Oct 25 2016

The Opposite of Powder

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

After our fabulous trip on the White Rim Trail last fall, we decided that an annual fall trip to the desert to hike, bike and camp would be an excellent tradition. This year, we wanted to check out a Colorado bike trail we hadn’t done before along with another section of Canyonlands that I had yet to visit.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

Our first stop was the Paradox Trail which runs 110 miles from Southwest Colorado to close to Moab. While most of the route is old jeep roads there are sections of single track and we decided to do the Red Canyon Loop that climbs to a spectacular overlook of the Paradox Valley.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

The climb up the canyon was fairly mellow till we hit what was described on the MTB Project Trail Page as a “short hike a bike section” near the top of the canyon. “Short” of course, is a relative term – long, steep and rocky were the words that came to mind while we trudged slowly up it.

Paradox Trail, Colorado

The view from the top as you can see from the pic above however, was well worth the effort. A perfect lunch stop and picture taking viewpoint was our reward for the earlier slog. After a bit more climbing we were then treated to a very long smooth downhill back to our car with numerous scenic vistas along the way.

State Highway 141, Colorado

 

The drive from Grand Junction to Naturita our stopping point for the night took us through beautiful canyons with towering sandstone walls on both sides. From there we headed west into Utah and into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. To say this is a scenic area is a vast understatement – everywhere you looked there were stunning rock formations that just begged to be explored.

Newspaper Rock Historic Monument, Utah

On the way into Needles we passed the famed Newspaper Rock, one of the worlds largest collections of petroglyphs. Our plan was to secure a camping spot for the night and then take a hike in the Needles district. 

Hamburger Rock Campground, Indian Creek, Utah

Because it was a beautiful fall weekend and thus primetime in the desert we were slightly concerned about finding a good camping spot but as luck would have it we found a primo and mostly empty campground at Hamburger Rock just outside the park entrance.

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

 

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Here I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves as it was difficult to not stop and take photos every ten steps along a 6 mile out and back hike to the Chesler Park overlook. I literally took hundreds of photos and just trying to narrow the selection down to an outstanding one hundred was a time consuming task.

Hamburger Rock Campground, Indian Creek, Utah

Then it was back to our campsite where after dinner and a fire we got to admire natures finest light show, the Milky Way in all it’s glory.

Indian Creek, Utah

 

Indian Creek, Utah

Indian Creek, Utah

In the morning the light show continued with a spectacular sunrise that had us climbing all over the rocks above our campground to get different angles on the morning fiesta. 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

It wouldn’t be a true trip to the desert without a stop in Moab where we decided to check out the new bike trails in Dead Horse Point State Park just outside of town. We took a lovely tour through the park and then drove out to the point where the horses supposedly met their awful fate.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Well at least they had a nice view…

 

 


Oct 31 2015

In the White Rim

Nothing like being able to see where you’re headed…

During my visit to Canyonlands in May, I got my first glimpse of the White Rim Trail, which I had long heard was a bike trip not to be missed. Inspired by the incredible views from Islands in the Sky, I decided to make that trip happen and luckily was able to pull it together. The tricky part was finding someone/someway to get a driver/support vehicle since I didn’t know enough folks to put a big trip together where everyone would take turns driving. Fortunately, my friend Antony who is not a mountain biker, agreed to come along and hike while Mike and I rode and then meet us at the end of the day at the campsites. Then the real challenge became reserving the campsites through the National Park Service. They’re are only 20 campsites spread throughout the 100 mile trail and between the outfitters who get first dibs and all the other folks who want to go, reserving the sites took several weeks of going online at 12:01 am till I finally found a combination that made sense for a 4 day 3 night trip.

First stop on the scenic tour

The ride starts with a huge descent from the top of Islands in the Sky down to the White Rim. From there you basically ride ride along the edge of canyons which overlook the Colorado River which half way around meets the Green River which you follow to the way out. Here’s a map that gives you a much better idea of what I’m talking about. But no matter where you are on the trail the views are amazing and the biggest challenge is resisting the urge to stop every hundred feet to take another picture.

This campsite was called “nothing special” on the various sites I researched…

but the view across the road sure was sweet…

and not a bad place to wake up in the morning

While the trail was spectacular and great easy riding, perhaps the best part was the campgrounds. We went in late October when the temperatures were more hospitable so the nights were cool but even without campfires which are not allowed it was a joy just to sit in camp and watch the colors change.

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On the road day two…

with in”spiring” views…

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around every corner…

While day one was mostly downhill, day two contained the only real serious climb of the trip (other than the climb out at the end) up to Murphy’s Hogback. But before we got to that climb there were miles and miles of fabulous scenery to ride through first.

Talk about jaw dropping views…

and canyons as far as the eye can see…

Our second night accommodations were at Murphy’ Hogback. There are three campsites at that location and all of them had spectacular vistas. We were in Murphy C which overlooked a huge canyon and next day’s ride.

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The clouds starting to roll in…

rainy hogback morning

which lead to a rainy night…

but ultimately another gorgeous day

Can you see why they call it the White Rim?

While preparing for this trip I read through numerous posts and all the National Park Service material. We had originally hoped we could do the trip with Antony’s Subaru Outback but the Park Service is adamant that you have a high clearance four wheel drive primarily for getting in and out of Murphy Hogback.  While that section of the road was slow going and ultimately not a major problem, the real challenge turned out to be mud and without our rented F-150 we would not have stood a chance.

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Our beast of burden and the fearless crew

Just another bend in the road…

which lead us to the Green River which sure looked brown on this day.

The start of the climb over Hardscrabble Hill…

which was progressing nicely till our sag wagon punctured a tire right about here…

then at the top of the climb…

and back down to the river to our campsite and one last fabulous dinner…

On day three we encountered our first real issues. After the tricky drive down Murphy Hogback things were progressing smoothly till we hit Hardscrabble Hill where on the way up the climb we discovered our vehicle by the side of the road. Originally thinking Antony had parked and gone for a hike we instead discovered that we had a flat and now had to figure out how to remove and replace a spare on an F-150. After an initial bout of cluelessness we figured it out and good thing as the nearest help was at least 40 miles away and we had not seen another vehicle on the trail all day. At this point we figured our excitement for the day was over but as we made our way along the river we discovered that the rain of the previous days had led to some serious mud ruts.

Sunset day 3

Mud day 4

While we only had to work around a short stretch of mud on day 3, on day 4 we encountered long stretches that had they been a little deeper would have been impassable. So rather than try and slog our way through we chose to throw our bikes in the truck and power our way out. While there was a nice stretch along the river that might have been nice if dry, the rest of the ride out was a long, steep and not particularly scenic grind up Mineral Road that I had no problem passing on.

A cool side trip on the way home

Did they meet aliens or what?

To cap off a fantastic trip we stopped by Sego Canyon on the way back where a number of different cultures left beautiful artwork on several rock faces. It was quite fitting that after passing through some other worldly terrain in Canyonlands that we saw what looked like pictures of aliens on the walls of the canyon. I can’t recommend doing the White Rim highly enough – it’s a relatively easy ride with scenery that can’t be beat and campgrounds that are beautiful and at least when we went delightfully empty. A big big thanks to my friend Antony for letting us bike leisurely through the landscape while he covered some very tough miles in the truck. If you should ever get the chance to ride the White Rim, do it!

 


May 5 2015

Go west young man…

On the road again…

 

After a year on the sidelines, I was thrilled this spring when I realized I could get on my mountain bike again without any restrictions. So I did what all Coloradans do when ski/snowboard season is over and headed to Utah to do some mountain biking. Springtime is the perfect time to visit before the heat of summer makes daytime rides an exercise in masochism in the Utah desert.

Where the past comes to life…

Utah is a magical place for those who like the splendor of the desert. Petroglyphs, fantastic rock formations, and all your favorite earth tones make for stunning imagery every where you turn.

Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon”

A lovely rim ride

Day one found us at The Wedge, also known as Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon”, located in the San Rafael Swell. The drive there was almost as spectacular as the views from the top as we passed numerous petroglyphs and gorgeous rock formations. The bike ride was not challenging but the scenery more than compensated.

They don’t call it “Island in the Sky” for nothing…

 

As far as the eye can see…

 

And a little snow in the distance helps keep you cool…

On day two we set out to explore the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. We decided on a seemingly little used trail down into Lathrop Canyon. What started out as a pleasant little hike through a pretty meadow turned into a stunning descent into some classic Canyonlands terrain, each corner revealing a more spectacular view than the last.

Just another typical mind blowing vista..

 

Now I see why they call it the White Rim Trail

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Just to put it into perspective

Normally, I avoid scenic overlooks in national parks but the overlooks in Island of the Sky are pretty much irresistible. So after the hike we did a car tour through the park, oohing and aahing along with everyone else. And as an extra bonus, I got a good view of the legendary White Rim Trail which seduced me into reserving campsites for a return trip in October to do the trail on bike.

We couldn’t leave Moab without at least sampling one of the newer and ever expanding bike trail systems. So on day three we checked out Navajo Rocks, a nice mix of sandstone and classic desert riding. I don’t really love the hard work involved in mountain biking but I’m a sucker for the scenery and once the endorphins kick in all the grinding is long forgotten.

What everyone goes to Moab for…

 

Land of the Navajo

 

Sandstone anyone?

 

After the bike ride it was time to find some shade and water to cool down in. Fortunately for me my friend Mike knows Moab like the back of his hand and had a lovely little canyon with creek included for us to explore.

Down by the river

All in all it was a fabulous trip. And more importantly it was the first time I really tested my leg in a multi day multi sport trip and it passed with flying colors. The next big test will be when I get on a board again but until then I’m just going to be thankful that there are still plenty of summer sports that I can enjoy. I guess I really am one lucky boy…