Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sore Butts In Canyonlands


Canyonlands is a gorgeous national park near Moab that Annie and I have explored a few times. It is broken up into 3 main regions, Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze. By in large the majority of this park is inaccessible to travel of any kind due to the ridiculous amount of cliffs, canyons, 2 major rivers, and therefore lack of roads. However, the NPS did us a great service by blasting a road down off the Island in the Sky mesa on two sides and creating a four-wheel drive road that allows access to circumvent that mesa via car, motorcycle, mtn bike, or foot travel.

The white rim road is the super-classic mtn bike ride in the moab area in terms of distance, scenery, remoteness, and overall quality. Consequently permits to camp on the road are hard to come by. We applied for one back in February of this year, and were denied several times until we were successful.

Here is what, a reliable mtn biking source, has to say about the ride:
"The White Rim Trail is Utah's ultimate multi-day party trail. The trail is a 103-mile loop on jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. Technically, this trail is fairly easy. But the length (and a few stiff climbs) means you need to be in good condition to do the whole thing.
The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but an altimeter or GPS unit that records every little up-and-down will give you about 6000 feet total. Most riders spend 3 or 4 days to ride this trail, spending the night at campgrounds. (Two days = Monster. One day = Lunatic.)"


I guess we fall into the "Monster" category. Annie and I recruited 5 friends plus her brother Tyler to drive the support vehicle, to join us on our quest to ride the party trail in two days. In preparation for this mega event, between the 7 of us riding the road we had compiled over 30 total miles in the last month worth of training, all by me. The 5 recruits, Court, Izzy, Steve, Nick and Lauren, do not even own bikes. Lauren and Izzy had basically never ridden a real mtn bike trail. They were in essence, OTC. (off the couch, not over the counter). We tend to underestimate our objectives, and this was no exception. Go big.

We took off friday morning down the Shaeffer trail. It was a blast. We rode steadily but slowly, aiming for a 45 mile day where we would camp at Murphy's Hogback. We were all pretty tired by mile 40, and to stick it to us the road made us climb a brutal last hill up to our campsite. Many walked, a few prevailed.
Shaeffer Trail Switchbacks. Mile 2

Cruising down the switchbacks

The last brutal climb up to camp

Our campsite was great. We ate chili, freeze dried meals, halloween candy stolen from Anna(steve and izzy's kid) brats, dr pepper,  and listened to Steve's passionate views about Obama. Many shoes were hidden as practical jokes, and at least one 5 pound rock was stashed in a backpack and was carried by Court for over 15 miles unbeknownst to him.

Murphys Hogback camp

Saturday was beautiful, minus the sore rumps. We all did pretty well till one brutal climb about mile 70 where I fell trying to be cool and damaged my right ischium. Annie's knees were hurting quite badly, but we all kept going. We all rode through the last of the flats via many sand bars, with Steve biffing quite hilariously while photographing us while riding, and Court scaring Nick from behind a bush. We were all gearing up for the final climb back up to the rim. Annie and I did it in 21 minutes, and we estimate it was about 2 miles with about 1300 feet of climbing. Pretty brutal. Some people chose to hitch a ride for this section in the Tacoma, which was just fine as I'd say 85 miles OTC is a dang good achievement. Then its was 10 miles back to the car over roller coaster terrain. Annie's knees were destroyed, but she was determined to finish, so while Steve and Court barreled ahead, and the other 3 rode/got ridden for some of the final miles due to fatigue and painful perineums, we slowly slogged along. That's what endurance days are about. Slogging it out to the finish. We successfully rode the whole thing, minus a couple sand bogs. Another long, fun accomplishment.

Annie wishing she could leave SLC and live here

Nick pounding it up a short hill midway through day 1

Steve almost succeeding at a difficult steep loose hill

The green river

The crew. Thanks for looking at the camera Izzy

Total ride time was around 15 hours per Annie. Not a great time since the FKT running is 18:47 and fastest bike ride is 6:10, but we're not world class.  A phenomenal ride, a must do. Maybe we'll train and be back for a one day "lunatic" loop.


  1. sweet pictures. looks and sounds like it was fun. had to look up what the ischium was. get a cortisone shot.