Bob and Norm's
Utah Mountain Bike Trip
Written by Bob Gifford
Click here for the photos
Utah - May 9-14- 2001 Here is what happened!
Norm Vachon (Formerly of Essex Jct.,Vt.) of Cotati California and Stan Clark of Santa Rosa California dreamed up this little trip. They were nice enough to invite me along for the ride so to speak. Dan Gould and Mike Lindsay also attended and well as Terry, Sandy Nelson of Santa Rosa too. Eric Nelson from Vale Colorado attended too. Norm knew Stan but had never met the others before. Stan was the common thread, which brought this group together. I flew into Salt Lake City on Wednesday (5/9) and met up with Norm, Stan, Dan and Mike. We hopped into a new GMC Yukon (suburban) rental and headed south about 200 miles to Moab. The drive takes you from the urban sprawl of Salt Lake City all the way down into the southeast corner of Utah. The terrain is mostly barren desert with a lot of large mountains to look at along the way.
We pulled into the Gonzo Inn around 5pm and settled in. Everyone but me mailed their bikes to the hotel. I rented a bike in Moab so I was free to watch them assembly their bikes. The Nelsons showed up later that night less Eric who drove over from Colorado on Thursday night. The Bike riding in Moab is very similar to rock climbing in that each ride is rated in terms of difficulty. There are Grunt, Techno, and Fear factor ratings in the guidebooks that allow you to determine if you should even attempt a particular ride. The riding is in desert terrain and can be dangerous. If you get lost you could die from exposure in a short time. You must carry what you need to keep your bike rolling and your body functioning. You must carry, a pint of water per hour of riding as well as food, tire tubes and tools. The guide book also states that at least one good brain needs to be in each party.
On Thursday morning we headed out to the Slick Rock Trail. This is the classic ride that everyone who goes to Moab has to do. It is essentially a giant sandstone playground where you ride on what must be petrified sand dunes. The ride was 13 miles of roller coaster like trail that goes up and down very steeply at times. I found it hard to do the real steep sections so I just walked the bike when ever my internal limiter kicked in. We had real hot temps in the high 90's for this ride, which took about 3.5 hours. Norm broke his chain about halfway through which Mcgiver (Terry Nelson) fixed it in about 5 minutes. There where 6 of us on this ride which turned out to be a Grunt 10, Techno 10, Fear 10 rated ride. Not to bad for the first ride. I was whipped when we finished with cramped legs and no water. I started with about 90 oz of liquid and used it all. We finished off the day with a couple Ales at the Moab Brewery and a pile of food. Our hotel had a pool and a hot tub, which was essential in recovering from a ride like this.
On Friday we headed out for the Flat pass trail. This ride started out with 6 miles of black top followed by a steep climb up a jeep road. From here we had to cross a rushing mountain stream, which actually felt pretty good in the heat. We had to carry our bikes bare foot through knee-deep water. From here we climbed up over stuff I would not have thought was ride- able unless I actually did it, and I did all of it. I think we all walked sections at some point. The terrain was old jeep road kind of. Mostly just rock ledges and large cobble like stones. Stan had a flat in this section, which he fixed in about 10 minutes. The views up in this valley are high desert, with big sandstone things everywhere. More great photos then you would have film for. From here the trail went along with some more climbing and some nice downhill sections for quite a ways. We ended up crossing a brook three more times and cruised down in a cool narrow valley which leads to a boxed in end we had to climb up out of. All of the views were awesome on this ride. The narrow valley had several hundred foot red sandstone walls, which were all stained in strange hues of red. I kept looking for Indians. You feel like you're in a western movie in a lot of these places. During this ride I think everyone feel down at least once. Mike, Stan and I drew blood all going over the handlebars. The narrow valley at the end had some deep sand that was pretty interesting to navigate. Once we were out of the woods so to speak we followed pavement back to the trucks. A few of us rode back to town, which was fun because it was all down hill and you could crank in high gear the whole way. Again this was a long hot ride and most of my water was gone at the end.
On Saturday we did the Moab Rim trail. This one was right behind the hotel to start. We used the Moab scenic chair lift to take us to the top of the Moab rim. This is a big uplift plateau with the slick rock all over the top. The trail took us around a bunch of sand stone formations. We were on a mixture of jeep roads and bare rock. The trail had some sandy sections, some rock sections and some not ride able trail where we had to carry our bikes. Sandy Nelson cut her leg pretty bad on her chain ring. The end of the trail took us in to a cool hidden valley with all kinds of grass and flowers. There was a single track right down the middle that you could haul down. At the end the group split up with Norm Stan and I heading down a mile hike a bike to the road and the rest retracing the route back the way we came up. This was another great ride with great sites. We had another blue-sky hot and dry day as well.
On Saturday night we loaded up with Beer and drove about 12 miles up a jeep road to a place where we could hike over to the edge of the Castle valley on the Porcupine rim. Our plan was to get there to watch the sun set. This jeep road was scary. The road fell away to the right going up. In places your truck would have rolled hundreds of feet if you drove off the edge. Anyway we hiked in about 45 minutes with the beer and watched the sun set. It is an amazing view. The valley is a good 10 miles across with these big sand stone spires sticking up in the distance. You can look south into the La Sal Mountains which where still snow covered. We hiked back to the trucks in the twilight and went down to the Moab brewery for more beer and food. I was beginning to see the importance of good ale. Without it I think we would never have held up the pace.
On Sunday we went right back up that jeep road to the Porcupine rim trail with our bikes. Four of us went this time. We started about 11am on a cool mid 70's breezy day. The Porcupine rim viewpoint is about 6800 feet and we rode the trail all the way back to the road and then into Moab. This was about 16 miles with a loss of about 2000 feet. You can get the picture, a little up and a lot of down. This was a great last ride for me because we covered a bunch of ground without working that hard. There where some crashes but for the most part we had a 3.5-hour ride which was about 2.5 hours rolling down. Later in the day Terry and Eric Nelson did the same ride in about 2.5 hours. They must have been hauling to shave an hour off our time because we didn't really stop that much.
Monday brought packing the bikes and heading back home. We had to leave about 11:30am to make the airport in Salt Lake City. I had a 4:15pm flight, which was pushed back to 5:30pm. I ended up back in Burlington VT about 1:30am Tuesday after 5 hours of very bumpy flight. Moab is not real cheap the way we did it. I spent over $1000 bucks for this little adventure. IT was well worth it and I had a blast!
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