Moab is not only where you’ll find the most popular mountain biking ride in the world, the Slickrock Trail, which gets 100,000 visitors each year, but it’s also home to countless other paths of pedaling awesomeness. This small town is surrounded by a seemingly endless web of outdoor diversion. Jason and I made our half-yearly pilgrimage to that most holy of cycling sites last week. Once again we explored lots of new terrain and once again we were not disappointed.
The scenery along the Colorado River Overlook Trail was beautiful. Eye-catching shapes and striking colors filled the landscape.
The sky looked a little questionable as we biked but a dusty breeze was all it poured down on us.
For our first day of mountain biking, we journeyed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park to ride the Colorado River Overlook Trail. This path is a little over 7 miles long each way and is only suitable for either hardy 4WDs or mountain bikes. As far as physical difficulty goes, it’s probably one of the easiest routes we’ve biked around Moab but that doesn’t mean your grandma could conquer it on her Rascal. Although comparatively flat, it crosses plenty of hills and passes through a fair amount of sand. Sand, you see, is the sworn enemy of mountain bikers; it saps energy while stealing control. You exert yourself greatly in it just to go somewhere you didn’t want to at a painfully sluggish speed. Yes, this trail has its share of that gritty beast. On the particular afternoon of our ride, wind was also an adversary. Through sections of our journey it gusted over 20 MPH, adding another element of difficulty to our trek. You’ve never lived until you’ve had your bike literally ripped out from underneath you by a tempestuous breeze. What a blow!
That boy of mine can’t resist crawling into any interesting cranny.
This sign says it all.
Despite my paragraph of complaints, this trail really was easier than most we’ve done and we got the confidence boost to prove it: A couple of 4WDs passed us early in our trip but then, much to our surprise, we actually ended up overtaking them a few miles later. Yes, the energy provided by our pedaling feet and the skill with which we rock-hopped surpassed the strength of these decked out vehicles. Boy did that inflate my ego! This road ends at a viewpoint that overlooks the Colorado River as it lazily winds through a gorge over 1000 feet deep. Being surrounded by unmarked cliffs was a bit unsettling but the panorama from atop those precipices was spectacular. However, I’ll admit that the scene might have seemed a tad more magnificent to us just because we got to see it first. When you can cycle faster than a fancy rigged Jeep you know that you are beyond the definition of cool.
Precariously perched above the Colorado, we were surrounded on all sides by edges that put me a little on edge.
Pretty amazing right? Which view are we talking about?
There was still a bit of daylight left when we finished our faster-than-motorized ride so we decided to take advantage of being in the Needles by making a little hike on the Slickrock Foot Trail. (No correlation to the biking trail of the same name.) It was a pleasant and pretty path but the glorious sunset I was hoping it would allow me to capture was ruined by clouds that covered the sky at an untimely moment. Drat! It was still a nice, although windy, excursion.
You can guess just where that giant dust cloud was headed.
Near the end of the trail some friendly travelers took a picture of us.
The Slickrock Foot Trail, true to its name, crossed over a slickrock plateau.
Our second day in Moab, traditionally our hiking day, we opted to try a popular route that can be accessed from town. The Hidden Valley Trail travels up a steep hillside covered with boulders, known fittingly as Barney Rubble, to a beautiful and unexpected valley cradled between two crimson plateaus. (Yes, its name is accurate.) Eventually, after the path crosses this basin, it joins up with the Moab Rim Trail. From the Moab Rim Trail, a little side jaunt will take you to a perfect spot to gawk at the entire Moab region. Up there we could see all of the eroded twists and uncanny colors of the desert landscape from Arches to Canyonlands. It was killer! Apparently, this area also contains some notable petroglyphs. Sadly, we missed those but, surprisingly, we found quite a few fossils in the rocks as we walked along. In total we hiked about 7.5 miles that day, which isn’t terribly impressive but it was long enough to give us an appetite and an entitlement for the curry coconut shrimp skewers at the Twisted Sistas Café, one of our new favorite Moab eateries. Yum.
The first part of the Hidden Valley Trail was steep and strewn with a jumble of boulders. It was tricky to hike up and tricky to hike down.
I was considering walking out onto that giant rock but a big gap changed my mind.
On our last day in Moab, we had big plans to explore the Book Cliffs via our bikes. However, Mother Nature had plans of her own that unfortunately did not coincide with ours. A storm system moved in that morning and flashflood warnings were issued. It was only sprinkling when we woke up but by early afternoon the world was due for a blustery soaking. We decided it would be wise to abandon our original cycling plan so as not to coat the insides of our new vehicle, and all of our luggage, with mud from our bike tires. Instead, we opted to do a short 2 mile hike around the rim of Hell Roaring Canyon to view Jewel Tibbetts Arch. We thought this was a safer and less messy option considering the state of the weather until…we realized that we were trekking through pretty much the worst place you could be if there were a flashflood. What fools we Sabins be.
Jason and I had a lovely picnic atop the Moab Rim overlook with sandwiches from the Love Muffin Cafe, our favorite place to grab grub in Moab.
Jewel Tibbetts Arch was hard to spot without sunlit shadows to give it away.
The temperature when we began our hike was a frigid 37 degrees. We layered up with every bit of warmish clothing that we had with us because we hadn’t brought anything for weather like this. As we walked along, we got rained, hailed, and snowed on. Fortunately, the wind hadn’t picked up yet so at least we weren’t snowed on from above and below simultaneously. When we made it to the slippery edge of Hell Roaring Canyon we grasped, as we carefully took in the 400 foot sheer drop to the canyon floor, that we hadn’t really chosen the best spot to hike on a wet day. But it wasn’t until we entered an area of the trail that looped around a broad wash that we discovered just how bad our choice had been. The rock in this region had been worn and etched away by the flow of water, and not just your steady trickle. It was obvious that high speeds and violent impacts had carved this wide path. And worst of all, the water’s route ended abruptly over the lip of the canyon where it plummeted to the gorge floor. So we were hiking in a wash that experienced frequent flashfloods and, if we happened to get caught in one of those surges, we would die when we got pushed over the walls of the canyon long before we had a chance to drown. How comforting. Luckily, we made it back to our car before the precipitation became torrential. It was only then that we noticed on the trailhead sign a small note at the end of the hike’s description mentioning that flashfloods were extremely common at Hell Roaring Canyon and that that’s how it got its name. Hmmm…it seems to me that this information might be pertinent enough to warrant a conspicuous warning to potential cliff bait. Just a thought. Since we survived though, I guess our disaster averted will become just another wild tale in our enthralling Moab saga.
The edge of Hell Roaring Canyon unceremoniously drops off 400 feet into oblivion.
This wash could have been our last wild ride.
Moab was a little moody during our last visit. Between forceful winds one day and snow another, we experienced quite the weather whirlwind. But, when you’re exhausting yourself in an arid desert, it’s always better to be a little chilled than a little roasted/dehydrated/heatstroked/dead. Despite the few meteorological hiccups, it was a great mini-vacation. But how could any escape to Moab not be marvelous?
Easter, on many different levels, is a celebration of the renewal of life: the world starts thawing, life hints at returning, and the younger among us race around in the pleasant sunshine replenishing their chocolate stash. It is indeed a holiday of hope…and hurling.
Jason and I spent a few hours shaping and decorating these cheerful cookies.
Jason and I gave all the children sunglasses as part of their Easter stash. These accessories turned out to be quite popular and quite cute on the kiddies.
My family holds an egg hunt each year of practically ridiculous proportions. The reason it’s practically ridiculous is that there are so many contributors to the loot that we run out of hiding places long before we run out of treasures. Jason and I donate a large quantity of candy, prizes, and good ol’ fashioned cash. My parents, my brother, and my sister also all add to the enormous pot. Ultimately, most of the kids need something bigger than a basket to carry their findings, as one of my nephews informed me.
Isabelle looked like a miniature movie star in the shades that we bought her.
Jadon is a bit like a dignified old man in a little boy’s body but even he got into the spirit of carefree mayhem.
Our hunt this year proceeded as usual. The children sprinted about in an unruly fashion reminiscent of a frenzied stampede as they hurriedly searched for the hidden while overlooking the obvious. In the end, some of the kids retrieved much more than their allotment of treats while others remained disappointed by their limited finds. We partially corrected these allocation injustices but allowed some elitism, as it was part of our design. For the golden egg, though sought by all, can only be claimed by one. In this case, that one was Madison, who used her teenage guile to outmaneuver the other seekers.
Abigail was a little confused by the egg hunt. She aborted her search often in favor of playing.
This was Madison’s “teenager” pose.
After the hunt we had a lovely Easter dinner, which was augmented by the festive cookies that Jason and I had made. Then the kids lined up for scooter rides around the neighborhood before we all headed to the park. I refer to this playground near my parents’ house as “vomit common” because of its greater than average number of dizzying devices. The results of a trip to this park are inevitable. Without fail, the kids convince the adults that they are weaklings if they don’t go for a spin or two on something sickening. For some reason this taunting works even though we grownups know full well the outcome of such tipsy activities. Next, the adults, realizing that their fate is unavoidable and wishing for some puking partners, shame each other into riding those ridiculous personal merry-go-rounds faster and longer. We relish each other’s vertiginous torment yet cannot escape our own anguish. Eventually, we all end up woozy and regretting our feeble will. Our excursion to the park that day followed this pattern precisely. I had a great time harassing my family members but felt queasy for hours from my own ill-fated revolutions. Barfing would have been a welcomed relief.
Wesley and Isabelle are good buddies. They fight frequently but giggle together even more often.
The pleasant weather made some porch-time possible.
Madison drew this highly accurate depiction of Andrew in spinning duress.
Easter is about rebirth and, in keeping with that tradition, we rebirthed a whole lot this year. We revived our glucose levels with too many sugary cookies, we renewed our upchuck reflexes with too many turns, and we reawakened our primeval hunting skills with a frantic golden egg quest. Our holiday was a magnificent reminder that spring has arrived and it’s time for some refreshing transformations.
As the weather warms and winter reluctantly recedes, it’s time for color to come back into the world. But, at the Holi Festival of Colors, vibrant hues don’t just creep back slowly as you would expect, they hit you like a ton of fluorescent bricks.
At this point, our group was just getting started. We almost look clean…almost.
Recently, the local Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple hosted their annual Holi Festival of Colors. This weekend event attracts 50,000 visitors from near and far, making it the biggest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere. At this affair, the return of spring is celebrated with lively music, yoga lessons, yummy Indian food, and color throws. In a color throw, for those unfamiliar with that completely common term, everyone in the crowd tosses bright dye powders into the air. For a second or two, those hue streams fill the sky with brilliant greens, oranges, purples, yellows, pinks, and reds. Then, almost instantly, the pigments combine and become a massive hovering brown cloud that enshrouds the throngs.
Jason and I had only just arrived but we were already showing signs of discoloration.
We have considered going to this intense but intriguing festival for years so, when our friend Jacob invited us to attend with him, we happily agreed.
Although the enormous number of attendees should have clued us in, getting to the temple was much more of a hassle than we anticipated. We took one of the provided shuttle buses from a nearby fairground parking lot instead of trying to find a parking place in the vicinity of the sanctuary, which made our journey less stressful but not less time-consuming. The heavy traffic and omnipresent pedestrians halted our lumbering movement frequently. Eventually, we did make it to the picturesque temple amid its pastoral splendor and brown particulate haze.
The boys looked like they had broken into a Pepto-Bismol factory after just minutes of coloring.
While color throws are only scheduled every two hours during this event, in practice dye is being tossed about by attendees constantly. Stranger or spouse: everyone is fair game. Only minutes after Jason and I entered the temple grounds, we were oranged in the face by a passing Neanderthal. I was just fine being plastered with dye but right in the eye? Come on, you stupid guy. Why, why, why? (That super lame rhyme was mostly unintentional so just go with it.)
I’m not sure how the temple keepers get their building and grounds spiffed up after this affair. The walls of the structure had been “handled”, brown dye dust lay thickly all over the ground, and discarded wrappers were scattered everywhere.
Although colors were frequently flung on us by unfamiliar faces, our group, which included the Rowleys, was large enough that the majority of our powder accumulation came from each other. The kids particularly loved dumping on the pink and had so many layers of it all over their bodies that they could have been plugged in and used as an “open” sign. There was a whole lot of tinting going on.
Jacob and Sara had no reservations about hurling piles of powder in each other’s faces.
From hanging out at the festival for a little over an hour, we came home pretty painted. I thought for sure that all of the clothes we wore would be ruined, which is why I dressed in such a peculiar fashion. But, surprisingly, only Jason’s t-shirt remained discolored after washing. (That shirt now has permanent pink stains right in its pits, as if it were the marked casualty of a curious sweat disorder.) And, with the exception of our enduring mauve boogers and a giant patch of purple in my armpit, our bodies came clean pretty quickly too.
By the time we were ready to leave, we had the marks of a crayon experiment gone bad.
It was a crowded, crazy, colorful affair. If you’re claustrophobic or suffer from a fear of dyeing, it might not be the best Saturday afternoon activity for you. Otherwise, I would recommend getting a group of your more venturesome friends together to paint the town red, green, purple, and orange the next time Holi is here.
For years, I have been taking belly dancing classes off and on. Usually, I’m swaying among near strangers so when my friend Robyn expressed interest in learning how to shimmy, I was all over that. As a Christmas present, I signed both of us up for a class lead by my favorite dance teacher. After six weeks of instruction, we performed our gypsy tambourine routine to an audience of over a hundred. All in all, it was another fantastic opportunity to improve my hip skills, to work my ab flab, to entertain my hubby, and to hang with my buddy.
In my excitement over having a compadre in my class, I may or may not have forgotten to mention to Robyn that we would not be taking a beginners course. My preferred teacher only instructs an intermediate class so I typically stick with that one. Perhaps I should have passed this information along to Robyn beforehand? Perhaps. When she realized she would be the only un-undulated amongst us, she was a little intimidated. However, although she had never belly danced before and was the lone novice of the group, she picked up the movements quicker than most would have. Way to go Robyn! During our last lesson, all the dancers gave her an enthusiastic round of applause for her effort and progress.
Having Robyn in my class was a treat.
Sadly, Robyn couldn’t make it to our performance at the Gypsy Hafla, an annual event that involves all of the belly dancing students and many of the local professional dance troupes, so she missed a unique experience. Admittedly, recitals are always a little stressful but they are also more fun than you’d expect. The Hafla audience, mostly comprised of family and friends of the dancers, is typically very encouraging and forgiving. Jason claims that the girl power is so overwhelming at these affairs that the men present feel like maybe they shouldn’t be. It’s okay men; we accept your company though we don’t require it.
A hafla is a party so while we danced our spectators snacked away. Then, when all the performing was done, the dancers, as a collective, took over the stage and started grooving.
My class didn’t have any major mishaps during our number, although I think many of us suffered from stage fright-induced forgetfulness. Luckily, my bout with that condition only lasted about two seconds. Hooray for the Rachel memory trap!
I always find belly dancing relaxing despite the exercise involved. Plus, with a friend to enhance my enjoyment, this particular course was even more excellent. And our recital, though Robyn-less, provided the perfect mix of motivational terror and performance elation to complete the experience, like a scary cherry atop my dance sundae. At both class and bash, I had a belly good time.