The Rimrocker Trail – Day 1
The warmth of the sun began heating up our tent quickly, waking me before the sound of my cell phone alarm clock. Today we were scheduled to begin our journey down the Rimrocker Trail. Although fairly new, this trail had already gained must-do status on my list of North Americas Lower 48 trail list. This dirt track winds over 160 miles from Montrose, CO into Moab, UT. If you are into overland travel, then this is right up your alley. Now, I had originally planned on running this trail just Malissa and I in Mambo in the future, but when the itinerary for GoneOverland 2018 was released, I knew we would have to bypass the original plan and join back up with the GONE crew for this one.
We made quick work of our pack up as we were getting back into the groove and had enough time to enjoy a nice breakfast and cup of coffee. After the group was put back together and in their rigs we headed out. Within 30 minutes we found ourselves back on dirt, although fast paced gravel, it was nice to be kicking up dust again. The road was quick, 35 and 40 mph signs were posted ensuring we kept a good pace as not to interrupt the construction traffic which was made up of big rigs loaded with dirt and gravel. At one point I had a big rig riding my tail at 40 mph on a back-country road and felt like I was in the movie Breakdown with Kurt Russel.
After about 40 minutes we began losing the larger trucks as we entered National Forest land, but the roads continued to be in great condition allowing us to maintain good time. In fact, I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be the pace of the entire trip, so I let off the gas a bit to allow for the dust to settle from those ahead and enjoy the scenery a bit more. Bringing up the tail end of the convoy has its perks as there is nobody to dictate your pace, allowing you to slow enough for the thick dust to settle. Throughout the day we would go from high speed forest roads to slow speed winding cliff side roads giving us some incredible viewpoints of sun drenched valleys below.
We decided to stop and investigate some old mining sites along the way that were marked on the USGS map, most of which were long gone with little or nothing to be seen. Others seemed to have left a bit more debris and garbage that was fun to pick through. Back on the road we pulled over to allow a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter pass us, and I began cursing the fact that we did not bring Mambo, although today would not bring much in the way of difficult terrain, I had no way of knowing what was to come.
(Note: The entire portion of day 1 could easily be handled in a van 2wd or 4wd, lifted or un-lifted.)
The road wound in and out of National Forest land, taking us up and over higher altitude summits which may be difficult in Winter months, dropping us into the small town of Nucla, which I would consider a living Ghost Town. At one point, this town was home to a bustling mining operation which is evident by the half abandoned Main St., but is now made up of a grocery store, outdoor outfitter Shop, and a local watering hole. We decided to stop in and take a stroll through this little town and participate in an impromptu scavenger hunt which had us chasing down an ice cream. First one to be eating an ice cream wins. I sprinted into the grocery store only to find gallon cartons which I was unwilling to buy, but I was too late, Eric had already scored a Blue Bunny ice cream at the outfitter which was next door. Damn. Maybe better luck next time!
The little shop which housed a variety store, barber shop, and small Rimrocker trail heritage museum making the perfect stop. Historic pictures of the town as well as large map of the Rimrocker trail hung up on the wall. Free stickers and maps were handed out, which was a nice little surprise. If you find yourself on the trail, take a break and visit the Rimrocker Historical Society display, maybe cool off with an ice cream like we did.
Unlike the Kokopelli, which mainly runs through BLM land, the Rim-Rocker weaves between BLM, National Forest, and private property which can make finding a camp a little more difficult. We struck up conversation with the owner of the shop which housed the Rimrocker display, and she informed us that they just revamped an old baseball field which was previously built by a local mining operation that was now out of business, converting it to a riverside campground. The group was hesitant to agree on camping at an official campground and we all agreed that we would check it out before deciding.
Leaving town, we wound through some old dusty country roads that could be easily confusing without a map or GPS device. On our way towards camp we saw old mining dump sites that were abandoned by the mining operations of the past, which was a bit saddening, as it was clear they had no regard for how they left the land when they were finished. It was interesting to find out that the locals had filed lawsuits against the former companies and were given a ton of money to reclaim the land which is currently underway.
Most of this portion of road was smooth or just slightly rough due to erosion, but nothing difficult whatsoever. If you have a selectable 4WD vehicle (which the Land Cruiser is not), I wouldn’t hesitate to do the entire first day in 2WD. In fact, for those interested in taking larger vehicles such as a van, EarthRoamer, EarthCruiser, or whatnot, I would not hesitate to bring it on the first half of this trip. The smooth road dropped us down into the valley which had a small river flowing at the base of the hills. A short detour is required to get to the ball field which in the end turned out to be a great stop. Facilities are minimal, firepits at all the sites and porta-johns. Some of the larger spaces even had nice hand carved benches and canopies.
We were all very impressed with the size and location and did not hesitate to stay for the night. We had a riverside spot, with an amazing fire pit with natural rock benches surrounding it. The sites were roomy enough for us to spread out but be close enough to congregate. I would highly recommend this stop, donations are encouraged to keep up the property.
Overall, the first day of the Rim-Rocker was a great success. We made good time allowing us to setup camp early enough to do a trail fix. Dave’s driver side window motor decided to give up the ghost, which was promptly fixed after having a beer or two. The road was easy to navigate minus a few missing signs, but the map kept us on track. We saw a diverse amount of scenery ranging from pine trees, to cactus, and even a cartoon like cow skeleton.
More information and details can be found at the official Rimrocker Website below:
Be sure and check back for Day 2 of the RimRocker Trail