A Proper Moab Visit

It’s been a little while since I’ve lived in a house for any extended period of time. In fact, I think it’s coming on close to six years since it really feels like I packed up a car for a fun trip, went on the trip, and then came home to an indoor space. But I’m spending a little bit of time living indoors in Boulder this early winter, so I feel like I’m relearning the feeling of how most people perceive trips to Moab. Instead of dragging the trailer carrying all of Scott’s and my worldly possessions to the outskirts of town and staying for an extended period of time, I loaded up my car with the right number of underwear, chamois, and running shoes in order to accommodate a moderate level of adventure and cleanliness. It felt really weird, to be honest. But a lot of life feels weird these days, so I embraced the chance to stay at a friend’s house in Moab, meet up with Scott for the first time in a few weeks, and spend five days enjoying the unseasonably warm desert temperatures.

First up was a slickrock wander. Melbeejoi had taken me up here this spring, but I was excited to show it to Scott, too. With the presence of Matt as well, the three of us non-runners had a firm majority over Melbeejoi, who was the only one in the group who actually enjoys the running motion. We still did a little bit of shuffling, but most of the time was spent wandering slickrock and gaping at the views.

It was a most excellent use of a Thanksgiving Day.

I think one of the things that so appeals to me about the Moab area is the seemingly endless zones to wander around in. And it always feels like seven lifetimes wouldn’t be enough time to go see it all, let alone one where only the occasional few weeks every spring and fall are devoted to the area.

We opted for a pedal up Onion Creek with the potential for some canyon wandering in the middle of the ride. Staging at the start of the road, we wisely tossed down jackets into our packs. It was maybe the best decision we made all day.

The water crossings started immediately and never let up. Most weren’t too icy, but drivetrains had had enough five crossings in. It’s a good thing that I don’t let my drivetrain make decisions on when to turn around because the riding was gorgeous.

With what felt like plenty of daylight left, we stopped at a side canyon on the way back. Bikes stashed in the bushes, we headed up an icy creek, quickly deep in a narrow canyon. It’s been so long since I’ve wandered in a canyon. Little scrambles, slickrock slides, sand, and the gorgeous Fisher Towers in the distance.

By the time we made it back to the bikes and pedaled the final miles back to the car, the sun was starting its quick descent behind the horizon. It was a solid morning to evening day of desert wandering, and exactly what my psyche needed.

I’ll have to admit, when I proposed a traversal of Lockhart Basin to Karen, I was mostly joking. But I should know better to joke with my friends because they take my dumb ideas and run with them. And when Scott agreed to drive us down to Needles so that we didn’t have to run our own shuttle, all the pieces of a Terribly Awesome/Awesomely Terrible idea were in place.

The last time I’d ridden Lockhart, I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up down at the Colorado River, adding 10 sandy miles to the route. It had taken 12.5 hours. The same day, Scott had ridden the route in the opposite and uphill direction in eight hours. Karen and I figured if we stayed motivated and I didn’t pull the camera out too often, we could pull the 59 miles off in eight hours. Given that there were only 9 hours of daylight, I was just hoping that we didn’t suffer any major mechanical or biophysical problems out there. Still, I took a headlamp.

I have to admit, I haven’t ridden “motivated” pace in a long time. And I think it’s fair to say that most of this day was ridden at a notch or two above Ez Motivated Pace, much more at Ez is on the Verge of Cracking pace. But it was fun to try hard for an extended period of time. And whenever things got too ouchie, I just insisted we stop for a picture, because really anywhere along that route can be deemed a good spot for a photo.

I think I held it together pretty well until the base of Hurrah Pass, to be honest. My handful of longish road rides in Boulder definitely paid off. But when the road turned upwards, it was very clear that I am no longer a bike racer. But I can get my butt up a hill given enough time and the freedom to make old lady noises.

Once up the pass, I knew that the rest of the route was downhill, except for the uphill parts. With plenty of daylight left, I had high hopes that we’d be able to coast it in. But then Julie came and met us with leftover pumpkin pie, which I think has to be the best pie I’ve ever tasted in my life.

The downside of said pie was now Karen was fully energized. I spent the last bit of the route tucked up in her (very small) draft. On the last rise out of Kane Creek, you know, the one right before the stop sign for 500W, the barely noticeable uphill under normal circumstances, I lost my ability to hide and fake fitness.

I haven’t lost a wheel and gone backwards that fast since my racing days. It was glorious and beautiful. Luckily Karen didn’t know the way home, so she couldn’t fully leave me for dead.

We made it back in just a hair over seven hours, which is actually pretty fast for stopping to eat a burrito for lunch and taking real camera photos occasionally! I was completely wrecked, but there’s a certain satisfaction from working hard and covering a big distance. I’m not saying I want to do it every day, but I was beyond psyched with the day.

Any proper pedaling just simply wasn’t going to happen the next day, so Scott and I headed out for a muck around Bartlett. I figured Scott could ride lots of features over and over, and I could just sit in the sun and take photos. It was delightful.

And eventually, it was time to head back to Boulder. But not before a quick stop by Fisher Towers to do a lap of the new Red Onion trail. It was rated “very difficult” for its scrambling, so we figured it could be entertaining.

It was definitely pretty, and since neither Scott or I had ever hiked up there, it was nice to see. Plus, it was an idea way to break up a six hour drive…by stopping 40 minutes in.

I was completely wrecked by the end of the trip, ready to come back to Boulder and rest and sleep and do all of the adult things that life occasionally demands. It’s rare that I feel good about playing myself into absolute exhaustion when living the trailer, but knowing that a good recovery period was on the horizon, it was fun to play with reckless abandon.

One response to “A Proper Moab Visit”

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