Friday, March 30, 2012

Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)

On our second day in Moab we awoke to partly cloudy skies and cold temps, somewhere in the high 20's to low 30's. Although we were all eager to ride, it was hard to get motivated because of the frigid air. We basically hung-out bundled up in our big puffy jackets waiting for the first rays of light to shine down from the cliff walls above our camp. Being one of the impatient ones, I hiked across the road to where some sun shone down to ground level, so I could warm up like a lizard on the rocks. Once I had absorbed enough energy I returned to camp to cook breakfast and pack up my gear for our day of riding.

Cool morning temps

Sitting in the sun, waiting for the sun to land on our campsite

Tait gets in some pre-ride maintenance

The adventure for the day would be on a trail called "Baby Steps", a newly laid piece of singletrack in the Klondike Bluffs riding area. From camp it took us about 1/2 an hour to reach the trailhead at the base of the bluffs. As we geared up we all looked up at the sky hoping that the clouds in the distance wouldn't give us a wallop like it had the previous day while riding the Moab Brand Trails. Since it was sunny and relatively pleasant, I dressed fairly light but made sure to pack extra clothes just in case things got nasty. Before long we were off on the trail, which was actually a pretty sandy jeep road for the first 3/4 of a mile. When we reached the actual start of Baby Steps I realized that I had forgotten my Camelback back at the car -- I couldn't tell it wasn't on because of all the camera gear I was carrying! After admitting my flub and apologizing for holding the group up, I hightailed it back to the car to gather my much needed accessory.

Figuring out where the hell we're going

The trail map for our ride, which can be found here
(along with other Moab trail maps)

A 1/4 mile out the gate, let the derobing begin.

Randy likes sand...

The first half of the ride would have us climbing up the bluffs with an occasional short descent. The trail was super fun, with a good mix of slickrock and technical rock jumbles. The scenery was equally spectacular, with contrasting colors of gray rocks, red dirt, and blue skies littered with puffy white clouds. The group was riding strong, with me pretty much near the back of the pack; both my lungs and legs were feeling the high altitude climbing. Since I was really trying to photo document our trip, I spent most of my time jumping out ahead while the crew regrouped. After setting up for photos at a technical feature and/or good view, I would snap off photos as everyone passed by, and then load up my gear, followed by playing catch up. As terrible as this sounds, I actually enjoy it since it allows me to combine two of my hobbies.

The crew starts off on Baby Steps

Mountain peloton

Sandra splits some rocks on the way up Baby Steps

The red dirt contrasted nicely against the blue skies

The crew rides under another cool rock formation

My view approaching the same rock

A typical view of the Klondike Bluffs landscape

EGP enjoys the weather, while it lasts

Kim & Randy continue up Baby Steps

Arthur, all smiles as we approach the intersection
with the Klondike Bluffs jeep road

Soon we reached an intersection where the Klondike Bluffs Trail dove off to the right; although we wouldn't be headed that way we took a minute to eat and relax before continuing up Baby Steps. Looking at the clouds building up in the western sky indicated that it was only a matter of time before we got hit with some weather. Fortunately it didn't appear to be of the same magnitude of the prior day.

Checking out one of the many well-placed trail maps along the
route. It would actually be pretty hard to get lost around here.

The gals get in a snack before marching on

The next part of the trail continued its way up the hill with one pretty steep pitch that got the best of me when I couldn't quite get my front tire over a rock or my foot out of the pedals...resulting in a nice little spill. After brushing off the dust, I continued up to where the others were awaiting my arrival. Just on the other side of the pass was a steep descent with some tricky rock maneuvers to spice things up a bit.

Tait enjoys one of the more
sustained climbs on the ride.

The rest of the crew making the climb

Arthur leads the descent down the other side...

...with Coonabomber closely behind

At the base of the descent, the trail tee'd into a dirt road that traversed northwest for a little over a mile before starting to climb back up the bluff from the backside. During this traverse the weather decided to turn to snow flurries, but nothing a light jacket couldn't fend off. The climb ended up being pretty steep but also pretty short and soon it ran straight into a trail known as "Little Salty", which we passed up for more ups and downs along the top of the bluffs.

Sweet, another squall!

And another short climb

After another mile or so of jeep trail we reached our first big descent of the ride, down Baby Steps North. This section ended ranking pretty high on the fun-o-meter with singletrack that made its way over and around rock features as it descended down the bluff. As I balanced on the pedals using mainly my quad muscles, the burn really started kickin' in, forcing me to switch between a seated and locked knee position, certainly not optimal form for a trail like this. By the time we regrouped at the intersection with "EKG" I was pretty spent from the day's ride. The rest of the crew were discussing whether or not to extend the ride climbing up "Mega Steps" (for another ride down Baby Steps) or simply head back to the car. My vote was the latter, and I ended up being the sole vote for that option. With that I bid a good ride to the crew and headed back toward the parking lot via the "Dino-Flow" Trail.

The real fun begins, down Baby Steps

Randy and Tait, somewhere along the Baby Steps descent

Tait gives chase on Baby Steps

Sandra, forgetting all about the 10
minute snowstorm that just passed

Sandra finds more sweet terrain on Baby Steps

Kim, enjoying the ride!

Sayin' goodbye to the the crew, before
starting my solo journey back to the car

Dino-Flow ended up being the nail in the coffin, as I pretty much bonked, even with the assistance of an energy gel shot. The trail was a mix of light technical moves, short up & downs, and soft dirt/sand (which is what really took its toll). During the ~4 miles of this southeast traverse back to the car I found myself stopping about every half mile just to catch my breath, which validated my decision to cut the ride short.

Since I had planned to get in a hike at Arches National Park, I loaded my gear and headed back to camp before the others had finished their ride. While driving back I passed the entrance to Arches which was now under a huge cloud that was dumping sleet. I was actually a bit relieved as it would give me an excuse to stay in camp and rest my worn body parts. By the time the others returned from their ride I had already melted into my reclining camp chair with a beer and some reading material. Apparently almost everyone else had gotten sufficiently wrecked by the additional riding, so I wasn't alone in my suffering. That night we sat around the fire to gossip and stay warm, luckily we didn't get snowed on like we had the previous night...

Huddling up to discuss the day's ride

The end to another great day in Moab!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails

The trail map, found here

Since Moab really needs no introduction to the mountain biking community, I'll get straight to the story. It had been three years since we had made our first journey to this mountain bike mecca in the desert, and when that trip was over we all agreed that we wanted to return. Fast forward to spring break 2012, and our crew had plans to do just that. From Corvallis we would have Sandra & Tait, and from Eugene we would have Kim & Randy, Roland, Davey, as well as Emily and myself. Furthermore we would be meeting up with some old friends who are ex-Oregonians in Salt Lake City, Arthur & Emily, who we were all looking forward to seeing again. Since it's ~20hrs one way, we planned to stay for an entire work week, as well as the two adjoining weekends. Just as with three years ago, the weather forecast looked somewhat spotty, which can only be expected for this time of the year. Not to be deterred, we stayed the course, and headed south on a Saturday morning.

Since there was really no need for us to caravan, each couple took separate vehicles leaving at different times. We would meet up and stay the first night at Arthur & Emily's house, before departing the next morning and finishing up the final 4-hour push to Moab. The drive from Eugene was long indeed, with some very interesting weather to spice it up a bit. Near Twin Falls, ID we ran into a pretty heavy storm of sleet and snow -- for some reason this is not how I had pictured spring break! Luckily the squall didn't last for too long, but even so, by the time we reached Salt Lake City, Emily was ready to be done driving. When we finally got to our crash pad for the evening, everyone else was pretty much ready to hit the hay, and I really couldn't blame them, since it was pushing midnight.

Gettin' gas in Nowheresville, Oregon...
or are we in Idaho at this point?!?

Isn't there a cartoon out there starring this thing?

Spring break, here we come!

The next morning we all awoke feeling rejuvenated and ready to hit the road. Arthur played cook and made a mean batch of pancakes while the rest of us filled our faces. After everyone was well nourished we hit the road. Once again we hit some snow on the drive, this time going through the pass between Salt Lake and Price. Although the snow was heavy, it was also a bit wet and wasn't sticking to the roads, which was good since we were in the Corolla with no supplemental traction devices. With a quick stop in Price for lunch at Subway, we motored on, reaching Moab around 3pm. The group decision was to find a campsite, setup camp, and then head-out for a quick ride (hoping the weather would hold out).

Basecamp on our first leg of the journey

Sweet, more nice weather!

Getting closer...


Randy waits for a decision on whether to ride or setup camp first

After scouting a couple of campground options we finally decided on Granstaff, at the bottom trailhead of Porcupine Rim. The site we put our flag in was nice and big, perfect for our equally large group. Setting up the sleeping quarters went fairly quick and soon we were back on the road, headed to the newly developed singletrack trail system, the Moab Brand Trails.

Okay, this will work!

By the time we reached the trailhead for the Brand Trails the weather had gone from fairly pleasant to basically a snowstorm -- Ah, life in the desert. Hoping that the storm was more of a squall, we piled on our winter gear and headed down the trail. As we hung a left on "North Forty" the sleet and wind really kicked into high gear, and we also appeared to be pedaling into the belly of the beast as the sky in front of us was pitch black. After about a mile Kim, Randy, and I had had enough and turned back while the rest of the crew powered on. The ride back to the car was just as miserable, with the cold wind blowing so hard it was giving me an earache as well as making it hard to stay on the trail. Back at the parking lot I quickly loaded my bike on the car and jumped in for shelter while I waited for the crew to finish their mission. Before long the storm subsided and the sun came out. Just as I was starting to get a little FOMO, Emily pulled up and said that they had just finished North Forty and were planning to do another loop. With that I quickly grabbed my bike off the top of the car and headed back to the trailhead with Em.

Setting off into the unknown at the Moab Brand Trails

A quick climb right off the bat

Hmmm, that looks like more than a squall...

"Okay, you guys have fun, I'm headed back to the car now."

For this loop we turned right onto "Lazy" where we rolled along some super fun and mildly technical singletrack. It took a bit to warm up the legs and get into a flow, and even once I had, I still couldn't quite keep up with the crew, which is understandable since I hadn't been on my bike in over four months. Luckily the crew was good about waiting up and also allowed me to jump ahead to take photos. Since we were burning daylight we finished our loop using "EZ", which had a very similar character, but riding along the base of the bluff as opposed to on top.

Shall we try this again?

The gals starting another short climbing session

A typical view on the Brand Trails

Taking it "EZ" back to the car

Sandra enjoys a bit of sun on EZ

Yay, clear skies ahead!

Reaching the car again, we packed up the gear and bikes for the evening and headed back to camp for some grub and relaxation. Kim and Randy cooked up a delicious gypsy stew and then we all sat around the fire discussing what we had just ridden as well as what we planned to get on in the following days. At one point in the evening we got sleeted on again, which had the consistency of Styrofoam and about the size of BBs. Before long we had about a half inch covering the ground, which allowed for a very pathetic snowball fight – it was actually quite entertaining. One by one we tired out and retired to our respective sleeping quarters.

Another squall on the road back to camp

The clouds seem to move pretty quick in the desert

The calm before the storm

The buildup to the snowball fight

About 20 minutes after the snowstorm

The last day of the trip, we actually went back to the Brand Trails to get in some more miles before we headed back north. This time we rode EZ over to "Deadman's Ridge", which supposedly serves up the best techie stuff of the whole trail network. We were not disappointed and found ourselves riding some incredibly fun ups & downs with lots of rock gardens and slickrock. About halfway through Deadman's we did a quick detour on "Bar B", which started out as doubletrack, taking up about half the trail's length. The singletrack on Bar B seemed just as good/difficult as Deadman's, which we hooked into once again after finishing up Bar B. The second half of Deadman's continued its technical nature all the way to the paved bike path at which it ended. The bike path made for a great cool-down spin all the way back to the car.

Emily gets in some climbing somewhere on Deadman's Ridge

Apparently people get hurt riding in Moab

A typical scene at the Brand Trails parking lot

In summary, I would have to say that the Brand Trails proved to be a great system of intermediate trails (depending on where you're from), and a perfect warm-up for the harder stuff in Moab. They are also relatively new and a welcome addition to the growing number of singletrack trails in Moab, not really what area was known for in the past -- they really complement the classic jeep road trails (e.g. Porcupine Rim, Amasa Back, etc.) and make for a more complete package.

To be continued (it only gets better from here)...

Some head-cam footage of our ride at the Moab Brand Trails: