March 17, 2018.
Our night at the Doll House was the calmest of the trip. We all slept soundly and though we each awoke a different times, we all experienced a beautiful morning. Having nearly missed the orange horizon the morning before, I refrained from hitting the snooze button on my alarm, and I crawled out of the tent about half an hour before sunrise.
Being up so early allowed me time to scout a reasonably good position to capture the magic light of morning, since I could see exactly where it was going to come over the horizon, and I carefully made my way to a rock outcropping with views of all three Doll House sights via washes and trails, avoiding the desert crust.
As I waited for the sun to crest the horizon, I noticed Ben @m3bassman climb out of his tent and onto a rocky outcropping near camp (you can just make out his red jacket) - another prime location I'd seriously considered! As the sun lit up the pillars of Doll House 3, he was smack in the middle of a pretty awesome situation.
My position gave me not only a full-on view of the sun hitting Doll House 3, but also a nice "profile view" of the pillars at Doll House 1 and 2, and the canyon just to their east. It was a special sight. I probably spent too long taking it all in, if there is such a thing - since by the time I got back to camp, @mrs.turbodb was up, dressed, and itching for some breakfast.
That was just fine with me, since I was hungry as well and we had a quick breakfast while Ben, Kirsten and Zane @Speedytech7 enjoyed a cup of coffee. Then, we all packed up our gear and headed back up the road towards Flint Trail. We didn't get far though - as we pulled up on Chimney Rock, it called to all of us. Just as I'd slowed down to take a picture, I saw Ben and Zane turn down the spur towards the solitary formation. We followed of course, and the view of The Maze was stunning - in every direction.
As we pulled out of Chimney Rock and the sun climbed in the sky, shadows from the clouds created dramatic scenes across the landscape, highlighting the orange pillars against shadowed canyon walls.
As had been the case the day before, the young guns were out in front, slowing down now and again to let me catch up. Fine by me - even having seen the geology the day before, I continued to find myself getting out of the truck to capture the beauty of Canyonlands. Perhaps sensing this window of opportunity, Ben proposed a truck swap with Zane. Each was eager to experience the work they'd been doing, in order to better optimize their own modifications, and so a bit of musical trucks was played and they were back on the trail.
It was at this point that things got a little ... weird. We couldn't see the two of them, so who really knows what was going on, but the chatter over the CB was striking enough that I transcribed it word for word on the spot, at 10:04am Saturday morning:
Ben: Zane you've done a really nice job with your rear end, dialing it in I mean. It's clear you've put a lot of work into it.
Zane: Your rear end feels really nice too. I really like it.
Dan: Umm, that's what she said?
Eventually we caught up to the "rear-enders," just as they were approaching the more technical parts of the trail. Musical trucks again, and it wasn't long before Ben eased himself into position - only two tires on the ground; the other two fully stuffed.
Now, if you know Ben, you know that every shot he takes of his truck is a money shot - wheels turned (ka-chow!), suspension stuffed. So he really couldn't pass this situation up. Zane and I waited patiently while he captured the moment. Kirsten just kept reading her book; this was nothing new for her.
Of course, we can't give Ben too hard a time - after seeing him step down the ledge, both Zane and I did the same thing, Zane curious to see how his new rear shock mounts were working from a travel perspective, and me curious about the new wheels rubbing in the front and whether the fully stuffed rear tires were centered in the wells in the back - something I'd been working through for a while. Zane's conclusion was that he could remove an overload or two from the rear to get a bit more compression and I was generally quite happy - there was still a good inch or so clearance in the front, and the rear tire couldn't have been more centered in the well.
And with that behind us, we ran the last little bit of Doll House road back to the intersection toward the Flint Trail switchbacks. This road was much smoother than where we'd just been so we made great time - well, except for "mister-always-stopping-for-photos" as we climbed up towards the switchbacks. It was at this point too that we spotted three park rangers driving in the valley below - the only other caravan we'd see during the entire trip.
I mean really, how can you not stop for the sign leading to the switchbacks, or for the several-hundred-pound orange rock balanced on a gray pillar? These are not things you see every day, and that must be marveled at - they won't be around forever!
It was at this point that Ben came over the CB to marvel, "It sure looks like we're just going to drive right up the canyon wall," and made the first sharp turn to the right to enter the only real new technical portion of the day's run. We were lucky that the weather was good and the little bit of snow still on the road wasn't an issue - though it was clear we were the first tracks on the switchbacks since it had last snowed; such a remote place we found ourselves in!
At the top, the Flint Trail Overlook provided the perfect spot (and good timing) for lunch and a few minutes to soak in the views of where we'd been just a few hours earlier.
And then, it was time for a short detour from the "norm" of these types of trips. Just a fraction of a mile to the west was the Happy Canyon Overlook trail - a short out-and-back that allowed us to stretch our legs and enjoy even more of the carved canyon walls and deep valleys from the tip of a ridge.
I couldn't help but stay behind as everyone walked back, so @mrs.turbodb could take a picture of my signature pose. I didn't realize it at the time, but my backdrop were some amazing lenticular clouds - indicative of high winds that often bring a significant change in the weather pattern. We'd find this to be true once again, not-so-many hours from now.
Refreshed and back at the trucks, we were now on the top of the canyon rim and made good time on the road to Panorama Point - our goal and campsite for the evening, where for a short time we debated circling the trucks to build a wind shield, but instead resorted to our normal mode of "find the good views." Ben and Zane ended up looking northeast towards Island in the Sky, and we ended up with a kick-ass spot looking south east, towards The Needles.
Both were amazing, but IMO you always go for the spot where you sort of back up to the cliff. You know, so when you zoom out a bit from the photo above, you get something like this. That's when you know you've got a view to die for; and that you need to be careful if you get out of the tent in the dark.
Sites chosen, we had plenty of daylight left, and so went for our second hike along the ridges that comprise panorama point. Once again, even as we were buffeted by wind, we reveled in such a special place - the La Sal mountains in the distance, canyons cutting through the valley below.
And then we headed back toward camp, still early enough unfold tents, make dinner, and eat before sunset - which we hoped to capture in it's full glory across the canyon. It was at this point that I realized, perhaps there are drawbacks to the awesomest site - for instance, it's much harder to reach things in the bed of the truck when it's at forehead level. hahahahaha!
But, we obviously managed and got the tent and dinner ready simultaneously - one of the benefits of having both I and @mrs.turbodb on the trip - and found a great place next to Ben and Kirsten (who were having some delicious smelling tacos) to enjoy our oven-roasted chicken sandwiches with avocado and chips. Zane, ever the gourmet, pulled up his chair as well.
"Is that spaghetti-o's and a hot dog?" Kirsten asked?
"Yup, I love these trips." said Zane.
We all smiled and enjoyed the light as it played across The Needles. Clouds in the west mean that there was no great show in the sky, but that was OK with us - we'd seen a lot, and we still had another half-day (or more) ahead of us.
As darkness fell, the temperature dropped once again, and the lantern came out. We all huddled around. It still wasn't putting out any heat. And then Ben broke out his Mr. Buddy Little Heater and fired it up. Now, the size of the heating element on this thing is about the same as a Toyota grill emblem, so you can imagine that while it might keep the inside of a tent warm, it's not going to do much to heat us and our surroundings on Panorama Point.
But it was the thought that counted, so we left it on, laughing into the night - at what, I don't remember now. Eventually though it got late and we were all chilly (it seemed to be getting colder; hint: it was) so we grabbed our chairs and retired to our tents.
To say that we had no idea of what was in store the next morning would be an understatement. Let's just say that it definitely didn't pan out the way we'd expected - not by a long shot!