“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu
So I had ridden Robertson’s before- a couple years ago when I raced in Monticello. I have a pretty darn good memory for trails, distances, features, etc… but, hey, it had been awhile.
I knew the 15 or so miles would take us a little bit longer than I had planned. I was thinking 2 hours. But I hadn’t done Spring Creek- the trail we were going to climb up and connect to Robertson’s. We parked at our end-point, and rode a stretch of pavement to a Jeep road. The Jeep road climbed us up. And up. And up and up and up and up!
Did I mention we were on singlespeeds? Oh, and at a starting elevation of 8k+? Right away we were both suffering. There was too little oxygen in the area, and too few gears on our bikes. We could pedal for a bit, then hike. Then pedal. Then hike. Hike a little more. Bike 50 yards. Hike. Hike. Hike. Hike. Hike. Hike. Hike.
The trail was not at all what I expected. The Jeep approach road was steep and way way longer. The singletrack was excellent. For awhile. It, too, got quite steep. And rocky. If I had been on my full-suspension geared bike, it would have been a whole other experience.
By the time we got to Robertson’s we had been out for a couple of hours. We were about 1/2 way. Choices were limited, though, and we talked about abandoning. But we- Matt and I- are adventurers! We pressed on!
Up, over the saddle, where we could look down onto the Needles District of Canyonlands. Down, down, through the pines, the scent of them filling me with inexpressible glee. Every now and then I would wait for Matt to catch up. He was pretty done with the ride early on, but he stayed with me.
I was happy and cheerful nearly the entire ride. I was even starting to think that I might do the Abajo Enduro. But about 3.45 hours into the ride we hit the last few climbs. Climb. Climb. Climb.
By the last 1/4 mile we both were done and hot and sunburned and exhausted. I was anxious about the kiddos, hanging out at Grandpa’s house, wanting to go swimming. I just wanted an icy cold beverage and a lay down.
We finished the ride quoting lyrics from “Hasa Diga Ebowai“. It was excellent. Matt is so much fun to be with. I couldn’t imagine a better companion for every type of journey.
I was so very long-winded with the post yesterday I figured I’d make today’s a little lighter reading.
Dennis got to try out Andy’s fat bike this morning. We drove up the Blue Mountain to just past Dalton Springs, where they stop plowing the road. Andy and I follow up the snow-packed road as Dennis pedalled away.
From up on the mountain we could look down the road and see only the mountain peaks. They looked like islands peaking out over the ocean of clouds. It was at least 10 degrees warmer in the sunshine. Dennis rode in just a t-shirt. In the town of Monticello the trees were frosted and the world was ice. The alteration in so little time and elevation was dramatic.
I love living in the Grand Valley.
And there is something about trails. I know this sounds a bit simple-minded, but here’s the scoop: They tend to take you OUTSIDE. I realized today that if I remain committed to this blog concept I’m going to have to get outside every day. And not just from my house to my car to the store to my car to the house to the school to the house to the car to the school to the car to the house….repeat indefinitely…. But OUT into a bit of wilderness, a bit of nature. A bit of fresh air, filled with the smells, sights, sounds- provoking every sense.
I love my life on the trails.
Okay- I told you it would be short and sweet. Here’s a couple of pictures.
a. An undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous nature.
b. An undertaking of a questionable nature
2. An unusual or exciting experience
3. Participation in hazardous or exciting experiences: the love of adventure.
4. A financial speculation or business venture.
I have several points to make with this post. It is quite lengthy, so get a cup of something warm, put on your Smartwool socks, wrap up in your Snuggy and read on. I think to keep my thoughts organized we’ll do one of my favorite things: make a list!
1. There were really two- or three depending on how you look at it-, trail experiences today. You see, one of my jobs is working for Orbital View, Inc. and one of our clients right now is Blanding, UT. A few weeks ago they sent me over this hand-drawn map of trails. Before going out on the bike I decided to scout out the trails by Jeep and see where/if the bike would do better.
So- trail experience #1 was some Jeeping. This took us to several double-track trails, where, sure enough, there was potential for bike fun. The Jeep also took us to a hike trail to Five Kiva Pueblo. We went ahead and took it at a run (well for Trinity and I it was a run. it was more of a stroll for Dennis). The hiking around counts as number two.
Due to the potential bike fun, I opted to return to the Westwater area with my bike. That’s number three. Woo-hoo, right?
2. All of the experiences I had today just got me outrageously excited to go back and spend more time. Well….most did anyway. I want to hike my kids to the ruins. I want to Jeep around some more. I would LOVE to rent an ATV to take out- the whole area is a play zone.
3. Too many cyclists I know are singletrack snobs. Yeah. You heard me. You know who you are. You think a trail can’t be fun unless it’s singletrack. You’re like “Oh, that trail can’t be fun because it’s DOUBLEtrack.” Or “Oh no. That’s just a dirt road. A JEEP road. I can’t have fun on a bike riding THAT.” And then you swing your hair back and bat your eyelids and take a sip of your fru-fru mix drink out of your custom-printed Camelback bottle.
You see, some of the most fun I’ve had on a bike have been on Jeep tracks or doubletrack. Think of some of the most popular trails you’ve ridden or heard of other people riding: Amasa Back (guess what? It’s call Cliffhanger to the Jeep crowd); Poison Spider (also a Jeep trail- and you must be INSANE to want to ride it on a bike- I have. It sucks); Slickrock (guess what. It’s practically the same track we Jeepers call Hell’s Revenge). And the bike leg of the Xterra Triathlon, known for being the most challenging bike leg of the series, is on the Steel Bender. The 24 Hours of Moab course: Behind the Rocks. The entire approach to Butterknife.Mary’s loop (most of it). Kokopelli, Tabaguache…
Okay, you get the idea. ATV tracks are FANTASTIC for biking on. Some of the most fun trails are motorized (like our very own Sarlacc trail in the Grand Valley). The doubletrack trails give you line options- you can make it easier or more challenging. You can ride NEXT TO a friend, which is better for conversation; and for me that’s the one of two reasons I ride with a friend (you’ll learn the second in a bit. Assuming you keep reading). They are usually well-packed and perfectly burmed. And they can be every bit as challenging as singletrack. Sometimes even more so because you’ll find a wider variety of trail conditions.
So I say: Down with your singletrack snobbery! Open your mind to the possibilities of doubletrack and multi-use trails! Don’t sneer at the ATV trails- they are play areas! Get out on em and play!
Okay. I’m a pretty confident rider. I had already scoped out the trails, I knew the lay of the land. I have done this before. But I would have given my left testicle for an Avenza map of the area I was riding today. I got lost no fewer than 7 times. The trail would take me out on the slickrock canyon edge (which, trail-wise was super cool. Reminded me of Klondike Bluffs trails but with more variety), and the trail would become utterly lost. I’d pedal around to change my viewpoint until I could determine which direction the trail most likely went. Fortunately, I was usually right.
But what if I had been wrong? I was using a hand-drawn map, with no scale, no landmarks other than a handful of other trails in the area (many of which simple came to dead ends- many trails I saw were not on the map). I was riding some very challenging obstacles on the edge of a cliff. What if I had made a mistake, gotten super lost, gone over the edge? How long would San Juan County SAR have taken to find me? How many hours could I have ridden in circles crushing cryptobiotic soil under my weary tires?
The point here is this: I will no longer feel bad about charging obscene amounts of money for trail maps. Whatever the cost, it is worth it. To give people the confidence to ride a new trail- to come to the area and be unafraid to experience it! WORTH IT. Going to keep this in mind when I meet with the Director of Recreation for the State of Utah this week. Accurate, complete trail maps are worth whatever expense! Hooray for the communities in San Juan County for understanding the importance and being willing to invest in them.
5. To all my ATV friends out there: stay on the trail! My gods, people! No wonder you feel picked on when people fight to shut down your trails- it’s because you don’t use them anyway! Okay, I realize this is an exaggeration and not every ATV rider is like this, but even had I tried I could not count how many times I saw ATV tracks just taking little side-trips, going around a single tree, crushing the foliage, altering the landscape. Single ATVs just going wherever they pleased.
If you know me- and if you’ve read a few of these you’ve probably at least figured this out- I’m a advocate for trail use! I started this BLOG about trails. I’m chairman of the board of a trail organization. I map trails. I experience trails on several levels, daily. But it’s by not honoring the code of the trails, “Do No Harm”, (….oh wait. Maybe that’s the medical practitioner’s code….But same thing!), that people can justify shutting us down. Why, why why would you do that!?
Okay. I hope that little bit wasn’t too offensive. But seriously, peeps. The trails are awesome enough without ruining them by going off of them or altering them in adverse ways. Stay the course. Preserve the trails.
6. None of the trails I rode today had names. Some had signs. They all had the same sign. Trail 1. No joke. Every trail was: Trail 1.
You’ve made it this far, you may as well finish the post:
7. I was lonely. This is a rare occurrence for me. I’m very comfortable with my person, and with experiencing trails with no one but my own mind for company. I would say the majority of the time, I prefer it.
But, when I was out there today- lost, cold, alone- all I really wanted was a friend. Not just someone to call SAR if I went over the cliff or snapped my right femur, but someone to BS with, talk books with, sing to, share trail mix with, and compare opinions on the map/trail/route with.
8. I really need to start packing a change of clothing for post-ride. I got so sweaty and when I stopped riding the sweat turned to ice. My poor Grassroots Cycles tank could have been rung out when I was done. I ended up stripping down for the drive home just to warm up. Note to self: change of clothes.
Okay. Thanks for reading. Twas a great, fantastic, and enlightening day on the trails. Thanks for sharing it with me.