Joined: Feb 2010
Day 8 – White Rim, with a lot of help from my friends! (part 1)
Sleep didn’t come easy and I was feeling drained emotionally right from the start. I did my best to be stoic and present a brave face, but behind blue eyes.
We made another very early start as we had a lot of ground to cover with a plan to do all of White Rim Trail today. It was cloudy for the first time in Moab (our trip) and it would be a Godsend in the heat of the day.
We were actually out front when the ladies of the Love Muffin unlatched the door and greeted us with smiles. Another amazing breakfast and great coffee started the day in the right direction and we raced north to the Canyon lands turnoff (hwy 313). We elected to stay on pavement until Horse thief /Mineral Bottom road, electing to do WRT counter clockwise.
This road is unremarkable and allows a fast way to the Mineral Bottom switchbacks, taking you down to the river and (for us) the start of White Rim Trail. These as we found out pale in comparison to the Shaffer Switchbacks, but it was our first taste and it was spectacular. Almost immediately we started getting into the fine powder-like “sand” of WRT and passed a jeep crawling along on its huge tires leaving a large dust cloud in its wake. The trail then clawed its way along a cliff face beside the river and we were in our glory, stopping to take pictures like any first timers on WRT. Traffic was light and we didn’t hold anyone up.
I had been warned that there was a “quarter mile of deep sand down by the river, other than that its good”. This was a slight understatement, I think and I am sure I put a lot more miles on the motor (if not the odometer) spinning and roosting my way through the sulfur colored powder, but I did it without crashing and it was kinda’ cool.
One thing about the White Rim Trail, or any other trail around Moab; it requires FULL concentration and commitment with very little room for error. This helped keep my mind off our family tragedy, to some extent at least. It was always there but I had to force it back to the shadows in order to do the task at hand. The sand sections (and I say sections) were numerous, and I suspect they added up to far more than a mile, if you include my nemesis, Hardscrabble Hill. After passing a group of young kids on bicycles and their support trucks in another sandy section, we stopped by two pick up trucks sitting on a rocky plateau. They to, were more support vehicles, for what turned out to be a large Boy Scout Troop. One of the guys warned Chris and Paul about the “deep sand” on the hill and to “stay to the left, or center” near the top. I didn’t get the memo as I was already on my way up, and found this out by experience as my front wheel sank and the rear dug itself to the swing arm trying to push through and up the steepest part just before a sharp right turn. I got off the dug in bike and managed to work the bike out of the trench before the cavalry arrived. They helped walk the bike down and after a failed attempt or two to get any forward momentum, I was spent.
Maybe my lack of fitness (comparatively) or emotional state, or the heat (I suspect all played their part, in concert) but I was ready to turn around. With a bit of help (from Paul and me) Chris made it up the worst of the hill and trekked back down to assist Paul and I. The KLR was next and Paul disappeared in a cloud of dust that we were choking on. We bailed back down the hill. Once clear of the cloud, we could still hear the thumper churning away but could not tell if Paul was making any progress. Chris commented about “Nuclear Testing on the White Rim” and we both laughed. The exertion had me on my knees though, at the side of the trail, thinking I was going to puke, and I felt all shaky. Paul hiked down from the flat spot at the top having successfully clawed his way up the hill. We had backed the 990 down the hill to where Chris and Paul had stopped to help me initially, in order to let me have a shot at some speed, past where the hill first beat me. My first attempt required all three of us to lift the KTM off me after getting sideways and (my leg not being long enough to hit ground) flopping over. The second attempt was even worse and at a bit more speed, but third time was the charm and with constant encouragement from Chris and Paul I made it to the top and around the corner. They are probably still coughing up sand, and my rear tire will never be the same! Thanks guys for not letting me quit, I really thought I was done on that hill.
That would prove to be the only real tough challenge for me on White Rim Trail and after that I was feeling better (after a long hydration break and a snack). If it had been bright sunshine I am not sure the same end result would have occurred. Half a mile later we met another rider on a fully loaded GSA, and lucky for him he was going to go down on that little sand chute. After a short chat we all carried on and the trail had a nice variety of sand, gravel, hard sandstone and loose chunky hills.
At one point just before Hog’s Back Hill we met a group of older guys doing the trail on mountain bikes. They were relaxing and waiting for their (wife driven) support truck which arrived right after we carried on. As I rode over the hard rock steps past a group of reclining bikers (standing on the pegs and slowly climbing over the rocks) I heard one exclaim “holy crap”, perhaps at the size of the bike, but I am not sure. Just past them I dropped into a shallow sandy section so I put on a show and did a nice long roost.
Hog’s Back was very steep and narrow and did a 90 degree turn about halfway up before ducking under a rock shelf on the second half of the climb. I almost had too much throttle getting to the corner but managed to chop the speed at the right moment. It was a long way down otherwise, and better not to think about it. Chris and I agreed that going up Hogs Back was easier than (we figured) going down was. We had an audience at the top watching us do our thing.
To be continued…..