The road in Granite Creek...
The road in Granite Creek Canyon is a nightmare for people with pretty paint. There were also other dangers lurking to catch the tired traveler at the end of the day.
It was now authentically dark and we were traveling by headlights. The map indicated we wouldn't see the top of the ridge for another hour. The road we were on was the only flat, relatively rock-free ground we had seen for hours. It looked like camp to us! We erected the tents between the trucks, built a quick fire, and spent the night in the middle of the road. This is not the first time The Big Adventure camped in the road and, given our past record, probably won't be the last.
The next morning we continued our climb up the narrow ATV track. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the next intersection finally brought a Jeep-width two-track past the hood. We turned west and headed for what we hoped would be the centerpiece of our trip. The Sheep Creek dugway is a monster carved into the side of the Dolores River canyon about eight miles northwest of Gateway, Colorado. We slowly trundled to the edge of the canyon and got out to soak in the incredible view. The Dolores Canyon stretched away to the southeast and disappeared in the morning haze. The almost sheer plunge at our feet was impressive! How a road was going to get down this immense wall of sandstone was a mystery to us.
A few minutes later, the mystery was revealed. We stood in quiet awe at the canyon rim, each with our own thoughts as we contemplated this unbelievable road. The dugway drops almost 2,500 feet in less than three miles. We let our eyes follow the twisting route carved into the side of the cliff and we again noticed that only ATV tracks were in evidence. Hmmmm...
Curses! We were foiled in...
Curses! We were foiled in our route planning by an unexpected road closure. Subsequent conversations with the BLM when we returned home revealed that the closure is intended to be temporary. The intent is to repair the road and reopen it. We will be following up to ensure this great road stays open!
We climbed back into our trucks and started the long descent. We reached a small cabin by a spring and were pulled up short by the bane of motorized enthusiasts everywhere: the dreaded 'Closed' sign! The bright yellow sign screamed, "Road Closed Ahead to all vehicles greater than 50 inches in width. Closure is for public safety due to road damage. TURN AROUND HERE!" It was signed by the Grand Junction Field Office of the BLM and gave a phone number for more information. Needless to say, there was no cell signal on the side of the canyon so a phone call was out.
We hiked the road down to the bottom and examined the 'damage'. We were sure we could safely negotiate the narrow shelf road, even with the washout. But unwilling to risk legal entanglements on a closure of unknown status, we very grudgingly returned to the rim to ponder our next move. Spreading the maps on the hood of the Comanche, we looked for an alternate way to reach the Dolores River far below ... and looked ... and looked. There weren't any!
To the east, the nearest way off the escarpment was outside of Whitewater, nearly all the way back to Grand Junction. To the west, there were three fords of the river between us and Highway 128. The first two were known to be private and probably closed. The only known open ford was the Dewey Ford, so named as it is only about a mile short of the famous bridge of the same name on the Colorado River. The ford was 14.5 miles out of the way as the crow flies! Again, we were not crows and we knew it would take the rest of the day to bounce and jounce over the 30 miles of rough road to Dewey Ford. We would also be far to the west of our intended track to Moab. But this was a Big Adventure and sometimes part of the adventure is making some unexpected route adjustments.
We headed west and the road was indeed slow and rough. We decided to stop at the nearest ford on the outside chance that it would be open to public travel and since it was only a short way off our path of travel. We parked the Jeeps, waded across the Dolores, and verified the 'No Trespassing' sign on the south bank of the river. Big "sighs" all around but the water felt good as the day was getting really warm. It was early evening when we finally pulled up to the Dewey Ford on the Dolores. We crossed easily and headed south toward Moab. A flat, open spot on the ridge called to us in the setting sun so we set up camp for the night.