Category Archives: Mountain Biking

New Bike – Hurricane Riding – Gooseberry & JEM Trails

I got my bike on Thursday at work. It was a little before lunch, and it was just barely within my view of my peripheral vision. It was driving me nuts! Just seeing it all packed up in a big brown box…I had to do something about it, so during my lunch, I freed it! I had it all put together and it went pretty smoothly. I took it for a spin up and down a normally empty hallway a few times. Later that night I took it for a few more test spins after making adjustments in the pool parking lot. I was liking it, but really wanted to try it on a trail….but it was going to have to wait till Saturday.

The bike I purchased was the Motobecane Fantom Elite DS. Overall I think it’s an excellent bike, however the shock combo is a bit weird with their remote lockouts. The rear to be locked has to have the remote switch in the up positino and the front switch has to be down for a full lockout. I love being able to adjust the travel so I can get some air off jumps with a lower travel, or soak up the bumps on the trail with a longer one.

We tried to camp at the Red Cliffs Wilderness CG, and as we pulled through there around 11pm and found nothing open, we disappointedly decided to go to the one spot I knew would be empty, especially on Easter weekend. It’s in an area called Crater Hill – where the Guacamole trail starts up. Nobody was there, except for some coyotes, who weren’t afraid to howl at the full moon and call out to all their buddies in the vicinity.

Our trail of the day where I was going to pop my new bike’s cherry was Gooseberry Mesa. I’d been through a few of the trails a few years ago on my hardtail, and it was a lot of fun. It was even more fun with a full suss. We did the practice loop, came out on the main road, found our way to the point, came back out, did the yellow trail – which is a hoot, did the damn trail section, and came back for some food. We headed back out and did the first stretch of the south trail and called it a day. I was impressed with the handling of the bike. My only complaint is the pedals. I prefer flat pedals, and these were hybrids, so I couldn’t get started in complex areas because I couldn’t get the right side of the pedal when I needed it. Those will soon be ditched. I thought about getting clipless shoes, but I don’t think I want those.

That night we went up to Smith Mesa to check things out up there. It’s where the supersonic test track is for testing ejection seats. It was a USAF proving grounds, but is now a private company’s test site. There were plenty of no trespassing signs, and mentions of video surveillance. It looked like there were tons of areas to camp up there, and it would probably be great in the summer, but it was colder up there and tons of wind. So we went back down and drove part of the JEM trail looking for a site….didn’t really see one. In retrospect, pulling off the road on one of the pullouts and camping there would’ve been just fine. Rather we found our way up on Little Creek Mesa just south of Gooseberry and camped in a quarry. What fun!

Our last day was spent on the JEM trail. It’s a long, boring ride up a gradual slope to the foothills of Gooseberry Mesa, then a riot from there all the way back to the TH. I wish I had a hardtail for that trail. All the jumps and possibilities for air left and right, it was just awesome. The only downside was the cows using the trail for travel when it was muddy, making it pot holed and rough. It probably won’t even be noticeable in a few weeks with enough use.

I just love being down there in an environment with so many bikers. Everyone is just really happy to be out having fun. It’s such a different experience than everyday life. So I’m just asking myself, when am I going back? Soon….very soon. Or maybe to Moab, or Fruita….

Zions / Biking St. George

What a great trip! I took off on Wednesday to avoid some of the incoming storms. I didn’t like driving for endless hours through rainy, cold weather on my last trip, so skipping it for this one was nice. I headed to Mesquite NV to stay at one of the casino hotels down there — cheap rooms. Next day I woke up and went outside just after sunrise and it was at least 70° & sunny — I liked it. It was 30° colder back home and rainy. I went down to Overton to look at some land. It’s a cool location, right next to Valley of Fire State Park, and Lake Mead a couple miles away. Though it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, and the entire area is prone to flash floods, so I decided to pass. I headed back through Mesquite to Littlefield to look at some more land. It’s equally as warm there as Overton, but the landscape is just bleak mountains to one side, and endless sagebrush on the other. I think I’d rather have less land and more view up around Hurricane than more land but nothing to look at.

I headed up to Zions NP to hike Angel’s Landing. Everyone says it’s a cool hike, and it is, but a lot of people also say it’s scary, and stuff. It’s really not. One of the guide books I have says you have to cross a knife’s edge with no chains in one section. The knife’s edge is like 20 feet wide, you can’t even classify that as a butter knife edge. At times you’re kind of close to the edge, but if that makes you nervous you have tons of chain anchored to the rock to hold on to. One of the guys I chatted with at the bottom of the Grand Canyon who had climbed Angel’s Landing the week before said there was some crazy old guy hanging off the chains for pictures, and how crazy that was. Wuss. It’s a great, easy, quick hike that everyone but little kids and those who freak themselves out easily should do sometime in their life. I came to the realization while I was up there that I’m way past this mainstream kind of stuff. Just to convince myself of it I later did the Emerald Pools hike. It was like a symphony of disappointment. We had the endless droves of tourists making the music, infants making a solo debut with their screams echoing off the canyon walls, parents doing the ooey-cooey-gooey baby talk making up the melody, endless footsteps making up the percussion, and this was at nightfall when most everyone’s left the park already. I’d hate to see what it’s like up there in the middle of July when the tourism is at its peak. i don’t know why, but NOBODY went to the middle pool. I guess they thought that tiny trickle of water they hopped over was the middle pool. It was nice to have that all to myself. It’s seriously a 25 ft trek down a side trail to get to it. I thought it was funny that the NPS put up signs saying the water was contaminated so people shouldn’t play in it. Contaminated with what? Didn’t matter, it kept people out of it. They’ll ignore the please don’t swim in the pool signs, but say it’s contaminated and no one goes near it. Good job, NPS! (I’m serious) The water is so much cleaner than most reservoirs.

2nd day I biked part of the Guacamole Trail, just NW of Virgin on a mesa. It’s a combination of sandstone and dirt connectors, and a lot of fun. It’s fairly new, and still under development. It’s marked with cairns on the sandstone stretches, and at times it’s just impossible to find. It’s kind of narrow with unforgiving brush, so I was dripping blood in a couple spots when I got back to my truck. There was some quarrying going on just off the dirt road you take to get up to the trailhead, and on the way out I was blocked in by a couple large rocks that rolled onto the road. So I had to park my truck & get out to help the guys roll them out of the way. While parked this huge rock started crashing down the cliff headed towards my truck. Luckily it stopped about 20 ft short, otherwise I’d probably be in the market for a new truck. I have conflicted feelings on that. I’d like a new truck, but it’s really nice not to have payments. I wasn’t in the truck so it’s not like I could’ve moved it.

That night I wanted to get another quick ride in, so I hunted for the Green Valley Trail. I got to where I thought I was supposed to be, but I didn’t see any signs or anything, so I checked my GPS for the trailhead waypoint and I was right on it, so I went down a hill and started climbing another one where I saw some other bikers going up. At the top I read the description and it was talking about riding in a sandstone canyon, and there was a little canyon to my left, so I checked it out, and it looked like there was a trail going through it. So I rode down, went into the canyon and figured out that it wasn’t a trail at all. I wasn’t going to ride back up what I had just ridden down, especially when I could drive it, so I rode back up the other hill to my truck and drove up the way I was first going on my bike. Turns out the real trailhead and parking lot were a little further up the road. So I took off from there for a ways. Only problem was the sun had already set, so I was riding on borrowed light. I went up for 15 minutes and turned around after a geologic feature called the lions paw, it’s a series of steep downhills down what would be the fingers of a lion’s paw.

3rd day I biked the north rim of gooseberry mesa. That was a ton of fun. It’s pretty fast paced with plenty of stuff to ride off, and a couple challenging climbs up slickrock. There are a lot more sections of gooseberry to ride that I’ll hit next time I’m down there.

Last day I checked out the Kolob Canyons section of Zions NP on my way home. I wasn’t that impressed, but that comes along the same lines of another realization that I had on this trip while driving at a snails pace behind tourists from Florida, Ohio, California, and all the other places tourists come from every day I was down there. I’m thinking it’s 35 MPH through the park, come on and do at least 30! But no, 15-20 was the norm among those types. I’m thinking this is a cool place, and just wanting to drive through. The pace cars, they’re just totally enthralled with everything. I’ve seen big ol’ sandstone cliffs a gazillion times, I’ve climbed them, rappelled them, hiked through their narrows, rode over their tops, navigated their labryinths, cooled off in their natural air conditioners, and more. I have a playground, another destination for me to get to, and I want to get there and play. I know the cooler sights are hidden within the walls of these areas, not what’s visible from the car window. Maybe a permit trip only policy is in order here, you know, not going to go anywhere or do anything near a national park unless it requires a permit that severely limits the number of people that can go there. It means several things, no “tourists”, more like-minded people, but not enough to ruin it, it’s gonna be cool enough that a ton of people want to do it, but they can’t unless they plan it, and stuff like that.

Anyway, a Grand Canyon raft trip, Cataract Canyon raft trip, Narrows trip, a Grand Teton climb, and Telescope Peak from Death Valley to the summit (4th longest continuous mountain ascent in the US, exceeded only by Rainier, Fairweather, and McKinley) are on the list. I want to do Telescope Peak from the very bottom, probably in a 3 day trip. Day 1 climbing up to a campground around 8,000 where gear for 2 nights would be stashed, Day 2 summiting and returning to base camp, Day 3 returning to the bottom with all the gear to avoid a return trip to the stashed gear. 

View photos from this trip

Fall at Snowbasin

Saturday was the last day I could use my season pass at Snowbasin. It’s kind of sad that my summer’s now officially over. Bad weather’s here, and the trails are all muddy as of this morning, thanks to a nice little storm coming through. Tomorrow all the trails I rode this weekend will be covered in 6-12″ of snow. So, so sad. There were more people up there than I’ve ever seen the entire summer. I had to park in the 3rd parking lot section since the others were completely full. While I was getting my bike ready to go I noticed my rear wheel curvier than Cali’s 101. While I was working on it, one spoke just turned & turned & wouldn’t tighten. I wasn’t paying that much attention since the car next to mine had some people getting ready as well. They were putting on more and more crash armor. When I thought they were done, they brought out more. “Hey Julie, I’ve got some extra leg gear, you want to put it on?”, “No, I’ve got my own.”, “Okay, just want to make sure”. Now, I know the trails are in bad condition in spots, and others have more rocks on the trail than on the mountain, but come on. I only see guys that bomb mountains in races and total newbs don gear like that. They were of the newb sort. Anyway, back to the spoke, one little tug confirmed it was broken. I would’ve ridden like that anyway, just have a couple spokes over torqued to compensate for the missing one, but I thought I’d try the rental shop & they had one that fit perfectly — it’s now one black spoke in the midst of an all silver wheel.

The Fall colors peaked earlier this week. By the time I got up there the trees were half bare from the high winds tearing across the mountain. Even with the winds though, it was relatively warm at the top. It was also Oktoberfest at the resort. So they had a German band in liederhosen jamming up the classic beer drinking tunes. There were tons of bikes all around the Needles Lodge, but on the trail, I didn’t see another biker — going down at least. There were a couple coming up. At the top some guy asked me if I had ridden up from the bottom — I didn’t even have a drop of sweat on me, and I was coming from the direction of the gondola, so I don’t know what he was thinking. I told him I climbed up from the bottom once and it nearly killed me. I find it hard to understand where some people are coming from. In this case, I think the guy was so in awe that people even rode from the bottom to the top because it’s something he would never do in his lifetime unless by some miracle he started by getting himself fit enough to just make it around the block, and worked hard from there to come back from decades of idleness. Something weird though, I passed a couple hikers carrying a pair of skis, one was going down from the top, another coming up from the bottom, what? I should’ve asked them what they were doing.

So it was enjoyable. I like having more people on the mountain, it makes it a bit livelier. I took my riding way, way easy so I wouldn’t crash and jack myself up. I’ve got a Grand Canyon trip I’ve been planning for the last 4 months, and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of it. It’s unfortunate though, because on Porcupine they built a fun little 15 foot path to the side of the trail out of boulders, and I wanted to ride it, but I didn’t want to risk a screw up that would’ve sent me falling of the side. I don’t think I’ll get a season pass up there again. I might go back up a couple times next summer if they put some new trails in, or just work on my climbing during the week. On my list next year is to scope out the resorts around Park City and see what they’ve done for their trails. I hear PC has some welll groomed trails. Probably a much greater variety of trails as well.

It’s going to be a long winter. Hopefully the trails in the foothills will stay relatively clear of snow.

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