Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moab: God's Playground

During college I did a fair amount of mountain biking. Just so you know, it is way more fun than road biking. Well most of it consisted of me riding my bike to and from school, but occasionally I would actually ride on trails. The only times I ever did real mountain biking was with my friend Zach. Zach absolutely loved mountain biking, so he was always eager to do a ride.

One year Zach had the epic idea of going to Moab, Utah for spring break. What better place to go? It was cold in Colorado, so we figured it would be perfect out there in the hot desert of Utah. So we got several guys together and left. Trevor and I drove down early and Zach, Steve, Caleb, Bryant, Alex, and Nathan planned on driving down there later in the day in Alex's 4Runner and Steve's very old (but awesome!)Buick sedan.

Day 1
Trevor and I got down there around 5. The plan was to camp on the side of a dirt road to the north of Moab, close to the Bartlett Wash trail. We set up our tent and then started looking for some firewood. It was pretty hard to find since it was a desert and the trees occurred about once every 50 feet. We walked all around the camp site and found lots of smaller stuff that looked like it was just old branches that had fallen from the trees. We didn't have any big pieces, so Trevor and I decided to cut down a dead tree that was still pretty firmly attached to the ground. All we had was a puny little saw, so this took us about 45 minutes to cut down and a significant amount of effort to drag it over to the fire pit. We started up the fire and started wondering where the other guys were.

Trevor, wondering where the other guys were

Cell phone reception was pretty bad, but we got a call from the others saying that Alex's 4runner was having issues. We got another call about 30 minutes later saying that Alex's 4runner was no longer drivable. Now it was 8 guys, 7 bikes and 2 sedans (saloons in England). Some of the guys finally arrived in an old Buick completely crammed with gear, people, and bikes. It was one of those experiences when you look into the window and have to really look for the guys hiding behind all the stuff. Zach and Trevor drove back to where the 4runner was parked and after another hour or more we finally had everybody at the camp site.

Day 2
I woke up learning a valuable lesson: Sleeping on sand is very uncomfortable and cold when it's just 2 guys in a tent without a sleeping pad.

We were all disappointed about Alex's 4runner, but we weren't going to let that stop us from having fun. So we rode our bikes down the dirt road to Bartlett Wash trail. This is a slickrock trail, which basically means that you're riding on one big piece of uncovered sandstone. Slick rock is really fun because it means you can ride any where you want, just like on a ski slope. You don't have to stay on the single-track like most mountain biking trails. The only problem is that some routes end up being really bad ideas. You get all excited to be riding out on the open rock and then all of a sudden there's a 3 foot drop or a foot deep hole that you do not want to ride over. So it can be sketchy.

Water also likes to carve out beautiful mushroom-looking things right on the edge of a cliff. Zach had heard all about the famous "Mushroom Drop" on this trail and was just dying to try it out. We all begged him not to do it, but he did it anyway as you can see in the following picture.

Zach dropping the "Mushroom Drop," smiling all the way.

Just kidding. He didn't do it. He looked at it and realized you would have to be crazy to do it.

Anyways, we rode for a while and had no crashes, which is very convenient since crashing on sandstone doesn't sound pleasant (Just ask Bengsoon). Although we did have some close calls with several drops that came out of no where. We also learned that banana peals do not bio-degrade in the middle of the desert.

Back at camp, after a long day of riding, we enjoyed some New Belgium and some delicious food around the camp fire. Trevor had spent the day by himself somewhere else in Moab and left for Golden that afternoon, so it was now 7 guys, 7 bikes and 1 sedan with an abnormally large trunk. We fell asleep wondering how we were going to get to the other trail the next day.

Day 3
When I woke up I realized that packing many guys in a single tent and sleeping in all my warm clothes is a good idea when you're in the desert in early spring. It was really cold the night before, so it was nice to be packed in with several other guys helping keep the tent warm.

We decided to take two trips out to the "Slick Rock Campground" since we only had one car. It was pretty boring waiting around, but once everyone got there we were ready to go on a ride. It took so long to get everything out there that it was lunch time before we left. So we ate lunch and headed out to the Slick Rock Trail.

When people say the "Slick Rock Trail" they're talking about this one. Hundreds of people ride it every day, and for good reason. It's a ridiculously fun trail. The whole ride you just weave around the wavy sandstone. There's tons of ups and downs but they're all pretty short, so it makes for a pretty technical, but easy, trail. I can't really describe how much fun this trail is. The grip between the sandstone and your tires is so amazing that you look back at what you just rode across and can't believe you didn't die or have to walk your bike. The sandstone extends the limits of mountain biking.

Left: Zach being legitimately cool at Slick Rock the year before.
Right: Me trying to be as cool as Zach

After the ride, we enjoyed a nice dinner and a conversation with a self-entitled "Adventurer." This man we met traveled all around in his little pickup, sleeping in the bed of the truck. He was an interesting guy who seemed to think that the absolute truth was that there was no absolute truth. It was cool to here his take on life, especially after the decades he had spent travelling around the world.

Day 4
We woke up in the morning and had a decision to make. Who would ride the Porcupine Rim trail and who wouldn't? My apologies for not remembering exactly who went, but 4 or 5 our of the 7 of us went and the others stayed back at camp for the day.

This was, by any standard, an epic ride. But my body had never been so sore afterward. It was a pretty bumpy, difficult ride along a "road" for a long way. You can sense my combination of emotions of awe, exhaustion, excitement and soreness by my blank stare in the following picture.

Me expressing a spectrum of emotions on Porcupine Rim Trail

Then the most memorable section of the trail was riding along a canyon rim, with cliffs to either side. One way was straight up, the other way was a nice 10 second fall to the Colorado River. Some of the spots along the rim were the scariest places I had ever been while riding a bike. It took a lot of balance and self-control to keep from falling over the cliff or having a panic attack.

We thought we were making good time, but this guy riding by himself on a crazy downhill bike just flew past us right before the most technical section of the entire trail. This was the only extended part of the trail we had to walk down. When we saw the guy at the bottom of the hill in very little time we really couldn't believe he had just ridden right through that section without getting off.

We got to the bottom of the canyon finally and had a nice snack and drink before riding down the highway to Moab. We ate out for dinner and ended up leaving that night with the help of Alex's brother who towed the 4runner back to Golden.

Good memories.

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