Saturday, October 21, 2017

Southeast Utah

I had gone to Moab for a long mountain biking weekend with a couple of friends from PA (Bob Elam and Craig) back in 2006. That trip was great fun. Since then I had been vowing to return. Having lived in AZ the last 9+ years Nancy and I kept saying we should go there - it is only 8 hours away. But we didn't. Finally, we decided to make the drive to Moab during Nancy's fall break. This trip was to be an exploration of Moab and some of the worthy National Parks that were within an hour of Moab - Arches and Canyonlands. That decision (Nancy's) was an excellent one.

I have tons of pics so this will be light on words and heavy on visual. Cause there was so much to see.

Nancy had to teach Thursday, so we started out from Tempe that afternoon around 4:30. Getting through Phoenix and out of the city was a fricking nightmare. Once we got out of that mess it was pretty good going, but we had many miles to cover. With the time change we rolled into our campground in the Needles section of Canyonlands at about 1:30am. By 2 we were snoozing. The next morning we woke up to find out we were in one of the better campgrounds I've seen.

Rocks just begging to be climbed on

time to make breakfast 

Good day sunshine

Unfortunately we were only there for the night so we got breakfast, packed up and headed out to the trail head. We had decided to do a modified Chesler Park loop (slightly longer, but more interesting trail added for the return trip). We had discussed going out to Druid Arch, but I like this loop because is promised a slot canyon at the far end. The hike turned out to be about 11.5 miles. Pretty long, but so worth it. 

We started out from Elephant Hill trail head. It got interesting from the very first climb and never stopped. 

The terrain turned from rock scramble to fairly flat desert terrain

And then back to scrambling

Everywhere you looked were visual treats

Climbing up to the slot canyon on the Joint trail

Into the void

yeah, that is narrow

Back to the trail that goes to Druid arch

I liked the squiggly lines on the side of the rock

Back to the Elephant Hill trail head

The hike took a while and we still needed to get to Moab, so a ride was not in the plan for this day. 

We headed to Moab and found the Entrada scout camp, which would be our home the next two nights. This happened to be Outer Bike weekend in Moab and the scout camp had offered to have people camp there for cheap. We were one of the couple of people that took them up on their offer, so we had our pick of where to make camp. We chose well.

Nancy cooking up banana pancakes 

This is living 

The next morning we headed out on our first ride. Nancy had contacted Scott Morris for some suggestions of routes. It had been a LONG time since I had been there and I was sure there was newer stuff. One loop Scott had suggested connected various MTB trails and jeep trails and dirt roads for a sort of a grand tour. It turned out this loop passed within a couple of miles from where we were camping so we didn't have to drive to it. It also turned out to be a really enjoyable sampling of Moab.

The first trail we hit (Get Away) was part of the Mag 7 group of trails and it was a winner. In the direction we went it was mostly downhill with lots of interesting bits, a little tech, and ridiculous views.

Starting things out right

A little red rock...

... and a little white rock.

We hit Great Escape from here - also super fun

We turned off the trails (with some regret) and hit the road. We needed to go north to make our loop work. But even from the road there was scenery.

And a bit of climbing

Of course there were dinosaurs??

We eventually turned west on the 7 Mile Rim trail. This was a jeep trail but had lots of slickrock and other interesting bits. Not singletrack, but still lots of fun.

Uranium Arch

Top of the world

Riding the slickrock

Passing between two VERY big rocks - the Monitor and the Merrimac. US history anyone?

The trail is the double black lines

The big rock fades into the distance

break time on the Navajo Rocks trail system

After the Navajo Rocks trail system (somewhere on 7-up) I heard a bad sound from my back brake and determined that the pads had worn down. Not wanting to score the rotor I determined to finish without using the rear brakes. About 2 miles from the finish of the ride I went down a hill into some sand, applied the front brakes aggressively, and you can guess the rest. In the fall I twisted my arm in an odd way. It kind of felt like my arm popped out of the shoulder joint momentarily. Honestly, I thought I had done something really bad. After some yelling and then discussion it started to feel somewhat better and I limped down Gemini Bridges Road to camp.

This injury was not good news because we had a Whole Enchilda shuttle planned in a couple of days as well as other rides we wanted to do. 

The next morning we were up and out early since we had to find another place to camp. The plan was to try and score one of the 12 "first come, first served" spots in the Willow Flats campground in the Island in The Sky section of Canyonlands. Since checkout was at 10, we arrived a bit before that to see if we could get a spot. We ended up scoring a premium spot as the current residents were packing up as we arrived. That would be home the next couple of nights.

We ended up spending the rest of the day going back in to Moab for grocery shopping, getting brake pads, and other "stuff" since I was in no shape to ride. We also did a few small hikes in the park to see some of the sites. This section of Canyonlands is much different from Needles. Needles is down in things, but Island in the Sky is a view from the top, down. 

This spot could easily fit a big group

First spot to visit in the park was Mesa Arch. It was pretty close to the road so EVERYONE went there. Pretty cool to see the canyon through the arch. There is another place near Moab with lots more arches. More on that later.

Next we headed over to Grand View Lookout point. This was about a 2 mile round trip, so much less popular - but worthwhile. The first thing you think of looking out from here is Grand Canyon - but smaller. And more hoodoo looking things. With more time and water this could have been another GC.

Pretty cool to see where the canyons begin

This is what camping with Nancy looks like

This is vacation after all

Supper time

Scott had recommended a hike or run around Syncline Crater. That wasn't happening. We did decide late in the day to go up and look from the viewpoint. It was close to dark and the weather had taken a weird change. The wind had kicked up and dust was in the air - visibility was greatly reduced. The temps were dropping as well. We got up to the viewpoint and looked around a bit just before it got dark.

The wind blew like crazy that night. We were scheduled to do the Whole Enchilada shuttle (at 7:30am) the next day. I had iced my shoulder and popped a lot of Ibuprophen, but was still not feeling good about a day long ride. But we had paid and we were going to give it a try. We woke early to temps in the mid 30s and sleet/rain. Oh goody. Got our stuff going and headed into town. At the meeting place for the shuttle we started talking to the driver about maybe rescheduling. I had not expected cold/wet weather so didn't have the right clothes for riding in it. Fortunately someone else came by and told us the shuttle was cancelled for today. Whew. We looked into rescheduling for the next day, but it would have been a limited run (from UPS) since the trail above that was wet and clay - so death mud. We decided to pass and went to plan B - hike in Arches.

Since it was early we were able to get into the park before the masses. Arches is just outside of Moab. Both parts of Canyonlands we visited are about an hour our of town. So Arches is quite popular - and crowded.
We decided to go all the way to the end of the park and hike the Devil's Garden trails. We went out on the primitive trail (few people, vague trail, cool stuff to see) and came back on the main trail (choked with people, but some good arches). The primitive trail was super fun. We had to figure out where the trail went at times - which added to the adventure. There was some scrambling as well. Good stuff. 

A little chilly out there

Landscape Arch. We'd see it again later

Those mountains covered in clouds (and snow) are where we were suppose to be riding today

walking on one of the "fins"

This was interesting to get through without getting wet

scrambling up slickrock

Now where is the trail??

Private arch. Yawn.

Dark Angel

Just when I can gotten kind of bored with arches we came upon the double O arch. Two arches in one place. Very cool.

Back on the main trail - and all the people

Landscape Arch again. It is pretty big and is likely to fall some time in the near future.

break time

After Devil's Garden we headed down to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint since that sounded cool. By this time parking was an issue and the viewpoint was not all that. 

I was pretty tired from the Devil's Garden hike (~7 miles), but Nancy wanted to see the Delicate Arch. And I can not tell her no. It is about a 1.5 mile hike to get there. Over a lot of rock - interesting, but nothing we haven't seen. Then you climb up on a rock and there it is. Bigger than I expected and quite something to see in person. It really is dramatic. 

On the way back down we stopped to see the Rock Art and Wolfe Ranch

Back to camp. Picked up some wood for a little bit of campfire. Didn't last long. 

Next day was our last in town. We decided to ride the Navajo Rocks system. The plan was to do a basic loop and expand if my shoulder felt up to it. 

We ended up just doing a basic loop (rocky tops, coney island, big lonely, big mesa, ramblin), cause my shoulder just wasn't feeling it. But that was really great. So many different surfaces and great scenery. A really great ride.

Our last night was spent at a Red Cliffs Lodge, about 14 miles out of Moab. A shower and bed and heat were welcome before the big ride home the next day. 

So this trip didn't turn out quite as expected. I think we spent more time hiking than riding. However, it was an eye opener. Everywhere we went was a sensory treat. This whole are is just amazing to see. We're planning to go back in the spring - to do the Whole Enchilada ride as well as the whole Mag 7 and probably some more hiking. There is still much to see...