Alas, as we rode up to Campsite A (we were in C3, fwiw) Jeremy & his camper seemed to have ascended - so Alex & I went for a little play on the Slickrock Trail. What luxury is it when you can just go & play on the Slickrock Trail - arguably the most famous mountain-bike trail in the world? We didn't have a heap of time so contented ourselves with doing the Practice Loop (which is no easier than the rest, but a lot shorter) and then riding up the stick of the lollipop (the trail proper is roughly lollipop, or lasso if you prefer, shaped). It wasn't long before I remembered just how grippy the rock is and had the confidence to ride across rather steep slopes knowing that my rear tyre wouldn't slip down into a chasm or such. The middle of the stick has some nice steep descents & climbs (dependent on direction of travel of course) which challenged both of us.
|Showing off my Combe Raiders shirt - I got it at the (pre-) Christmas CR party & this was the first time it was warm enough to wear riding!|
|Alex unperturbed by being on the edge of the Abyss (Canyon).|
|That's me following the dotted line (route finding is easy when there's a big line painted on the rock) down & then back up again, inevitably.|
Returning to camp, we found Jeremy had got back from running errands - by which he means joining the Moab Bike Patrol, answering the prayers/requests of the mountain-biking flock and generally being worthy. Alex & Finn kindly shuttled the other three of us up a long & winding gravel road (during which we wondered about the mental stability of those riding up) to the trailhead of the Kokopelli section of the Whole Enchilada on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road - we found the trail too wet & muddy so went back down to start on UPS (Upper Porcupine Section or some such) - with a 125 m climb over two kilometres to start.
Porcupine is another really famous Moab ride - mostly Jeep track - but there are some sections (UPS & LPS) above that are in a more forested area & provide singletrack & sufficient interest when you're not trying to ride off the edge of a cliff into Castle Valley. Porcupine Rim itself is more open with fewer trees & actually gets away from the rim as you drop lower & lower. Last time I rode it I rode alone and was on a bike with less suspension & remember huge amounts of cliffside exposure & really large drops on the Jeep track that I had to walk some of; consequently I didn't rate it as highly as the hype had indicated. With this in mind & Megan's lack of recent riding on anything other than smooth, forgiving snow - I may have built up the challenge a bit much & freaked her out, just as well she was still willing.
It was good to follow Jeremy through the singletrack UPS & LPS sections & see what was possible to ride & push myself a bit over things I wouldn't normally ride (the bike probably had a bit to do with that - that'll get a post of its own later). We stopped for the odd photo as the scenery was not to be sniffed at.
|Across Castle Valley|
|Still trying to comprehend the vastness after too long on the British Isles|
|A good spot to get off the bikes - trying to get a decent photo of Megan & me together for our families and posterity, we largely failed (unless we weren't facing the camera).|
The rocky-ness of the Jeep track began & I really enjoyed chasing Jeremy down the hill. We kept a good pace with few stops & I was surprised by how much more I could ride this time & how much easier things were. After Jeremy had an unfortunate encounter with terra firma due to landing a jump in a sandy patch (which would later rule him out of riding the next day), I found myself leading for much of the rest of the way down. That was fine by me as my confidence in my bike & my ability kept improving - gradually I found myself riding off & over obstacles that I never dreamed I would ever attempt, much less land. Usually I will take an easy & smooth line with not too much of a drop; if there was a big drop coming up, I'd usually see it in plenty of time, slow down & inspect it & realise I'd lost too much speed, chicken out & walk it or take an easier line. Not any more, I was carrying a lot more speed and had the confidence to just keep going over & off anything the trail would throw at me - much to my astonishment & delight I was soon riding off two-foot drops with a previously unheard of confidence & landing them (not always in style, but always cleanly). I was thrilled. It's hard to convey how exciting this was for me; you'll just have to believe it was a big step in my skill & confidence levels - which had been reasonable stagnant at a competent, but not too exciting, level for some time.
So it was with that development for me, that this became one of my two favourite rides for the whole trip & easily my best ride since Downieville almost two years prior. Trumpet blowing over.
The Jeep track ran out & turned to the final section of singletrack down the edge (really close to the edge in fact) of a canyon to the Colorado River. I remember this singletrack being well constructed, but really technical and with the exposure to certain death by launching oneself off the bike to the bottom of a large canyon, requiring a lot of walking. Oh how things had changed. The trail had been sanitised somewhat, but not in the usual detrimental way - it was exciting to find that this final part of such a good ride flowed well, I could ride all of it (except one handlebar pinching point & one wash crossing) at speed & it was no longer so technical I was worried about falling to my doom. It was a great finish to a most excellent ride. Jeremy & I had previously shuttled his VW to end of the trail & he rose higher in our esteem as he pulled out post-ride celebratory beers from the cooler (esky/chilly bin for those in the Antipodes).
|The problem with leading is that people don't have sufficient opportunity to get a good photo of you - this is the best I have of Jeremy - on the lower singletrack section.|
|Bikes + rocks + sun = fun for Megan|
Back in town, we treated ourselves to showers and the celebratory dinner was a big feed at the local brewpub - Moab Brewery.