Saturday, May 7, 2011

M-O-A-B !

Moab, Utah! I've been eagerly awaiting our visit here since this trip was conceived. An off-road paradise, Moab is mountain biking mecca, and home to the famous Slickrock trail, just one of many dozens of world-class trails. This Colorado riverside town also serves as the gateway to two of our National Parks (Arches & Canyonlands), and is virtually surrounded by federal recreational lands in Utah's canyon country. It's home base not only for cyclists, but for 4-wheeling, river rafting, canyoneering, hiking, camping and sightseeing. It's rare to see a vehicle in Moab that isn't loaded with bikes or that isn't either a burly 4X4, or towing one. The vast majority of the 4x4's here are Jeep Wranglers, all jacked up, with monstrous rock-crawler tires, skid plates, roll cages, jacks & winches. Sure, there are also vintage Toyota Land Cruisers, Ford Broncos, custom pick-ups, and roll-cage kit cars. The town caters to the whole variety of outdoor-enthusiast visitors, providing plenty of lodging, campgrounds, food, and services, including bike & jeep rental, and guided tours. It's not the best town we've visited, but it is one of the most interesting. Here's a typical jeep negotiating one of the challenging trails near town:

We got settled into our site at the O.K. Campground, lucky to get a large site on the outside of an otherwise very congested facility. The first thing we did had nothing whatsoever to do with Moab's long list of activities: we removed Toby's bandages and splint - free after three weeks!

He spent quite a while licking his new leg, and has been slow to use it normally, which is good, as we don't want him to overdo it and ruin the surgery. We thought he'd be off-the-wall and require a lot of constraint, but this has not been the case.

So then it was time for me to ride! The Siren call of the legendary Slickrock trail drew me up onto the mesa top...

...where I was soon to understand why this 10+ mile long trail through a moonscape of bare Navajo sandstone is considered one of Moab's most challenging trails. I expected smooth, undulating terrain full of swoopy ups and downs, jumps and drops. There is that, but there are also leg-burning lung-searing climbs that push the very limits of rubber-on-sandstone traction, and there are similarly steep roller coaster brake-smoking descents. It is amazing, it is awesome, and it well deserves to be called one of the world's best mountain bike trails:

Arches National Park: the park entrance is at the north end of town, so it's an easy drive into the park from camp. The landscape protected by the park is somehow even more grand than the millions of acres that surround it, ranging from towering slabs, balancing "stones", sheer cliffs, to the namesake arches. Here we are at the head of the Courthouse Towers area:

The arches themselves are fascinating to me - the circumstances of nature that combined to create these formation are certainly amazing, and the results so very beautiful. I could have sit and admired each one for hours on end.

Back to biking: we rented a full-suspension mountain bike for Nancy to try out. Chili Pepper bike shop set us up with a sweet Giant Cypher, and on this capable machine Nancy experience the Intrepid trail, at Dead Horse Point State Park. Having not ridden a mountain bike on rough trails in 15 years, it took some getting used to, but within 15 minutes Nancy began to trust the bike's capability and roll over some trail "features". Here she is tearing up the trail:

Dead Horse Point SP sits atop a mesa 2000 feet above the Colorado River, and there are places where you can hang your toes over this formidable drop while gazing out at the stunning vista of mesas and canyons that neighboring Canyonlands National Park calls "Islands in the Sky".

The next day I did my epic Moab mountain bike ride. I joined 11 others on the 8:00 am Coyote Shuttle (a stretch VW Vanagon) which took us from town, 45 minutes up into the foothills of the La Sal mountains, dropping us off at the Kokopelli trailhead at 8200':

This amazing ride is 20 miles of trail riding, dropping 4000' back down to the Colorado River just outside of Moab. It is about 3/4 of a string of trails collectively known as "The Whole Enchilada" - the ones I rode were Kokopelli, Upper Porcupine Singletrack, Lower Porcupine Singletrack, and Porcupine Rim. Most of the trail skirts the canyon edge, overlooking beautiful Castle Valley. There is flowing, buff singletrack with sweet berms for catching air, rocky technical twisties, crazy steep slickrock, double-diamond switchbacks, punishing jagged rocky doubletrack, and it ends with the last few miles of narrow serpentine singletrack cut into the canyon walls, riddled with drops and ledges to test anyone's abilities. Outrageous!

Lastly, we made the trek into Canyonlands Needles district. It was a very hot day, nearly 90, and very windy. We brought the dogs because we were to be gone for most of the day, although we knew that we would be limited in how long we could leave them alone in the truck. The wind helped, though, and with windows half open we were able to do a few short hikes. One the way there we stopped to check out Newspaper Rock, an impressive collection of prehistoric petroglyphs:

The scenery in the Needles was amazing, mainly due to the alternating layers of hard (light colored) and soft (red) sandstone which erode at different rates and result in fantastically shaped towers of stone:

So, Moab's a pretty amazing destination, with so much more to do and see than we could cram into six days. Guess we're gonna have to go back someday! (And when we do, we'll also go back to Ye Ol' Geezer Meat Shop to load up on their delicious jerky!)

1 comment:

  1. Ye Ol' Geezer! We're down to our last bag. Guess we're going to have to have them ship some general delivery somewhere.