September 29, 2017.
Parked at the head of Gemini Bridges, we expected to be woken early by Jeepers, but we weren't. The first set headed up around 9:00am, moving slowly.
For good reason too - they were Jeeps, and so a bit fragile.
As usual, we'd ended up in a beautiful spot. Out on a ledge, it was hard to spot even from the trail, but was flat with great views and morning sun.
Having gotten in late the night before, we hadn't aired down yet, so in addition to putting away the tents, we took a few minutes to complete a task that would save both our suspensions and our bones.
Well, at least mine and Mikes. Monte and Devin are still young guns.
We also watched as two more Jeeps headed up the road - both carrying two passengers in the ~75-year old age range. Just past our site, the trailing Jeep stopped and the passenger hopped out. As the Jeep started turning around, she "hustled" up the road and started waving her hands at the first Jeep. "Bob!" she yelled, "We're turning around!"
By now, her Jeep had completed its 8-point turn, and was already headed back down the road without her. Bob apparently didn't hear her, because he kept on going.
Interesting we thought. And we chalked it up to Jeeps.
And then we were off - up to Gemini Bridges, this time with Devin leading the way.
As we turned away from the highway and into the canyon, the views became even greater. Once again we were surrounded by red and capped with a deep blue - perhaps the best weather we'd had all trip.
We made frequent stops for photos.
The Gemini Bridges trail is a relatively short one - perhaps 4-6 miles to the viewpoint, so it wasn't long before we lined up and got out of the trucks. As usual, the rigs attracted the attention of a few UTVers who were there ("assholes" was I think our designation for them), who wanted to know a bit about them, as well as the tents on top.
We also spotted this guy, who clearly took the "trail ready" moniker to heart. With a 6-inch ground clearance and a roof-rack-mounted tire, he was clearly ready for anything!
He pulled out shortly after we arrived, and as we drove back down and hour later, we passed him about a mile down the road. Jeep speed?
We headed down to the Gemini Bridges - a short walk down what used to be a road. When we got there, we each took this same look at the bridges as Devin - it was a great view of the bridges on the other side of the hole.
Only later did we all realize that we'd been standing on 4-inches of rock. From that point on, we were a bit more hesitant as we crept out for pictures.
Of course, it turns out that if we'd read the sign at the trailhead (which I read as I was editing the photo of it), it warned us of just this situation!
We walked around and over the bridges for half an hour taking it all in, and trying to get just the right angle. I don't know that we ever did, but it doesn't matter - if you're reading this, you should really go see it for yourself.
Even the views around the bridges were spectacular - though we probably could have predicted that from the views we'd seen leading to the bridges and from the bridges themselves.
As we explored, we also ran across a plaque - likely left from the days when a road came right down to the bridges. Even today, there were several repelling anchors around the openings - probably not the safest thing to have disintegrating sandstone as your anchor, but they sure looked fun!
As we headed back out the way we came, we found ourselves stopping at the same places to take some of the same pictures we'd taken just an hour earlier. "The light is a little different," we told ourselves!
In the middle of it all, we passed Bob! (you know, the Jeep that didn't stop earlier in the morning when his buddy turned around). He was going slowly, so I pulled over to make sure he knew that his buddy had turned around - you know, in case he hadn't figured it out in the last couple hours.
Turns out he knew, and was totally fine with it. "We just got these Jeeps. He's just a wuss and didn't want to use them the way you're supposed to! Why would you even get a Jeep if you're not going to drive it on a road like this?" Bob said.
Well, that got a laugh and I told him to have fun. A thumbs up as he drove off with a big smile on his face was pretty cool to see.
We wrapped up the trail and headed into Moab where Mike had decided to treat us to lunch at the Blue Pig BBQ. As we walked in, our waitress was nice enough to ignore the week-without-showers aura that surrounded us, and instead greated us with a "You doing some offroading?"
"A little bit, for the last two weeks!" we said as we took a look at the menus.
Lunch was delicious - pulled pork sandwiches for a couple of us, burnt ends for the other two. And of course fries and onion rings. Not too shabby when you'd been "suffering" as we had.
During lunch, we talked about our next steps, and we decided that a new GPS track Monte had downloaded the previous night was what we should do next. Near Dewey Bridge, it would re-trace a short, technical segment of the Kokopelli that we'd done a few days earlier and then head over to Dome Plateau where we would camp for the night.
Then, in the morning, we'd head out on what would be our last adventure of the trip - the Dolores Triangle.
So, it was back up the highway to what was becoming a familiar rally point - Dewey Bridge - but not without once again trying to capture the beauty of the valley.
And then, it was back up the technical section of the Kokopelli - once again, Monte and Mike leading the way. We all made it through with no problem once we'd found our respective lines, and we were soon passing our campsite from a couple nights before and turning off to the Dome Plateau Overlook.
We weren't on the Dome Plateau trail long when we came to a steep section that bottomed out in a wash. With what had clearly been almost no traffic in the recent past, even Monte got out to check out the lines and figure out if it was passable or too washed out.
It was at this point when I realized that several times throughout the trip, there were spots in the trail where - had I been alone - I would have just said to myself, "Welp, guess this is where we turn around!" But not so with Mike and Monte - they took a look, and experience told them we'd be fine.
Or at least they would be - I mean, they weren't running stock tires and no lift.
It was Monte's turn first. Also unsure, Devin decided she'd let him do this one alone, and got out to take pictures. Not a bad idea if you ask me, though in the end, Monte made it look easy.
Then it was Mike's turn. I'm pretty sure that all Mike did was put it in 4Lo and point the wheels straight down. His truck crawled slowly down the ledges, and with a bit of braking in key spots, Mike too made it look easy.
My turn. As I looked over the dash, my brain told me that everything would be fine - I'd just seen Mike and Monte make it with no problem, but my eyes told me a different story altogether - one that started with "But you can't even see anything over the hood!" My brain won out and I headed down.
Of course, I too made it through - and easily at that. No skids or sliders were harmed in this part of the trail (though I was close to a slider on one of the ledges), and I must have had a big grin on my face at the bottom, 'cause Monte said, "Fun huh?"
From there we continued to wind our way through the canyons and up onto the Dome Plateau. A couple more obstacles on the way made for fun driving - once where Monte and I used our "rear armor" (aka. Tow hitches), and once where Monte mashed his OEM transfer case "skid" and then Mike chose a better line and got through unscathed.
…which of course Monte chalked up to luck, and Mike made sure he knew was skill.
I followed Mike's line.
Of course, there were other regular stops as well - you know, for science. And photos. Because you just can't have enough photos on a trip like this. A couple thousand each, is where I think we all ended up.
As it was getting later in the afternoon, Mike came on over the CB to see how we were doing on getting to camp. "Pretty good," said Monte, it should be about 10 minutes up ahead.
Which it was, if we'd wanted to camp at the second best camp site in the world. The view was near spectacular (there was some natural "cropping" from the cliffs surrounding the site), and there was a huge fire ring, but there wasn't a ton of flat space for us. So Mike and I waited while Monte went to scout the second possible site.
"You guys need to get over here right now!" we heard over the CB a few minutes later. Of course, unsure that it'd be better than this, we asked a few questions, all of which went unanswered until a good 3 minutes later when Monte came back on and said, "If you said something, I didn't hear you - I've been out taking pictures in this amazing light."
That was enough for us to head over. And, as I crested the hill leading down to the site, "Oh shit." was all I could say.
It was even better. It was uncropped, big and flat, and there was a spot to back out onto the cliff - giving perhaps the most amazing view out of a tent possible. We immediately got setup, essentially staging a CVT photoshoot and got started with the cameras.
As the sun went down and the shadows got longer, we continued to shoot - the canyon walls, the towers, and the clouds were all popping.
It was then time for dinner and a of course a fire. And tonight was the night that Monte was going to get his night shot, so he did that while Devin, Mike, and I chatted around the fire. None of us wanted to acknowledge that tomorrow would be our last full day, instead chatting about all that had happened to us on the trip so far.
It was another night with minimal truck talk - unlikely to become the norm, but maybe a tradition every now and then - and we once again found ourselves only able to head to bed after the fire had been out for a while.
From the best campsite ever, we knew that the views the next morning would be amazing, and as we climbed into our tents we were all anxious to see what the day would bring. Little did we know that it was not what we were expecting!