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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great pictures of Brenna! (She's beautiful in any gear.) I'm glad she joined the merry band of mountain cyclists, but I'm not sure you gave her much choice.