Here’s the back story from the Ipath “Dark Side of the Moon” trip.
So if you didn’t catch the article in Skateboarder… I basically have a friend who told me there was a huge area in Utah of rocks that could be skated. I figured that it must be where Jeremy Wray did the frontside ollie way back when so I did some research and made some calls and soon ended up out there looking for spots. I didn’t really find much until I met this mountain biker dude who told me about a place in northeast Utah that had an entire valley of “slickrock” that might be smooth enough to skate on. I checked it out and it turned out to be a total gold mine of spots. A week later I headed back with the Ipath team.
The rock is smooth enough to skate with normal wheels and is a bit lumpy but once you get used to it, it’s not really too bad. I thought we might need a lot of plywood but luckily it was unnecessary. It would have been a serious pain in the ass to bring wood in because we had to hike about a mile to get to even the closest of the spots. We probably hiked up to 10 miles per day looking for spots in the slickrock valley.
We were camping the whole week as well. The “campsite” was pretty amazing. Dave Smith (Ipath TM) had been to this spot once before and as it turned out, it was still good. A half-hour drive into the desert on 4×4 trails we turned off the road and followed a track for few hundred yards. After rounding a small hill we came to a flat area where people had made a makeshift fire pit. This was no campground though. We were just in the middle of the desert. Right next to the fire pit was a 300 ft cliff directly looking over the Colorado River. Talk about an epic location. This was it. Without any amenities, we had to figure a few things out. After a couple days skating in the desert sun a shower was absolutely necessary. A few of us resorted to the river. I felt like an American Indian bathing in the freezing cold water. It was pretty damn refreshing though. We brought in all our food and water and grilled each night. A few outcrops of rock away was the shitter. After a week a cluster of conspicuous piles of rocks dotted the semi private sunken area.
A couple days in we were shooting Jaws try the kickflip from the cover. We had just found the spot and he was ollieing off the drop. We had been warned about storms in the area coming through with intensity and speed. The mountain biker who originally told me about the location had been very explicit in telling me that if a storm was coming to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. The reason being that we were several miles off the main road on dirt and clay 4×4 tracks and the whole valley drained out right across the road. He had even been skeptical if we could get in there with our 15-passenger van. It had proved to be a slow drive but possible in good weather. At any rate, Jaws was kickflipping and there was a pretty large thunder head coming our way, but it’s hard to stop once you start skating / shooting. We kept saying, “One more try!” until suddenly ‘WHOOOSH!’ the wind picked up and one of my flashes went flying off the rock and smashed on the ground. We were all suddenly pelted with flying sand and bits of rock stirred up by the oncoming storm. I franticly packed up and we started running back toward the van, but it was too late. The rain hit with intense force and was blowing sideways with winds that were probably 60 –70 mph. We headed for the cliff face and found ourselves huddled under an outcropping of a huge wall of rock. There was nowhere to go. The wind was partially blocked from our hideout and we just crawled through the dirt against the cliff and waited. It was probably 45 minutes before we were able to leave.
It was still raining a bit but not nearly as hard as when it had started. We headed back to the van and started driving out only to stop short at the first dip in the road. What had been a low wet area was now a river. A few of us waded across and found that it wasn’t actually that deep. It was clearly getting deeper by the minute though, and we realized if we didn’t leave then we probably wouldn’t be leaving until morning. Dave drove the van down the hill and blasted through the river, luckily making it with no trouble. We all cheered and thought we were home free. That’s when we hit the clay.
It was getting dark and it was clear that the road was not going to dry quickly. We inched along at a snails pace with the van fishtailing wildly from one side to the other. This was pretty intense because there were huge washed out ditches on either side of the road. Some of them were probably 6 ft deep and we came dangerously close to a back smith on the ditch with the van. It would have flipped us for sure. It tool us about 30 minutes to go half a mile at which point we came across a 4 wheel drive SUV just sitting diagonally in the middle of the road. A note was taped to the window reading, “Stuck. Be back tomorrow”. We realized that with 12 of us we could push the thing out of the way because the road was so slick. A bunch of us began rocking the thing from side to side and soon it started sliding over. Within a few minutes we had it off the side of the road enough that our van would fit past it. The only issue was that we had to fit our van between the SUV on the right and a deep ditch on the left. The road was so slippery and slightly convex that we weren’t sure it would be possible. We decided that some of us could get on either side of the van and walk the back end so it wouldn’t fishtail. It was front wheel drive and could steer fairly well in the mud. The issue was the flailing rear wheels. Most of us got out and some of us who didn’t bring enough shoes, including myself, decided to go barefoot. After all it was just soft squishy mud. We slowly squeezed by the SUV and continued down the muddy track.
The drive was excruciatingly slow. Every few minutes we would all have to rush to the other side of the van to keep it from sliding into another ditch or just from turning sideways in the road. Finally after an hour or two we reached the highway. My foot was bleeding and we were completely covered mud. We check the odometer and we had just walked the van 2.2 miles through the rain soaked desert – barefoot. We couldn’t believe it had been that far.
We all breathed sighs of relief and headed back to the campsite. Luckily that road was much rockier and was no trouble to drive on. It was completely dark and pretty late when we arrived, and to our dismay, the storm had been just as strong at the camp. Our tents were totally thrashed. Broken poles stuck through canvas and trash was strewn everywhere. Luckily most of us had kept our luggage or something heavy in our tents but Raybourn’s was nowhere to be seen. He and Ryan Reyes took flashlights and went hiking around the area looking for his tent. After a half hour or so they came back empty handed. We assumed it had been blown over the cliff into the Colorado. That night they slept in the van. Most of our tents were repairable with duct tape and a couple hours later we crashed, completely exhausted.
The next morning we hung our wet clothes on the van for the sun to dry and went looking for Raybourn’s tent. Eventually he found it in a ditch about 300 yards from our campsite. It was mostly intact and his things were still inside.
At this point our luck turned for the better and we developed our camping routine and skated for almost a week on the slickrock. It was definitely one of the funnest trips I’ve been on. This was one for the books.