Day two of the trail did not turn out quite as I had expected. Waking up when the intense Utah sun blasted over the canyon, we were all in high spirits, even despite the profuse sweating that occurred just as a result of the morning pack up.
As planned we continued and made it a solid half a mile down the track before we hit our next seemingly unassailable obstacle. This time it was a series of large rock steps, leading down to a flat(ish) section with some large rocks, then followed by ascent of rocks, the gaps in between them large and the step up on each also characterised by more, larger rocks.
But we are not ones to give up or be easily defeated. After all we have a pair of Land Cruisers, big tyres, winches and a whole lot of ingenuity and tenacity. So this time with old yeller’s* turn to lead the way, so with our now patented brand of gesturing, rock building, and frantic direction-giving, we proceed down stage one of the descent.
As it happened we were on rare form, and despite the loss of a couple of jerry cans and a slightly unflattering gouge in the side due to an unseen pothole cracking the side off a rock, the first vehicle made it down without incident. The bottom of the challenge, however, consisted of a small but pungent mud-pit, leading to an inconveniently sized and placed boulder, that barred the passage. The mud at the back wheels stopped any meaningful traction, while the rock disallowed for the front wheels to grasp any terra firma. In Layman’s terms we were stuck as balls.
We stood for a while under the midday sun, debating at length which of the surrounding rocks were likely to weigh in at more than the vehicle, and therefore provide us a decent winching point. As we did, we heard a cacophony of petrol engines grow closer.
When the rock crawling club arrived we were treated to a small display of the capability of vehicles that were simultaneously built for this kind of terrain, and were not carting two years worth of gear, hundreds of litres of fuel and a weeks supply of food and water for four people. They bounced around the terrain that had taken us hours to complete, and stopped at the bottom to offer their assistance in removing us from being caught between a literal rock and a hard place.
Our new friend helped us out hugely. First they helped yank the first cruiser from its new home, something that we may have managed with a rock and a winch but would likely have taken us a few hours. Secondly as we watched their purpose built and agile vehicles crack springs scream and struggle up the next ascent, we realised that we were literally mental to attempt to follow. Had it not been for their struggle you would likely be reading this post, as found in the last journal entry found with my sun baked body and the rolled husk of my land cruiser, somewhere deep in the Moab desert.
We were now faced with a difficult decision. Try to fight our way back across terrain that we knew would be incredibly difficult or carry on, to challenges unknown and for a further 48 odd miles. With the 40° sun already threatening to give us all sun-stroke and the wall of insurmountable rock ahead, we wisely decided to back the devil we knew. Besides, it was the 4th of July, we found it somewhat fitting that the USA should defeat us red-coats once again.
While the choice to carry on would have been insanity, the choice to try to return wasn’t exactly sane. The road in front was one that had taken our all to make it with the aid of gravity, not one that we would surmount easily when fighting it. The road ahead looked like this:
So, we took a walk. There was literally no way that we were going back up that. We managed to find that if we fought to remove a few rocks from the river bed, the yellow cruiser could hopefully push through and rejoin the main trail a few hundred metres up. It was basically a straight shot apart from a small section of rock that would push it to tipping point.
We made it through on a tyre and a prayer, and the two cruisers were reunited once more. Now there was but a few of the previous days obstacles to traverse. With the sun now really beginning to take its toll and the promise of a cold beer at the end of a rough day as motivation, the plan became basically to do our best to utilise our previous days rock bridges, get a bit of momentum and hope for the best.
We handled the reverse water crossing with ease, the knowledge that we had made it once as our faith that we could do it again, and began the ascent back up the rock face.
Although we screamed the tyres and kicked up a whole lot of dust, the cruisers managed the ascent with surprising ease. once again, with adrenaline rushing and a newfound faith in the ability of our vehicles we pushed on. smashing once more over rock, mud and sand alike. We reached the end of the trail, a tough four miles. We still had one obstacle to beat, the one that had begun us down this path and the one that had originally instilled us with the foolhardy confidence to continue.
Once more, with fierce gesturing and a foot to the floor we elatedly managed it.
Only to realise that a certain member of the party, the one driving an old yellow land cruiser, had removed his electronics from his vehicle so they not be damaged if water ingressed during a crossing a few miles back. Unfortunately for him in his elation at having made it across, he had forgotten to recover them and there they still lay, decorating the river bank.
So as the sun set over Moab and on our first off road american adventure, and three of us celebrated with a cold one, one was forced to trudge back to collect his most valuable assets.
*Old yellow/yeller is the name of the smaller yellow HZJ73 Land Cruiser. We have named it this as it is Old, Yellow, and one day it will need taken out back and shot in the head.