I biked Slickrock again this year. It was the typical experience — not too many people, the perfect weather, and still a good challenge to get through. I tried some homemade energy goop this year, a bottle of honey with some strawberry flavoring mixed in to thin it out a little and to make it taste better. It worked out really well. I took my GPS along for the ride this year so I could find out just how much elevation gain & loss there is on this trail. In total, there is 1,950 feet in elevation gain & loss. The number could actually be much higher if the GPS didn’t track precisely at the bottom and top of each hill, but it’s a rough estimate & good enough for me.
The next day I explored the Onion Creek area. Although the road is marked 4WD I decided to take lil’ red for a drive up it. The road is in awesome shape and would be a blast to ride on a mountain bike with all the stream crossings and the roller coaster like ascents & descents between the stream crossings. The geology in that canyon is incredible & will definitely be ridden later on this year when I go down again. If the stream was flowing at a much higher rate I could see some problems taking lil’ red up it, but there weren’t any problems that day.
The rest of the day was spent in Arches National Park in the Fiery Furnace. It’s one of my favorite places ot hike in the area for a couple reasons. First is the fact that not too many people can go in due to permit restrictions, and the permit eliminates the majority of people from even being remotely interested in going in there, and then there’s the need for a guide if someone in your group doesn’t know the route through the furnace — which is basically a labyrinth. The temperature in the furnace is usually 10-20 degrees cooler (at least) than anywhere else in the park due to all the shade created by the tightly spaced fins. Some of the slot canyons created by the fins will have a cool downdraft much cooler than the rest of the furnace making it really nice to relax in one of those. That, plus all the cool formations, and the mild canyoneering experience you have and the ability to explore any number of areas within the furnace make this a really fun place to go.
My actual birthday was spent on a bike ride through Canyonlands National Park. Starting out on the Shafer road near the entrance to the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands I descended the road and all it’s switchbacks, stopping on occasion to take a look over the edge of the road to see where I was heading next & to give my body a rest from all the downhill. I soon hit the bottom & took a break in the shade. On this route, trees are scarce that I stopped under them whenever I had the chance. From here the route I was on follows the famous White Rim Trail. Following this trail exposed me to another side of Canyonlands NP that I’d never seen before. You’re basically in the middle of all the layers that make up the area so you have good views of all the cliffs above you and you could also see beyond into the canyons below you and actually see the Colorado River on it’s course through the area, whereas you only see a smidgeon of everything from the main roads in Island in the Sky. As you had South-East on this road (at least on this section) you’re heading slightly uphill and when you go around a corner to go North-West you’re going downhill. While the road isn’t technical in this section requiring 4WD vehicles or anything, there’s still enough obstacles on the road to make riding it fun. There are small ledges & other rocks to jump off of, sand to surf through and other fun things to do. You can overlook the Gooseneck bend in the Colorado & go up to Musselman Arch which is more of a natural bridge technically, and is quite impressive. After Musselman Arch the rest of the trail is fairly boring, taking you further away from the canyon rim. And then there was Lathrop Canyon. My shuttle service suggested walking the first sections of this canyon — whatever. This canyon was a lot of fun. It was a long fast descent with lots of obstacles to have fun with, and was definitely the best part of the ride, much better than the descent down Shafer road. That is until you hit the last mile and a half of deep sand. It’s totally unrideable unless of course you’re a glutton for punishment, really, really bad punishment. The route ended on the Colorado River. The tamarisk like everywhere else on the major rivers out West has grown so thick that it totally blocks the view of the river except for the dirt boat ramp leading into the river. I was early for my boat pick up, by about 2 hours, so I had a while to nap & relax. There was a couple moving down to NM that had a full mattress set strapped to the top of their truck. I assumed at first that one of the two would only go on a trip like this if they had the comforts of home right there, but I found out they were moving later on. This 40 foot barge like boat pulled up with some canoeists returning from a 7 day trip down the Green River — one of the ladies had broken her fibia on day 4 and managed to finish the trip and still be in good spirits by the time I met them. Fortunately they had duct tape to to bind the splint, and enough drift wood on the route for a fine selection of canes. The boat ride lasted for about an hour & then there was a slow drive back to town. All in all this was 1112 feet of climbing, and 3094 feet of descent, over 20.9 miles.
All in all this was yet another awesome trip to Moab. It might be my last annual trip down there for my birthday, but certainly not the last one.