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White Rim Trail Canyonlands NP

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well I didn't thing I'd be posting another trip report so soon. Anyway, here's the latest adventure. Laure and I got a last minute invite to go on a multi day 80+ mile mountain bike ride on the White Rim Trail trough Canyonlands National park. This was a vehicle supported ride with about 15 folks. We met bright and early on Saturday May 20th at the Canyonlands visitor center.

View of Shafer Canyon from Visitors Center


Laure and Scott


After packing the gear, we shuttled a couple of cars to the top of the Horsethief trail on the western edge of the park (about a 50 mile round trip). After a quick safety briefing, we headed down through the steep switchbacks of the Shafer Trail. Sorry we have no photos of this, we were all to stoked to be riding to take any pics. The thing I noticed as we descended was a marked increase in temps. I think it was 90-95 Deg that day. There virtually no shade once you get below the level of the rim. Brutal.



Our first stop of the trip (minus a quick break to fix a flat) was lunch at Mussleman Arch. It's about a 6' sandstone arch 300 or so feet off the ground. I'm sure there have been countless photos taken on it. We talked one of the member of our party out of doing the handstand photo.



We rolled on towards Gooseberry, our first campsite, about 30 miles from the start of the trail. Me, Laure and Himie (Jamie), a former Alta instructor we're riding together late in the after noon, when he said, "Ya see that point up there, that's where we ran out of water last year". Not 2 mins after that, My camelbak went dry. I still had a bottle on my bike, so I wasn't too worried. Almost at the same time, Jamie went dry, then Laure. We decided we should better hold up and wait on the SAG vehicle. I wanted to see what was around the corner, so I rolled another 50' and there were 3 more of our party stopped on the side of the trail. No or low agua. We decided that point of the trail was the limit of a 3 liter camelbak.



After a 10-15 min wait for our support vehicle, we got moving again. 30 mins later we rolled into our campsite. There was a group across the way from us. We were surprised that they had no support vehicles. A few of us talked to the and found out they had run out of water too, except they were completely out. They were riding counter clockwise and it was their last night camping. Their two SAG vehicles had driven into Moab to get water. 30 miles to the trail head over unimproved dirt and 4WD roads, 40 miles into town on pavement and back. About 9:30 they made it back to camp. Everything worked out, but the desert is a dangerous place to miscalculate things.

Since we were basically car camping, we knew that things weren't going to be THAT rough. At the start of the trip, Laure and I basically only knew 2 folks. To our pleasant surprise, we found out that we had not 1 but 2 professional chef's along on the trip. Dinner that night was fresh salmon buritos with a dill and cilantro yogurt sauce, black beans and rice. Yummy.





After dinner we watched the sun set. I was in charge of the entertainment and one of the highlights of the evening was "name that tune" over beers with my MP3 player. Even though I had gotten up at 5:30 (to excited to sleep) I was one of the last ones to bed. I listened to the end of the nascar race on XM satellite radio. My guy finised 2nd so I was pretty happy. As I crawled into my tent, I peered up into the sky. The moon was not up yet and I don't ever think I seen so many stars. I've spent a fair amount of time outdoors, but there was almost zero light pollution where we were. I woke Laure up and we laid there for awhile just looking up at the sky. The end of a long satisfying day and part one of the story.
post #2 of 15
How many people did you see out there? I first rode it in 1982. There were no campsites, no reservations, no support vehicles, no people period. I rode it again in one long day a few years later and it was getting busy. I've wondered what it is like out there now.

Great photos. The desert never disappoints.
post #3 of 15
Nice! Well done!
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog
How many people did you see out there? I first rode it in 1982. There were no campsites, no reservations, no support vehicles, no people period. I rode it again in one long day a few years later and it was getting busy. I've wondered what it is like out there now.

Great photos. The desert never disappoints.
We passed quite a few folks Saturday (our first day) on all sorts of vehicles (bikes, motorcycles, jeeps etc). Then 1 party each day on Sunday and Monday, with a couple of guys on motorbikes on those days too.
post #5 of 15
Nice shots, Lonnie.

That's a wonderful ride. We did it about six years ago with Kara and Sean and several of their friends. We went counterclockwise also and we just loved it. I had a gear sprocket malfunction on our final day and rode up that last climb with only my middle sprocket working - I was ready to chuck that bike out over the rim by the time I got to the top. :

You're right about the stars. There are so many of them you can't believe it. Of course, I was also quite surprised at how many aircraft lights you see waayyy, waaayy, way up there.

I'm looking forward to more photos if you post them.
post #6 of 15
Looks like a wonderful trip. A lot of the local bike studs here consider it a macho badge of achievement to do the entire 110 mile loop in one day with no shuttle, so they complete the 25 miles on the top too. I can't imagine why someone would want to take that beautiful ride and turn it into a painful ordeal, but thought you might find it interesting to consider what it would be like in the saddle on that trail for more than 12 hours straight.

If you liked that trip you should consider Lockhart Basin. It is on the other side of the Colorado River and parallels the east branch of the White Rim. You start in Moab, go over Hurrah Pass and keep going until you come out in the Needls District of the Park to the south. It is a good two day trip and you will find almost no people on it.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters
I'm looking forward to more photos if you post them.
Don't worry. The best are yet to come....

Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot
A lot of the local bike studs here consider it a macho badge of achievement to do the entire 110 mile loop in one day with no shuttle, so they complete the 25 miles on the top too. I can't imagine why someone would want to take that beautiful ride and turn it into a painful ordeal, but thought you might find it interesting to consider what it would be like in the saddle on that trail for more than 12 hours straight.
Yeah, before I went on the trip I was kicking around the idea of doing it in a day (just to say I did it). But after riding it, I think doing so kinda misses the point of doing it in the first place. If you can't stop and "smell the roses" so to speak, what's the point?

L
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Day 2. Gooseberry to Candlestick.

Day 2. Gooseberry to Candlestick. I think day 2 was my favorite day. I'm an early riser so I got up early to take a few sunrise pictures.

Sunrise over the San Juans




The ride was a relatively easy 25 miles, mostly downhill, with the short but steep climb "Murphy's Hogback" thrown in about 1/2 way for good measure. Most of the road surface along the trail is what I'd call "unimproved dirt road" with a few sections of slickrock, silt, sand, gravel, etc thrown in along the way to keep things interesting. Only a few spots are what I'd call really technical. The trail got really close to the canyon rim in a few places on day 2 and as a result, there were some great views along the way. I thought the best was "Monument Basin" with it's long views. I had gotten a bit behind on hydration the day before so we skipped the ride out to whitecrack. We'll save that one for another trip.

Views along the way

Looking towards Momument Basin and the Needles District


Riding the top of Momument basin


Taking a break to refilling the Camelbak


Grinding up Murphys.



Wheelin' up Murphys


After grinding up Murphys Hogback, we stopped at the top for lunch. Refueled by pasta salad and chips we were just about ready to roll when somebody said "Don't forget desert!" They dove in to the cooler, and pulled out a bunch of popsickles. Ahhh, the miracle of dry ice. SWEET! We all had 1 or 2. Unfortunately, given the heat (which Laure has told me after reading part one was the upper 90's as opposed to the lower 90's) all of our dry ice had evaporated. We were forced with a choice. Finish the 10-12 remaining popsickles we had left, or let them melt. I'm not sure on the details, but there were a couple of folks at the top of Murphy's that some of the folks in our group knew (the had come the other way). So we walked over and "forced" them to have a couple as well. Just about that time, another group of riders made it to the top of Murphy's from the west.

I looked at one of the guys and said "Hey you guys aren't hot, are you?"
"Hell yes", said the guy with a bit of a "Are you stupid?" look.
"Would you like a popsickle?"
"NO, F'ING WAY!?!?, Are you kidding me?"
"Nope. Dig in. Just thank the lady with the redhair and pigtails when you see her."
Just about everyone in their group got one. They were stoked for a little bit of what Appalachian trail though hikers call "Trail Magic".



We jumped on our bikes after lunch and started the decent down the west side of Murphy's. I was going pretty good when hit a little rock and hear "POP! Pssssssttttttt." Flat. No biggie. I was in front of a lot of the party. I pulled over and started to change the flat. One by one, they scooted by me, with "Are you OK?" "Yeah, just a flat." After everyone but the last SAG wagon was past, I went to put the wheel back on, and I realized that it was more than just a flat. I had pulled the rear pad for the disk brake off. After about 10-15 mins of fumbling around, I managed to 1). figure out how disk brake pads are installed, and 2). How to fix them (with the help of a steak knife out of the back of the SAG wagon). Since I was so far behind, I turned on the after burners to catch back up to the group. Most likely that was a bad move, given my previous state of hydration and the heat. I was feeling pretty bad by the time I rolled into Candlestick. As a result, I missed the side trip of hiking the cool little slot canyon just up the road. Live and learn.

Diner that night was a wonderful beef stir fry. When it came off the stove we looked at it and said, "We'll never eat all of that". We were wrong. Since we lost our dry ice, the ice cream they had planed on turned to a nice milky soup. After dinner we walked out to the edge of the Green River and watched the sun go down over the Maze district of the park. Off to the SW we could see stormclouds starting to blow in. Unfortunately, those clouds cover up most of the stars on night #2. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of wind blowing across the desert.

Sunset over the green river


post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot
A lot of the local bike studs here consider it a macho badge of achievement to do the entire 110 mile loop in one day with no shuttle, so they complete the 25 miles on the top too. I can't imagine why someone would want to take that beautiful ride and turn it into a painful ordeal, but thought you might find it interesting to consider what it would be like in the saddle on that trail for more than 12 hours straight.
.
I did it in a day and found it beautiful but neither painful nor an ordeal. Macho had nothing to do with it either. I was bike racing back then and it was just a long leasurely ride. If I did it in a day right now it would be both long and an ordeal.

The Hurrah Pass ride is a nice long route, as well as the Beef Basin loop from the Needles through Dugout Ranch. We did the Kokapelli Trail and found it a different animal--pretty rough riding on a loaded bike.

Going from Prague to central France on Pilgrimage trails in August.
post #10 of 15
Newfydog: If you can do 110 miles on a mountain bike on 4-wheel drives roads anywhere in one day and describe it as not painful and just "a long leasurley ride" you are a better man than I. I've done the White Rim several times (once in 2 days) and it is a long rough haul anyway you look at it.
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot
Newfydog: If you can do 110 miles on a mountain bike on 4-wheel drives roads anywhere in one day and describe it as not painful and just "a long leasurley ride" you are a better man than I. .
Better than the 2006 version of the Newfydog as well. All I meant was that the day trippers are neccessarily macho or masochistic, some of them are just in good shape.

I rode it once with camping gear and friends in three days over Thanksgiving. That was a great ride too. I also drove the thing once. That was awful.
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Day 3 Candlestick to Horsethief.

We woke up early in the AM to the pitter patter of rain drops on the tent. By the time I had gotten my shoes on, rummaged around in my pack and found the tent's rain fly, it stopped. So I laid in bed for a while and watched the thunderstorms (mostly dry lighting) roll across the desert. About 5:45 I crawled out of the tent, snapped a few shots of a silhouetted candlestick and continued down to the canyon rim.

For what ever reason, the crew got a much slower start on day 3. It was overcast most of the day, which made the peddling easier. The terrain on day 3 consisted of gentle rollers and two pretty stiff climbs Hardscrabble hill and the crank out of the canyon at horsethief. Pretty much an uneventful day.



A few shots of hardscrabble




By the time we got to out lunch spot at hardscrabble bottom, the sun was out again in full force. After fighting our way through several sand traps after lunch, Scott decided we needed to take a dip in the green river before the final push up horsethief. several of us stopped only Scott went for the total inversion. With the heat and dry air, it felt ice cold.



After that there was only one thing left to do. The big climb out of horsethief. I didn't get good numbers (I rode with my GPS), but I think it was something like 800-1000 vertical in just about 2 miles. That works out close to 9-10%. No matter what the numbers say, it was a grind. One of the SAG trucks caught a flat about half way up and they had to change it.




Laure happy to finally be at the top


At the top we high fived, cracked open a few leftover beers, packed up the shuttle vehicles and headed off to the visitors center where we split up out remaining gear, washed of some of the dirt (the folks that had done it before said that this was the dirtiest they had ever gotten) with our remaining water and said goodbye. All in all a great way to see the park.



The "Dirt Tan"




Most of the Salt Lake Crew stopped at Rays Tavern in Green River for burgers. If you've never stoped there, it's worth the trip off I-70. It's a traditional place for river runners to stop after river trips. I'd eaten there before, when on "business". Well that's it for this report. Thanks for reading!

Until the next adventure,
Lonnie
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
PS, Since we can only put 10 images in a post and I had 11 picked out, here's the "group" photo (minus a few of the hard chargers....)

post #14 of 15
If you like that country you might consider the river trip on the Green from Horsethief to the confluence with the Colorado. There is no white water, but it goes through some of the best of Canyonlands. The White Rim is just above you. It takes about three or four days and is suitable for any canoe or sea kayak. Several companies, such as Tex's River Tours run shuttles out of Moab, and rent canoes.

While all the white water sections are booked with waiting lists, sometimes years, this trip can be signed up for on short notice.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog
If you like that country you might consider the river trip on the Green from Horsethief to the confluence with the Colorado. There is no white water, but it goes through some of the best of Canyonlands. The White Rim is just above you. It takes about three or four days and is suitable for any canoe or sea kayak. Several companies, such as Tex's River Tours run shuttles out of Moab, and rent canoes.

While all the white water sections are booked with waiting lists, sometimes years, this trip can be signed up for on short notice.
Plenty of the boys and girls I work with are river rats. In fact a pack of them are leaving today to do the Yampa. I just haven't secured a spot with the yet.

L
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