To the desert!

At last the snows did come to the mountains. It piled up in a slushy mess, up high and on the roads down low. We were lucky to get out safely when we could.

The destination? Fruita / Grand Junction – the desert.

Eszter and two Bec(k)s were bikepacking the Kokopelli Trail over the weekend. I was tracking four events, including one with hundreds of lines of untested code. I snuck in a loop on Moore Fun after the girls headed off. I felt like a fish out of water, realizing I hadn’t ridden in the desert (i.e. chunk) for a long time. It was humbling, and incredibly fun.

I met the girls in Rabbit Valley for a water fillup, then proceeded to what I hoped would be a quiet campsite. It was anything but quiet, but I was working the entire night anyway. Motos and buggies circled all around me, alternately flooding my campsite with light, or with umpa-loompa music. I watched in the morning as my camp neighbors pulled out whole junipers with their ATVs so they could continue their daytime bonfire.

I went riding. Mike and Jeny had no shortage of difficult and cool moves to throw at me, for which I was sorely unprepared. I was firmly in the non-participant category, but I knew that going in. I was just happy to see them both riding so well and thriving in their natural environment.

I drove the Koko shuttle to Moab for the girls, then waited at our new campsite for Eszter to return with the van. Unfortunately this one wasn’t that much better than the one before, with a 4-year-old stuck in a man’s body, screaming at his wife and kids pretty much the entire time. For a while I was wondering if I was going to have to call the police. If I had a car, or any energy, I would have moved somewhere else.

Considering that we spent about half the summer camping, to only have a couple bad neighbors is not bad, I’d say.

We spent our recovery day working at the coffee shop and dorking around Arches National Park. I love having a Parks pass! From here on out, camping in the desert was nice.

Amasa Back recovery ride!

Energy was limited, but riding focus was high. It’s Moab! Ez rode several new sections on Ahab — such a fun trail.

We were supposed to be recovering from a looooong and glorious alpine season, or something like that. A weekend of Kokopelli, and sub-ideal camping/working didn’t exactly add to the energy pool. But Eszter had the bright idea of a big day on the bikes. And I couldn’t say no.

We left from camp just before sunrise. Halloween days are not long, and we knew we’d need all the daylight we could get.

Dropping down to the Green River, there’s a small sense of commitment since the bailouts are few, and the miles are long to complete the loop.

Hum, I wonder if the White Rim ever gets muddy?

It was a pretty ideal day to spin around the loop, with mostly cloudy skies and cool temps.

Oh no, some hike-a-bike on the last bit of Murphy’s Hogback! I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging the riding is on the White Rim — it’s not hard riding, but you have to pay attention most of the time. It’s 4×4 roads, not graded dirt.

And yet, there is much easy cruising. The miles float by, and we sung “cyclotouring, cyclotouring, we go cyclotouring!” You can really just sit back and watch the scenery roll by, in true cyclotour style.

There is much to see out there. Just keep peering down below the rim, or stop to eat fried chicken at the edge, like we did, several times.

I suppose at times it gets busy out there, but we only encountered a few groups of smiling and stoked mountain bikers, going the other direction with support vehicles. Some were wearing Halloween costumes, others were under 10 years old and loving it. It was hours between seeing groups, giving it a nice ‘out there’ feel.

We definitely need to go back with more time to hike and explore the side canyons and trails. There are some primo campsites out there, too.

Just another incredible view into Canyonlands.

Yep, another, sorry.

The sun did fail us, but our legs and energy did not. You do finally have to pay the piper with a hefty climb up the Shafer Switchbacks at the end. I expected a climb about two or three times as long, so it was really no big deal. The pavement we rode in the dark, however, seemed about two or three times longer than I expected, so we did dip a little into the suffering piggy bank.

Back at the van, camp was already set up, and the warmth of the big fire we started felt better than anything in the world. We rarely make fires when camping, but this one was so good we didn’t want to leave it to crash in the tent. Sunrise to sunset rides are something special, and though it was long dark, we didn’t want this one to end — it was that good.

So glad I finally got to see the White Rim.

The next day we attempted to focus in town at our computer screens. It was somewhat futile, but what needed to get done got done. Luckily Eszter’s brother, Andras, was en route to Moab, and was keen to ride. We took him to Amasa/Ahab — since it’s clearly a recovery ride, and clearly a good ‘intro to Moab’ ride.

Recovery move, recovery power.

First ride in Moab for Andras, first visit to Moab, period. He rode impressively well.

He even rode down one section that I continue to balk at. It was very fun to see him picking it up so quickly, and to have his eyes opened to the uniqueness and wonder of the Moab style of riding. I remember that happening to me many years ago.

Milt’s. Proper Moab recovery food.

Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch. You have to see Arches if you visit Moab, even if you have bikes and the trails call loudly.

Pipe dream is a new trail to me. The less said about the resources and energy available for this ride, the better, perhaps. It was pretty, though.

Tomorrow is another day! Back in the saddle for a figure eight around Navajo Rocks, also new to me.

“I’m going to go practice my wheelies.”

Monitor/Merrimac in the background.

“Punch it Chewy!”

Ah, the classic uphill endo! I haven’t had one of those for a long time, likely a sign that I’m just not trying hard enough.

Sovereign singletrack has some hard stuff on it, and we were able to ride it from camp.

That camp, yep. We found many a good night’s rest there, despite it being probably the most popular place to free camp in Moab. I think the off-season started the day after we got there.

Hashtag coffee outside.

It may have been offseason, but the weather had been decidedly on-season and perfect…. until we rolled up to Slickrock to attempt to ride a lap. The wind was pretty out of control up there, so we settled for the practice loop and some dorking around.

I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years since I’ve ridden up there. I have some deep MTB memories and stoke for the place that was reawakened by the quick ride we did there.

The same can be said for Moab in general. I’m not sure why I haven’t made it a destination and a priority to visit. I spent so much time riding and dreaming of Moab in high school and college, I guess I felt like I moved on and past it after settling (term used loosely) in Arizona. Since then it’s either been bikepacking or just passing visits. That’s got to change — the riding there really is like nothing else, and it was really fun to share it with Andras.

In short, I can’t wait to go back, and Slickrock will be at the top of the list.

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