While staying in Moab, we have crossed paths with two couples we met before in our travels. We met Amanda and Tim (check out their blog Watson’s Wanderings) a few weeks ago near Zion NP. They were able to park their Airstream in a great spot in one of the campgrounds right next to the Colorado River and invited us over to enjoy a Happy Hour. Also in the area are Nina and Paul (check out their blog Wheeling It). We first met them boondocking in Anza-Borrego State Desert Park in southern California and again near Yuma, AZ few months ago. The six of us enjoyed a couple of hours sharing stories of full-timing while enjoying snacks and some adult beverages.
The next day we planned to explore one of the hundreds of four-wheel drive trails in the area, as the weather prediction was for sunshine. After waking the next morning to the sound of rain, we checked weather.com for an update and were surprised to find that the chance of rain was 0%. Perhaps that was a typo and they missed a one and a zero, as it was raining fairly heavily.
But they made the same prediction for the next day and, as luck would have it, their prediction turned out to be correct. So we set out for Canyonland National Park, taking a dirt road called Shafer Canyon Road into the park. After a drive of about twelve miles on a nice paved road called Potash Road, the pavement ends and the dirt road begins. At first the road is quite smooth.
Soon the road winds around the Potash Extraction Facility of the Intrepid Potash Mine. The mine began as a conventional underground operation in 1965, but was converted in 1971 to a system combining solution mining to extract the potash and solar evaporation to re-crystallize the product. A solution of water and salt is pumped into a mine, where it dissolves the potassium. The brine mix is then pumped into shallow evaporation ponds, where a blue dye is added to aid in absorption of sunlight. Once the water evaporates, the potash is scraped from the dry pond and sent to a facility for processing.
If you have a few minutes to kill, check out a Google Satellite view of the area as the deep blue of the ponds in the middle of a desert is quite striking.
We had driven up the road a few miles when we spotted a truck approaching from behind us. Since the road is only one lane and the truck was going faster than us, we pulled over to let it pass. As the truck neared us we realized that it was Amanda and Tim (see the beginning of this blog). We only know about six people in the entire state of Utah so what are the chances that, in the middle of a barren wasteland with no one else in sight, we would met up with people we know!
We continued up the road, stopping at various points to check out the view of the Colorado River.
After a few miles we passed a sign informing us that we were entering Canyonlands National Park. A short distance later we came upon another sign that is an example of “Bureaucracy Gone Wild.” Remember, we are on a one lane dirt road going over some very rocky sections. The road is limited to vehicles with four wheel drive and high clearance only. The Jeep is in first gear and we’ve averaged about five miles an hour. But now we find the speed limit is 15 mph!
The road continued to head deeper into Shafer Canyon. At times we look ahead, but couldn’t imaging where the road would go!
We soon entered into a series of switchbacks going steeply up the side of the canyon.
At times the road was up against the canyon wall on one side, with a steep drop on the other. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any on-coming traffic at this point.
We final came to a flat area near the top of the canyon where we stopped to enjoy lunch with a view.
We could also look back at the traffic on the switchbacks. Do you see the three vehicles?
At the top of the road you enter the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands NP, a huge mesa with great views of the surrounding canyons. We spent the rest of the day visiting some of the great viewpoints in the park.
The last stop of the day was a visit to Mesa Arch. It’s a nice arch with a great view of the La Sal Mountains.
We were not extremely impressed with the Island of the Sky section of Canyonlands, when we compare it to other national parks like Arches or Zion, but the views from the canyon rims were super.