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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > White Rim Trail, Canyonlands NP 2014.4 TR

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acudr

San Diego

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Posted: 04/22/14 10:28am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

White Rim Trail TR 2014.4

First, I must say Wow! The White Rim Trail (WRT) is BIG. When you are down in the canyon, it is difficult to gage the scale of the formations around you until you see a truck or a person for perspective. Even then the distance and size can be deceptive.

The WRT has been on my list a long time. I didn’t want to do it alone as the trail is far from help if needed. Luckily, my friend Dave has also been interested in doing the trail for a long time and worked very hard to get permits. There are not many campsites down on the trail, so access is very limited. Maybe 1 – 4 sites per camp zone. As the trail is a NP, it is very regulated.

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The WRT is a road built in the early 1900’s to get to Uranium that was supposed to be in the canyon. As I understand, some was found, but not that much. The road is on a layer of White Rim Sandstone deposited some 220 million years ago. The depth of these canyons goes back some 320 million years. For perspective, the deepest canyons where we live near Anza Borrego State Park go back about 8 million years. The Canyonlands NP canyons are huge, both in breadth and depth. Also in beauty!

There were also a lot of logistics to the trip. First I needed to make sure my truck was ready. I brought my truck in for fluids, new air filter, to check for any loose bolts and fittings. (I looked too). I’ve had my tires for over 9 years and they were looking a little dry-rotted, so I ended up replacing them also with some Bridgestone All-Terrain E rated. I thanked myself many times on the trail for doing this!

It is a 2-day drive (14 hours / 7 per day) from San Diego, which took planning to determine where our layover days would be. Another is we expected to be on the trail for 6 days, and we wanted to have enough food and energy. Typically we can go 2-3 days on our battery before using the genni, and we can pack about 3 days of food in our fridge. Also, many of our longer trips bring us through towns to restock. This time we took a large cooler with both block and cube ice, and because we were driving every other day, my batteries would get charged. This worked out. The other fellow with a camper coming with us, Eric, had a solar panel on his camper and had a 12-volt cooler to supplement his fridge. I envied his solar. Dave was using dry ice for cooling and was tenting.

Our first stop was a very nice AZ state campground and perfectly located off Route 15 called Virgin River Campground. Nice Sites and easy access from the highway. We met Dave and his DW and our excitement was high. Our way back home we stopped at the Double Tree in Flagstaff. Very nice.

Dave, our team leader, has an 87’ Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60, a classic. He outfitted a screen safety door on top of his racks to use as a platform to carry much of his gear. He needed to do this because his DW invited 2 of her friends to join us. Two women from Sweden (originally Cuba and Czechoslovakia). One was here for a conference and for the other, this would be her first time to the States! What a cool way to see our country. She rode with Eric in his 2008 Dodge 2500 CTD with a Four-Wheel Hawk. A perfect set up for this trail. A light camper on a powerful truck. My rig is a 2004 Dodge 2500 CTD with a Northstar pop-up TC800.

Our team met in Moab for dinner at the restaurant Zax. We enjoyed ourselves getting to know each other. We found out we were lucky to be in town for our trip this weekend and not the next, as the weekend after was the Easter Jeep fest and Moab would be packed. Next morning we met at Eclectic Café for breakfast and last minute planning. We also stopped by the visitor center for our check in and swag.

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The entrance to the White Rim Trail is Shaffer Road. An old mining road off the plateau and down into the canyon built by the government to get to Uranium claimed to be in the canyon. The east side of the White Rim Trail is easier with respect to the road than the west side. Even though, the Shaffer trail is steep, windy and on the edge…. It is not that hard to drive, however it is steep with sharp turns that kept me on my brakes. The road is slightly rutted which caused some camper rocking. I didn’t air down as I was waiting to see if I would need it. I never did, but think 10-20lbs might have made the ride a little smoother. The views were stunning.

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The rest of the road to our first camping spot was slightly rocky, but not too bad. When we arrived at our first camp spot, called Airport, it was very windy so we decided to create a u-shaped wind block with our vehicles for the tents. Even with the wind block, the tents did get battered around quite a bit. We were able to fit all 7 of us in my camper to hang out and stay warm and out of the wind. A great thing about the interior of this N* without the head and shower is the open space. The 4-Wheel had the head and shower, which took up a lot of room for a small camper. It was fun to be packed into the camper drinking wine and getting to know each other a little better. The campsite was nice with only one other group. The pit toilet was clean and had a great view. It IS a National Park!

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The next day was less wind and we had a blast exploring. The scale here is huge and probably doesn’t show in the pictures. Here is a picture with our campsite against the hugeness! This is a photographer’s paradise.

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Some pictures of the area around Airport, with snow on the La Sal Mountains in the background.

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Next day off to White Crack camp. The going was pretty easy with some great views from the apexes of the canyon edges. Truly spectacular. Also a little it scary as we drove around the edges. As you see all around us, these rocks break :0 … The trail was rocky, but not too technical. Basically, the WRT can be done easily with a light jeep type vehicle. The difficulty comes in with our heavy campers. Dave’s FJ did not have too much trouble. Eric’s Dodge with the 4-wheel also did not have much trouble. My vehicle was the heaviest and I had to take the road very slow to prevent too much rocking. My avg speed was about 5mph. White Crack campsite is beautiful, on the edge of a spit of white rim sandstone on the edge. It was still a bit windy so we re-created our wind block “U”. The views from this point were stunning.

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The next morning we woke up to snow… None of our weather reports predicted snow. Quite the surprise and very cold. As the day went on the sun quickly melted the snow and we had a great day hiking, resting, and shooting pictures. The views from this camp spot were breathtaking. 270 degrees of canyons. Absolutely incredible.

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I like this one!

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And then…

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oops…

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Next day we’re off to Candlestick camp. This would take us over the famous Murphy’s Hogsback. There are a few “training” hills before MH that you never hear about that challenged us and got us ready for the big one. For heavy vehicles like ours, a challenging up and down. I think it is difficult to gage the largeness of these hills in the pictures. The up on Murphy’s is long, narrow, steep and very close to the edge. The down has some steep parts, is close to the edge and has the famous overhang, which would be challenging for a tall hard sided camper.

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Dave going up “The HogsBack"!

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The view from the top!

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And the overhang…

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And then down the other side…

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A few miles later down the road, I was navigating a down when I heard a clunk sound from my front end. I broke the right anti-sway-bar linkage. I was thinking of undoing these before the trip….but didn’t. Glad this was not a significant breakage.

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The rest of the way to Candlestick wasn’t too bad. Some hardrock with potholes, etc. Few more ups/downs. BIG views. Past Turks Head.

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A white crack in the white rim sandstone. The rock could break anytime!

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The camp is near the edge of the White Rim Sandstone. The layer here is very thick. Lot’s of great hiking from this campsite to views of the Green River. There were lots of “islands” on the rocks where water, crypto-biotic material, flowers and shrubs brought life.

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Our last day on the trail we had Hardscrabble hill to go. My DW says to think of Hogsback as the training hill for Hardscrabble. She say’s Hardscrabble is longer, steeper, narrower. The turns are many and very tight (see video). I remember this steep left turn with the edge to the left, the hard rock to the right, thinking, I may not make this turn! Full thrusters with the diesel, blindly turning, praying my wheels stay on the track. Check the video to hear the exact wording! The views to the river are great. This is where the diesel shines, needing power and torque for this hill.

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The end of the trail is the Mineral Springs road. A lot like the Shaffer down, except going up! Again, thankful for the power of the diesel.

Here are also some pictures from the rim top looking down on the trail.

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All and all, a great trip and if you ever get the chance, this is where our pop-up truck campers shine. I do believe a well set-up lightweight hard side can do this, as evidence by TR’s before mine. However, you know those guys worked it and the overhang is tricky. These last pictures show some of the other on the road modifications. The first shows I reduced the airflow to the fridge pilot. The first night was very windy and in order for us to protect the tents, my vent was to the wind. I left a small hole to provide the needed oxygen and keep the fridge pilot on. The second show’s I lost a “fast-gun” somewhere on the trail. If you find it, please send back. There is a lot of bumping and the camper moved about quite a bit. Luckily I carry some chain and hooks for this situation and felt the camper was secure for our ride home. The road because of the scale looks smooth, but it’s not. My friend with the 4-wheel nicked his stairs which hung from his trailer hitch, so had to take them off.

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We came home through Flagstaff and enjoyed the college town micro-brewery’s.

And here’s some video of the trucks on the trail!

WRT truck -camper video

Enjoy!

* This post was edited 04/22/14 10:34am by acudr *


Bertram

Mello Mike

Mesa, AZ

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Posted: 04/22/14 10:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow! Great shots of a trail that is still on my bucket list. Soon!!!


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SpknTC

Pacific Northwest, Wa.

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Posted: 04/22/14 10:55am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great TR! I'm surprised the Fastgun didn't scratch the truck when it was dangling. Thanks for sharing.


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silversand

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Posted: 04/22/14 11:01am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Excellent narrative, fantastic pictures, and tremendous vid!!!

This is one of the top 3 WRT reports out there!

S-


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sabconsulting

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Posted: 04/22/14 11:06am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks - great trip. Loved the video.

Just frustrates me that whenever I've been around there I've been in a regular 2-wheel-drive rental car so only been able to look down on this great route from the car parks above.

Steve.


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diazr2

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Posted: 04/22/14 11:10am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow great adventure thanks for sharing





sstan

Northern California

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Posted: 04/22/14 11:45am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your trip report brings back memories. Thanks for posting it.

jmtandem

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Posted: 04/22/14 12:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Good narrative, great pics, thanks.


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More2Explore

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Posted: 04/22/14 01:11pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great TR and photos! I'm looking forward to making this trip someday, your TR makes me want to go now! Great idea to go as a group to deal with anything that breaks down on the way, glad you didn't have anything more serious to deal with. I'll have to think about putting together a caravan to do this when the time comes. Thanks again for a great TR!


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Tiger4x4RV

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Posted: 04/22/14 02:11pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great report & photos. Not on my personal bucket list, but good to see anyway.


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