Monday, April 20, 2009

Mountain Biking Moab, Utah

On March 27 my good friend Steve Pike, my brother Ollie and myself went on a week long mountain biking adventure to the world famous trails in Moab. We planned on doing the trip as cheaply as we could, this meant that we would be camping and basically living rugged for the week and that is just what we did. Steve is the camping guru amongst us, he made sure we were fully prepared with our supplies and gear and he did a hell of job because even though temps dipped into the low 20's on some nights we still managed to sleep in relative comfort throughout the week. Here's the short version of how the trip went.

Friday March 27
We caught the plane early and arrived in Salt Lake City at around noon. The first thing we needed to do was pick up our bikes at the UPS depot, shipping the bikes via UPS costs less than half of what it would have cost to bring them on the plane. We took our bikes to an old friends place who had conviently moved to Salt Lake City the previous year and assembled them in her garage. We were in a rush, we had to drive approx 4 hours to Moab and be there at a reasonable time so that we could get a spot at a campsite called "the Devils Playground" at the famous Arches National Park. I slept most of the drive and by the time we arrived it was dark and cold so I set up my tent and crashed upon arrival.

The Devils Garden Campground In Arches National Park

Saturday March 28
I awoke to Steve yelling "hey Ollie is that you up on that rock?". Indeed it was Ollie up on a huge rock watching the sun come up. As the sun arose I quickly became aware of why Arches National Park was so popular, it was some of the most breathtaking landscape I had seen in a long time. We cooked up a bacon and egg breakfast and had a great cup of hot chocolate thanks to the hospitality of our camping neighbours. After that we headed for "delicate arch", a spectacular rock formation located within the national park. On the trail leading us to delicate arch we came across some petroglyphs, native artwork carved into the stone near the trail. We marveled at that for a while andthen continued on to Utahs most famous arch. After being awed at what was by far the most strange and impossibly formed rock I had ever seen we decided we needed to ride. We hit up the Klondike Bluffs trail which is roughly 17 miles North of Moab. There was a total of 1313' of climbing and best of all our guide book mentioned some fossilized dinosaur trackways on this trail and we were all stoked about checking them out. We weren't disappointed, the tracks were spectacular and the ride was very memorable with some tough climbs and some very memorable descents on what the locals call "slickrock", a smooth and extremely fun sandstone riding surface. The entire ride was roughly 15 miles, we returned on the same trail we got there (not a loop trail).

Petroglyphs near delicate arch

Sunday March 29
We rode Amasa Back, a difficult 11 mile trail located 9 miles south of Moab. While setting up the bikes I noticed that the nut that holds my main pivot on at my rear triangle was gone, it must have worked itself off at Klondike Bluffs. This is a specialty Cannondale nut that I figured was going to be a tough thing to find. I went to Moab Cyclery, a Cannonale dealer in Moab and the mechanic took the part off one of his rentals and intalled it for me for $10, what a break! I shot back to the Amasa Back trail head, threw my bike together and we got going. There's 3569' of total climbing which means there is the equivilant downhill since it is an `out and back` ride, AWSOME! There was some crazy cliffs and drop-off's that demanded respect and careful riding, this isn't the place you want to smack yourself up! All of the work was rewarded with some spectacular scenery and we only ran into a couple of other bikers the whole ride. We were forced to come back pretty quick as a storm was brewing up and we did not want to get rained on...or rained out. Steve got a flat which was quickly fixed and we made it back without a drop of rain... perfect. After the ride I wanted to check out another spot `nearby` that had some really well preserved dino trackways that lead right off the edge of a cliff and we managed to find them after driving approx 7000' above sea level, nearby my ass! They were well worth the effort though, I love that kind of thing. We camped at a roadside spot not far from the trackways and met some people from Colorado who were also camping, we drank and laughed around a campfire with them for most of the night but the snow started flying and I was beat from the ride so I cashed in at about midnight.

Getting geared up at the Amasa Back trailhead

Steve and I riding up at Amasa

Monday March 30
Bacon and eggs again, there's no better way to start the day after a cold night in the desert. Today we were going to ride the one and only Slickrock Trail. If you are an avid mountain biker you have almost certainly heard of Slickrock, it is a meca for bikers and has been mentioned in just about every mountain biking magazine and website. This place will challenge anyone regardless of your skill level. Many consider it the most famous trail in the world and after we met folks from Germany, Italy, Canada and several US States that all travelled to this place just to ride it I am convinced that it is. This trail is a 12.5 mile circuit and there is 1707' of climbing. In a word, this place is TOUGH., in two words REAL TOUGH. The guide mentioned how dangerous and challenging this trail is, it was accurate but with some careful lines and intelligent riding most of the risk can be minimized by the average rider. There were a few spots that were pretty technical but it was the climbing that was the hardest part for me, its a good thing that this stuff is soo sticky. If you are in Utah and you ride you owe it to yourself to ride this trail, it is an epic that I will never forget. After Slickrock we checkout out a third spot that had preserved dinosaur tracks, this spot was called Brontosaur Copper Mine. Again, I was awed at the very fact that these things survived 150 million years and were in some cases so pristine that you could actually see where the claws sunk into to mud. Some of the prints were so huge that I could sit cross-legged in them without touching the sides, remarkable.

Tuesday March 31

Today we would ride Gemini Bridges, a 13.1 mile run, almost all downhill that started as a gravel road and gradualy turned into a pretty easy double-track. We drove to the top and decided that Steve would hitchike back up to the van after the ride and drive back down to us. About 5.5 miles into this descent we came across its namesake, two natural sandstone bridges separated by a gap no more than 5 feet. It is another one of Moabs thousands of sandstone marvels and was a nice relaxing and very scenic downhill run, exactly what we all wanted knowing that tomorrow we would be riding porcupine rim, the most insane ride anywhere. As planned Steve started walking, the first car picked him up and he was back with the van in no time. It seems that eveyone from that area was incredibly helpful and generous with their time and effort in anything we asked for and enquired about.

Wednesday April 1

April fool`s day would be the day we would do Porcupine Rim, a 14.5 mile ride of mostly downhill madness. We saved this for our last ride because we figured our bikes would take a shit-kicking and if they were going to break it would be on this run. We also figured if we were gonna get hurt it would be here, two good reasons to ride this one last. People that ride this trail usually take a $40 shuttle ride up to the trail head and then descend down to their car which would be waiting at the end of the trail. Luckily for us we met two cool guys from Colorado during the previous nights shinanigans who were also doing this ride today, we decided to leave their car at the bottom and we drove eveyone up to the top to save us all $40 each. This was the best, most challenging and most memorable ride I have ever done. Aside from going over the bars and I almost flying off a 700` cliff this was an incredibly smooth and well-excecuted ride by everyone in our now group of 5. I have never slept as good as I did this night, we camped back at Arches in the Devils Playground and we all treated ourselves to an extravigent meal. Steve got himself a huge tuna steak, Ollie and I each got a 2.5lb steak that we cooked on the fire that was delicous! The leftovers were fried up with eggs for breakfast.

Thursday April 2

We checkout out a really cool arch first thing in the morning, I don`t recall the name of it now but it was so thin and long that it was a wonder it could even support itself. We had arranged to meet our friend in Salt Lake City tonight so that Ollie and I could catch our flight first thing in the morning. On our way up we stopped at a spot that had thick Juniper bushes all over, I really wanted to see some nature and wildlife and this looked like a perfect spot. We found lots of scorpions and a black widow but other than that it was pretty lifeless, I guess thats the the way it is in the desert this time of year. We made it up to Salt Lake in the early evening and went out to eat at a great Mexican restaurant called the Red Iguana. We got home, disassembled and packed up our bikes and got ourselves prepped for our journey home.

Friday April 3
Flew home, met mom and Ollies wife at the airport. After a week of living rugged saying that I was happy to sleep in my own bed in temps above freezing would be a huge understatment. All in all the trip will amazing, the logistics were handled by Steve and he did an incredible job of taking care of things. Steve if you read this thanks for working so hard to make this thing happen. Ollie, it wouldn`t have been the same if you didn`t decide to join us on this trip. Thanks to you both!
We rode a total of 68.1 miles which isn`t necessarily a long distance but considering the terrain I don`t know if I was up for doing any more. The other thing I didn`t give alot of thought to was our conditioning, after a long cold Winter I felt soft and out of shape. If I were to do it again I will train more before hand just so that my riding skills and conditioning are sharpened.