired and winding down at the end of the day.
When we went home I noticed that the sky was turning pink in the east. It was a pretty end to a good day.