Moab 2019

This year’s annual camping adventure with my dad and brothers, took us down to Moab, Utah for a few days of riding and exploring on our ATVs. This was a trip that we had been looking forward to for some time, and when the morning or departure arrived, we met at Dad’s house to load up the trucks and get going.

We had nearly everything loaded, so I was off to pickup Jake from his house. However, when I started my truck, the check engine light came on, and I got a low oil pressure warning message. I immediately shut the truck off, and got on the phone with my local Ford dealer.

Time for some backstory.

Earlier this year, my truck’s engine began to make a strange noise, sounding almost like a diesel, even though I don’t have a diesel engine. I took the truck into the dealer, and after tearing the thing apart, they determined that a new motor was required. Yay.

After nearly three weeks in the shop, some gory photos of my truck in the operating room, and one brand new motor later, I finally had my truck back and running well. (Fortunately, this was all covered under warranty, so I didn’t have to pay for this.) However, I’d only had it back for about two weeks before this trip was planned. So when the oil pressure warning popped up, I was in no hurry to take it on a several hundred mile road trip. I called the dealer, they sent a tow truck, and after transferring the load from my truck to my brother’s, we were on our way down to Moab.

After a few hours on the road, I received a call from the dealer, and they had determined that a faulty oil pressure sensor had triggered the warning message, and my truck was ready for pickup. However, we were far enough along down the road, that I’d just have to pick the truck up when we got home.

A few more hours later, we arrived in Moab, and settled into a spot in the Kane Creek campground, just on the banks of the Colorado River. It was a pretty decent spot. Not too remote, and close enough to town that it was a short drive for some food or fuel if we needed it. Once we were setup, we still had plenty of daylight left, so it was determined that we needed to go for a ride. We rode out camp, and headed off to Hurrah Pass. This route was a great introduction to the types of sights we would be seeing over the next few days, and we ended up riding down to Jackson Bottom, back to the shores of the river again.

On the return back to camp, we stopped to see the “Birthing Rock” - an RV-sized boulder that has nearly every side of it inscribed with some sort of rock art. This artwork was left by some of the earliest residents of what eventually became Utah. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things about living here - that only a few short hours from my home, I can be somewhere like this, and see the remnants of the people that were here generations before.

This first day, we rode nearly 40 miles. Between the riding, and just the drive down here, we were a bit tired, so after some dinner, we hit the sack, and got some rest for the next day.

During the night, there was a small bit of rain, and we awoke to overcast skies, and a cool morning. As long as the trail didn’t get muddy, we weren’t going to complain about the cool weather. After a quick breakfast, and having learned a valuable lesson about not putting a hot Coleman stove on a plastic folding table, we loaded up, and drove out to explore near Dome Plateau. The machines were unloaded near the Dewey bridge, and we set off.

It’s going to be incredibily repetitive to keep hearing me say this, but the views were incredible. It seemed like just around every bend there was something to see and enjoy. Caves, arches, and just the general panorama was impressive. It was easy to become distracted simply by the view, and the colors of the landscape.

We rode for a while, and when we decided it was time for some lunch, we returned to a cave we had found. The cave was large enough to likely fit a small house in, and it was a fun place to hang out and take a break. While the cave wasn’t very deep, it did go back far enough that it got pretty dark. In a moment that was almost like something from an Indiana Jones movie, one of us noticed that the texture of the cave roof in one of the few spots we could reach felt a bit weird. After turning on a light, we realized why - the roof was crawling in thousands of spiders, some of which were nearly the length of my hand. Good times.

Throughout the day, Jason’s bike had been giving him some issues, and he determined that he was going to need a new clutch cable fairly soon. That “fairly soon”, arrived quicker than we wanted, and the decision was made to abandon the bike for the time being, and Jason would ride with Jake in the side-by-side. The bike was stashed behind a tree, and we continued with our ride. Eventually, the threat of rain turned into actual rain, and we soon found ourselves in a downpour. We were quickly soaked, and with a day full of riding behind us, and knowing we’d have to get a hobbled bike out of there, we began the trek back to the trucks. Luckily, it didn’t take too long, and with some careful riding by Jason, we were soon back to the highway, loaded up, and headed back to camp. However, the day had left us physically spent, and the thought of having to cook when we got back was even more tiring. So we stopped in town, hit a diner, and had some burgers before calling it a day.

The final day took us on a ride out to Horseshoe Canyon. After a bit of exploring up above the river, we made our way to the trail and switchbacks that would take us down Spring Canyon. This is a narrow shelf road, that could give you a bad day if you didn’t pay attention. While it wasn’t too bad on an ATV, I kept thinking about how tight it would be in a full-size truck. Knowing that there was a mine at the bottom, just left me pretty impressed with the folks that had to drive down this on the regular in a work truck.

As I was the first to approach the gate to the switchbacks, I held it open for the others, and they rode on their way. After closing the gate, I got back to my ATV a noticed that I must have hit something, because I now had a flat tire. However, with no way to signal the others, I was a bit stuck. We had a compressor with us, but it was being carried by one of the other machines. I had plenty of time to myself to sit and enjoy the view, while at the same time, standing at the top of the canyon, waving like a madman trying to signal the others as soon as I saw them. I’m not sure that they ever saw me, but eventually someone noticed that I was missing, as Dad made his way back up to come looking for me. After a few minutes with the compressor, we fixed up my tire, and we were back on our way.

Unfortunately, we were unable to make it to the Hey Joe mine, as the river was running a bit high, and the trail was covered by the river. It was just too deep to ford at one point, so we just had to turn around. However, while we were down there, we actually encountered some other folks - in a full-size pickup. Props to them, as I’m not sure I’d want to try and get my truck down that narrow road.

This being our last day, we were a bit tired by this point. We’d been riding hard, and covering a lot of miles. We did quite a bit of wandering once we left the canyon, including a bit of hiking. As the trip was winding down, we took a moment to just rest, take in the sights, and spend some time together. Even though we all live pretty close, and see each other probably at least once a month, it’s been good for us to have these getaways. These are trips that I look forward to every year, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Joshua Buhler Written by:

Josh is a father of three, husband of one, and occasionally likes to write about stuff.