Monthly Archives: December 2013

dead horse point mountain bike trails in winter with Elisa Jones

New Years, Part 1: Magic

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
― Roald Dahl

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” 
― J.K. Rowling

Today has been another fun multi-trail experience. I left Grand Junction early this morning, picked up Maria in Fruita, and drove us to Moab. We checked in at Dead Horse Point State Park around 9:30, had a nice chat with the ranger (who, I might add, seemed to suggest we were crazy), and hit the trails.

Aforementioned ranger did warn us about a badger that had been harassing trail users in the area. We didn’t have the opportunity to engage the specimen, which was unfortunate, to be sure.

Riding at DHPSP we had one goal- map all the new trails. Yes, you could say that I was working. How so, you may ask? Well, these trails are mostly in San Juan County, a client of mine that we are building a custom map for. They may also be used in our potential new project that I’m not going to mention as I’m afraid to jinx it. I’m going to take the file I generated using my GPS, upload it to JOSM, edit it and send it to my business partner… So, yes. Getting the files for all of these trails was my job for today.

You ever have a really long day at work, and you get home and you’re like, WOW! That was exceptionally physically demanding! I know when I worked for Summerhays Music Center and I would put in a 10 hour work day… or when I was a teacher and would do the good ‘ol 14er (the days we didn’t even see the sun shine because we’d get to the school in the dark and leave in the dark. Well, not me, because my classroom had windows…but you know what I’m saying)? Yeah, this was more exhausting than that.

You see, the trails we rode today are not inherently challenging: not a lot of technical obstacles, no grinding climbs or tricky DH sections. Nothing that would really get my adrenaline pumping. But the 3 hours on the trail today were some of the most technical, physically demanding, and exhausting hours I’ve experienced on the trail since I rode White Rim in June.

The trails are brand new, so the parts that were snow-free were un-packed sand. The parts that had snow gave us two options: ride the “rails” of someone’s previous track that had been laid down and re-frozen or cut new trail through ice-crystal snow. I’m pretty sure my back tire was sliding off-camber 90% of the time. It required intense concentration and technical prowess to not be subjected to humiliating dismounts.

Maria suffered as well, from all of the same ailments of the terrain as I, but additionally from a sliding seat-post, ice/sand-encrusted SPD pedals and clips, and cardiovascular fitness levels below what she knows she is capable of. She remained consistently positive and was a joy to ride with.

We took something like 1.5 million pictures. Not only because it was so convenient (read: restful) to stop, but also because the trails at times provided us with breathtaking scenery. It was immensely beautiful.

We made relatively good time, averaging about 3 MPH on trails that we would typically float over at 9 or 10 MPH. And the trail where we laid down the first treads in the snow became mentally challenging. When we had tracked most of them and arrived back at the highway, we opted for tarmac back to the visitor’s center. I almost made it there, but had to get one more trail on file. Maria went back to the Jeep, so I went out alone for a final 2+ mile loop. It was exhilarating to push myself, sliding, my breath catching from the adrenaline! I took the most scenic return route that skirts along the top of Shafer Canyon. I fantasized about Jeeping the Shafer trail. I tried not to remember the pain of riding up it after spending 12 hour on the White Rim.

Oh, the slew of memories that can assault you in a place, on a trail! I was taken back to the several New Year’s we’ve spent at DHPSP. Just last year when we went there I was horribly sick with a cold. A few years before that we had Tim in a backpack and Connor in-utero. And years and years ago, before we had children, Dennis and I would escape to this place any time of year, for just a day. Today, I missed my family something fierce.

So that was experience #1. Experience #2 came post-hot-tub-soak-shower-nap-dinner-lots-of-discussion-and-drive-up-into-Arches-National-Park. We were hoping to get into the park and be above the clouds to see the starlight. We were grossly misinformed by our imaginations. Instead, we were met with near complete darkness. A New Moon and dense cloud cover.

Nevertheless, we pulled out the bike lights and headed up Park Avenue from Courthouse Towers. The lights were bright enough we could shine them up on the looming walls. It was creepy. Terrifying. Wonderful.

And then the magic began. A single snowflake crossed the light beam. Then another. A team of them. A family. Tiny balls of snow floating down from heaven. We turned our lights up from whence they came and found each dollop of precipitation brilliantly reflected. We had found the stars!

As the snow picked up, it seemed we were standing in the middle of the Milky Way, only instead of each point of light remaining in the heavens, they fell upon us. A thousand wishes! A million gifts! A magic surrounded us. It was absolutely astounding and unforgettable. The stars falling to the earth at our feet, and melting on our faces.

The magic was short-lived. 5 minutes at most. When it ended, the sensations we had lingered. We sat in silence, meditative. Contemplating the change from the old year to the new.

Maria, looking fresh!
Maria, looking fresh!

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dead horse point mountain bike trails in winter with Elisa Jones


“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” – William Shakespeare

I was falling asleep on my feet. Or at least sitting up. I’ve intentionally been torturing by body with poor nutrition and lack of sleep. It’s time to give it a rest. And yet, I still must function. I still feel buried in work and today I have been tasked with digging myself out. Can’t do that while sleeping.

So I went for a quick run. The sun is brightly shining and the world is at peace. The trails are still snow-packed, but the air warm. How could I resist? I have no self-control.

I was only out 25 minutes, and only averaged a 10 minute mile (that’s not too bad actually for snowy trail running and stopping to take pictures). So there isn’t much to tell.

It was refreshing.

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Elisa Jones windmill tabeguache billings canyon trail winter grand junction colorado jeep

Around the World in 180 Minutes

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods

It’s nice to see that my little experiment on trails has already started rubbing off on my kids.

For example, Timothy says, “I want to go home.” Trinity: “Why? You just want to play the iPad. Being out here (Jeeping) is more healthy AND fun!”

I’ve noted this before I’m sure, but as much as the kids might gripe about being dragged out of the house and onto the trail, once we are out they love it. Today’s trail experience was taking our Jeep down Third Flats road down to where it turns and follows along the river. It then connects to Windmill road, which its self ends in a “T” intersection with the Tabaguache trail. It’s a full, majestic loop. The name, unofficially, is called the Magellan Loop. It’s one of my favorites. And it wasn’t what I had planned for today.

I knew I wanted to head down Third Flats, but only wanted to try the road that connects to the Billings Canyon jeep road. We parked at the bottom of Billings and I took a little exploratory stroll up it while the kids threw rocks over the edge of the canyon below. Throwing rocks was the order of the day, as we stopped again at the river’s edge and cast stones out onto the ice. Most bounced off the surface, some crushed inches into it, and come completed their journey through the ice and to the floor of the river.

Trinity was upset. She wanted to walk out onto the river ice. She was forbidden, and was so disappointed she sat down in the snow, arms folded in protest against parental protection. When we showed her how thin the ice was in parts, she eventually understood. We had to explain that if she fell in, she would probably be dragged under the ice sheet unlikely to be seen again until Spring. I’m sure I could now develop some analogy for life lessons and obedience to parents here, but I won’t. I shall resist!

I was entranced by the ice formations themselves, and slightly terrified when one large (20×6 ft) cast of ice detached its self and floated down the unfrozen river. The breaking was a surprising sound and the magnitude of the consequence was impressive. It blocked the current flow and virtually rerouted it.

Most of the journey was spent musing on the adventure of biking this same route, as it was part of the Grand Junction Off-road 40 Grand route. Dennis had raced the event, I had ridden this section as recon; partly because I’m crazy and partly to add to my knowledge for my role as the event announcer.

It’s interesting the contrast of man-powered vehicle to human-powered vehicle along the same trail. Just as I’ve stated that the same trail is a new experience when ridden in the opposite direction it typically is, traveling the same route under your own power vs. the power of an engine is equally different. The climb up Windmill road in the Jeep is nothing to write home about. But the same experience on the bike will be a discussion point, a valid claim to your physical endurance, for years to come.

Conversely, the descent down Tabegauche from Windmill is contrasted in a different way. You can get down it exponentially faster on a bike. And it is far, far more enjoyable to do so. In the Jeep it’s practically tortuously slow, requiring careful maneuvering and attention to all four wheel placements. On the bike it’s a 2 mile section of joy. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Long ago, when I owned a mountain bike but never rode it, and Dennis was racing, we would be out on a Jeep ride and Dennis would say something like, “I’d rather be riding this road.” I just didn’t ever understand that. Why on earth would you rather be pedaling, your bum being pounded by a hard seat, your legs burning, your heart exploding! But last Spring I discovered myself having the same experience. I can’t remember the road, but I’m pretty sure it was near Moab, and I suddenly found myself thinking, “I would rather be riding my bike.”

As one would suspect, we stopped at Rough Canyon to let the kids out to hike and play. It’s adorable the way they describe this place. Trinity says, “It’s our private play area, where we can be Kings and Queens!” It’s that special for them. Today we did some rock hounding and the kids each found something beautiful to carry back.

All in all, a successful day.

Me and the jeep at the start of Billing's canyon
Me and the jeep at the start of Billing’s canyon
My boys running to their mom
My boys running to their mom
Sometimes he let's the little lady drive.
Sometimes he let’s the little lady drive.
Tim running
Tim running
Maybe the only picture I'm not holding back a yawn (because I had just finished one)
Maybe the only picture I’m not holding back a yawn (because I had just finished one)
Billings connector road, running parallel to Third Flats. Less traffic here, more tree density.
Billings connector road, running parallel to Third Flats. Less traffic here, more tree density.
Required equipment for running Billings. We'd need to do some alterations to prepare either of our Jeeps for it.
Required equipment for running Billings. We’d need to do some alterations to prepare either of our Jeeps for it.
Sometimes I'm a poser.
Sometimes I’m a poser.
Mine boys.
Mine boys.
Tossing stones on ice.
Tossing stones on ice.,