Moab,Utah has traditionally been the Mecca of mountain biking over the last 20 years. From it’s resurgence as a uranium boom town that went bust, the outdoor sports world has embraced the region and contributed greatly to its current economical success as a tourist destination town. Now some pundits would say that Moab is now cliche’ and that the hard core mountain bike community has moved on to the North Shore of British Columbia, Fruita, Colorado, Sedona, Arizona and other “rad” places. But Moab remains constant in that it continually services the mountain bike community year after year with reliable weather, great trails, and excellent lodging, eating and drinking establishments. So, at the risk of being “cliche'”, I will tell you about my experience in the town of Moab and its surrounding desert trails.
Several years ago, I was in Salt Lake for a week and I got a hall pass from the bride to go to Moab for the weekend before my week in SLC. I get the rental car and pack my bike and my duds, and head out of Salt Lake for the 3+1/2 hour drive. When you go west, as many of you know, it is BIG COUNTRY! I respect the mountains out there because I have skied them many times. But this was the first time I had ventured into the desert and I was amazed that I was looking at the same mesa to my left for what seemed like 3 hours. My first stop was to check out Arches National Monument and National Park. I put on the hiking boots and headed to Delicate Arch which is seen on the Utah license plates. It was pretty cool to see these arch formations and I would say that anyone venturing into this part of Utah should definitely check out Arches and Canyonlands. It is special to Easterners because of the expanse and the beauty of the desert.
After this wondrous experience of a hike, I made my way into the town of Moab. My destination was the Sunflower Hill Inn. http://www.sunflowerhill.com. Now most people who have had the Moab experience have camped, slept in pickup trucks or have taken advantage of a Rim Tours( http://www.rimtours.com) or a Western Spirit( http://www.westernspirit.com) week long excursion with camping and great food. These tours are guided and are an excellent way to experience Moab. But yours truly had only the weekend and I found the Sunflower Hill Inn on line. What a find!!! This place is a wonderful bed and breakfast with nicely appointed rooms and a fabulous breakfast. It has a great garden terrace and is right at the trailhead to the famous Slickrock Trail. The proprietors are friendly and are more than willing to accomodate your schedule and give you suggestions on rides and places to eat dinner in town. If you want to experience Moab and have a great breakfast, sleep like a baby and take a nice hot shower after your ride and relax in the garden patio area, this is the place for you. It is truly the gentile way to experience Moab. These accomdations have nothing to do with the challenge that lays ahead on the trails, but at least it is a nice oasis after you beat youself up on the slickrock of the Moab trails.
The riding here is challenging. I started out early in the morning around 5:45 at first light because when I was there in June it gets HOT fast!!! Did I say it was hot? Wow!! You can begin on the warm up trail of the Slickrock Trail to get used to riding on this most unusual surface. Slickrock is a misnomer. It should be called sticky rock or grabby rock because you can’t believe the traction you can get riding this stuff. The actual Slickrock Trail is a marked trail on this massive rock formation. Steep ups and downs highlight the riding and you can get all you can handle riding this stuff in the exposed outdoor sunny and extremely hot conditions. Holy hell was it hot!! I thought to myself that if I had not loaded up on water and brought some extra bottles besides what was in my pack bladder, I would be in trouble. I thought,” no wonder people have died out here!” No trees, no cover, 100 degrees plus. You could fry an egg on this rock. I thought of Walter Brennan(young people- ignore this, you don’t know Walter Brennan). But for those of you who do,” 30 days on the prarie, no water, indians all around!!!) I thought about all of those old prospectors and pioneers. How did they deal with this? But the surrounding rock formations are gorgeous and the Green River below is impressive.
During my stay I also made use of the other iconic trails in the region which were the Poison Spider and Porcupine Rim trails. There are many, many trails in the region, but these two along with the Slickrock Trail are the most famous. When you see a sign to dismount and walk your bike, they are not kidding. The trails can be tight and the penalty for being careless can be a 1000 foot fall into the canyon with the Green River staring at you. Trust me- I read and obeyed the signs. Being the acrophobic that I am, I was glad to dismount. After killing myself in the heat and draining all of my water each ride, I was happy to make my way back to the air conditioning of the rental vehicle. I was red as a beet and the beer at the Slickrock Cafe http://www.slickrockcafe.com was a welcome relief. It is a nice lunch and dinner spot and the T-shirts are cool as well. Live music too.
One of the must do stops is the Poison Spider Bicycle Shop http://www.poisonspiderbicycles.com . This shop is complete with all the eye candy bicycles that you could ever want. They rent high performance bikes, sell lots of technical clothing and accessories, give great advice, have really good mechanics and even have a shower area for those who want to ride to and from the shop. Don’t miss it.
As I made my way back to Salt Lake, I rode the rest of the week in the mountains around Park City after my work day. A different mountain trails experience but pretty nice all the same. But the desert in the “cliche'” Moab is pretty special and it is still pretty unique today. If you have gone, you know what I am talking about and there is not much more than I can add than all the magazines have printed in the last mumber of years. But for those of you thinking about a western adventure, put the Utah desert on your bucket list. You will be glad you made the trip. Cliche’-I don’t think so. Lots to do for non-riders too!!! Thanks for reading.