The next day came with with temps too cool to ride in the morning so it was down to Pancake Haus for some pre-ride food. This place was so good that we ate there 4 out of 5 days. Moab Diner = not so great. The previous night over some Paradox Pizza we decided to head down towards Mineral Bottom just to get a general idea for what was down there. Now I've read all sorts of stuff about the White Rim trail and this was one that I really wanted to do but the time just wasn't there. We could make it before it got too dark to see around 5:30 but with it being 100+ miles we wouldn't have much time to see anything. Also if anything happened, even a flat tire, we'd be in the dark and that just wasn't acceptable with the temperatures at night. So the plan was to just ride until we felt like turning around.
Now when 3 woods riders have the option of running 10 miles of trail or 30 miles of pavement there is no choice: we'd start out on 191 headed north and then catch Gemini Bridges Trail back over towards 313, hook a right, then a left and we'd be on some great fireroads headed to Mineral Bottom. Didn't get too many pictures on the way out because it was too much fun launching the 990 off the rocks on the side of the trail and pretending to be Marc Coma in South America. Sadly even in my dreams I lost the Dakar. Eh, there's always accounting.
By the time we had reached the bluff above the switchbacks the air temperature had risen about 10* so it was time to drop a few layers and have a gander. The impressive thing, excluding the 1000 ft. bluff overlooking the ambling Colorado River, was this tiny little speck just passing the turn for White Rim Road. We sat down, had some peanut butter crackers, took pictures, and generally just killed about 20 minutes, all the time watching that little speck come up the switchbacks. It was a mountain biker and in the length of time we stayed there he had made it to the top and cracked open a beer. Apparently he was training for something as he had two people in a truck following him yelling inspiring words of encouragement. If you've ever been there you know that to clear that in 20 minutes is pretty good, I'd still be out there if I had to ride a bike up it.
*Valentino Rossi*: Ah yes, today was very very good, I find my reethem very early and just have good ride.
Same with us Val, we found a good pace and just headed down the trail. Couple of "OH SHIT" moments when we realized that at the bottom of anything resembling a river, creek, ditch, or anything that carried water in the last 10,000 years was sand. Sand is not fun on a big bike when you're not prepared for it, and this was playground sand. It wasn't fesh fesh or Bull Dust (depends on what side of the Equator you're on) by any means but it was nicer than some sand I've seen in the Caribbean. Finally get to a place to stop and wind up at Labyrinth A Campgrounds.
Looking on the Trails Illustrated map I saw where the big dashed lines changed into little dashed lines just up ahead. This meant that the trail got rougher, no big deal, but we set a turn around point of 15 more miles. That would get us back towards the main road plus we'd decided to head upriver and see where the trails dead ended. The last landmark would be the Hardscrabble camping area because after that it supposedly got a bit rough.
The ride up was pretty nice, nothing too difficult, until I come around a turn and see this.
Granted, it's not too bad and all of us had ridden much worse but the kicker was if you hit any rock wrong you wouldn't have enough speed to go over it. There wasn't much room for a run and if you got it wrong it'd launch you over the side. I stop and do some quick math: we would have to turn around in 4 miles. I ask everyone what they want to do and Scott says "Let me go check and see what's ahead."
Now Scott is about 6'3", 6'4" and not overweight but he's a big guy. He's on a 690 with 50/50 tires on the side of a hill that's about 30-35* of angle with his tires in the sand. He just eases out the clutch and off he goes, doesn't spin, slide, or do anything. Sure he's a GNCC racer but I mean come on. I look back at Dad and he's shaking his head. Do we just suck that much at riding or what? Should we just man up and ride the 990's up just to say we did it?
Scott comes back and says there's nothing spectacular, more of the same, and since we have to turn around he says let's go check out Taylor Canyon, a road that kicked off up a canyon just after we left Labyrinth A. So that's what we do. We find the road and head down it maybe a mile when we drop into another river/creek/ditch that's dryer than the Sahara and sure enough we find sand. Lots of sand. Hooray. I'm paddling with my legs like I've never ridden a bike before and when I finally get some speed up I hit a really deep section and just stop. I turn around and I can see Dad's thinking the same thing: why did we not pack the dirt bikes? We don't feel like struggling through this so we just turn around. At least try. I run up a "bank" with the front wheel so gravity will help me turn the bike when I realize that it's just different colored sand and all I've done is bury the wheel up to the axle in the crap. I look over and Dad's bike is on the ground.
Turns out that the front wheel started to wash out and instead of trying to save it he just laid it down. He'd hiked part of the Appalachian Trail the week before and his knee was bothering him a bit so it was a good move on his part. We get it picked up, head back out to White Rim Road, and have a snack.
I hadn't seen it but apparently Dad had ridden Scott's bike out. When we stop he says, "You've got to go ride that thing. That's almost cheating." I hop on it and realize instantly why he'd been able to climb that hill and make us feel like pansies. It's a glorified dirt bike. It's a 530 EXC with a weight problem. I run back down to that sand wash and blast through it like it wasn't there. When I get back Dad and I agree that we need to learn how to ride the big bikes in the sand. There has to be a technique and we want to know it.
We finally head back towards Mineral Bottom and go upriver to see if we can soak our feet in the water. We pass by the landing strip on the left and then Dad stops, he sees something up on the hillside.
It's some old mining shed. If you look to the left of Padre behind those bushes is a cave and the other is behind the shed to the left of the bikes. We grab the flashlights and head in maybe 20 yards and the tunnel kicked off to the left. I said something about seeing daylight and Scott and Padre go off up that tunnel while I stay behind. My reasoning is I can see them and the way out. Last thing I want to do is get lost in some Uranium mine in the middle of Utah. They start laughing and tell me to come on, that it's a bigger cave that heads back out. We're walking around, wondering what they could have been mining, and I remember reading about the Uranium mines after WWII. We also saw a bunch of yellow veins below deep purple veins in the rock. I tell Dad to smell the rock and see if it smells like eggs, if so then that's sulfur. Nope. Then Scott finds some iron in the rock. If anyone knows I'd be interested to hear the story, I've got the GPS coordinates saved so I can dig them up later.
Continue on upriver and finally find a place to stop.
At this point Padre takes off his jacket and shirt, Scott and I have cameras ready, and he walks into the creek and splashes water on his face/neck/back. At his request the pictures will not be shown because he didn't think anyone wanted to see that but needless to say it's hilarious. The water was barely above freezing and I just about roll off the rock laughing. Pictures and video are recorded for posterity. It's just about another half mile to the end of the trail up Hell Roaring Canyon, it's 4:00, and the only thing we've eaten was leftover Jack Link's and peanut butter crackers so it's time for dinner.
Heading back up the switchbacks at Mineral Bottom.
Note: Both Padre and Scott are riding in this picture. You can just barely see them in front of the dust trail. That gives an idea of the scale of this bluff.
We get back to the top, head back down Mineral Bottom Road at about 70 mph, hit 313 and go back to Moab.