Moab = Fun and Adventure

A Brief History of Moab

Moab was a sleepy trading post and farming community for most of its history. Its settlement dates back to about 1829 when people traveling north on what is now known as the Old Spanish Trail would attempt to cross the Colorado River in Moab and the local inhabitants would sell their goods to the travelers.

A little over 100 years later uranium was discovered in Moab. Uranium was in great demand for use in nuclear weapons post World War 2, so the federal government stepped in and passed laws mandating that all uranium mined in the United States could only be sold to the federal government. The economy of Moab shifted to mining overnight and Moab became known as the uranium capital of the world.

Unfortunately, as must, all booms result in some sort of bust. By 1960 the federal government declared it had all the uranium it needed. Since no one else could purchase uranium the mines in Moab began to close; the last of the mines closed in 1980. The population which had reached 6,000 declined to 1,000.

Arches Natiional Park

Today, the Moab area draws tourists who come to mountain bike, hike, rock climb, drive off road trails and boat on the Colorado. Additionally, Moab hosts two unique national parks – Arches and Canyonlands

While the town is prospering, there still remains the issue of remediating the uranium sites. When a visitor enters town for the first time driving south on route 191, it is hard to miss the large mound of contaminated pilings near the road.This pile consists of the remaining contaminated tailings. Over 16 million tons of tailings were produced from the uranium mills in Utah. The tailings are being removed and taken by train to a permanent disposal location in Colorado. More than 10 million tons have been removed so far under the auspices of the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) program paid for by the citizens of the United States.

Final note: many of the miners that worked in the Uranium mills were Navajo. There was little regard for their safety. The Navajo workers suffered significantly from lung cancer and other diseases. While the U.S. Public Health Service was aware of the effects as early as 1951, it was not until 1990 that the health impact was acknowledged. To make matters worse, the Navajo were not eligible for financial compensation until 2017.

Biking

Moab is certainly a mountain biking mecca – the good news is that for those of us in need of less demanding terrain, the town has developed a number of bike paths and bike lanes. One of the bike paths runs east along the Colorado River providing magnificent views of the river and red rock cliffs.

Camping with a view…

Camping on Ledge A: Hunter Canyon

Moab and the surrounding area offers scores of camping choices. Everything from in town RV resorts to remote primitive camping. We look forward to “boondocking” in Moab. We generally camp in a different location each night to enjoy different settings as well as the fantastic night sky and solitude.

4WD adventures

Kane Creek

One of the reasons we chose a high clearance 4wd equipped Sprinter was our desire to go places that we would never be able to see and experience without that capability. The Moab area provides a plethora of opportunities to put the Beast to the test. Above and below we have included a sample of several of our 4wd adventures.

Shafer Switchbacks
Shafer Trail

Moab Mural

Our favorite new Moab mural.

@skyewalker_art

Fine art

Artist Thomas Elmo Williams

Our trip from Salt Lake City to Moab usually involves a lunch and coffee stop in Helper, Utah. Helper has been undergoing a revitalization over the last several years and has become home to a number of artists. On this stop we discovered some wonderful paintings by Thomas Elmo Williams. Williams was a coal miner for 14 years before a mining accident put an end to that line of work for him. Williams started his new career sketching fellow miners and still focuses much of his art on the labor of working folks. He has a gallery in Helper.

Coal Miner Memorial, Helper, Utah

We love Utah and recommend that if you love outdoor recreational activities then a visit to Utah should be on your travel list, with a definite stop in Moab.

Be seeing you.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS)

After completing the Virginia Capital Bike Trail and with a week of excellent weather ahead we decided to head south to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to enjoy some time at the shore. CHNS has almost 70 miles of pristine beach open for many recreational opportunities. We were able to camp south of Nags Head at Oregon Inlet Campground which was just a five minute walk through the dunes to the beach.

One of the many fun things do to at CHNS is driving on the beach. You do, of course, need a 4WD vehicle and you must also purchase an Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Permit. Once you air down your tires you are good to go. At certain times of the year some portions of the beach may be closed to vehicles due to turtle and water fowl migration.

Driving the Beach at Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Scallop Boat Ocean Pursuit, Came Aground March, 2020

In addition to driving on the beach we were able to bike on the beach when the tide was out far enough to ride on the wet packed sand. When the tide is out you can bike from Corolla all the way to the Virginia border! We did not have the tide timing in our favor but we were able to ride several miles before the beach became impassable on our bikes.

Biking on Wildhorse Beach, Corolla, North Carolina

Biking on Roanoke Island

We really enjoyed our four days at CHNS. In addition to the beautiful beach, starry night sky and recreational activities there is also a significant amount of early American history here to be explored if you are so inclined (Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in North America -1585).

From here we are heading to Virginia (again) to bicycle the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Be seeing you!

Carrizo Plain National Monument

We spent three delightful days boondocking and hiking in the Carrizo Plain NM. CPNM is managed by the BLM and covers apx. 250,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County. The plain is an internal drainage basin which doesn’t sound all that appealing but it carries significant water into the 50 mile long plain which at this time of the year translates into a verdant landscape covered with colorful wildflowers. The plain runs north – south and is bounded by the Caliente Mountains on the west and the Temblor Mountains on the east. The Temblor Mountains derive its name from the spanish word terremoto which means earthquake. Uncoincidentally, the San Andres Fault runs parallel to the base of this range down the length of the plain.

The water all drains into Soda Lake.  Since this is an internal drainage with no outlet the water evaporates during the spring and summer as temperatures reach into the 100F range. What is left after the water evaporates is a salt-covered dry lake bed as you can see in the photo below.

We also spent some time walking on the Wallace Trail where you can see evidence – in the form of offset creeks and channels – of how the earth has shifted along the San Andreas Fault – which is pretty cool – as long as the earth does not shift while you are there! 

We had the good fortune to find a camping spot on the Caliente Ridge at 3700 feet which gave us a spectacular view of the plain and Soda Lake. 

We should be at Death Valley NP later this week after a stop at Red Rock Canyon.

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Carrizo Plain and Soda Lake

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Sunset from Caliente Mountain

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Joshua Tree National Park

After extending our stay in both San Diego and San Clemente, we are back on the road. Our first stop was at JTNP where the wildflower “super bloom” is at its peak.

JTNP is one of a limited number of National Parks that allows access to back country high clearance 4WD trails. Many of these trails exist due to the significant number of mines (300) that at various times operated in the area which is now JTNP. We took advantage of the opportunity by spending an afternoon traveling through Pinkham Canyon and were treated to spectacular scenery and solitude.

There are a number of great hiking trails within the park. Because this is the busy season at the park we chose several hikes that we thought would be less crowded including Mastodon Peak and 49 Palms Oasis.

An interesting aspect of the park is that portions of both the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert are within its boundaries. While the park is named after the Joshua Tree there are no Joshua Trees in the Colorado Desert area of the park; they are only found in the Mojave Desert area of the park.

JTNP is extremely beautiful at this time of the year and the temperatures are reasonable for hiking. But as this is a true desert environment we would recommend you that you visit between late fall and early spring before high temperatures go into the triple digits!

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49 Palms Oasis – 49 Palms Canyon, JTNP

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BLM Joshua Tree North Dispersed Camping

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Pinkham Canyon 4WD Trail

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Rattle Snake at Mastodon Peak

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Ocotillo Cactus