Relaxing on Baby-heads

Posted by on November 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm :: No Comments

When some people need to relax they’ll veg in front of the TV. For others taking it easy might mean going for a drive or hitting the driving range. But for me and Jason nothing says unwinding like biking 15 miles through desert sandpits, gnarly bedrock, and bouncy baby-heads. Yes, for us becoming exhausted in Moab is as relaxing as it gets.

Scampering on your haunches was sometimes necessary while ascending to Castleton Tower.

Isn’t he cute?

Jason and I just made our biannual visit to Moab. We waited to take our fall trip this time until the madness of our party had waned. The weather in Moab in November can be a little touchy but on this occasion it was utter perfection. And by utter perfection I mean t-shirts and shorts and huge smiles.

The way to Castleton Tower wound over quite a few stony ledges.

We started our excursion off with a hike to the base of Castleton Tower, a 400-foot monolith also known as Castle Rock, in Castle Valley. Castleton Tower stands on a cone of boulders and gravel over 1000 feet high, the kind of terrain that appears impassable when you’re looking at it from the bottom. This difficult trail was obstructed often by chunks of stone and hard to follow at times. Ascending it required some creative clambering skills. But, honestly, that’s what made it fun. There’s nothing wrong with strenuous when it’s part of an adventure. We were so enthusiastic about this hike that not only did we make it up to and around the Tower but we also chose to detour on a sketchy path to check out The Rectory, another outcropping of rock that rises above the opposite side of the ridge. We were pretty tired by the time we got back to our car but we were also pretty satisfied with what we had experienced in way of scenery and exploration.

The crest on which Castleton Tower stands provides a narrow division between two craggy lowlands.

The cracked barren valleys below The Rectory and lofty towers adjacent to it fashioned a strange rocky feast.

Our second day in Moab was spent biking the Kokopelli Trail to a place called Yellow Jacket Canyon. We had never ridden this path before so I was as intrigued by the prospects of its new terrain as Jason was by its name. I guess our intrigue got the better of us. We hit this 14.4-mile loop expecting it to be relatively easy in comparison to other Moab trails we have ridden but, although the route was wide enough for off-road vehicles, it was rather rough in places. Sand was the villain of the first third of this expedition. If you’ve never tried going up miles of steep hills on a bike while deep sand attempts to consume your tires you’ve never known frustraustion. Yeah, that’s what happens when frustration and exhaustion get together and produce deformed spawn. We were literally making our way at about 1-2 miles an hour for a while there. At that glorious speed we would have made it back to our car at about never. Luckily, downhill stone eventually replaced uphill sand and we cruised over the deformed bedrock quickly. Quickly, in this case, means we hit speeds up to about 13 MPH but mostly stayed around 6 MPH, which I realize doesn’t exactly fit the standard definition of that word. But hey, after creeping along practically slower than a grandpa with a walker that seemed pretty fast. Lots of bumpy stone and a series of baby-head infested hills later we emerged back onto the highway and from there we were soon back to our car. By the way, for those of you unfamiliar with biking lingo baby-heads are rocks the size of a baby’s head that can make wrecking practically effortless.

The Castleton Tower is one of the most popular rock climbing spots in the world. We gawked at several scaling extremists as we navigated through the boulders below.

Yellow Jacket’s bedrock made for some fun riding.

The view from the top of Yellow Jacket Canyon wasn’t super impressive but it was nice.

Our final call on the Yellow Jacket Canyon section of the Kokopelli Trail? This trail was definitely not as pretty as others we’ve done in the area but the solitude was nice. We only saw one couple on a 4wheeler the whole day. The path was more of a technical treat than we were expecting but the sand sucked unimaginably hard. We’re glad we tried it out but I don’t think it’s going to be top on our list of redos.

The Flat Iron Mesa road went through some scenic spots like this sandstone-encircled grassland.

The scene from the top of Flat Iron Mesa was pretty kicking. Hatch Wash Canyon and Kane Springs Canyon merged below us in a panorama of colorful precipices.

On our final day in Moab we biked Flat Iron Mesa. This trail has a reputation for being an easy family-friendly kind of ride. But that reputation, in our opinion, is not deserved. I don’t know of any children that would willingly conquer Flat Iron’s endless hills. The level of complaining you’d get from the kiddos would make getting them to take the garbage out seem like a delight. No, Flat Iron Mesa wasn’t the easygoing ride we were expecting but I guess since we didn’t ride it for its easygoingness we can’t really grumble about its lack thereof. We were interested in this route because of the enthralling possibilities for sidetracking. Many enticing wilder trails shoot off from Flat Iron making it a great starting place for countless adventures. We took one of these options to an overlook above Kane Springs Canyon. The view from this lofty perch was mesmerizing but the 3.5 mile spur we had to ride to get to it made the rest of the desert look like downtown Manhattan. I don’t think anyone else had ridden this trail in months, maybe years. It was so overgrown in places that deciphering where to stick our bikes was like solving a Sherlock Holmes mystery. When all was said and done, Flat Iron Mesa, with our additional excursion to the end of the known universe, was a 17.5 mile journey that took over 4 hours and finished off any energy reserves we might have had. Fun? Yes. Family-friendly? No.

Jason is literally standing in the middle of the trail we took to the Kane Springs Canyon overlook in this picture. Having trouble seeing it? So did we.

From far above Kane Springs Canyon the vistas were beautiful. At least there was that pot of gold at the end of our eroded rainbow.

Our trip to Moab was predictably fantastic. We’ve never returned from our favorite vacation spot dissatisfied. We biked 32 miles of tricky terrain and hiked to the top of rocky ridges. Now that’s restful! Before you shake your head too much at our choice of relaxation though I should add that there’s not much to do in Moab once the sun goes down and these days the sun goes down pretty early. After dark Jason and I mostly just read books, watched TV, and typed posts. We’d never make time for hours of that at home. So, see, our idea of taking it easy isn’t too far off from yours. We just prefer to ride across the desert before we settle in to read a good book.

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