Sunday, September 14, 2008

Smoky Mountain Road

Here is a Google Earth KML file (470kB) showing my route for a couple of the days on this trip. I forgot to download the earlier days from my Garmin Nuvi before it deleted them. It includes the route I drove along the Smoky Mountain Road Scenic Backway. I was taking that road to get down to Alstrom Point but was turned back when I encountered a sign warning me that the road was washed out ahead.

The warning sign bore annotations from people saying that ATV and motorcycles could get through, along with an obscure "if you believe it" mention for 4x4. I was disappointed that the ranger didn't mention the washout when I asked specifically about the conditions on this road. I tried an alternate way back and hit another (more permanent) warning sign of another washout.

That second one wasn't a surprise, as I'd read about that closure on the Internet before my trip. The road was definitely scenic, with loads of twists and switchbacks. A couple registered 20 deg incline on my inclinometers; that's a 36 percent grade.

This is one of the roads that are famous for being totally impassable when wet, even if you have 4WD. There were clear signs of the danger. Someone had driven the road recently when it was wet, leaving ruts that occasionally skidded from one side of the road to the other. It looked like a 2wd vechicle left them. This is all important because ... then it started to rain and I was 50 miles from pavement. Within a few miles the road started to get pretty slick, but I outpaced the storm and made it back safe.

The last pic is looking back at the storm clouds that I just left. So I wasn't able to reach the southern end of the road and enjoy the great views from the Kelly Grade, or see the smoke coming from the underground coal fires (the origins of the road's name).

The rain that day was scattered across the Escalante region and produced a deadly flash flood in one of the canyons. A CA couple was killed on the Egypt trail. I was in that neighborhood the day before.

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