More Moab Memoirs
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?