Saturday, May 3, 2014

Half of a Whole Enchilada

It's finally Springtime here in Georgia.  We didn't think it would ever arrive.  This has been the longest, toughest winter ever, but we have survived.  I think it's safe to say that Winter is gone, and I say, good riddance.  

Every Spring we make our annual trek to Moab.  A couple of times we've mixed it up and opted for a Fall Moab adventure instead.  Nonetheless, whenever Spring arrives, I think of Moab.  This will be the first year in a while that we do not have a Utah trip on the calendar (Switzerland calls).  However, in the spirit of Springtime, here are some photos of last year's trip (that we took in Sept).  Okay, so it wasn't a Spring trip, but you get the idea.

climbing Amasa Back.
Half the fun for us is introducing our friends to Moab for the first time.  This trip was to be Tom's first taste of the unique and magical trails.  There is no other place like it.  I love seeing a person's reaction, and Tom did not disappoint me.  He was head over heels in love and couldn't get in enough riding.

headed to PotHole Arch
 Joe has become our technical rider supreme and didn't think twice about trying the most heinous of drops and techy spots.  I was content to walk these places and take his picture - all whilst secretly wishing I had the guts to ride like that.
Joe making RockStacker look easy - it ain't!
The Whole Enchilada ride is a big arse route that all mountain bikers dream of doing when they go to Moab. We have been fortunate enough to have done it twice before, but Tom was chomping at the bit to have his hand at it.  Jason, Joe, Roger, and I were happy to have another go at it, but we had to wait for the weather to cooperate.

lead in to the climb over Burro Pass
Finally our day of opportunity arrived just in time.  This was to be Tom's last day of the trip, so we had no choice but to make it happen.  We like to take the Moab Cyclery Shuttle for the long drive up through the LaSals where they drop you off around 10,000'.   Even though it's warm back in town, it's freezing cold (literally) at the top.  With our armor on it helped to keep us warm as we headed to our first climb of the ride; Burro Pass.   

looking back at the line of cyclists climbing up the last bit of Burro.
Many people mistakenly think that The Whole Enchilada is a big downhill course.  While it does descend from 11,000' down to town at 4,000', don't be fooled into thinking there is no climbing.  This will be the hardest "downhill" you've ever done, and you'll work for every bit of descending you enjoy.  

Burro Pass is a steep bugger of a climb on mostly singletrack.   I didn't mind it so much the previous year when I was riding my own light bike with low gearing.  However, the rental I was on this day was heavy and didn't have the gearing I wanted.  I found myself pushing the bike more than I remembered from the other two rides.  The thin air doesn't help matters either.  Turning around ever so often to take in the view helps to make up for the extra effort.  Like all good climbs, you have to suck it up and push on.  Eventually you will get to the top and then you get to go DOWN!

Shew!  Finally at the top of Burro- air is thin up here.
Lots of folks were doing the ride today and we had a full house at the top of Burro.  Exhilarated by the effort, we didn't take notice much of the weather.  Time to move on and tackle the downhill.  The section from Burro for me is the most challenging of the downhill on this ride. It is steep, loose and rocky.  You have to commit.   No room for riding timid or tentative.

down down down the crazy descent of Burro
The trail goes through a few creek crossings,thick woods, rips down open fields, and eventually drops into a beautiful section of Aspens.  I had dropped my seat post for all this, and my legs were on fire from the burn of descending in that position.  A proper dropper post is perfect for here.  Not only do my legs quake, but my arms start quivering from the sustained effort.  It's a long long long downhill that engages every body part!

Tom flying down Burro
The Aspens are a refreshing break from the high speed downhill and the trail begins to climb gently. Tom was loving it.

beautiful section of Aspens as the trail nears Warner Lake.
At Warner Lake, we usually take a break.  It's a lovely spot that begs to be enjoyed.  However, we should have paid more attention to the weather and kept on moving.

Warner Lake presents the perfect rest stop before the trail climbs up to Hazard Co.
From Warner Lake you hit a gravel road bit that leads to the singletrack climb up to Hazard. This climb has nice views over your left shoulder.   It ends high on large plateau with a grand view all around.  This time our grand view had a dramatic sky of black ominous clouds.  It was evident we were riding right into a mega storm.   There was no way around it, we had to boogie on and hope beyond hope that we'd magically miss it all.

The top of Hazard, start of long twisty singletrack to Kokopelli.
Very ominous horizon on this day.
Last in line for the long twisty singletrack descent towards Kokopelli, I had a flat not long after we started.  The guys couldn't hear my hollers due to the wind in their ears.  I watched as they disappeared down the trail knowing that the tire pump I needed was disappearing as well.   

Hmmm, what to do?  This was one long arse trail that I would have to hike down.   Just then a group of riders came by that we had been playing yo-yo with on the trail.   Fortunately they stopped and willingly offered the use of a hand pump.  Turns out they were intrigued with my Southern accent and simply wanted to hear me talk.  I put on my best Southern Belle routine possible while changing my tire.  I figured the guys were at the bottom of the trail wondering where the heck I was.   Little did I know that Joe had also had a flat, and was dealing with his own drama.

Flat finally fixed, I thanked my helpers profusely and hopped back on my bike to make up for lost time.  When I got to the Kokopelli trail head, I was greeted with the bleak sky and 4 guys anxious to get a move-on.  It wasn't a question of would we get wet, but rather, when we would get wet.
Riding down Kokopelli as we head into the storm - oh boy!
Tensions began to mount as it was obvious we were heading into a nasty storm.  Still up quite high in elevation, I was not thrilled about being exposed to lightning.  I was also sorry that Tom was having to miss out on what is the best part of this ride.  UPS and LPS are the funnest sections (to me), and here we were fleeing for our lives.

The rain got heavier and heavier and we got wetter and wetter.  The trail became a little river and we followed its flow.  Those of us wearing armor were fortunate because it acted as a wet suit to keep us warm.  Jason, on the other hand, was getting colder by the minute and beginning to shake.  

The mood changed and we all got real serious.  Serious about getting somewhere safe and warm.  We got to the section that comes out on a huge rock face and I made the mistake of stopping to pack my camera away to a safer place.  The others kept rolling, which was the wiser thing to do.  That stop broke my focus and all momentum was lost.  Starting back out on a steep rock face with a 2,000' cliff drop off in pouring rain is mentally disturbing.  The rain was pouring down and the rock face had now become a roaring river.  Huge thunder claps and bolts of lightning were all around.  I was officially on the verge of freaking out.  This is how people get swept away to their death, and this was not the way I wanted to go.  I was #%&* scared. 

Talking out loud to myself, "keep moving, it's okay, keep moving, get to lower ground, keep moving," Roger and I made our way down the rock face.  Part of me desperately wanted to get my camera back out and somehow capture this surreal terrifying moment, but I knew that would be stupid.  We were putting ourselves at risk every second we were out there, and we had to get to the lower part of the trail.

taking refuge 'under the trees' with other storm victims!
Finally we got off that awful section and slopped up the trail was now a mini river.  We passed by little huddles of riders off the side of the trail, crouched under brush seeking refuge anywhere possible.  It was like a scene out of movie.  We came upon the rest of our crew that had stopped to hunker down under some trees.  Time for us to assess our plan of action.  

I knew what I was doing!  Not too far ahead was the bail out point that would take us over to Sand Flats Road.  We could ride that dirt road 12 miles down to town.  I had no intentions of riding out the storm on the singletrack.   I've done this part of the ride countless times, and I prefer to do it in the dry.

in an instant the trail became a mini river.
Poor Tom.  He wanted to finish the whole ride so bad he could taste it. I could tell he was determined to make it happen, but I wasn't going to help him.  He'd have to do this without me. We headed to our bail out point and headed down Sand Flats Road.  Poor Jason was still shivering and wanted to get down as fast as possible so he could warm up.   I didn't realize that Joe and Tom were following behind us.  I thought they had stayed on the trail.   All I cared about at this point was getting to drier ground.

bailing out on Sand Flats Road - check out the river on the right side of the road.
If you're going to have to ride a dirt road (versus singletrack), it might as well be Sand Flats.  No matter the direction you ride on this road, you are treated to wonderful views.  

As Roger, Jason, and I were making a bee line back down to town, Joe and Tom got sidetracked.  You pass by the trail head for Porcupine Rim Proper about 6 miles down Sand Flats Road.  This is the "old" way we used to ride Porcupine.  It was the only way to ride it, before the days of LPS and UPS.

Tom saw that sign and said, "hey Joe, let's go to Porcupine.  It's not raining anymore, we can do it!"   Joe obliged Tom, wanting him to experience Porcupine.  It did seem a shame for Tom to be this close to it and not get to do the whole thing.   This way he would have only missed out on LPS.

The did the climb back up to Porcupine.  Yes, climb.  Poor Joe didn't realize what a push it was going to be.  They certainly did "The Whole Enchilada" the hardest way possible!   The entire time they were running from the storm and got lucky as they literally were right along the edge of it as they flew down to Porcupine.  

We were back at the condo drying out when they returned with huge grins on their faces.  Tom was psyched off the charts.  It had been a most excellent adventure and he loved every second of it.  We were thrilled for them and that everyone ended the day happy and in one piece.
Any ride deserves a reward at Milt's Stop & Eat.  Our favorite apres ride stop!
Next to the trails, our favorite thing about Moab is eating a well deserved meal at Milts.  During our week there, we put down a number of burgers and fries!   I have been known to eat 2 buffalo burgers after a big ride, but don't tell anybody. 

Alas, it was half an Enchilada for the three of us, but that was okay.  We've had The Whole thing before and had plenty more riding to do for the remainder of the trip.   Tom, however, was leaving us the next morning. He left completely satisfied with his first taste of what Moab has to offer - mission accomplished.

The next few days, our crew of 4 explored some trails we had not ridden before.  Our favorite was the Magnificent Seven trail.  

Joe and Jason left us that weekend to return to their respective homes, so Roger and I had 2 more days of riding remaining.  We decided we couldn't leave our Half eaten Enchilada alone.  For old times sake, we did an old fashioned Porcupine Rim loop riding from town, up Sand Flats Road to Porcupine and down.

Kokopelli section with those fabulous views.

The part you work so hard for - Porcupine Rim singletrack!
What a nice reward to get those delicious views.  There's nothing quite like the vistas you get from Moab trails.  So there you have it, we did our Whole Enchilada, just not in one day.  First half we did in a storm and the second half we did in the sun.  It's certainly an Enchilada I will never forget.

Here's a nice source of info for the labyrinth of trails to choose from in Moab:

We also always do some day trips over to Fruita, Colorado for nice singletrack riding.  Of course, the real reason we go to Fruita is to eat at Hot Tomato.   Eating and riding;  it's what we do best!  

Ride on and Happy Spring!

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