Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

September 26, 2015

Navajo Rocks, Moab Mountain Biking

So many bike trails in Moab, so little time.   Today we were out on Navajo Rocks, on the road up to Canyonlands NP.   Navajo Rocks trail system has 6 trails with about 18 miles of trail.  It's best to do the trail as a figure 8 starting in the middle.  That way the descends are really nice.

The whole figure 8 is a lot to do in one day especially if it's hot.  This time we did the eastern side, consisting of Big Mesa, Big Lonely, and Coney Islands.   Big Mesa is a nice way to start out, with really nice scenery and the huge mesa towering over us.

Our group for the ride consisted of Jim and I, with friends Bill, Marty, Trevor and Frank too!  We were all pretty equal riders so we could stay together and weave through the single track.  There were a few tricky sections on this intermediate trail, but after a do-over or two we could all make it up and over.

Big Lonely is truly lonely, out in the middle of the flat sagebrush, although it does have a couple of the steepest climbs of the whole trail on it.   To finish off the day we bombed down Coney Islands, which (if ridden as a descent) is a really fast cool ride through some pretty interesting rock formations.

September 25, 2015

Mountain Biking around Moab

Our friend Chuck was visiting from Colorado, and with beautiful weather (as usual) in Moab, we had three days in a row of mountain biking with him.  At least in the mornings, until it got too hot to go outside in the afternoon!

We are still exploring the numerous mountain biking trails in Moab, and more are built all the time.  In three days we explored Deadhorse Point State Park, Navajo Rocks, and the Slickrock Trail.

Dead Horse Point State Park is number one for fantastic views.   The mountain bike trails there are built specifically for beginners, so it's a great place to go to get warmed up for the tougher trails around Moab.  Even the Black Trails (Advanced) barely fit that designation, but the views out over the mesa into the Colorado river gorge are amazing.

Navajo Rocks is a new mountain biking trail system with about 18 miles of intermediate (Blue) trails.  I like the intermediate trails because I can ride along without wondering if there will be a huge drop off around the next bend.

Lastly we did the Slickrock trail above Moab.  It was the first trail of its kind here in the area, and is still popular due to the wonderful scenery and challenging course.  At only 10 miles long, it sounds short, but in reality is quite tough.  There are lots of steep downs and almost unclimbable hills.  The slick rock is smooth and forgiving but this trail requires lots of energy for the lung-busting sprints up the hills.

So far we have ridden 8 out of 9 days that we've been in Moab...perhaps our legs are getting a little tired....

September 21, 2015

Morning Glory Arch, Moab

After a few days of mountain biking in Moab, it was time to switch gears and do some hiking.   Neither of us had been up to Morning Glory Arch so it quickly made our short list.   Easy hike, not much elevation gain, and the sixth largest rock span in the world.   Definitely worth seeing.

The hike starts at the mouth of Negro Bill Canyon on the Colorado river.  I know, such a name would never pass as politically correct jargon now.   It's only a little over two miles to the arch, but the trail winds along a clear stream, crossing it often (we kept our feet dry, barely) and under the shadow of some mighty sandstone cliffs.

The arch itself hides until near the end of the hike, as it is up against the hillside (or should I say cliffside).  It's only when we were directly under the arch that the 243 foot span of rock separated itself  from the cliff with a thin strip of sky.   My photos, even the panoramic ones, don't do it justice.

What I didn't love about the hike were the scratchy plants scraping my legs as we pushed through them, and the abundance of poison ivy plants near the water.   We didn't want any surprises from THAT plant, and scrubbed our legs judiciously when we got home.

The hike was partly in shade even at midday, which was nice, and the flowing water kept the canyon cool.   Especially peaceful was the area right under the arch, where the trail ended in a box canyon with cool, shady sand everywhere.  Flowing from a 1 inch crack (?) was the stream, which gushed out from the rock face and flowed away down to the Colorado river.

The only way to capture the span (two photos above) is with a panoramic shot

Morning Glory Arch blends in against the cliff

September 20, 2015

Mountain Bike Instructional Course, Moab

As paraglider pilots, Jim and I would have never thought of unpacking a wing and flying without learning how first from an expert.  So why should mountain biking be any different?

While we all learned to ride bikes as a kid, the technical side of mountain biking requires a little more knowledge than managing a straight line down the driveway.    Although we are capable of riding down trails without any special instruction, we were hoping some professional instruction would make us better riders, which means safer riders.

Now that the Red Bull X-Alps is over, I'm not longer so paranoid about other sports and getting injured.  It's a relief, actually.

So over two mornings on the trails around Moab, we got some help from Sylvi Fae of Moab Mountain Bike Instruction.    We soon realized that there was a lot we didn't know and hadn't thought about, which was actually great!  That meant we could improve rapidly, and I think we did get a lot better even in a couple of hours.

Sylvi taught us a lot about weight shift, using our body to help turn the bikes into tight corners.   Keeping our weight low on the bikes makes it easier to shift weight between the front and rear tires, allowing us to bump up and over bigger rocks than we had believed.  I felt I looked a little funny sticking out my elbows like a chicken wing, but I soon realized that my riding improved with that stance, and I no longer felt so unbalanced going downhill.

By the middle of the first morning, I was bunny hopping over some small rocks, which made me very happy.   Even with flat pedals, I now knew how to lift the front tire, then the rear tire.  Putting those moves together will take more practice but it's only a matter of time.

Of course, mostly what we learned is that we have a long ways to go, which is the fun part.  Practicing around Moab

Taped to my handlebars now will be the words "Look UP" "Elbows Out" and "Stay Loose".

September 19, 2015

Night Biking the Wasatch Crest Trail

"We really recommend that you ride the trail in daylight first" say the nice folks at Salt Cycles of Utah.    Salt Cycles Bike Shop sponsors a night ride every other Wednesday night all summer long, and this was one of my last chances to go with them.  I couldn't resist, and signed up even though I had never been on the trail before.   After sorting out a bunch of headlamps and adding enough wattage to light up the trail like daylight, I was ready to go.

The Wasatch Crest Trail is a mountain bike trail that starts near Guardsman Pass above Big Cottonwood Canyon near our house.   According to reviews, it is one of the best mountain biking trails in the country, and coming close to 10,000 feet in elevation, we had better do it soon before the snow closed it for the season.  

It was already quite dark by the time the shuttle arrived at the pass.    Headlamps powered on around me, and set off down the trail.   I usually say that I'm a better rider at night.  The tunnel vision formed by my lights helps me to ignore the scenery around me (it's pretty much invisible) and focus on the trail ahead of me.   Riding with lights also make the trail look flatter, if that's possible, which means I ride over things that might scare me into walking during daylight.  When the lights ahead of me continue moving, I figure there's no reason I can't ride this section also.

Amy of Salt Cycles took the time at each rest stop to explain the trail sections coming up.  Aside from Puke hill, which I mostly walked, it was a very rideable trail.   At one intersection I had fallen a bit behind those in front of me, and wasn't sure which way to go.  So I stopped and turned my lights off, and enjoyed a few minutes of deep, dark silence in a very black forest.   Until I started thinking about moose, mountain lions, and bigfoot.  My light came back on quickly.

The last 7 miles of the 23 mile trail were on pavement down Mill Creek.   It was the perfect finish to the trail, with fast descents but very smooth curves.

Just a few days later, Jim and I did the trail in daylight, and I finally got to see the amazing scenery.   The Aspen trees were just starting to turn yellow, so it was a perfect day to see the trail in all it's glory.

Puke hill, which is the biggest climb on the trail, ascends steeply at over 9000 feet.  It didn't seem as bad in daylight until the elevation caused my heart rate to skyrocket.  I made it to the last 100 feet but couldn't continue.

Jim got a flat tire somewhere in the middle of the ride, and by the time we had fixed it, I was covered in trail dust and looked like I had rolled in the dirt.  Somewhere between the first and second flat tires, I missed a trail junction and we descended to Dog Lake, requiring that we climb up a little bit to get back into the right canyon.  Oops.  While pushing our bikes up the trail, I suddenly saw a big moose not 20 feet from me.  "Jim!" I said in a quiet but somewhat freaked out voice.  When he looked up and saw it, he had us back up quietly behind a couple of trees and wait him out.  The moose had big antlers and was definitely nothing to mess with.  After a few minutes, he moved off across the trail following a couple of cows up into the forest.   We walked by quietly and then pedaled like mad away from them.

Except for the unexpected ascent, the new trail was also quite nice, proving that accidental exploring can be worthwhile.  Once on the pavement in Mill Creek, we noticed that it seemed very deserted for a Saturday afternoon.   Very deserted, as in not one car in the parking lot or on the roads.  In fact, the whole canyon was closed for a forest fire, which thankfully the firefighters had seemed to already put out.  The only vehicles in the whole canyon were fire trucks and police cars.   So we had a pretty amazing descent all to ourselves and luckily saw no evidence of smoke or fire.