Monday, April 2, 2012

Moab Part 3 - The Magnificent Seven

The third day of our Moab trip started off with frigid morning temps, hanging in the mid 20s. Sandra was actually de-icing one of our tables with an ice scraper when I climbed out of the tent. Once again I hiked up to the mouth of Negro Bill Canyon and sat on some sunny rocks to warm up. The group was moving pretty slow, which was fine by me since I really didn't feel the need to jump on the trails before letting it warm up a bit. During breakfast we pulled out the maps and guidebook to plan our ride for the day. Since Davey and Roland would be joining us that evening (coming late from Oregon), we wanted to save the "classic" rides for when they showed up. Arthur suggested that we ride some of the "Magnificent Seven" (a.k.a. the "Mag 7"), which serves up some of Moab's newest singletrack -- in fact, the most recent portions were completed just last year.

The Mag 7, along with the famous Porcupine Rim Trail, is a great shuttle ride, which is what we decided to do. Starting at the top end of the Gemini Bridges jeep road (where it intersects with Hwy 313), we would pick up the "Bull Run" singletrack, followed by "Arth's Corner", and finally "Little Canyon", before heading back to the car (parked at the Moab Brand Trails lot) on the bottom section the Gemini Bridges jeep road. Basically we would only be riding the upper Mag 3, missing the last four, "Gold Bar", "Golden Spike", "Poison Spider", and the infamous "Portal Trail".


The trail map for the top sections of The Mag 7,
which can be found here along with other maps


Now that the plan was hatched and we were all geared up, we headed out to start our day's adventure. Since there is free parking at the Brand Trails, we stashed our bottom car there before continuing up to the top part of the trails. After about 20 minutes of driving up the paved highway, we made a left turn onto a dirt road and parked near a small oil drilling operation. We quickly unloaded the bikes and started our trek down the soft dirt road, where before long, we dead ended at a construction zone, supposedly related to the oil operation. Realizing our navigational error we headed back to the dirt road, turned left onto the highway and rode another 3 miles or so until we saw the signed Gemini Bridges road, and the true start of our ride at an elevation of ~6000'.


Starting off the ride under sunny skies



"Ummm, not sure this is our trail..."


After riding down about a mile of the jeep road, we hit the trailhead for Bull Run, where we regrouped and took some cutesy couples photos before hitting the trail. Bull Run started off with some nice mellow techie stuff before riding along the edge of Bull Canyon across sandstone slickrock guided by a yellow dashed line. Breaking up the slickrock were short rock garden sections soiled with red dirt -- this combo created a great technical arrangement suitable for intermediate riders. The Bull Run continued on for a generous amount of time/miles as it followed the edge of the canyon, meandering around populations of juniper and pinion. I did have a couple of exciting moments somewhere in the section, the first being a handplant into a cactus, and the second being a near catastrophic fall backwards off a steep rock pitch. Luckily Randy, who was taking pictures, was able to stop my fall as I slid backwards straight into him -- thanks buddy! Just when I thought the fun would never end, the first trail segment tee’d into the Gemini Bridges road, about 1/4 mile up from the hiking trail to the bridges themselves.


The crew gets some direction for the start of the singletrack section



Sandra is all smiles early on



Kim makes her way down the trail near the start of Bull Run



Emily crests a small slickrock pitch



Arthur clears a nice section of trail



Sandra gets way back for some fun steps along the way



Lots of great rock formations...



...and mountain views too!



Arthur hams it up for the camera, somewhere on Bull Run.



Emily loves riding her bike through the desert



Kim takes in some more great scenery



Arthur hits the steep rock slab with speed



EGP carries some good momentum as well



The author takes his turn, finally cleaning it on his second try...
(photo by Kim McGovern)


Since most of us had not seen the natural rock bridges, we decided we'd head there to have a lunch break and relax a bit before finishing the second half of our ride. To get to the bridges you actually have to park your bike at the extremely convenient bike rack and walk down the “hiker only” trail. Before starting our hike, we made some time for manual drop practice, at little ledge near the entrance to the hiking trail. Since it varied in height, depending on where you hit it, it was great place to session for everyone in the crew.


Arthur demonstrates the proper technique



Emily gets in some drop practice



Sandra keeps it lifted...



...and so does Coonabomber


A scramble down the trail brought us to the top of the bridges, which was a long way above the floor of the canyon. The two formations ran parallel to one another and had about a 5' to 10' gap between them depending on the location along the bridge. This place has also claimed a few lives, including a Boy Scout who tried to jump from one bridge to the other with a failed attempt. There is actually a plaque on the opposite side (from where the trail comes in) that serves as a memorial to a man and his jeep, which also ended badly while trying to cross them -- man, I thought mountain biking and kayaking were somewhat dangerous. Once we were done with our lunch we headed back up the trail so we could continue our ride.


Time for some sightseeing



The Gemini Bridges



Lunch time!



A different view of the bridges



Tait playing around on the rocks. If you look
carefully, you can see the plaque for the jeeper.



The plaque



Looking down the canyon from The Bridges


The next section of singletrack we rode was a short one called Arth's Corner. This trail pulls you away from the canyon rim and on top of hills of sandstone slickrock. The riding was a bit different from Bull Run as it made numerous twisty turns along the sandstone tread. Once again, my lack of riding over the last few months was catching up to me, and my legs were starting to burn just as much as my lungs had been. Even with a bit of exhaustion I was still having a great time, and the hammer crew was being more than patient as they waited at any major junctions or convenient stopping points. Eventually Arth's ended at Metal Masher road, where we hung a right toward our next section, Little Canyon.


Emily starts off Arth's



Randy hits a fun little rock drop



Kim follows the yellow brick road


Little Canyon actually reminded me a lot of Bull Run and I felt that the first half of it was some of the best trail of the entire ride, which a few others agreed with. After crossing over Bull Canyon road, the trails' second half continued its technical nature along a canyon rim. At one point the trail makes a sweeping left turn while dropping through a narrow rock slot that requires some precise pedal placement to avoid getting hung up and taking a spill. After dropping through the slot you have to make a hard left turn to ride the main line -- fun stuff indeed! The last bit of Little Canyon had us up and onto a little ridge, trying to figure out how we were supposed to get back to the Gemini Bridge jeep road, since we weren't planning to continue the trail up Gold Bar and beyond. It didn't take long before we found a steep sandstone slab that brought us down to a spur road that would take us to our destination. On our second ride here, a few days later, we got to watch a jeep try over and over to climb this slab. He was finally able to make it up, after many failed attempts, where we greeted him with cheers.


Arthur and Tait, Blue Angels style



Sandra and Emily cruise down Little Canyon



The crew nears the end of the singletrack



Randy finds another rock step



The author navigates the narrow slot drop
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)


When we finally hit the Gemini jeep road, I was pretty well spent, and I had no idea what the road in front of me consisted of. Traveling over more than a few miles of loose dirt road, we passed by Gooney Bird rock and began what would be the climb up and out of the canyon. By the time I had reached the peak of the climb on the side of the cliff wall, I was pooped and ready for the final descent to our awaiting car, packed with a fresh supply of chips and beer.


Randy & Kim approach Gooney Bird Rock on the ride out



Looking back toward Moab on the final climb



Putting on some warm gear before the final descent



One last descent back to the car


Once we were all packed up, we called Roland and Davey and found out that they were already in camp waiting for us. No one really felt like cooking at this point so we told them to meet us at Zags in town for some pizza and burgers. After eating, we resupplied at the grocery store in Moab and headed back to camp for some cowboy T.V. consisting of a campfire and starry skies.

In conclusion I would have to say the Mag 7 is an instant classic that blew my expectations out of the water -- well at least the sections that we did. It’s a great mix of features that keep you dancing on the pedals, but at the same time, aren't overly difficult -- I also felt that it had great flow, even with its technical nature. Everyone else was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the trail, so much so that we rode it again a couple days later to ensure that Davey and Roland could experience it. Since we were a little more familiar with the trail and I wasn't holding everyone up playing paparazzi, we were able to hammer it out in less than half the time. Although I wasn't taking photos, I didn't let that stop me from getting some media, this time in the form of POV footage, which can be seen in the following video:




And, just in case you missed 'em:
Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails
Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)



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