Monday, March 26, 2012

Ahhh, Utah

When trails are closed and the weather is cold here in Minneapolis, there are two more reasons to go to Utah. This adds to all the other reasons to go: the martian landscapes of red slickrock, mountain bike trails for every skill level including death-defying, cliff-top views that go on forever, and free camping with views so amazing you kinda just want to stay at camp.

I had mountain biked in Utah once before and had a blast. After three years I was overdue for a visit. Matt and Joe were game, and we started planning a MTB and climbing trip last summer.

The trip this year started with a 24 hour drive. Lots of coffee, uncomfortable naps in the passenger seat, and searching the ipod for music to keep us awake. The goal: get to Hurricane, UT with enough light left to hit some trails and set up camp.
No problem. We arrived the next morning and found a free camp spot on top of Gooseberry Mesa. It was a random side road that rewarded us with cliff top views of miles of valleys, mesas, cliffs. We dropped our gear, pulled the bikes off the car and rode some trails. After a near sleepless night it was all kind of dreamlike.

Gooseberry Mesa had terrain for our every need. Rolling slickrock, technical rock features, jumps, trails along cliff edges.... Ahhh, Utah. Riding these trails took some getting used to. Short, super-steep ascents would be followed by equally steep descents or drop-offs. Unlikely angles were made possible with the extreme traction provided by the sandpaper like rock. The granny gear finally got some use.

I rode a Giant Anthem 2 for the trip. Due to the short travel XC bike (3.5" for the 2006) I picked the Kenda Nevegal 2.35s, thinking the wider tires would have extra cushion and grip. They lived up to their reputation and were predictable in all the terrains we encountered. I also test rode some Ergon grips, but decided they weren't the best for such technical riding. I think they would be better for long XC type rides.

We spent several days wandering Gooseberry. We camped out each night on the edge of the mesa, and watched the sunset cast changing colours on the valley below us.

After 3 nights at Gooseberry, it was time for our next stop, St George. There was rumour of top-notch climbing and biking in that area. How much could we do in a day? We ended up covering all of Bearclaw Poppythe first day. It was a longhaul, with the star of the show being the downhill ride from 3 Fingers of Death thru the acid drops. This was a section we definitely benefited from by scouting first. Following that the snaking trails before the turn-around point had to be the fastest terrain of the trip. The following day we had a double feature with the rocky and lung-busting Zen trail followed by climbing at Green Valley Gap.

After more days of climbing and biking our trip was running out of time. We had to start heading back to Minnesota. Moab was on the way and would be our last stop. One last hurrah on the one of the most well known MTB tracks in the country.

Slickrock didn't disappoint and reminded me why it is such a legendary spot. The terrain is unlike any other and there are breath-taking views in every direction. The scale of the rocks and gradient of the trails pushed us to the limit. Some ascents were so steep it felt like I might roll over backwards, and they kept going up until legs and lungs were burning. It was a capstone to be remembered.

Overall, we got in a mix of biking and climbing everyday for 8 days straight. Definitely the type of trip I want to do more often.

See ya on the trails.