Monday, April 9, 2012

Moab Part 5 - Porcupine Rim

The map of the whole Enchilada. We actually started at the
trailhead about 1 mile from the bottom of UPS. This map,
along with maps for other rides in the area can be found here.

What can you say about the Porcupine Rim Trail that hasn't already been said? It's one of the most classic trails in Moab, if not the world. Although it's been around for years and many new trails have been constructed in the area, it still remains one of the best, which I was reminded of once again on this, our last full day of riding.

The day started off with some of the warmest morning temps of the trip, and since our shuttle driver wasn't scheduled to pick us up until 11am, we had some time to relax and get all of our gear ready for the ride. Kim and Randy were headed to Fruita for the day, since neither of them had ridden there before and they didn't want to miss the opportunity. Arthur and I spent a bit of time filling them in on a possible ride (in the Mary's Loop area), before they packed up and headed on their way. About five minutes before 11, we grabbed our stuff and made the short walk to the Porcupine Rim parking area, where our driver was planning to pick us up -- I gotta say, camping at the bottom of the trail certainly has its benefits!

Davey and Roland wait for our shuttle

Running about 15 minutes late, our shuttle van rolled into the parking lot, and after a quick greeting session, we loaded up and headed out. The driver was super friendly and talkative, discussing the local scene and his desire to live in Costa Rica with his motorcycle. Passing through the pay station and past the Slickrock riding area, we continued up the mountain toward our trailhead. What we did not know at this point was how far up we would be able to start the ride, based on snow levels. We were fairly certain that we would be able to start at the LPS section, but were hoping we could jump on a bit higher. When we reached the trailhead for LPS it looked fairly clear so we continued another mile or so until the shuttle driver said it probably wouldn't be worth (or wise) going any higher. He also said that we were right next to another trailhead, which would add a mile of Upper Porcupine Singletrack (UPS).

Load 'em up!

The drive up. Notice our tip for the driver,
which is sticking out of the center console...

After unloading our bikes and bidding our driver farewell, we headed down a short bit of road to the trail intersection. The trail started off pretty much as I had remembered it, riding along the edge of Porcupine Rim with spectacular views of both Castle Valley and the La Sal mountains. I would glance over my right shoulder from time to time to catch a glimpse, which caused me to partially ride off the trail a few times. The trail is fairly technical so it's probably best to pull over before taking in the views. Luckily the group, who were mostly in front of me at this point, had decided to stop at an obvious overlook. From this viewpoint we shed some layers and ate some energy food before tearing down the trail once again.

Snow at the start of the ride

Davey rounds the corner at one of the many overlooks to Castle Valley

Arthur fuels up near the start of the ride

The Porcupine Rim

Emily, somewhere on LPS with the
La Sal range in the background

Sandra drops down a fun rock pitch early on

We soon reached a section of the trail that dropped down toward the right and around a couple steep switchbacks. There was quite a bit of snow and ice here, which required us to hike our bikes down with some fancy footwork and teamwork. Even without snow, I'm not sure how possible it would be to ride all of the switchies. After this hike-a-bike section, the trail kept its technical nature along the rim of the canyon.

Teamwork at the hike-a-bike section

Arthur leads the crew down another set of rock stairs

Tait goes for the right line

Emily skirts the rim

More great views that were hard not to look at while you're riding!

The next point the group met up was at a short stepped drop with a couple of line options. The others were already out taking a look when I rolled up. I approached the lip and asked where the best line was -- for which I heard both "left" and "right" from different people. As I tried to inch forward and trackstanded to get a peek, I lost my balance and fell into Roland. Well -- at least I could take a look now... Sure enough there was both a left and right line. The left took the whole drop in one step, with the right dropping over two, with a turn halfway down. I thought the right looked more interesting, so ended up running that side. All went great for me and everyone else, using both options.

Arthur takes the left line...

...Tait goes for the right

Sandra with a nice line down the right

Before long, we reached the intersection with the Porcupine Rim (jeep) Trail, which we would ride for about 6 or 7 miles and would account for a majority of the ride. Although it was jeep road, as opposed to singletrack, it was of super high quality, and in my opinion just as good as anything else on the ride. It contains a bit of everything, from some sustained climbing, to jackhammer descents, to short/technical rock pitches (both up and down) -- this trail throws everything at ya! Once again I did my best to jump out in front of the group to take some shots, but I was far less motivated than during our previous days of riding. Basically I was having way too much fun dropping down sandstone stairs and/or riding in Blue Angel formation with the rest of the crew. Some parts stuck out more than others, but it's pretty much nonstop through its entirety. By the time we reached the part of the trail that transitions back into singletrack my whole upper body was pretty fatigued from all the bone jarring sections of trail.

Arthur treads through one of the tougher
rock steps section of the jeep trail

The author takes his turn
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Game on! Roland, Tait, and Davey play Blue Angels.

The chase continues

Sandra dropping down in good form

Emily and Sandra head down to find some more fun drops

Emily climbs a short pitch near the end of the jeep road section

From here to camp was a technical ribbon of singletrack that rides along the edge of Jackass Canyon, with some severe exposure in some spots. I pretty much walked any technical bits where the price of failure was a freefall to the bottom of the canyon. The second half of this singletrack section has some of the best technical riding of the entire trail. Apparently I had caught a second wind, riding some of the more difficult ones with fairly good lines. After crossing over a small ravine, which required some hike-a-bike, the trail wrapped around a bend, paralleled Hwy 128, and opened up, allowing for a nice speedy descent all the way into camp. I was a bit tired, but was having such a good time I was a little bummed it was all over. On the bright side, pulling into camp and not having to run shuttle was well worth the $20 a person.

Emily skirts Jackass Canyon on the way back to camp

More fun features on the final section of singletrack.
You wouldn't want to come off your bike here...

The only problem with camp was that there was no shade with lots of daylight left. With that, the crew broke up into smaller groups and either ran errands or went sightseeing. Emily and I chose the latter and decided to head back to Arches National Park to check out Landscape Arch. The drive to the trailhead for the start of the hike was fairly long, being all the way at the far end of the park. At the trailhead, we found a wide gravel path that was obviously designed to accommodate the various sizes and shapes of visitors that come to take a look at the amazing rock formations. When we finally reached Landscape Arch, we were not disappointed. Basically it's so thin at the midpoint, it seems only a matter of time before it actually fractures. The sun was just dropping down over the horizon which made for a few nice photos where it was partially blocked by the arch. Once we had gotten our fill, we headed back to the car and started our drive back to camp.

Another arch on our way to Landscape

Our first view of Landscape Arch

Getting a closer look

A cool rock formation on the hike out

Sitting around the fire that evening led to a mixture of feelings; the riding over the past week was unbelievable, but this was also our last night of the trip. We reminisced a bit, ate dinner, and one by one went off to bed. The next morning we ate a quick breakfast, packed up camp, and headed toward the Moab Brand Trails (report here) for one last ride before calling it good. For the drive home we stopped and had dinner with Arthur and Emily at the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City. If you've never been, it's a must stop, and make sure to get one of their famous mole (mo-lay) dishes. Wanting to make some more progress, we continued north and ended up staying in a hotel in Boise. The next day we finished the remaining drive to Eugene, where we were greeted by our two over-excited dogs. It was good to be home, but I was already missing our adventure -- oh well, I guess it's good to leave while still wanting more. Until next time...

The sun drop toward the horizon on our last full day in camp

The group has one last session around the fire

I'm gonna miss this place we called home for a week...

The video footage from our ride:

And, just in case you missed 'em:
Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails
Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)
Moab Part 3 - The Magnificent Seven
Moab Part 4 - Amasa Back

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