Thursday, July 18, 2013

Long Canyon via the Shafer Trail.

Potash Road (Route 279) is one of my favorite roads to travel in the Moab area; there is always something new to see. The entrance to the road from Route 191 has changed drastically due to the removal of "tailings" from the area.   What are tailings?  Ok, to be blunt; it's uranium poop; waste from uranium mining that was put into a huge dump.  Anyway, before you would ask yourself, "Where exactly is Potash Road?"; now you can't miss it (all those new road signs help a bit too). Potash Road is not only full of amazing rock formations, but has several areas of petroglyphs; there is "Wall Street" which is a very popular spot for climbers who love the 80 to over 100 foot vertical walls; it parallels the Colorado River; there are campsites either along the bottom of those massive rock walls, or along the river itself, and there is the Shafer Trail which will take you through Long Canyon. Long Canyon is what I'm going to concentrate on in this post, well as much as I can.

Jughandle Arch
So you're traveling along Potash Road wondering where the entrance to Long Canyon might be; there's no sign by the way, you sort of have to know where it is.  Big help, right?  Here is the biggest hint you will need, and it truly is a big one; when you see Jughandle Arch, you're there.  You'll see an opening on the right; just go over the railroad tracks (make sure to look out for any trains as the Potash Foundry still uses these tracks) and you'll immediately be on a dirt road.   The Long Canyon/Shafer Trail Loop is about 37 miles of which 28 miles of it is dirt, rocks and ruts; a 4 wheel drive vehicle is a must unless you enjoy taking your car to the auto mechanic.  Past the entrance you'll see another unusual rock formation leaning against a rock wall; if you pass this formation, you've gone too far.  Think of Jughandle Arch and this other formation as the entrance pillars to Long Canyon.

What is so special about Long Canyon? I'll get to all that, but it reminds me of the first time Roy and I were out gallivanting there. We had decided to stop and check out a dried out river bed; amongst some boulders were kangaroo mice scampering about, and we simply enjoyed watching them. Suddenly this SUV pulls up and about six elderly women get out, walk along the road and stop opposite us. One shouts at us, "Do you see them?", so we shout back, "See what exactly?". "The petroglyphs" one of the ladies shouts back, "No, no, we're just watching the wild life". One of her companions asked her to repeat what we just said, and I swear Roy and I almost fell down laughing when we heard her yell, "Wild life? What the hell do they want to look at wild life for?". The ladies all got back into the SUV, made a U-turn and headed out of the area. There are petroglyphs in Long Canyon, just farther than they wanted to travel to I guess.

Anyway, let me introduce you to Long Canyon with the few photos I was able to take.  Unfortunately, the weather started to turn stormy and there are many signs along the trail warning of flash flooding.  When we heard the first thunder boom, we high tailed it out of there; no way we were becoming a statistic.  Flash floods are nothing to turn your nose up at; they hit suddenly and if you hear that roar, just like with a tornado, it's too late to get out of the way.  So, the trail through Long Canyon is the Shafer Trail; the same trail that goes through the Shafer Basin beneath Dead Horse Point Overlook.

For a complete description of the route, simply click Here.

Around each corner, the view will become more and more magnificent.  Eventually the road will begin an upward climb on a hill where you'll ride along terraces with views of the Colorado River.

Of course the route is full of amazing rock formations, plant and wild life; you'll be entering the terrain of Bighorn Sheep and if you see any, be quiet, take photos, but don't harass them.  There is no camping allowed along this trail either.

Claret Cup Cactus

That takes care of our little jaunt through Long Canyon, cut short by inclement weather; just another excuse to go back, do it again and this time to the end.

Mary Cokenour

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