Travel Day, AKA "Project Blur"

February 17, 2017

What I remember: blurry tail lights and bokeh.

Eager to start our Re-utah tour, my cousin, Scott, and I hit the road at the stroke of midnight. The GPS stated 1,132 miles to our destination, with an estimated arrival time of 17:56 the next evening. That’s a long day. But oh so worth it.


February 18, 2017

Guest writer/blogger/stanky whipper: Scott Stedman

After what can only be described as a sleep deprived mash of unintentional rumble strip tests overnight from Seattle to Fruita, we jumped into a brewery in town for a few beers and a burger and then quickly made our way to 18 Road in the North Fruita Desert. Where we absolutely did not camp in a handicap-accessible campsite. Without paying.

The next morning saw looming storm clouds on the horizon, so we unpacked the trail bikes and got a quick run down Kessel Run and then subsequently PBR before arriving back at the truck just in time for the rain to begin. Squalls moved in and out throughout the day and dampened the soil before giving way to a spectacular sunset, which led us to session PBR with the cameras, which produced the monumentally impressive image you see on the cover of this post, a photo which will also be shortly printed out and hung in my condo.

David’s other photos are cool too.

Kessel Run had the benefit of dumping almost directly into our campsite, so after one final speed run on that trail we packed it in for the night with chili and Satan-grains for dinner before bedding down and preparing for the jump over to Moab the next morning.

Return to Moab

February 19, 2017

The Return to Moab. Just a short hour and a half jaunt from Fruita, we drove through epically moody landscapes to an equally epic town. It felt like going home: descending the 191 and as town swung into view, a wave of nostalgia swept over us. Yes, we’d only been to Moab once before (Feb 2015), but the town and its surrounding vistas and personality left a serious impression.

The resounding thought was, “Fruita was cool, but Moab feels right.”

Sunday’s forecast for the entire region was scattered showers and gloomy skies. We decided to call it a rest day. We ran some quick errands in town and searched in vain for an inexpensive camp chair for Scott ($109 for a chair is not okiedokie, Kelty).

From there, we grabbed some free wifi at a downtown café (Red Rock Café, rad place) and updated our sorely neglected Instagram accounts like first-world citizens.

In the early afternoon, we turned the rig to Sandflats Road and familiar territory. Cluster E was where we had camped last and we were keen to check it out again, unfortunately a rogue camper van had already claimed our favorite site. So we pushed on to Cluster H and found a super sweet spot right off the Fins n things trail. And immediately, a new favorite Moab campsite was formed.

Downhill bikes were offloaded and subsequently mobbed down various “super sick rock rolls, bruh.”

Rain seemed to clear around 7pm, with just a spiteful shower at 9pm. We crawled into the tent shortly thereafter, hoping and praying for clear skies in the morning, as we were promised and as had been foretold.

Captain Ahab's Delicate Revenge and the Meeting of Rick

February 20, 2017

Truth be told, there was a moment of panic and sheer disappointment when Scott poked his head out of the tent in the morning and solemnly announced that it was still cloudy. After a short pause: “Wait… no, it’s literally so clear that it looks hazy.” He didn’t have his contacts in. I’ll give him that one excuse. Regardless, the bluebird skies were upon us and spirits ranged from high to very high during our morning as we prepared to push up the Amasa Back Mesa with our downhill bikes.

Our sights were set on one trail, and one trail only: Captain Ahab, a double-black diamond enduro trail with quite a few committing features and a little bit of exposure. Since we had loaded the DH bikes and transported them down to Utah, it only seemed appropriate that we give them a go on ol’ Ahab.

It did not disappoint.

The bike push up the 4×4 jeep trail that led to the top of the mesa was surprisingly easy and we made good time. Honestly, it seemed shorter this time (we rode this trail for the first time back in February 2015).

Then: that sweet, sweet downhill. Truth be told… and this may surprise you, but I’d consider myself strongly in the every-trail-needs-a-shuttle-or-chair-lift camp. Pedaling uphill is not my jam. Slickrock rolls, drops and downhill speed… now we’re talking.

There’s a section of Lower Captain Ahab where there’s a bit of exposure. Meaning, there’s a sizable (300’+) cliff directly right of the trail. There’s a torn and sun-faded sign warning bikers to dismount and walk their bikes to avoid possible death. Psssshhh. Demo 8 don’t care! Both Scott and I felt completely comfortable riding the entire section.

After the 9.4 mile loop, we were both fairly tired, so we opted to call it a day and head toward Arches National Park for a visit to an old friend: Delicate Arch.

It’s an easy 1.5 mile stroll to what is possibly Utah’s most famous arch, though the state boasts countless arches. Delicate Arch draws the crowds though, as we discovered when we both suddenly became aware of a tour-bus-load of people who arrived just as the sunset light was getting prime. This group of roughly 50 people yammered and got in the way of the numerous “pro” photographers who had been sitting patiently, waiting for the light to get just right. Not a fan of tour buses. Classic guy jumping in front of the line of tripods with his iPhone, completely oblivious to any one else’s existence.

But the evening was saved by a chance meeting of a new friend and fellow traveler, Rick. On the road in Southern Utah since mid-December, Rick had loads of beta on off-the-beaten-path places to check out the next time we were in the area. Rick is actually from Kirkland, WA (very geographically near to both Scott and I), but spends 3-5 months per year on the road, exploring and taking photos. It was great to meet him and we chatted about places we’d visited and swapped traveling stories as the evening progressed, hiking down to parking lot with him.

Rick described that evening’s sunset show at Delicate Arch as “textbook,” both in the beautiful display of light painting the red sandstone arch and surroundings and the overload of people, wholly unaware of any one else in the world.

Overheard while waiting at Delicate Arch: (12-year-old says to dad) “Can we go somewhere where there’s internet? Netflix lets you download stuff and I want to watch some episodes of The Flash.” I don’t want to live in that America.

It'll go: Rockstacker to Jacksons to Epic Sunset

February 21, 2017

The downside of having friends who are really good mountain bikers is eventually, you’ll be told that you need to step up and attempt some “real” trails. The training wheels came off this trip with “Rockstacker to Jacksons”. Essentially these two trails combine to take the rider from the top of the Amasa Back Mesa literally down the northern face. There are several spots on both trails where immediately to the left of the trail, is the Colorado River. It’s beautiful and green and several hundred feet down. Don’t mess up.

We pushed our downhill bikes back up to the top of the Amasa Back Mesa but continued on the Cliffhanger jeep trail out to the Pothole Arch mountain bike trail (super fun!) to hook up with the top of Rockstacker. Typically, this is an enduro bike run, but precedent had been set the previous day. And with the potential for pretty gnarly, rough trails, I opted to go with the “big boy” bike.

Here’s an excerpt of the trail description from The MTB Project:

Rockstacker was created with an elegant touch that used trail engineering to enable a spectacular and unlikely line, rather than to dumb down the terrain.

Some of Moab’s trickiest and most intimidating rideable features are found in this short stretch of trail, including unbrakeably steep, sandy slabs; narrow, tall, scary drops; and technical, tight switchbacks through boulder gardens. Some of this is sited above serious consequences.

They weren’t kidding.

I walked a lot of it.

The lower portion of the trail, though, turned into a very flow-y up-and-down and was spectacular. Around a slight right-hand bend, appeared the sign, signaling the start of Jacksons.

Where Rockstacker has big features, Jacksons has big features plus exposure. And it was awesome.
I walked the crux. And I don’t even see how it’s possible to ride it.

Maybe one day.

It was a rad day of riding. I pushed my limits and was able to roll a lot more than I expected, especially with the confidence boost of the DH bike.

From there, we packed up and headed out to Canyonlands National Park, to the Green River Overlook and campground. We dropped the tent at the campground (first-come, first-served) and headed for the overlook to catch the sunset. It was unbelievably windy so standing near the cliff edge looking down into lower Canyonlands was… interesting. Even sitting down, the wind gusts seemed like they could almost pick me up.

Unfortunately, the sunset didn’t materialize. Too many clouds, and it just sort of petered out.
We headed back to the truck and Scott started taking a panoramic photo of the area with his phone. I was taking a picture of the truck in the fading light when we both simultaneously became aware of the intense orange and red color temperature surrounding us. Spinning on my heels, I saw the most — and I don’t use this word lightly — epic desert sunset I’ve ever personally witnessed. For the next 15 minutes, the sky, clouds and earth was a symphony of reds, oranges, purples and blues. And it was just for Scott and I. There was no one else there. You know how when someone shows you a picture and says it doesn’t do it justice? I lived it tonight.

Turn and Burn

February 22, 2017

Well that really escalated. I mean, things really got out of hand.

We started the morning down at the overlook again. Subconsciously, we knew that the sunrise would be far less dramatic than the previous night’s sunset to end all sunsets, but we hung out for a bit and watched the sun work its way across the valley floor. Only 2 short miles away from the GRO (Green River Overlook) is Mesa Arch, a quintessential sunrise photo spot, but having just been tour-bused, we opted for a quiet morning. And again, it was just us at the overlook. A few people came and went pretty quickly, hardly stopping to take in the breathtaking view, which was fine by me.

We returned to camp and packed up, getting ready to head north for Idaho, our next camp spot. In Salt Lake City, with the return of LTE, we discovered that snow and/or frigid temperatures were forecasted for the entire region. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew, we were driving like mad for home, cutting our trip short by a day. The thought of pitching the tent in the snow, while the bikes slowly rusted on the roof simply didn’t sound so appealing. So it turned into a 17-hour drive. No big deal.