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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These pictures of Moab are really stunning. Reminds me of our trip to the Grand Canyon, but we did not get to this beautiful place.