This past weekend Eric, Jeremy and I headed out to Moab to ride the White Rim. A rain storm destroyed Mineral Bottom switchbacks, which made the trip very difficult before this past week when the road was officially opened. The weather looked ok for the weekend. We arrived to our campsite for my first night of camping this year. I did not even pitch my tent as there was not a cloud in the sky and the stars were out in full force. 5AM arrived very quickly after a long drive Friday night after work. Fred, owner of Paradox Pizza, joined us for the lap. It was a bit chilly at the start, but the gradual climb up the first road warmed us up quickly. Once we got to the entrance, we were told we would have to bike down to the visitor center to get a permit.
The lady who helped me get my permit seemed very nice and helpful, but due to the switchback closure must not have been used to bikers. Our conversation went about like this:
Brett (me): Hi, I would like a one day permit to bike around the White Rim.
NPS lady: You are going to ride around the White Rim in one day? That takes like forever.
Brett: Actually, it takes about 9 hours
NPS lady: Wow!
NPS lady: How many people?
NPS lady: How many vehicles?
NPS lady: How many bikes, 5?
Brett: What? 4
I always agree you should be prepared for as many things as possible, but I guess carrying an extra bike never crossed my mind. Parts and tools yes, but a bike.... Oh well, something to consider for next time, maybe.
The day seemed to be shaping up quite nicely. It was warm enough to drop down Schaffer's without being cold. We rolled on and took pictures. Eric was in awe of the ride and area as it was his first time doing WRIAD and it was also his first trip to Canyonlands. We took pictures and made some of the usual stops to take in the sites. The scenery on the whole ride is amazing, which is the main reason we continue to drive out to Moab for this ride. For 80 of the 100 miles it looks like what one would picture the cowboys riding horses through in old wild west movies.
Somewhere around mile 40 the wind started to pick up. We ended up having a pretty strong headwind for the next 30 or so miles. After experiencing this wind, I would have to say it was more difficult than dealing with heat. The combination of the loose sand, which was worse than usual, plus the wind, exhausted us and made us reach deeper into our supplies than I would have expected. Eric and Jeremy were quite low on water by mile 80, and I didn't have much more. There was a campsite around mile 85 with a few people there. We approached them and they were nice enough to fill a few water bottles. Halfway up Hardscrabble, which is a difficult climb, we watched in awe as a carload of foreigners tried drive a Chevy Traverse up it. Reason number 263 why I would never buy a rental car. This car had no business attempting a lap around the trail.
Just before dark I was the first to bike into view of the Mineral bottom switchbacks, which is about a 1,000 ft climb in about 1.5 miles. I started up the climb to attempt to conquer it on my single speed mountain bike. I got about 1/2 way up and I was sapped. The wind, sand, and lack of water took a lot out of me. Oh well, hopefully there will be another attempt someday. As far as the repairs, the trail is in the exact same place after repair. Concrete was laid where the flood had washed out the trail.
With strong winds, clouds in the sky, and a possibilty of rain, we decided to drive down the dirt road we camped on to set up camp closer to the main road. Once I found a good spot, it was time to battle the wind to set up my tent. Post ride burgers were on tap, and then it was off to bed after a long day. Crazy winds prevailed all night and I barely slept. I poked my head out at 7:30 in the morning and rain looked iminent. I woke Eric and Jeremy up and told them we should leave. 10 minutes later it started to rain on us.
As I drove home weather continued to make things difficult. Blizzards in the mountains closed Vail pass and most of I70. 24 to Leadville was open, though I doubt it was much better. The drive home took 10 hrs (5.5hrs to get there). Pictures and ride info to come sometime this week, I hope. It was 10hrs 6 minutes of moving time and 103 miles. Its been a busy week and I have a crazy weekend ahead. Its off to Gallup NM with Tim for this Friday morning!!