Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gettin' WRAD on the White Rim

As many mountain bikers in Utah  - and around the country - know, the White Rim Ttrail is truly a classic ride (this I know because I have a coffee table book called "Classic Mountain Bike"; Thirty of the World's Most Spectacular Trails" and the White Rim is in there).  It's a 100 mile loop that starts and finishes in the Island in the Sky section of the Canyonlands National park west of Moab, and after dropping off the Island mesa via the infamous Shafer Trail switchbacks a "bench" of (what I believe is) Navajo Sandstone creates a great shelf that enabled the building of an amazing 4WD road that wraps almost an entire loop in 70+ miles.  The route was initially developed by winter cattle grazing and then was "improved" by the Atomic Energy Commission for uranium exploration.  Now it's almost exclusively the domain of mountain bikers.

Most folks take three days to do the loop in river trip style, with the "kayaks" being the bikes and the "rafts" being overladen 4WD trucks.  But over the last 10 years or so it seems like we almost never hear of any of our friends doing 3 day trips and instead it's becoming increasingly popular to do the White Rim in A Day (WRAD).  Before I met her Ash had done 8-10 of these, and in our first year together we did her only 3-day.  We hadn't done it for a long time (with the exception of going to the Scotsman's fantastic wedding at the halfway-around mark in 2005) and decided it was time to return. 

In order to make a weekend out of it, we went south on Saturday to explore some awesome new singletrack (?? new to me, at least....maybe in the last few years?) in the Gemini Bridges area.  It's clear that Moab is taking seriously the "challenge" posed by the killer singletrack trails available in the Fruita and St George areas by doing a lot of work to make really fun singletrack in Moab to compliment the Slickrock trail and copious double track that historically has attracted plenty of tourist mountain bikers but waned in it's appeal to singletrack snobs.  The new trails are definitely worthy:

and are really well-marked:

And of course are becoming really popular:

Here's Ash dancing with death perilously close to the edge:

And the gratuitous "Anastazi-looking shadow on the rocks by a coupla dorks" shot:

There are at least 4 of these singletrack areas around Moab now that rival anything at Gooseberry, Fruita, etc in terms of fun, challenge, scenery, and trail quality. 

And then off to the WRAD on Sunday.  We rolled out just before first light (going clockwise) and zipped past the park gate ($5 for bikes?!?!  it was closed so of course we blew if off, but charging for bikes? c'mon....)
And had the sun rising on us as we plunged the 1400 feet down to the rim:

Where you settle into the rhythm of the double track:

The White Rim may have lost a bit of its luster for folks because there is not a single inch of single track, but the beauty is pretty amazing

and never really stops. 

As an added bonus, I found some super sick shades:

that I can't wait to start sporting around the Wasatch. 

We saw so few people that at about mile 70 we started to get a little concerned about our water poachability (from the 3-dayers) but we were able to get 2, 12 oz bottles of water from people who were doing a 3 day driving trip (which was "the only water we have; but we have plenty of soda!"  huh?  really?  you are camping in the desert with NO water?) and with about 2 or 3 hours to go we found some cyclists who had plenty of water left for us to do a refill.  

A long grinder climb to the top of the Mineral Bottom switchbacks (where the learned geologist Joe Hazel tells me he found alarming levels of radioactivity!  I won't be camping there anytime soon....) and a 10 mile spin back to the highway returned us to the start with an hour to spare before dark. 

In an era of most mountain bike rides being in the several-hour range, it is always a treat to get a truly-full day of riding on a bona fide "classic".  Stellar ride for sure. 

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