Moab Mega-Post

October 5th, 2008

Jug Handle Arch

Clouds over MoabDear God I love Moab. So much. It’s the ultimate candy store for outdoorsy types, treehugger and redneck alike. Every time I go to Moab I find amazing new things, and this time was no exception. I’d been four times before, first discovering Arches, Canyonlands and the Slickrock practice loop and as a kid. Then I came back and rode the whole Slickrock trail, but nothing else. Then I came back and rode Slickrock, Gemini Bridges and the famed Porcupine Rim trails, found the Power Dam cliff jumping area, found Matrimony Spring, climbed an ancient Indian ladder, and experienced Arches in a whole new way that I won’t even try to put into words here. I was really hooked now and came one other time last year just briefly to show some German friends Arches, too. Now I was back for the third year in a row, apparently on an annual pilgrimage.

Sometimes... it rains in MoabThe first wild new thing I found on this trip was: rain. When I got into Moab it was pouring rain. Literally everything I wanted to do in Moab involved being outside, so this struck me as a bit of a bummer. Having escaped completely dry from the Pacific Northwest I thought I was home free, about to complete some sort of impossibly perfect and rain-free month long road trip. Not so. Moab in the MistIt was coming down in sheets in Moab. I glowered out of windows of the van for a while in town, checking the weather online with free WiFi. It was supposed to clear up two days hence. I was only supposed to be in Moab three days, tops. So, no sense trying to wait it out - it’d be wasting my whole trip. Telling myself “it’s only water” and thinking of people like the poor denizens of Seattle who don’t live in a rain free paradise like Montana I put on my rain gear and headed for the Slickrock trail. I knew that even if the rock was, in fact, slick when wet at least that trail wouldn’t be muddy.

A glistening steedRain over the Colorado RiverMoist Shrimp Rock on Slickrock

Agua in the desert

WTF mateIt turns out Slickrock, which is not slick at all when dry and is called so just because it looks smooth, doesn’t get particularly slick when wet, either. My pedals and hand grips were a little slippery, but the rock was grippy and good and the ride went well. It was actually pretty cool. I’d never seen the desert all wet before. All of the dry troughs and basins were full of water, streams and waterfalls all around. Also, being in the desert after all, it wasn’t really cold. So it was a great ride. By the end the rain had even let up. Slickrock in a downpour; the world never ceases to surprise me.

Kids and their toysThat night I decided to check out the nightlife of Moab. Yes, it’s Utah, but it’s also an outdoor Mecca and in my experience outdoorsy folk party about as hard as anyone. Plus, it was Saturday night. I posted up in the grocery store parking lot (where I even had WiFi from the laundry mat!), pre-gamed a little to save money, and went to the Moab Brewery brewpub first. I can't believe the stuff these guys crawl overThey have a nice place on the south side of town and I tried a few of their tasty beers. The Nitrogen conditioned Oatmeal Stout was divine, and the Steamer (warm-fermented lager) was nice and different. The place was kind of quite and full of older visitors (I met a nice couple that sells insurance who came to Moab to… golf…) so I left early and headed to, well, basically the only other place in town: McStiffs. Sadly, even on Saturday night, this place was completely dead. The Lions BackStill, they brew their own beers so I sat town. I learned a few things about beer in Utah too: unless you have a tap-room license, you need to buy food with your beer (they offer $.75 chips and salsa), and just like the grocery stores beer at the brewpubs is 3.2%. No wonder I had been sobering up the longer I kept drinking! McStiffs has a nice Raspberry and Blueberry Hefe though, and mixed with Guinness like a Black and Tan it’s dessert in a glass. Deciding to save money and energy for another day I went to bed early.

Superstoker on Poison Spider

Some of Moab's endless petroglyphsThe next day I rode Poison Spider first thing in the morning. Fortunately the weather report fell through and it was partly cloudy but not raining. Poison Spider is a Moab classic I had been meaning to ride for a while. I took my time, making some breakfast at the trailhead and checking out the dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs near by. The trail starts out Dinosaur tracks!on a reasonably gnarly double-track jeep road, then switches to slickrock riding up to the rim of the cliffs above Moab. The return route I choose in order to make it a loop was the Portal trail. This trail is somewhat infamous because not only is it a difficult descent, but it’s very exposed, running right on the edge of the 200′ cliff above the Colorado river. They have signs telling you to dismount, citing the death of three people on the trail. Frankly some of the exposed spots were extremely technical and I could not have ridden them anyway, so I was happy to walk my bike.

Behind the Rocks in MoabSlickrock biking on Poison SpiderThe deservingly infamous Portal Trail

Me dwarfed by Little Arch

Climbing by Poison Spider (Wall Street)After the ride (and scoping out the climbing right off the road by the Poison Spider trailhead) I continued to drive up 279 towards Potash. After the strange looking Potash salt ponds the road becomes a somewhat gnarly dirt road and eventually leads into Canyonlands National Park. I’d only viewed Canyonlands from the rim before, so I was enthralled by the Crash Vandecoot on the Potash Roadbeauty of being in the canyons and drove old Crash Vandecoot a little farther than I probably should have up that road. The van made it, but it took some precision driving. The views were absolutely breathtaking though. Unspeakably beautiful. I wanted to boulder at Big Bend and catch the sunset over Canyonlands from the rim, so I didn’t linger too long but it was awesome. Potash salt plantI want to come back with a more capable vehicle and go farther into the park next time. Leaving Canyonlands I made it over to check out the Big Bend bouldering area. Most of the problems seemed hard and my elbow was tweaked from biking, so I jetted up to Canyonlands to watch the sunset. Sadly the climax of the sunset was obscured by distant rain clouds, but it was a nice dinner spot anyway. :)

Arches Nat Park in the distanceBig Bend bouldering areaRed rock

Me in Canyonlands awesomenessCanyonlands shadowsRained out Canyonlands sunset

Epic scene on my drive to Canyonlands

The Sovereign Singletrack might be my fav trail, EVERMy final day in Moab I took a recommendation and on my way out of town Sovereign Singletrackrode the Sovereign Singletrack. Sweet baby Jesus. Mountain biking does not get any better than this trail. There are variations, and new trails going in pretty frequently, but I did the 17 miles “Lariat” loop. 17 miles of unbelievably sweet single track. Sand, slickrock, ledge drops, jumps, flowy gravel… it was perfect. Everything a ride should be. Comboing up a sexy little downhill with five little drops in it… the very definition of fun. Sadly I didn’t take very good pictures of it, but take my word and ride it. It’s breathtaking.

Canyonlands sunset

And that was the last stop of my Moab road trip. I said hello to a friend by Salt Lake City but the main event was over. Back to Bozeman for some ski movie premiers and pre-season stoke!!!

Snow in the La Sals... foreshadowing...

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