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October 3-4 White Rim (Fall Fling 16')


NAXJA Member #496
NAXJA Member
October 3-4 White Rim (Fall Fling 2016)

SandySteve was kind enough to haul my gear and allow me to tag along on his overnight permit for the White Rim trail. It worked out pretty well for me and looked like the other guys had a good time.

I stuffed my mountain bike in the Honda and left the Salt Lake Valley early Sunday evening arriving at Horsethief Campground about 1:00 AM to the view of lightening flashing in the clouds in all directions. I recall a spat of rain coming through in the morning with cool temperatures and I welcomed any dust reduction that would bring to the trail.

We met up at the busy visitor center and got checked in. I threw my gear in Steve's XJ and drove back to the end of the Mineral Bottom road while the guys started down the Shafer trail. I quickly prepped the bike, loaded pockets and hydration pack with energy chews, forgot my handheld Ham radio :doh: and started the long ride to our camp at Potato Bottom. With the morning rain came a stiff breeze out of the West that wasn't going to die down for the remainder of the day, the cross wind while riding back up the highway to the Shafer trail would slow me down on the hills, so I took it easy pedaling up hill and put more effort on the brief descents and flats, efficiency was going to be my theme for getting to camp an estimated 75 miles out.

The entrance shack was a welcome site that signaled dirt and a long twisty downhill. I paused for snapshots along the top of the Shafer switchbacks, changed the bikes suspension from locked out to full fun mode, and got busy descending with a big grin on my face. Six short minutes later and a couple thousand feet lower the reality of riding the White Rim set in with the first uphill section. Now there was no turning back. As I rounded the first corner at the end of that climb, two additional aspects of the trail and the weather for the day hit me full on in the face. One, the first half of the trail would feature short steeper westerly descents and seemingly longer but gentler easterly climbs. Two, the westerly descents would be thwarted by a full on unforgiving stiff and cold headwind, one that was almost strong enough to stop my forward momentum in spite of gravity's assistance, that was just plain mean. Nothing I could do but put my head down and pedal. After the first headwind stymied descent I figured I would at least have a nice tailwind on the other side, that only happened once or twice, somehow most of the easterly climbs were unaccompanied by any gentle push from behind. :sure:

White Rim Pano by Jared Payne, on Flickr

I stopped for a couple minutes at Musselman Arch then got back to work. The tight pass between Little Bridge Canyon and Lathrop Canyon was particularly windy, like a wind tunnel, after the very steep short climb it was all I could do to pedal through. At Lathrop Canyon I stopped again for a short break hoping to maybe catch up to the rest of the group there. I decided while they could easily still be down Lathrop, judging by the speed of a few other vehicles I had leapfrogged once or twice but was then handily outdistanced by, I figured my pace was slower than expected and they could therefore be somewhere out ahead of me. So rather than wait and see, I figured I better keep going and if I didn't catch them up by Murphy's Hogback then I'd wait for them there instead. It was a good decision, if I hadn't kept going I might not have made camp before dark.

Monster And Washer Woman by Jared Payne, on Flickr

Paused for brief photos of Washerwoman Arch and Monster Tower then things started getting lonely except for a couple of dispersed workers in tractors doing road maintenance. Finally there were some other cyclists to wave at as they were heading the other direction. The stretch between Gooseberry camp and Monument Basin was particularly flat, featureless, slow going and monotonous. The sun finally started burning through the hazy overcast present since Lathrop. Then a steep climb in the distance slowly materialized and I knew the pass at the White Crack turn off was ahead. Energized by that landmark signaling the southern most tip of the trail I determined to make the climb in one go and took a good 15 minute break once on top.

There was an outfitter there with a rig full of bikes and gear and I could see some fellow mountain bikers ahead enjoying a much more casual riding pace. The next section was the most fun part of the day with a lot of ups and downs and plenty of speed except for short climbs. With efficiency in mind I was bombing the descents and pedaling well to keep momentum afterword, passing the other riders along the way. Then the big climb started toward Murphy Hogback. I rode all the way up to the final push, then finally had to push the bike up the last steep pitches. While doing so the sound of vehicles behind me in the distance drew my attention and soon Steve's bright green XJ rose up from behind a ledge followed by the JK in our group and MJR's pickup tail-gunning, perfect!

Hogback Climb by Jared Payne, on Flickr

A cold Gatorade from the Jeep never tastes so good. With spare handheld dual band radio from the JK now in my pack, we were on our way, I lead off cruising down the other side of Murphy's still trying to ride efficiently but now I was really starting to feel the miles. Things were chafing a bit in tender areas, climbs were taking a bigger toll. The guys caught up quickly and pausing for photos in Soda Spring Basin I told them not to wait. After a good descent to Candlestick Camp I took a breather. Continuing I could see the guys across the way on the other side of Valentine Bottom, they looked close but had put some distance on as the road winds in and out of Holeman Spring Basin. I stopped There for a half hour and got some food down while relaxing in the sun, the wind was starting to die down a little. It felt like it was up hill all the way out on the next leg, my pace was slow going till making the turn toward Queen Anne Bottom. Then the riding got easier and turning the final leg with a view toward Potato Bottom in the distance the light was really nice for a quick photo. With a flat to trending downhill ride capping off the day and the wind no longer a factor I made a good pace to Potato Bottom while red sunlight lit up the cliffs above. Just in time to set up my tent before dark, then enjoyed brats, a cold soda, and good company before hitting the sack, exhausted with cramped muscles, having ridden 73.8 miles.

Beaver Bottom View by Jared Payne, on Flickr

I did not sleep well, cramps aches and pains made for a much worse 2nd night of the trip, tossing and turning frequently. In the morning I packed quickly, did some maintenance on the bike, hydrated and ate a quick breakfast and was on my way. It surprisingly felt good to get back on the bike. Only about 25 miles to go but two big climbs and the first was very steep and came right away before I even got warmed up. I took photos once on top and again before quickly descending Hardscrabble Hill on the other side. It was a beautiful blue sky day.

Potato Bottom View by Jared Payne, on Flickr

Hardscrabble Bottom View by Jared Payne, on Flickr

The riding from there was flat and very quick paced compared to the day before. Some sandy sections at Taylor Canyon didn't give me much trouble and I made it to the Mineral Canyon Road intersection in good time and good spirits. After fueling up for the task ahead I started up the last big climb while some shade still lingered on most of the switchbacks. I tried to make it in one pull but briefly paused for traffic to pass at one spot, then again for photo ops on an upper switchback while watching the guys drive up. Once on top we were treated to the view of a guy sky diving from a vehicle towed tandem para-sail rig up of some kind, :cool:. I opted to keep riding to finish the whole loop, but quickly regretted it, it was all uphill much more so than I remembered from driving it before, and on a wide highway like gravel road exposed fully to the warm sunshine. Just slightly more fun than riding along side the highway the previous morning, and hardly any breeze at all. The guys were exploring side roads as I rode and I felt like I was holding them up. With 23.1 more miles on the bike and under a few miles left to go I caught Mike at the crest of a hill and thumbed a ride to the car. It was great to experience the trail with Steve, Mike and party, and be able to finally bike the whole thing, I no longer feel a desire I had as a younger man to ride it all in one day, I think:helpme:. Jeep it, or bike it, or a little of both, the White Rim is a must do!

Mineral Bottom Road Switchbacks by Jared Payne, on Flickr

Following the White Rim I met up with Intrepidxj in Monticello, we camped near Grand Gulch with a 13 mile loop hike the following day, followed by a night in the La Sals and a hike to the summit of Mt Peale the next morning. Back in Moab to round out the week I alternated short hikes to natural arches, rock art, ruins, and overlooks with a couple more bike rides. It was a good trip, and good to catch up with some friends and meet some new ones, oh yeah and win a nice raffle prize at the dinner drawing!

by Jared Payne, on Flickr

Red Rover by Jared Payne, on Flickr

Tracks In The Air by Jared Payne, on Flickr