Moab Classics

Posted by on March 31, 2011 at 9:15 pm :: 3 Comments

Jason and I just went down to Moab…again. Nope, we never get tired of that awesome place.

On this trip we wanted to experience some Moab classics. We hiked to Corona and Bowtie Arches and climbed up Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Bridge. (That’s the canyon’s official name. All you political correctness enforcers need to just close your gaping mouths and deal with it. Everyone, including African-Americans, wants this name left as is because of the historical significance of this Bill fellow so just chill.) We also biked up to the Gemini Bridges and through a large portion of the Moab Brand trail system. We had a great time, though the weather was as moody as a teenage girl and ranged from perfectly sunny 70s to a windy downpour.

Corona Arch is graceful and stunning...and windy.

Jason took this great picture of a hardy desert bloomer while we were hiking to Corona Arch. I love it!

The hike to Corona and Bowtie Arches was delightful and scenic. This short jaunt is very family friendly. Parts of it go up a short cliff face, which you scale with the help of a cable and a little ladder. While the ladder is pretty much unnecessary, I skipped it and just trekked over the adjacent rock, I think kids would love the adventurous nature of this climb. Also, the trail is only 3 miles long roundtrip so you probably won’t have to listen to fatigue-induced incessant whining from your young’ins while traversing it.

Morning Glory Bridge didn't look too impressive until you got right under it. Then you really grasped its bulk.

Negro Bill Canyon was not nearly as scenic as the arches’ hike; the best thing it had going for it was a lovely stream that crisscrossed the trail multiple times. In addition to not being as pretty, it was also way too crowded for my taste. When I go out in nature I like to enjoy nature…not dozens of people meandering around. Thank goodness for laziness! The higher we got in the canyon the less we saw other humans. We got to enjoy the Morning Glory Bridge, the sixth longest natural bridge in the United States, in seclusion. This bridge is situated on one side of a sheltering cove formed by a semicircle of rock walls. With a bubbling spring slipping out of a crack in the stone filling this recess with its echoes, it was serene setting for a snack break and I’m glad we had it all to ourselves. As we were descending the canyon a storm was quickly moving in overhead. The wind gained angry momentum and we knew that we weren’t likely to make it back to our car without getting wet but the storm’s imminence did have the beneficial side effect of scaring off other climbers. We saw next to no one the whole way down.

Beneath this overhang Jason and I watched the sky burst. I can't imagine a lovelier spot to witness a storm.

My feet were more than a little on the red side when I got out of the creek but I was grinning from ear to ear.

Since it wasn’t exactly a warm day, Jason and I had crossed the canyon’s creek over and over on rocks and had not so much as dipped our toes in. Apparently, a chance to wade into this stream is the major incentive for throngs of people to ascend this canyon in the summer and, although there was absolutely no sweltering going on that day as the harsh wind rampaged up the ravine, I was determined not to return to the car without letting my feet go for a swim. Although Jason thought my plans for submergence bordered on lunacy, he agreed to stop with me at a pretty spot where the stream cascaded over a small waterfall so I could dabble in the water. The instant Jason and I sat down under a mass of rock adjacent to the creek, which had been carved into a C shape by many years of flowing water, the sky let loose but this sudden shower didn’t deviate me from my plan. I replaced my hiking shoes with sandals and let the rain trickle over me as I wandered through the brook’s clear cold waters and then sat with Jason under the overhanging boulder when the downpour became torrential. It was absolutely sublime, and one of my very favorite Moab moments, sitting beneath that protective precipice watching the rain shoot over the rocks above us and the pristine stream turn into a chaotic puddle as the ripples from endless raindrops battled for a piece of its surface. The smell of rain mingling with the scent of desert plants was intoxicating and unlike any odor I have encountered before. Wow! After about 15 minutes the cloudburst stopped and we were able to continue our hike while still enjoying the fragrance of a thirsty land awakened by the touch of moisture. The deluge began again when we were just about a minute or two from our car; we were awfully lucky.

The view from the top of that extremely long hill we climbed was pretty great but I don't know if it was worth all that work.

Coming back on the Gemini Bridges road I hit a patch of sand that was unexpectedly deep. It made my bike slide sideways in a straight path to some bedrock. I narrowly missed smashing my head into that stone by making a hasty exodus from my seat. I thought this jump was extremely ungraceful but Jason said the quickness of my reaction was a thing of beauty. I managed to come away from the incidence with just a few scrapes and a slightly twisted ankle.

We have considered biking the path to Gemini Bridges for many years. This Moab classic follows a jeep road back to this famous landmark and is extremely popular with ATVs, 4x4s, and bikers. I think about half the scouters in the world have ridden this trail. So why, in all our trips to Moab, hadn’t we done it? Our handy dandy Moab biking book said this trail was relatively easy when ridden as a one-way with a shuttle but as an out-and-back it becomes a nearly 16 mile behemoth due to a long and steep climb at its start. In short, we were scared away by this fearsome assessment since we only ever take one car to Moab, making shuttling impossible. This time though we decided to conquer Gemini Bridges anyway and tell that hill where it could stick it. It turned out to be a great ride. The rise at the beginning was a monster but it wasn’t that bad; we’ve ridden much, much worse. Gemini’s dirt road wasn’t as much fun to bike as some of the other trails we’ve done in Moab but it was challenging enough not to be completely boring. Also, it traveled through some very scenic areas and over patches of slickrock, so we did get to satisfy some of our slickrock cravings. The bridges themselves were awing and a bit scary. With nearly a 250 foot drop on both sides of these twins and between them, it’s no wonder that there have been so many fatalities in the area.

The bridges made me really nervous. Jason is standing on one of them here-just a thin line between two colossal drops.

From this view you can better appreciate the immensity of those cliffs.

That peculiar formation is called Gooney Bird Rock. It looked like a goofy sentinel watching all the passing riders.

The last day we were in Moab we decided to bike some of the Moab Brand Trails. I never knew these trails existed but apparently Jason has known about them forever and ever. Just a few miles out of Moab this trail system offers plenty of tasty loop options for many levels of riders. However, I should warn the familial thrill seekers that most of this terrain is probably too difficult for little kids. We took the Bar M loop to the Rockin’ A trail first. Rockin’ A was supposed to be a tricky rock-hopping ride over slickrock. It was tricky alright. I wish I could say that I enjoyed this route but alas, I did not. The first bit was pretty fun but the last third was way too bumpy and ledge littered for my tastes. Bear in mind that this review is coming from someone who has conquered the Slickrock Trail, Tusher Canyon, Bartlett Wash, etc. etc. etc. I am no biking sissy but Rockin’ A was too technical to be fun for me and even crazy Jason thought it was too rough. After Rockin’ A I decided that I had had my fill of slickrock for a while so we opted to next ride the Lazy EZ loop, a fantastic singletrack, through some gorgeous desert. The fiery sand and sparse desert foliage in this area was crowned by rims of brown and white boulders making the scenery look more like a movie set than a real landscape. Our winding bike trail looked very much out of place amongst these surroundings; the only human hands you could envision in this untouched place were maybe John Wayne’s. An enormous number of cactuses, many of them just inches from the trail, added a degree of danger to this path since even the tiniest misstep could lead to planting yourself in a cactus plant. This was an excellent ride and I think it would make a nice introduction to singletracks for those looking to narrow the girth of their tread.

This quick shot turned out great; I took it on the Lazy EZ loop.

Moab was fantastic as always. We enjoyed exploring some of the trails and areas we had heard so much about. The weather was a little temperamental but, considering it snowed here in Salt Lake City while we were gone, I guess we can’t really complain.

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