Zen On Dirt

A Day on White Rim with Geologists

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I think the conversation with Alexis went something like this this spring:

Me: What do you mean you and Denny have never been around the White Rim?! You’re bike riding geologists! We’re going this spring. When are you free in April or May? We’ll do it in a day!

Alexis: Umm. Never. The semester ends on May 1. Field camp starts May 6.

Me: Perfect. I’ll see you in Moab on May 3.

Alexis and Denny are both hardworking profs at Utah State University up in Logan, and while I got to see them both several times over the winter in Tucson, I was committed to making sure I got a few more days of Alexis and Denny time in the spring. And the 100-mile White Rim was the perfect excuse.

By the time I’d come back from the final ride of the Annual Girls’ Trip to the Desert, they were there, and defying all logic, I agreed to go on a second ride. Because, well, why not.


It’s not like the White Rim is a long ride or anything.

We set the alarms for dark:30, hoping to get an early start to the day and avoid finishing in the dark like Scott and I had done back at the end of October.


We made short work of Mineral Bottom road, finding ourselves dropping into the Horsethief switchbacks with cold toes and jackets still on. Cool mornings mean not-so-hot days, I wasn’t going to complain.

The colors were absolutely vibrant, the new spring growth coming up from every angle. It was such a contrast to the cloudy day fall trip we’d done before.


Scott and I learned plenty about the geology of the area. We pointed to a tower of rock in the distance, “Denny, what’s that?”

“That? That’s a pile of rock.”

But all kidding aside, it was neat to learn about the different layers and how the intricate canyons of the area had formed. Geologic time seems impossible to think about.


Through the Candlestick campground, snack break before the Murphy’s climb, lunch at the top. It felt like we had endless daylight, which, with an added three hours over the trip last fall, plus no mud to speak of (we’d gotten stuck in the quagmire of Potato Bottom last time, leading to plenty of bike carrying), we were making fantastic time.


“It was getting late by the time we got here!” Scott and I kept exclaiming. It was still early afternoon when the La Sals came into view and the sun was high and bright, but not hot. The winds stayed favorable as we turned north, playing the game of giving each of the rock formations names.


Life long and prosper was my favorite, even though I wasn’t a Star Trek watcher growing up. This led to a handful of miles discussing if it was easier to make the LLAP sigh with our right or left hands, and to why my family never got into the show even though all signs point to it being something that my parents would have watched.


And then the wheels began to fall off the bus. For all of us, but especially for Denny who hadn’t done a long ride since Camp Tucson back in March. And of course, Schaffers switchbacks loomed.

As they came into sight, Denny’s reaction was, “There’s no way I’m getting up that!”

But since we’re all bike riders, and really, there’s no alternative to pedaling up the switchbacks, we all made it out.

Alexis blasted music on her phone and put her head down to hammer. It was all I could do to hold her wheel and keep the music audible. It was a fantastic way to gain altitude.


And the final eight miles back to the car on the highway. What can I say, that’s always rough.

We finished with ample daylight. Enough daylight, in fact, to make it down to Milts, wait nearly an hour for food, and still have plenty of time to eat and make it back to camp before dark.

The more and more trips I do with my friends, the more and more impressed I am by the people who I get to surround myself with. Alexis and Denny may work harder than I ever want to, but the fact that they made the time to take several trips to Tucson this winter and to come down to Moab for two nights is pretty damn awesome. Work hard, play hard. Or something like that.


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