Colorado Exploration: Rifle to Meeker

After we left the Mountain Games, it was time to head back to the Western Slope. I had a meeting Monday morning in De Beque but that left us all of Sunday for exploring. I had hoped to drive up to the Roan Cliffs high point but by the time we got to Rifle, it appeared that wasn’t going to happen so I holed up in a Starbucks to get some school work done.

When I came out of Starbucks, however, it was looking like things had cleared up so I did some quick Googling of the JQS Road. It was clear from the few things I read that the road was all but impassable when wet. But, I reasoned, it really hadn’t rained much so we set out to investigate. I walked the road for a little bit and decided that it seemed nice and solid, even a little bit dusty. Once we got past the parking area for the open OHV area though, the road turned to baby poo. (Seriously, baby poo is the name given to mud that is totally SLICK. It coats your tires and essentially renders you useless.) If you’ve ever driven a vehicle on a rutted, muddy road, you know the disconcerting feeling of drifting around vaguely where you’re steering but knowing you really have no control at all and that is exactly what was happening. Fortunately, I got the Jeep turned around with no issues (getting that beast stuck alone is a giant fear of mine), but holy cow what a mess!

It was only about 4:30 and that meant that I had plenty of daylight left with the gloriously long days this time of year. Rather than just sit down with my book, I decided to make the drive up to Meeker. I’d never been there and I’m always up for an exploratory drive so away we went. Meeker is a super cute little town—I didn’t really stop to take any pictures since I planned to take the scenic route home and wanted to have enough daylight but I will definitely be back to make a more full exploration.

Instead of simply going back the way we’d come, Sprocket and I headed down Rio Blanco County’s 13 Road. At first it was in great shape but as we continued south a couple of deep ruts appeared. Fortunately, this time the road wasn’t muddy and we were able to just keep on going. Somewhere along the way we passed into Garfield County but I couldn’t tell you exactly where because I was distracted by the elk. Lots of elk.

First it was this relatively small group:

But then it seemed like every field that I passed was full of them!

All I could think was how excited my dad would have been with the whole thing. I’m sure Sprocket was thinking I was driving like him with all the quick stops when I spotted a herd but since I would roll down the back window so he could have his sniffs, I think he forgave me.

We had such a great time. Besides high alpine hiking, there really isn’t much that I like better than exploring new dirt roads!

Uintah Basin & Book Cliffs Exploration

I had originally planned to spend my three day weekend heading down to New Mexico and Arizona to grab a couple of county high points but when I needed to look at a Jeep in Salt Lake, plans changed. It was still quite the road trip!

After cruising up to Salt Lake, I had my steering debacle that I handled all #damselNOTindistress style and took the chance to visit with a couple of friends before leaving town. (Thank you to both Josh and Jenn for lending me places to crash for a night!)

I thought about hiking Murdock Mountain and hitting a certain point on its western slope that just happens to be the Wasatch County High Point. I’d packed my snowshoes and it sounded like just the adventure that Sprocket and I needed. Although I looked into snowpack issues, I didn’t think to check for road closures. As I was pulling out of Kamas, I saw a sign that said “Road Closed 14 miles ahead.” My hike was supposed to start 25 miles ahead. I quickly checked the Utah DOT site and found that, yes, the road was in fact closed.

Quickly thinking of another goal, I decided to attempt to reach another point that has been bugging me: Wagon Road Ridge. Wagon Road Ridge is the high point of the central Book Cliffs area and the Grand County Prominence Point. Plus, I thought it would be cool to check out the Unita Basin. Since I was already further north of where I usually hang out I decided to come at the point from the north.

Map by Stephanie Smith, Grand Canyon Trust via Unita Basin: An Unconventional Future

After gassing up in Roosevelt, I cruised along Seep Ridge Road which is super well maintained (paved!) by Uintah County for extractive industry purposes. It was a super lonely drive of just the kind that I like. Exploring little known corners of the US is one of my favorite things to do.

Eventually, we turned on to Buck Canyon Road and started navigating up towards Wagon Road Ridge. The road starts off on BLM land but then crosses into an indian reservation Unfortunately, I decided to just “go for it” and didn’t get a permit for travel on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. I wasn’t going to pass through Fort Duchesne where permits were sold and it was a Saturday so I was kinda skeptical that I’d be able to get one. (It looks like they are available at a store too so… I probably could have…)

That $10 fishing permit for Weaver Reservoir would have come in really handy when I was within 15 miles of my destination and came across a Tribal police officer. (Even though with that permit I still wouldn’t technically be able to drive to Wagon Road Ridge it would have legally put me within a couple of miles.) I was sitting on the side of the road waiting for Francis to get over one of her vapor lock hiccups. He was very cool and when I assured him that I thought I was on BLM (hmm…) but that as soon as I was moving again I would turn around and head off of tribal land. Since he left me sitting there, I briefly thought about going for it anyway but when I passed him sitting along side the road about a mile after turning around I was glad I didn’t. It would have been hard to justify the time to drive 30 miles of dirt!

The red dot below was my destination but I got turned back at the point marked Black Knolls Road. It was so frustrating! (Although I deserved it…)

Fortunately, it wasn’t all a waste. Sprocket and I were able to retrace our steps to Seep Ridge Road and follow it to the end of the pavement then down the Book Cliffs side. The traverse to the east along the top of the Cliffs was spectacular with views in every direction.

Love this view of the La Sals:

As we started to descend, we dropped more into the classic Book Cliffs scenery:

And then, finally, we dropped into the grassy plains at the foot of the Cliffs and crossed into Colorado:

Sprocket and I stopped for a few minutes to watch these really curious pronghorn hang out before we continued on home.

In the end, it was a great weekend even though Francis had some issues (in a parking lot near an auto parts store thankfully!) and we didn’t reach any high points. I always love exploring new places and we definitely added some miles of new roads to the memory bank!

Fry Mesa Road

It is a common occurrence in the life of 3Up Adventures to be driving along, spot an interesting road and explore it on the spot. As we were headed to Lake Powell, we spotted this road snaking up the mesa so we had to go check it out:

Sometimes I think Forrest just likes to pretend the van is a jeep.