Monday, April 27, 2009

Road Magic and more

first some pics from the race in Fruita, then to the cycling jazz:
nice light at sunrise to put everyone in the right mood

the mighty, murky Colorado...

and on a bike:

not a bad site to wake up to from my campsite along the CO Riv...

Fishers Towers. Canyons. La Sal mtns. Dizzying view, and all before getting into Moab.

The shadows were just sick.

who knew it could be so brilliantly green in the desert?
Incredible mesa that I rounded to reach Hurrah Pass
and yea, thats the pass and my bike before it failed me.
best hitch ever!!
nice lookin' road, eh??

here in Lockhart Canyon I got the first chill bumps of the trip
a bit dirty....

lots and lots of rock

duh, that's an arch. Druid Arch
Awesome light in the morning from the Needles to send me off

So many mesas with awesome cliffs on the ride west toward Monticello
fixin' up the bike during the Zero in Monticello's Memorial Park

I'm really not even sure where to begin since it seems like so much has happened in the past 5 days or so when I updated last...

So I tried to leave Moab, was that Wednesday???, and my bike made it 25 miles before the rear rack broke. Luckily that WY couple gave me a lift, a very uncomfortable lift, back to Moab where I affixed a new rack to my frame using random parts from the hardware store. When I left that morning, the rack stayed on, and lasted through the entire 60 mile stretch of rough rough jeep road. Riding that rode was surely one of the best adventures I've had in my life. The road was incredibly beautiful. Remote. DIFFICULT. This was my first time really mountain biking, and I had to establish what sections I could actually ride, which I had to push the bike on, etc. The first 3 miles were primarily uphill, with a few gulches where I had to push the bike uphill over boulders the size of me. Impossible to ride, but that was okay. When I got past that stretch, the road was littered with football-sized rocks that made it hard to ride for longer than a tenth of a mile at a time. Eventually I crested an unmarked pass and could see The Needles of Canyonlands and all of the seemingly infinite canyons below. After eating a lot of cookie dough, I hopped on the bike, and was THRILLED to be able to ride for at least a mile before getting bogged down in sand. Whereas I was only able to ride 20% of the time and pushed 80% of the time before, the numbers had now reversed, and I couldn't have been any more pleased.

After pushing and riding for 35 miles, I got completely exhausted. Leaving Moab, I loaded up on 9 Liters of water, 5 of which were on my back. This made me use my entire body in a way that I hadn't done yet in this trip, and this really drained me. I wasn't really to stop yet since I wanted to take advantage of the cooler nighttime temps, but I found myself pushing the bike on nearly any uphill since I couldn't find the energy to ride it. Somehow I could find the energy a few times and managed to ride a bit. When it was time to get out of the saddle and push, it was a struggle to remain balanced. Keeping the bike balanced while stepping over the crossbar became pathetically challenging and I actually fell once trying to get off the bike!! Luckily no one was around to se me. For 40 miles on Lockhart Basin Rd, I saw no one aside from a group of dirtbikers. This was definitely the most remote road I've been on, and finally felt like I was surrounded by nothing but wilderness and a slim trail which backpacking provides.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that I hated the asphalt when I finally hit it to get into Canyonlands Natl Park. It felt rough for some reason, oddly sluggish, and completely boring. The road was suddengly flat. I didnt have to look out for rocks, guage the surface to determine if sand was coming up to prepare for or anything. Where I was engaged fully before taking the ride seriously, I was now bored and felt like the bike was only crawling. Luckily I only had to put up with less than 10 miles until I got to the vistor's center.

Here, after dropping $20 in fees (!!!!), I met Cyndi at the Backcountry permit office who allowed me to store my bike gear in her garage since the Park service wouldn't allow it on their premesis. She gave me directions to here house, 1.5 mi away, and I rode there to leave my junk. Her husband Brad was home, and we chatted about my trip down Lockhart Basin since he was hoping to ride it himself and other jeep roads out of the park.

Canyonlands is incredible. Phenomenal. Mind-blowing. etc etc etc

Without question, hiking for 3 days here was some of the best hiking I have ever done. Within the first quarter of a mile of hiking I was using my hands to scramble up some slickrock, and I knew this would be a fun trip. Typically hiking would be like this: start at the bottom of a canyon, hiking on sand around random bushes trees etc with cliff walls hanging overhead. Cross into a parallel canyon via scrambling on a lot of slickrock. More sandy hiking along cactus, brush, etc, repeat. I came to really start looking forward to scrambling from canyon to canyon.

After setting up camp in Squaw Canyon, where I would be the only camper, I set out to hike the Peekaboo Trail. This trail got up high in a canyon, and stayed up on the slickrock for miles...very different from the other trails. This country is so so strange. The rocks were mushroom shaped. One layer would be white. The next would be red. Then gold. As far as the eye could see. The rock was so fascinating that it became hard to actually hike since I wanted to sit and gawk and try to figure it all out. Finally I got to a really cool arch which I had to hike through. This window in the rock is why the trail was named Peekaboo, and a fitting spot to turn around. My foot was starting to hurt and I needed to rest.

The next day was even more fun. Climbing up into Elephant Canyon without a soul around in the early morning light was unforgettable as was the fun scrambling over more slickrock and the introduction of ladders into the hiking game. I had to squeeze through some slots. Finally got to Chesler Park where there is loads of flat ground, greenery, and surrounded by the famous and multi-colored Needles. After pitching my tent in my incredibly windy campsite, I took off for the Joint trail. This was a really fun trail that had you hiking through a narrow slot for at least half a mile. Good stuff.

The wind was really picking up and dropping the drizzles of rain promised by the ranger the day before. I considered going to hang out in the tent for a bit to see if it would clear, but decided to go for Druid Arch. Who knew if the rain would get worse and go through the night or what, so I decided to hike while it was still decent out. The lighting was garbage and flat, so I didn't take too many shots from this time. Needless to say, the 5 miles of hiking were worth it. I met a really great couple from Boulder who I hiked on and off with thru this section, giving me the company that I was beginning to crave. There was a ladder to climb and a bar to help traverse a final section of rock before finally getting a view of Druid Arch. Although I wasn't able to bike in Arches Natl Park due to warnings from people in Moab, I finally got an arch here. And I"m pretty darn sure that this experience was better since I earned it, there weren't cars buzzing by my bike, etc etc. The arch was enormous and towered above us. The wind was also howling and made me leave faster than I wanted to. Still, I saw the arch that I had wanted to see and was humbled by the size of it while standing beneath...

That night I spent a lonely and cold night camping before waking up to a beautifully calm morning with great lighting and more views of the Needles. The 5 miles back to my locked up bike were sublime and left me feeling refreshed and ready to get on my bike again. Once my bike was reloaded, I was ready to be hiking again. The bike was sluggish, asphalt crappy, and I was in a bad mood. I wanted to be hiking, not biking. Although I assumed my mood would change once I realized that this was my new mode of transport, it never did...not for 47 miles to Monticello.

Sure the scenery was incredible. Sheer cliffs in every direction in what I later found out is a climbers paradise. Near Newspaper Rock, where I found literally hundreds of petroglyphs on a large mural, I saw over 20 people climbing in an area that probably had over 75 routes to climb. With only 18 miles to go, I got excited to begin the cut-off road into town, where there was less traffic and views of mountains. Going through these hills would surely provide me with climbing then descending ,etc etc to keep me happy, right? Well, not really. I had to bike 13 miles, 99% of which were uphill before getting to a descent. I don't normally mind climbs all that much, but 13 miles started to seem insane. Then I realized that in a couple of weeks I would begin climbing out of Utah and into the San Juans where there are passes over 12,000 ft and decided it would be healthiest not to think of it. Halfway through the climb, a white car pulled over on the side of the road. It was Meghan who I met at the Visitor Center in Needles, offering me a place to shower and sleep!!

Oh my god this was great news and pure magic. I was tired. My clothing was completely red from the sand of the previous 5 days, drenched in sweat, socks crusty and painful, and I was lonely. Oh what sweet perfection.

The descent was blindingly fast, my legs went numb, but I was in town, and soon enough I would be showered, laundered, and with a Colorado beer in my hand. Meghan, Melissa, and their friend (what was his name????) were incredible company. We laughed a ton, had good conversation and enjoyed each other's company. It was sad to finally leave this morning, giving Meghan a hug and realizing that I had become good friends with people who I had only known for 3 hours. This is why I do this stuff....

1 comment:

  1. your pictures are absolutely beautiful...i want to do something like this...