Headed to Hell’s Revenge
“Let’s do Hell’s Revenge!” Pedro exclaimed when we finished eating lunch the first full day of our Moab vacation.
“I’m in,” Louis, our son-in-law, said.
Laura and I looked at each other and headed into the trailer with the dirty dishes. “Maybe we won’t have to go,” I said with a hopeful grin.
“We could stay here and write or something,” Laura agreed.
Neither one of us relished a tour of one of the most difficult four-wheeling trails in Moab. The name alone struck terror in my heart. Not to mention that I’d seen the first 200 yards of the trial. Each time I drove past the entrance kiosk to Sand Flats Recreation Area, I could see the black tire tracks leading up a seemingly vertical fin of sandstone.
Putting my life on the line in Hell’s Revenge did NOT make it on my list of 50 fun things to do in my fiftieth year. Unfortunately, Pedro had it on his list and he finally had a vehicle that he thought would handle the trail. And he wanted me along to share his accomplishment.
Of course, Louis didn’t want to leave Laura behind, either. The boys texted their friend Jake and we arranged to meet at the trailhead at 2:30. They figured they could easily finish before sundown at 7:00. In fact, they promised that we’d be done in time for supper at 5:30.
Jake, driving a nearly new Jeep Rubicon with lockers (specialized equipment that will allow both wheels on the axel to spin, even if one of them has no traction), led the way. Pedro, in a 1993 stock Toyota 4-Runner came next. Louis in his Toyota Tacoma TRD pickup brought up the tail of our party.
The Back Story
If you’ve never been to Moab, UT before, you’re missing out. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks sandwich the small town. To the east, the La Sal Mountains rise in white contrast to the vibrant red of the rocks. The Sand Flats Recreation Area provides thousands of acres of playground for mountain bikers, hikers, climbers and off-highway vehicle enthusiasts.
Pedro has loved putting our 4Runner through its paces off road since we purchased it new in 1993. Back then he carefully avoided every twig that might scratch its shiny surface. Twenty-four years and 267,00 miles later, the clear coating has started to peel and the truck has spent time with different family members.
In November, Pedro bought it back from our daughter to turn it into his off-road project. He’s wanted a big boy toy like this for years—especially after watching countless YouTube videos of vehicles chugging up the opening challenge of Hell’s Revenge.
About an hour into our journey we stopped at one of the well-marked maps along the trail. The map I looked at scared me with horrifying feature names like “Tip-Over Challenge” and “Hell’s Gate” (as if Hell’s Revenge wasn’t enough).
“Abyss Viewpoint” didn’t worry me too much—I’d ridden my mountain bike there before. “Mickey’s Hot Tub” sounded like fun—I could use a good soak in hot water. Come to find out, Mickey’s Hot Tub is nothing more than a giant, hot-tub shaped hole in the sandstone that adventurous drivers drive into and out of.
Specialized Equipment on Hell’s Gate
“Will you try Hell’s Gate?” I asked Pedro.
“No,” he said. “I don’t have lockers. We’ll park at the top and watch Jake do it in his Jeep.” And we did. Jake made it look easy to drive a vehicle up a nearly vertical narrow passageway. I noticed his passengers bailed on him before he started up, though. They used the same I-need-to-videotape-this-event excuse that I always use.
We continued on the trail—our progress made slower by Louis’s pickup. The longer wheelbase of his truck made it difficult for him to negotiate the sharp-angled areas. We took turns spotting and helping him avoid serious damage to his truck.
Jake and his Jeep managed to accept all of the crazy challenges and negotiate them with his eyes closed (ok, maybe I exaggerate). The Jeep’s high clearance, narrow wheelbase, and lockers all made it easy for him.
Pedro’s stock 4Runner had the next easiest time on the trail. The shorter wheelbase and an aftermarket set of springs in the back helped it over the rough spots and sharp angles.
Nevertheless, by 5:30 we had only reached The Escalator. After watching Jake attempt this crazy challenge (it looks like it’s name sake—only an escalator for giants), we figured we should be done in 30 minutes or so since the trail had less than two miles left.
Of course, nothing ever goes as planned. The last mile-and-a-half seemed to stretch on forever. We could see the lights of Moab start to twinkle as the air cooled and the sun slipped lower on the horizon. And still, the road wound on.
Now I understood why the trail makers had named this place Hell’s Revenge. The revenge happens in the last mile-and-a-half. It looks like easy street—just normal dirt road with a few rocky outcroppings. But those rocky outcroppings contained some of the toughest stretches of road along the way.
Pedro had to pull out the special traction boards that he’d fashioned for situations like this. Both he and Louis had to use them to negotiate over steep and uneven drop-offs.
Jake’s son, Ashur, kept ribbing Pedro and Louis because they drove Toyotas. After Louis came down hard on his bumper and caused some minor damage, he may have suffered from a little Jeep envy.
Pedro exulted in his accomplishment of driving Hell’s Revenge in a stock SUV. “Lockers? We don’t need no stinkin’ lockers!” he exclaimed after making it up a particularly steep part of the trail.
Laura and I kept getting out to take photos and enjoy the scenery.
It seemed as if the closer we came to our destination, the more difficult the road became. Finally, we saw headlights on Sand Flats Road and the trail widened out. We had made it!The closer we get to our destination, the more difficult our path often seems. #BGBG2 Click To Tweet
What’s a Good Christian Doing in Hell, Anyway?
We’re all on a road that sometimes seems like Hell, but we all have a different experience depending on our talents and how God has equipped us. For some, the journey seems like easy street. For others the journey seems interminable and overwhelming. But if we hang together we can create community that strengthens all of us.
All too often I’ve suffered from ‘Jeep Envy’ as I see other Christians surmount seemingly impossible trials without breaking a spiritual sweat. God didn’t create us all the same—he gave each of us special talents and personalities that will uniquely equip us for service. What seems difficult to a Tacoma might seem easy to a Jeep. A spiritual discipline that seems difficult for me might prove easy for you.
Doing the trail together with friends made it manageable. Pedro had a winch in case someone needed towing. Jake went ahead over the rough stuff and his example helped Pedro and Louis make informed decisions.
Jake and Pedro made sure to spot for Louis when the road seemed impassable. Louis helped move rocks to build up the trail. Laura and I kept the dog and the baby happy and supplied snacks as suppertime came and went. Lauren (Jake’s daughter) and Ashur’s comments about their crazy dad kept me laughing.
I think maybe hanging together to do life together is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31. “But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part?”
The next time I feel Jeep Envy on the spiritual rough roads of life, I’ll remember to reach out to my community for support rather than whine and complain about how ill-equipped I think I am.