Friday, June 25, 2010

A day of opposites - Hot and Cold / Desert and Alpine climates

Extremes, while most humans seek to avoid them, sometimes they find us anyway. Nathan and I had planned on doing a really long and difficult ride at one point during the trip, and since we managed to survive the first day without injury, we thought it best to attempt one of the more spectacular journeys before we had an accident and couldn't experience it. There was certainly a game of balancing fun and riding hard with worry about crashing out and not being able to enjoy the rest of the trip.

Moab has a lot to offer in the sense of mountain biking trails, but none of them, aside from White Rim and Kokopelli, both over 100 miles of trails and jeep road, are extremely long. I'm sure there are some other "Moses Rides" (i.e. 40 years wandering the wilderness) that I don't know about, but those are the two big rides that I know of out there. The relatively short distances make sense now that we have been out there to experience it. It's a difficult place to ride with the heat, sand, rock and wind. Plus, so many of the rides are literally "right there" in relation to town, you can find plenty of places to scare yourself silly on a bike without spending hours reaching them. I'll equate a 15 mile ride in Moab to about a 25 mile ride at home for levels of exhaustion and soreness meted out on the body, so riding a big 25 mile trail loaded with trees, rocks, sand pits, and cliffside exposure was going to be all we would feel like doing in a day.

Varying climates

Brenna wisely opted out of coming on this particular ride and gave us a lift from town to the trail head. I know I just said that so many of the rides were very close to town, well what was surprising, this one was too. The drive was long, an hour or so, but we really were only 12 miles from town. In that short distance we went from arid desert and a cool morning at 4,000 feet above sea level to 38 degrees, howling wind, and 8,500 feet. (I have jumped from quite a few planes at lower altitudes than that.) The contrast was dramatic. Red sandstone and blowing sand gave way to snowcapped mountains and the white trunks of Aspen trees that had just begun to show the pale green leaves of spring in late May.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We stopped at the trailhead for the Kokopelli trail and opened the doors to find a harshly cold wind, especially when one is used to 80 degrees from the day before. I was seriously under dressed for this ride and was shivering almost immediately. Nathan had prepared better and wore long sleeves, but after a few minutes, the wind had cut through his light layers as well. I only had a jersey and shorts on, and that was all that had been required in the past day's riding, so I had unwisely assumed that today wouldn't be much different. Brenna had tucked herself in the shelter of of the Jeep with the heater on full blast as Nathan and I put our bikes together, and she would give us nasty looks (lovingly nasty of course) when we would invade her shelter and open a door letting the cold wind whip through and pull the heat out with it. I decided, at the suggestion of my compatriots, to wear my fleece on the ride. Brenna even suggested that it was only a 20 dollar one from Costco (no North Face stuff for me), and I could leave it for another hiker to keep if it got too hot during the ride. Of course, that item has some history behind it now, so I never would have left it. I just decided that being warm-ish at the top would be worth the trouble of finding some way to carry it the rest of the ride once it got hot.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We were ready, and we set off down the last leg of the much longer Kokopelli trail rolling and hopping over mud and loose dirt as the trail cut through alpine meadows and scrub. It was obvious that this area got a great deal more moisture than the desert canyon only a few miles away.

We felt like we were on motocross bikes with the effortless speed the downhills produced, and we covered ground at a really quick pace. Soon we came to the LPS/UPS junction of the trail. (Lower/Upper Porcupine Singletrack) That slowed us down enough to notice that the dark fertile looking soil exposed on the Kokopelli had transitioned back into the red tinged sand and tan slickrock that we had been used to. The trail had become significantly more rocky, and we were surrounded by really gnarled evergreen trees that I had assumed were Pinyon trees but wikipedia helped me identify as Utah Juniper. In reality, there was probably an abundant mix of both of these types of plants, but the Juniper's twisted and half dead looking trunks caught my eye on so many trails in the area, so I remember more of them.

The trail would wind in and out of these trees and would send us up and over rocks that would climb abruptly and then turn into a 20 foot descent down a piece of slickrock where we would have to put the seat in front of our stomachs and have our rear ends nearly brushing the rear wheel to keep from falling over the handlebars as we skidded in a semi-controlled slide down the face of the rock.

Prior to coming on this downhill slugfest of a ride, we had discussed the trail with some of the local riders at the shop, and they had mentioned part of the ride. "Um, yeah, there is this one section... Yeah, dude, it's pretty steep and all walk it." I'm glad I am writing all this down now (Well, I may be glad, but you guys are probably pretty tired of it by now...too bad...It's my blog. pfft...)

As I was saying, I'm glad I'm writing this now because even after this short time I can't exactly recall where on the trail this section was, but I'll remember what it looked like for quite a while. I was in the lead and noticed two large sandstone rocks. The trail that should have continued between them seemed to just disappear. I slowed and yelled back to Nathan to slow down. When we rolled to a stop and looked down at where the trail had gone, we both gave each other the look of "This is where they expect us to ride?" It was a narrow slot of rock a few feet wide with jutting rocks that was so steep you had to climb down. It was un-rideable. Of course I'm sure that some goofball rides it, but had we tried, the best we could have hoped for would be a compound fracture. I climbed down part way and Nathan handed me the bikes. We continued this process to a level spot at the bottom and naturally had to stage fake crash pictures. This shot does not do justice to how steep and long this section was. I'm not sure why cameras take some of the perspective out of images like this, but you will have to take my word for it.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We tried to continue on and found that the steep section hadn't ended yet. There was another 20 foot high smooth slickrock face with a drop off at the end. This didn't seem to be a good spot to try to hop back on the bikes, so I started to shuffle down holding the bike's seat tube with my left hand. Soon shuffling became sliding, and suddenly I was on my rear end skidding down the slope with one hand still on the bike and the other grasping for anything that would slow me down before I went off the trail. I remember Nathan yelling from the top, "Dig in your heels!" It's funny now because that tactic probably wouldn't have made any difference. I picked a tree at the end of the slope to grab onto to end my forward movement before I went off the edge of the trail at the bottom. Merely to "grab onto" the tree may have been somewhat hopeful at that point, crash into and cling to for dear life would have been a more apt description of what I was planning. Instead the end of this slide turned out beautifully. In a rare moment of coordination, I planted my feet perfectly and somehow ended up at the bottom of the rock standing perfectly balanced and still next to the tree with the bike in hand. It was almost like I had planned it, but of course, I have said too much already and you know the truth of the event. I looked back up the rock at Nathan and said "Be careful". He shook his head with a "Well DU-UH" expression and using his far superior balance and coordination, proceeded to come down the rock without the least bit of trouble. I wish that I could have done that. I could have used a bit less drama on my descent, but I will stick with my version that I practically needed a parachute to slow down because it makes for better storytelling.

The trail was "relatively" more sane looking after getting through all that, so we climbed back on our bikes and started racing through the trees again. We really couldn't see more than a small section of the trail in front of us due to all the turns, rocks, and trees. Then the trail came to an open section and began to skirt along the edge of Castle Valley. The views were spectacular and the trail at times would shoot out onto rocky ledges with the cliff face dropping away hundreds of feet to our right. The the trail would repeatedly dart back into the trees and then re-appear on the cliff edge. If we didn't have our wits about us and we missed a turn or took a bad line, we would have had time to think about the mistake before our ill-equipped BASE jump came to an abrupt end. Nathan and I took turns leading from time to time and whoever was in the front would yell "Death on the right" when the trail would re-appear at the cliff. Not quite the normal announcement while mountain biking. Normal comments would be something "Rock" or "Tree" or "Drop off" every so often. You know, things in the trail that might cause you trouble and toss you off the bike, not kill you.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

This view was part of the trail, and the morning after this ride was done, I woke struggling and flailing a couple of times after nightmares about falling off cliffs. I though that the comment in the Rider Mel's Guidebook about this trail resulting in some required therapy sessions was a joke. I guess you can believe some stuff you read.

We had come a long way from the cold start of the day up in the La Sal mountains.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We pedaled on mile after mile and the fleece I was wearing was getting pretty hot, but there was no time for stopping as every turn presented another view or obstacle to ride over or climb. Nathan was in the lead around one turn, and as I approached the turn I heard the distinct clatter of a bike that had departed from its rider. That sound was accompanied by the OOOF! of Nathan using a rock and his chin to stop his fall. (Personally I'm a fan of putting my hands and arms in jeopardy before my chin, but what do I know.) He was moaning and twisted on the ground, and I used my extensive knowledge of mountain bike etiquette by first asking, "Are you okay?" and then asking "Should I help you up or get a camera?" He mumbled something about "Get the camera." That moment, in the mountain biking with friends section of the etiquette manual, allowed for full on laughter and the ensuing embellishment of the crash story to commence.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

By the time we finished the ride the rock he hit had grown from a foot across to a few feet and the ledge he fell off went from a foot high to 5-6 feet. In 15 years, I'm sure this story will have morphed into him hitting a bajillion ton boulder with jagged knife edges and then falling off the cliff into Castle Valley itself ending with him narrowly avoiding death by impalement on the rocks below and miraculously only gashing his chin.

We approached the end of the mesa and the trail became very narrow and very technical with rocks so close that they would hit both legs as we rode between them. We had run out of room and had to descend down to the river by skirting the along the edge of the trail cut into the cliff. We slowly rode down the twists and turns following the edge of the mesa and again the trail disappeared down an impossible section that we had to dismount and climb down. We discussed how the trail designers ever expected people to ride this section as Nathan handed the bikes down to me once I climbed down. Then another rider appeared. He made a hard right well before where we were doing our rock climbing with bikes. We watched as he paused and expertly rode down the face of a boulder to the bottom. Ah! There was a trick to it! Now, the next time, I will be able to show some local knowledge to the tourist hacks wearing fleece in 80+ degree temperatures.

Nathan before handing his bike down to me on yet another difficult section of trail.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

With the campground in sight at the base of the mesa we knew we were home. It was hot and we were really tired. I stopped, rolled up my fleece and stuffed it between my Camelbak and my back for the ride back to town. Ah, much cooler, but that wasn't really an option on the trail because it would have bounced out on every other turn.

Once back in town we met up with Brenna and went over to the Moab Brewery for a seriously late lunch. There, we re-told our story of the ride to Brenna and she was knowingly nodding her head at our outlandish account of the events. Nathan also discovered that even eating Hummus is difficult when one uses one's chin to stop a fall. Even so, we were planning out the next day's rides before the end of lunch.

Slickrock trail, attack of Cactisaurus-Rex (we didn't really plan that part), and hiking were on the list for the next day's adventures. I may or may not get around to writing about it as long as this post has been, but we will see if I get some time to think before the memory fades into nothing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mountain Biking Moab - Can I come up with enough adjectives?

Ok, on yet another rainy day in Alabama, I think it's time to get down some of my thoughts on riding out in Moab. (read: I'm not going mountain biking in that rain-soaked slop outside, so I'll write about it instead.)

An adjective list to describe all the different experiences and sights of riding the trails in Utah is perhaps a bit too long, so I'll stick with just a few that relate to some of our rides specifically.

Day 1: Klondike Bluffs & Gemini Bridges

Relevant adjectives: Dusty, Windy, Dry, Rainy, Remarkable, Tiring, and Fun!

We rolled out of bed and ate breakfast on our first day. I'll have to say that having eggs, homemade waffles, endless coffee and fresh fruit prepared for you every day really does help one's riding. In fact we would eat and 7am and then forget lunch until after we had finished riding at 2-3pm.

We picked up our bikes at Moab Cyclery and headed out to Klondike Bluffs. This was Brenna's first real mountain bike experience, and she had a nice full suspension Cannondale with disk brakes which was an infinitely better bike than her 25$ garage sale junker that I fixed up for her. "Cool, it actually stops when I squeeze the brakes!", she said. I never said that I knew HOW to fix up a bike when I said that I "fixed up" a bike for her.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Klondike Bluffs was advertised somewhere as a beginner ride with some slickrock. You know the kind of ride with pictures of kids and families happily riding along. I would not advertise it as a total beginner ride after experiencing it, the first miles were all on a light tan sandstone slick rock, and were ALL uphill. Uphill means climbing 800 or more feet to the Arches National Park overlook where we had to walk.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

I told you it was steep!

The rolling ancient sand dunes were a great first experience to get all of us to ride together as a group. Nathan and I could play around and find more technical areas to ride while Brenna was able to find a workable path for her skill level. There was something for everyone. This was certainly an eye opener if they consider that a beginner ride out in Moab. Brenna gave me the look of, "Uh, this is steep and I'm a little over my head here." Even with something quite a bit more difficult than her normal training trails, she rode very well and I think she enjoyed the ride. If this was beginner, Nathan and I certainly found out what the locals consider intermediate and advanced later on in the trip.

At the top of the slickrock climb, we dismounted the bikes and hiked up a half mile of steep trail to the bluffs overlook. That was our first experience of "Holy cow, that's a long way down." The first experience of many that is. We clamored over the large rocks that made up the top of the overlook, and Nathan made his way down to another rock overlook. As a side note, climbing around on rock with mountain bike shoes doesn't work so well.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

There is Nathan, who is much more of a mountain climber than I would be in a lousy pair of cycling shoes that have traction equivalents of wet tile. He found that he couldn't make it back over without taking said shoes off, and tossed one to me without realizing how close it came to plummeting down the cliff. I had to dive a bit to save it, but I certainly wasn't going to sacrifice myself for a 60 buck pair of riding shoes. Riding home on one shoe would have seriously put an element of NOT FUN on his ride, but fortunately I snagged it and he was able to climb up.

On the way back to the truck, Nathan and I looped around the Baby Steps trail which was an offshoot from the Klondike Bluffs trail as Brenna rolled back down the slickrock at a decidedly faster pace than we had on the way up.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here I am under a balanced rock on the Baby steps trail. I'm sure the enormous size of my helmet would protect me though. There are quite a few rocks perched on spires and ledges like this in the area, and quite a few are flat out spectacular. The softer rock around the base erodes away and leaves these over-sized rocks resting on something that doesn't look like it could possibly hold it up. I guess in the enormity of geologic time, it doesn't hold up, and these rocks only sit on these precarious ledges for a moment and then fall.

During this first day of riding the clouds muted the sun periodically, and towards the end of the Klondike ride, the winds went from 10mph to 30mph and just stayed at that speed. We went for lunch and decided to do another ride while Brenna went hiking. After the first ride, and her longest ride to date, she was cooked and bruised enough for one day.

There were clouds of reddish brown dust that shrouded the cliff faces around town as the winds kicked up a pretty decent dust storm, and to add to that, there were also scattered rain showers that we could see as we rolled out of town to the second ride of the day.

Gemini Bridges was mainly downhill, or so we thought. It started on top of a mesa near Canyonlands National Park, and descended past the bridges to the canyon floor. What we didn't realize was that we had to climb several hundred feet back out of the canyon and then skirt along a jeep trail that was cut into a cliff side.

Here is Nathan sitting on top of one of the bridges, and as the name describes, there are actually two bridges separated by a gap a few feet wide that either collapsed or eroded away.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We could see for miles and could watch all the gray columns of rain swirling around the area, but on the ride, we managed to only get wet briefly, and in the desert humidity, we were dry again in minutes as we rocketed down hill into the canyon. The canyon floor was littered with boulders the size of cars and some the size of my first house that had tumbled down from the sheer cliff faces on either side of us. I'm glad the trail wasn't too difficult to ride during this section because we spent most of the time looking up.

We were looking up for a couple of reasons: One, to marvel at the natural beauty, and Two, to not be crushed by any falling "natural beauty" that was in evidence all around us.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here Nathan and I took a break mid way through the canyon floor section of the trail.

Once we got to the end of the canyon, we had to ride back up a trail that would lead us back out onto the highway, and back to Moab for some food! This climb was rewarded by topping out on the side of the mesa that lined town. The views of the road from several hundred feet up were good, and rattling and banging down the winding dirt and rock to reach the road and the end of the trail was great.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

You can see the dust kick up in the wind behind Nathan as he navigates the trail.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here I am just before the descent, and you can see the dust storm blowing through the background. It was a big haze like a fog, but it made you cough. Good thing we were only spending all our day huffing and puffing on bikes.

We were flat out tired by the time we rode back into town.

Not too bad for a first day of riding, and then off to Brenna's and my anniversary celebration.

Warning! Serious Mush Ahead : If you don't like it, skip to the next paragraph or something...
It has been a happy 12 years, and I know that her willingness to spend our anniversary in a desert being beaten up by rocks while riding bikes is yet another reason I love her.
Mush Warning are safe now...

Next Post: When the guy at the bike shop said stuff like "This trail will scare you." and "There is this one section...uh...Yeah, it's a little steep and we all walk it.", he wasn't kidding.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Moab Utah the supermodel of landscapes?

Have you ever known "that person" that couldn't take a bad picture? Someone so photogenic that they could fall into a trash dump in the dark, get covered in mud, and still end up looking good? Well, when it comes to landscapes, Moab is "that place". I'm sure that there are loads of places that you could be blind with a finger over part of the camera lens and still fire off good looking pictures. I took so many pictures of the place while we were there, and aside from me being in some of the photos, many turned out really well. I mean it was really difficult to sort through and actually decide which shots were better than others. From a photography perspective, that's a pretty good problem to have.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Postcard country anyone? The collection of professional and amateur photographers were lined up as the sun set on these amazing natural structures, and all were respectful to allow a quick shot and to get out of the way in order for the next guy to have a clear view. These arches, more than 2000 in the Arches National Park, are so striking and unusual that you simply must see it to believe it. Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the place, and even after seeing it on a zillion postcards, when we climbed up to the sandstone overlook, it was simply awe inspiring when it came to view. It is monstrously large, and we were able to shuffle down the steep sandstone bowl to get to it's base. The next shot is of me laying down under the arch to shoot upwards, and then there is one with Brenna and myself at it's base to give some perspective of size.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We look like ants under it. Strangely, Nathan (taking the picture) kept telling Brenna to stay put and for me to "back up another step". I wonder why when there was this big cliff back there? I'll ask him sometime... just kidding

The geology of the area is quite amazing. What produced all these arches, the massive sandstone cliffs, all the different types of sandstone, and why are these features where they are in relation to town? Well, it wasn't what I had expected. Initially, I assumed that all the area had been ocean floor at some point to create the sandstone (which it had, twice actually over the past 300 million years), and I thought that the Colorado river and the Green River had carved out the landscapes. Naturally the rivers did do some of the carving, but the really strange features were created more by what was left behind by the ancient oceans. Salt. Loads of salt. There was, and is, a massive quantity of salt under the whole area. Potash salt is a product mined from the area, and there are vast evaporation ponds out on one of the rides that cast a strange conflict of blue water against the desert cliffs surrounding the ponds.

When you put huge amounts of salt under tremendous pressure, it takes on a strange property. It behaves something like a semi-solid goo. It is able to squeeze around and shift. This shifting salt is what produced the Moab that we see in the movies today. Millions of years ago, the weight of the rock above a large deposit of salt eventually collapsed downward creating a depression in the middle, this in turn, squeezed the salt out to the sides and forced the sandstone cliffs upward nearly a thousand feet up on either side of the town. The rivers cut through the rising sandstone and the rain and wind eroded the soft rock over time leaving these amazing structures of arches and thin fins of rock that stand alone in the desert.

This is one of the potash evaporation ponds. They dye the water blue to speed the evaporation process and it looks really cool against the background.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

To show you an example of how much salt is in the area, look at the top of the rocks in the picture below.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

I noticed these rocks in a stream crossing out on the Amasa Back trail that I rode on my last ride in the area. That is salt dried on the tops of the rocks. I'm glad that I didn't run out of water because the creeks would have afforded me no relief apparently.

Thanks for humoring me on my poor attempt at a geology lesson. I only left out about a million things that happened over a couple hundred million years. Deserts like the Sahara producing sand dunes and other nifty geologic happenings that forced up the La Sal Mountain range you see behind the arch in the first picture. All that stuff fascinates me, but probably not everyone. I really will get around to writing about the bike rides and other adventures. This was just a piece of natural history that I thought was worthy of passing along to my throngs of avid readers... Now that I think about it, I hope I didn't lose too many readers by doing this post. It would stink not to be recognized as I walk down the streets anymore by my adoring fans.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Moab Utah - Part 1 of...well...who knows if I'll get to 2

Summer has hit and hit in a big way. All I want to do is stay outside and ride my bike around on the trails. In years past, I would have been heavily into my road bike by now, but the waning of my cycling desire has left me more inclined to see the natural beauty that trails have to offer. Subsequently, I'm much slower and heavier than normal for this time of year. I actually was worried (somewhat) about my conditioning and additional pudgy baggage making life difficult on perhaps the most anticipated trip of my life. Thankfully, my padding didn't hurt me any on the uphills and perhaps gave me a little better gravitational attraction for the insanity that was and is Moab Utah.

The third time is the charm, right?

Anticipation? We are talking anticipation on a grand scale. To give you perspective, It's hard to live up the the buildup and hype of a Christmas morning. Now imagine you are 8 years old, and the coolest toy you can imagine is coming to you in Santa's sleigh. Then imagine that after waiting for 6 months, Christmas was delayed for 6 more months thanks to a thing called W-O-R-K. grrr. AND THEN you wait another 6 months with all the additional buildup that waiting a whole year for this uber-cool toy could pile on only to find that Christmas was delayed for another 12 months by a thing called a C-L-A-V-I-C-L-E. You would have cried...had you been 8 and all. I didn't cry but I thought I might..sniff...and I'm 37....sometimes.

Finally, 2 full years after the gift was given (Moab was my 10th wedding anniversary gift) we boarded a plane to spend our 12th anniversary in some of the most spectacular settings the world has to offer. Could this place possibly be cool enough to live up to 2 years worth of anticipation? We would see.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Nathan, Brenna and I landed in Denver at the end of the plains where the Rocky Mountain range juts up from the flat grassy world of Mid-America. We decided to drive over the mountains on our way to Moab. I had never seen the Rockies aside from a plane window once, and since our options of landing in Salt Lake, UT were more expensive and still 5 hours drive away, landing in Denver and driving 6 hours seemed like the logical and rather more scenic choice.

Out of our element.

On thing I noticed is that growing up in the deep south gives you a few dry days where the sky is deep blue and the humidity drops all the way to the 40% range. (It's 67% out there right now) Out west the sky is deep blue because you are at least a mile up in the sky compared to the deep south and the humidity ran no higher than 10% the whole time we were there.

Another thing is that in the deep south, we get winter, but we spend those cold-ish weeks bundling up (inadequately most of the time) to try to continue to do our normal summer sports in the cold sloppy rain and mud. In the Rockies, late May still had people packing snowskis on the roof of their ubiquitous SUV's and Subarus. Honestly, I have never seen so many Subarus with all manner of stickers on the windows and racks on the roofs. The snow was deep still on the mountains but you could tell it was the end of the season because dust storms had blown a fine brown powder layer over much of the normal white. I'm sure the dark colored dust is going to accelerate the melting process the way that soot is speeding the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, but that is the subject for another post. There were also loads of hikers and mountain bikers. It would seem that the Rockies and the land beyond is filled with fit and tanned people that do everything they can outside. I'm sure things get back to semi-normality for activity levels once one arrives in the big cities of California, but maybe not.

We climbed up and over the highest mountain passes I have ever seen, topping out around 11,500 feet on I-70. I could tell the air was thin up there. The altitude in Moab is at the lowest around 4,000 feet, so relatively thin air was going to play a role in most of our mountain biking during the coming days.

We rumbled into Utah over open range cattle grates, with 40 mph winds buffeting the car all over the road and stopped at an overlook to do the usual touristy photo-op things. We also discovered that outdoor potties at rest stops have a sometimes unnerving windy-ness to them. I'm not sure how they built them, or what caused it, but there is a wind induced suction on the pots and...well...I'll just let the description stop there... No, we weren't making the wind...come on, that's disgusting people...why would you think that? Bathroom humor is or something...giggle...hee hee...


From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Nice pose Nathan.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Once off the interstate, we discovered that driving in Utah is a little more wild west than back at home. You find yourself driving down the middle of the road (being tourists gawking at every bluff, overlook, cattle crossing, and prairie dog) we inadvertently did a bunch of this. Everyone was in the middle of the road and when we encountered another vehicle we would simply slide over, make room, and then resume driving down the centerline. Fortunately, we couldn't travel fast because of the 85 octane gas and altitude making the car incapable of going over 75mph, so we weren't in much danger of peaking a hill and pounding into a stray cow in the road.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Highway 128 being named a "scenic highway" is possibly the biggest understatement I have encountered. The Colorado river has carved out towering red cliffs and canyons from the sandstone as the land was pushed up over the past 100 million years or so. Calling this thing "scenic" is like calling St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican, somewhat ornate and kinda big for a church. With an entryway like this, Moab was already impressing us even with all the hype of the past couple of years.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Fisher Towers on Hwy 128.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We arrived in Moab to surprisingly little fanfare. Didn't they know I was coming? We had been planning this for 2 freaking years! Jeez...I'm going to have to call someone. Well, since there was a distinct lack of a parade and adoring fans we decided to get dinner and watch the sun set from a guys house perched hundreds of feet up a cliff. Charlie Steen had built this house overlooking the town and the red cliffs after he had made millions prospecting Uranium of all things. After his strike, the town of Moab then experienced a boom much like the gold rush, growing from 1,200 to a population of 5k or so before falling back to present day levels of around 4k people. The restaurant was listed in the Moab food guide as "fine dining". Which apparently in Moab means, dust off your hiking boots and put on a clean tee-shirt. Awesome. After spending a couple of days in town, I understand why. There isn't enough time to do all the cool things during the day and also take time to totally clean up your stuff before going out at night.

A view from the restaurant of downtown Moab.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We ate, marveled at the landscape, and then headed for the Bed and Breakfast where we would set up camp for the next week. We were so excited about picking up the bikes and getting on the trails to explore this sandstone constructed area it was difficult to sleep that first night.

I am out of time for blabbering about the trip for the moment, so I will close up this post and get to all the trail riding and hiking in another one.