A change of scenery in Utah

Hi everyone, Bryce (aka hubby, aka Pie) here…co-host stepping in today for the usual author, Em!

After the Alpine Loop trip in mid-June, we made another long weekend trip just two weekends later. Summertime had technically arrived, but many backcountry trails in Colorado still hadn’t gotten the memo, so we thought it would be a great idea to try for a change of scenery and weather in the middle of the hot desert in Utah! Actually, it was my idea, and my better half went along with it.

Nearly a year prior, in July 2019, we took our first trip to Moab. I had been wanting to bring Em back to see more of the red rock desert scenery, and now we had a more capable vehicle to explore the exclusive backroads.

I grew up a short, three-hour drive away from Moab and my family used to go camping, hiking, mountain biking, and canyoneering in the Utah area. Like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the landscapes in Utah are amazing to see. In the twenty-plus years since those family vacations, the trip planning guides have become much more diverse, from descriptive books to interweb sites and videos that show what you are getting into. I wanted this trip to be fun and interesting for both of us, with moderately challenging roads that were still reasonably safe so that Em wouldn’t be gripping too tight to the passenger door handle and able to take in the views.

Before heading across the state line, we did some research in the FunTreks Utah guidebook. The trails are given a color – green, blue, or red – with increasing difficulty. The Alpine Loop trails we had done the previous weekend were rated blue (moderate difficulty), which seemed like a reasonably difficult trail we I could drive, so I spotted an equivalent, attractive blue trail, Dome Plateau, that would be right off the highway we’d be driving in on. As usual, our camping plans would naturally fall into place as we delved into our adventure.

The trail turned out to be fun right from the beginning, routed up and down steep sandstone ledges. A stock (unchanged from the dealer) Wrangler has lots of ground clearance compared to most vehicles, however, not too far into the drive, I heard an unfamiliar metal-on-rock scraping sound, followed by the obligatory response from my wife “are you sure you know what you’re doing.” Throughout the weekend, this sound and subsequent nervous reply, occurred about a half dozen times. But all was fine (as I usually and confidently tell my wife).

After maneuvering through sand and slick rock for awhile, La Boca Arch came into view. We stretched our legs and took many pictures before regrouping to go find a campsite. The weather, cloudy and perfect temperature, and the company were great!

After selecting the right track out of a tricky 5-way intersection, we traveled out to an overlook with an amazing view of the Colorado River and La Sal Mountains. I had expected to see traffic along the trail. It was warm, but not as hot as it would be in July or August, and people would be roaming around out there, I thought. The opposite was true, and we didn’t see another vehicle during the whole 30-mile adventure.

The second day of the trip, we completed the second half of Dome Plateau. This time, we weren’t as lucky with a cloudy, overcast day like the first day and we almost melted into a mirage image on the few, short adventures we took outside the vehicle to explore more.

For dogs that prefer the heat, these girls sure were being drama queens in the sun.

Once in Moab, we donned our masks to get some shave ice and enjoyed the last bit of A/C we would have in the vehicle before we would have to be out in the sun camping for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

The dachs were stacked for maximum runner-up shot gun A/C perks.

We headed to another blue rated trail close to town called Hidden Canyon Overlook. The trail has a section called Lunar Canyon with giant boulders straight out of a sci-fi scene.

We arrived at camp right at the hottest part of the day and the goal for the next couple hours was to hide in the tiny bit of shade provided by the rock formations (one of the only spots of shade in the area) and keep the dachs from overheating. The shave ice was a distant memory.

As the sun started going down, we explored the rocky outcroppings surrounding our camp and set up the tent between two boulders. Little did we know that the location would turn into a wind tunnel and require a tent relocation in the middle of the night!

Pretend-pro tip: the desert is the best place to try your hand at nighttime starry photos…. especially after a camp libation or few. But hey, this photo came out pretty good for a first-timer!

The next day, luck would have it, it was overcast after we desperately could have used it the day before. We took our time working down the trail and taking lots of pictures before returning back to the mundane and familiar scenery of Colorado. Kidding…we love both landscapes!

The dachs were good sports, but after a night dealing with constant wind, they were getting tired of red sand in their paws and eyes. As much as they were ready to pack up and leave on the last day, they also didn’t want to leave the safety of the tent.

Jeep hobbyists must be all too familiar with the vehicle upgrade to-do lists that seem to get longer and longer, even as tasks are ticked off. Each item has a cost, whether it’s time or $ or both, and a benefit. Jeeps are like lego kits, there are a million modifications that could be made, and each person has to prioritize the list with upgrades that make the most sense. The obvious to-do items on my list were a winch, skid plates that are stronger and cover more area than the factory equipment, and larger tires with a lift kit. After hearing the rocks scrape the undercarriage on these medium difficulty trails in Utah, 35″ tires and a 2″ lift kit had quickly floating to the top of the list!

As soon as we arrived back home, the lift kit was on order! Once it arrived and a free weekend was available, I had to do my best impression of a mechanic while Em asked if I knew what I was doing. After turning wrenches and scraping knuckles for two days, it was installed. Next, the 35″ tires were spooned on, and we proceeded to run many more trails in the next few weeks, including some red (difficult) trails when the wife was too distracted by the scenery, without that eerie sound of rock scraping below us.

Unsurprisingly, new items were added to the Jeep to-do list after that, including an adjustable front track bar, quick sway bar disconnect kit, and on and on…

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