SOTA summit: Klondike Bluffs, Utah W7U/GR-046
Activation Date: Attempted March 21st, 2019 but rained out
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2019
I’ve never quite figured out if I like Vegas or not.
I first came in the late 70s as a bright eyed tourist, came often in the 80s to attend and even exhibit at the then vogue Comdex, a trade show. The 90s had me visit CES, Comdex’s nemesis and maybe one of my most favorite trips was my last business trip with the RSA NetWitness team, that was fun, very fun. The city has expanded, changed much over the decades, rebranded itself as a family friendly destination and then thinking the better of that, settled on “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Maybe that’s the real Vegas?
250 miles into a 750 mile drive we pull off Interstate 15, leave the morning freeway rush hour to join equally slow city traffic as we head in search of iHop, a serious player in the great American breakfast culture. Today, Vegas is all about breakfast and oh how I miss that when in the UK.
The hours drift by, we snake through the mountains on Interstate 70, wonder why we didn’t fill up before driving a 115 mile stretch with no gas station and coast into Green River on an empty tank, a name indelibly linked to my days at Novell, that once upon a time Utah wunderkind.
We’ve arrived at this mecca of the outdoors world, Moab. This is where you come if you are a serious Jeeper (I am!) or a serious off road biker (i’m not!).
It’s Thursday, late March and raining.
There’s really no trail just slick rock made ever more slick by the rain.
We run into a fellow hotel alumni and start chatting. She snaps us and inevitably our accents lead to discussions of migration and opportunity and the real great American story that is far more than breakfast. She chuckles when I share we’ve known each other for over 50 years and it turns to words like “priceless” when I share a picture of us decades earlier in London. I’m unabashed about my willingness to share with strangers what most probably might find incredibly boring but we are American’s and we do that kind of thing.
Driving toward the dirt road turn off, the heavens open up and what was rain turns to a torrential downpour. All very nice but its markedly dangerous to be in canyon country when it rains. Flash floods are exactly that. The dirt road is clearly signposted that you shouldn’t enter when it’s raining. Safety aside the thought of hiking in the rain isn’t very appealing and we decide to sit it out and seek advice from Smokey The Bear’s colleagues at the ranger station.
He looks at me and says “we sign post it for a reason” and continues with “We don’t want you driving on it”. I meekly offer up that I have a Jeep and surely the sign is for 2 wheel drive city cars. He agrees but points out that they go to great lengths to maintain a decent flat surface on the dirt road and my Jeep going in will result in wash boarding when the road dries out. Between the rain and our desire to be considerate co-adventures we decide to abandon this activation. It’s all OK as we are at the start of a very adventurous trip to the wilds of Utah.
All is not lost as I learn more about the Spanish trail that apparently crossed the Colorado River in Moab (think Grand Canyon to get a sense of why natural crossing points are good), collect my essential stamp and the exercise my wife’s approval to buy yet another Deneen mug (I have so many the cupboards overflow).
Calling off the SOTA activation was the right call as the rain goes from downpour to torrential downpour to a something like a biblical event that has me convinced Noah’s ark might sail by.
We retreat into Moab, search of food and someway to water proof my leaky rain gear.