Ancient Rock Art: The Petroglyphs and Pictographs of Moab

“Stop!” I barked out, startling Bill… who at that point had no idea what was on my mind. “Park over there, by that car on the other side of the road.” With an eye roll (I’m sure of it), Bill passed by the cliff, did a u-turn, and then pulled over in the spot I’d indicated. Read More

Riding at Dead Horse State Park

Having to turn back on Day One of riding in Moab, separating from the group, was disheartening. Nine kilometres into our ride, I was hacking away with my upper chest in a lot of pain whenever I breathed hard on uphills. Only a third of the way through the route, I was seriously holding things up. So Bill took one for the team and slowly rode out with me, back to the trail head and our car while the two other couples we were with rode on.

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Bye. Have fun. Ride hard.

I’d fallen sick with a brutal cold that was fast developing into bronchitis. Day Two I sat out. Day Three, I wanted to ride something… anything. Surely it was just a bad cold, and that’s it. So Bill took me out to Dead Horse State Park, a place with some relatively flat trails that wouldn’t get me breathing too hard. Little did I know it’d be the last ride for me of the trip. Read More

Riding My Trusty Steed in Moab

At one time, riding horses in the Moab area, shod with metal shoes, was a treacherous thing. The horses would slip like crazy over the surface of the sandstone. And so the rock earned its name, “slickrock.”

Today’s modern steeds are sleek, two wheeled, wide tired, well treaded, swift, rugged awesome beasts with wicked suspension. Yup, I’m talking about mountain bikes.

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See the grins plastered on our faces?
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Look at the dotted white line… doesn’t it make you want to hop on two wheels and see where it’ll take you!?

Believe it or not, bikes take to the slickrock like geckos to an adobe wall, clinging to its impossible angles like no one’s business. The rock is abraded, like sandpaper, and so its grip is incredible.

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The bikes grip angles like this, and ones far more extreme, with relative ease.

Riding on the slickrock is such a fun experience.

The riding can be fast, with punchy ups and very steep downs, when you’re riding on the petrified sand dune shapes of the upper cliffs.

The riding can be dusty as you wind through cacti and snake through sand patches, created where erosion smooths the sandstone and gets trapped in ditches and gullies. Watch out for those sand traps! They get riders that are clipped into their pedals in spectacular, slow motioned, soft-cushioned falls.IMG_6199

The slickrock riding can be breath-taking as you struggle up long inclines… and breathtaking in an entirely different way as you take in views of mesas rising up out of a desert plateau or the Colorado River, like a snake, winding through a canyon far below you.

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The Colorado River snakes far below.
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The Mesas rise up out of the high desert plateaus like huge skyscrapers, and this trail takes you out, weaving up and down and through those sandstone bumps toward them.
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It is seriously thrilling to ride along the edges of canyons like this one, at Dead Horse Point State Park.
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Moab’s bike trail system is superb. There are tons of trails dedicated to single track riding, with no motorized vehicles allowed. All trails are very well marked with great names and easy to read maps at every intersection.
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There are lots of trails, like those in the Navajo Rocks area, that are intermediate level trails.

For every up, there is a super fun down. And so the trails can have tremendous drops and bumps that have you rolling over big rocks and ledges, and rattling down rocky inclines, thankful for the cushioned travel in the suspension of your trusty steed.

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The trails are easy to follow, with markings spray painted on the rock. See the blue?

We’ve been to Moab twice now, to ride its fun and technically challenging trails. And we will be back again. Each time we return as better, more skilled riders, and so the fun that we have is different, and better.img_0582.jpgIMG_2452.jpgSadly, I developed bronchitis during our Moab week and had to cut my riding short, so I need to return again. I will. Me and my swift fox (my trusty steed) will be back…IMG_6215.jpg

If You Go…

  • You’re going to have to trust me on this. These photos do NOT do the riding justice. The trails can be wonderfully hard and technically challenging… it’s just difficult to take photos when you’re caught up in the thrill of the moment, and ricocheting down a steep section with all of its bumps and ledges, drops and boulders, steep inclines and even more steep ups. Watch this video to see what I mean… Biking Moab (man can these guys ride!)
  • You can go to a biking specific area, like Amasa Back, Horsethief, or Klondike Bluffs and spend the entire day out there. There are that many trails in each of the biking areas.
  • Be sure to bring plenty of water and food on these biking trails, along with what you need to change a flat. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, out there to help you in a pinch, save other riders going by.
  • Riding with a group can have its advantages. There are more heads, tools, spare tubes and fingers to put into play, should a repair issue develop with one of your trusty steeds.
  • There’s another advantage to biking in a group too… it can be quite fun to arrange a drop off and a pick up vehicle at different trailheads, meaning that you can ride some of the trails all downhill (like taking Rocky Tops and a few other trails to Ramblin‘ at Navajo Rocks, and blasting down it), and not have to do the gruelling ups to get back to your car.
  • Almost all the trails in Moab are free to ride. The Slickrock Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area is the exception. It has an entrance fee and is used by jeeps as well. It has a bike practice loop to try out your skill level on that I recommend. It lets you know what you’re in for, before testing your mettle and maybe getting in over your head on the entire length of the Slickrock Trail (it is a 16km/10.5 mile long loop). But it is worth it.
  • You can rent bikes and gear in town at Poison Spider Bicycles. Their staff are helpful and can give you a good sense of which trails should be ridden in one trail only, and which can be ridden both directions.
  • There’s TONS of awesome info on the Discover Moab Mountain Biking page. Go there, poke around and dream!
  • Other terrific biking-specific websites to visit for up to date trail info are Trail Forks and MTB Project. Just remember to download maps before heading out on the trails, as many of the areas have no cell service. There is also an app available called Moab Trails 2.0, but it’s for androids only.
  • For more info on making the most of your stay in Moab, go to the “If You Go…” section of my first post, An Ode to Moab.

An Ode to Moab

“Hey dude! How’s the desert treating you?” asked our friendly neighbour, looking a little like Bon Jovi meets a wizened 1960’s flower child. He looked us carefully up and down, sussing out just what type of Moab visitors we might be. Read More

A Desert Journey

With my fingertips missing their defining ridges, my legs covered in a bevy of happy bruises, and my heart happy from a week spent outdoors, playing on rock, we headed toward Moab Utah for the next stop on our holiday.

It was a long drive and my mind wandered through what I’d seen and experienced in the Nevada desert, and what I was seeing before me, now that we were passing once again through a similar landscape in Utah. The crazy sandstone shapes: fingers, pinnacles, chimneys, columns, rounded mounds and arches. The strange colouring in the golds, pinks and reds. The striping and spotted, measle-like dimpling of red through rock. The cacti that lived and thrived through extremes of hot and cold, dry and flooded. The power of rainstorms that could create washes, the size we’d seen and hiked through. The power of the tectonic forces that can thrust sandy sea bottoms skyward, transforming what was once flat, soft and shifting into hard, near-permanent mountains. The power of water and wind, those erosive forces that wear rock into sand, only to be foiled by geologic forces that turn it back into rock, only to be eroded once more into sand…. Read More

The Mass Production Wall of Calico Tanks

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program once again…

Located high above Red Rocks’ popular Calico Tanks trail, the hike into this crag was my favourite part of the day. Part scrambling and route-finding, it takes you up a dry stream bed, along sandstone ledges, over water-sculpted mounds, past little “tank” oases (shallow rain catchment pools in the sandstone), over white and gold and red and pink sandstone streaking, and then it has a steep push up a rampart to get to the climbing crag. Once up there, there were two caves to explore and a wide, open area from which to watch the climbing… no neck craning necessary to get route beta! Read More

Blue Diamond: A Singletrack Gem

There’s more to Red Rocks than climbing. Come along as we go off on a little diversion from the main purpose of our trip to Vegas.

Blue Diamond is a little town, about 12 km down the Red Rocks Scenic Highway from the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This small town has made a name for itself with its awesome singletrack trails system of 33 trails.

You are not allowed to ride the trails within Red Rock Canyon itself, so the Blue Diamond/Cottonwood Valley option is an excellent way to get around this: you still have the incredible Wilson Cliffs of Wilson Mountain, one of the iconic mountains within the park, as a backdrop for your rides. Essentially, you’re biking in the desert area on the south side of Red Rocks, so it sure feels as if you are still in the park. Read More

The Lofty Aerie of Coco Crag

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program… (we were in Vegas to climb, after all!)

This was quite possibly my favourite climbing crag. Perched very high up the cliff face on varnished walls, it’s quite the fun scramble to get up there, over the most bizarrely striped pink and red rocks… but oh-so worth the effort! In fact, the hike back down takes just as long as the hike up… that’s how demanding the scramble is! Read More

Perched On The Nose of a Turtle

While there are plenty of hikes to do in Red Rock Canyon, we were after a long one that would give us a birds’ eye view of the climbing crags we’d been playing in… and Turtlehead Peak fit the bill. Its peak rises, looking a lot like a turtle’s nose poking up and out of its shell, from the desert floor.

Already on our “hit” list of possible hikes for our time there, it was recommended to us by a Vegas couple that we met while hiking in Zion. They belonged to a weekend hiking group in Las Vegas and this was one of their favourites.  Read More

The Fun Puzzles of Conundrum Crag

Climbing is a puzzle. A wonderful test of mind and body, it stretches your limits in highly satisfying ways. Unlike many other physical outdoor activities, there is a lot of mental work going on, whether it be conquering a fear of height or falling, or figuring out the puzzle of the climb.

I’ve always loved a good puzzle. And it is the independent nature of figuring out where to go next, what to do, what to grab, where to place those feet edges, and reading the formation of the rock, that holds the most allure for me, when I climb. I feel more satisfaction from figuring out a move than I do of getting to the top of the route. In fact, I often feel a little wave of disappointment, when I realize I’m at the anchor.

The name of this crag held great promise. Conundrum: a problem, a difficult question, a quandary, a dilemma, a puzzle, a mystery, a stumper, a cruncher. All great things, with wonderful promise, in my book. Read More

The Panty Wall of Red Rocks

The Panty Wall is a very popular crag for climbers due to its proximity to the park entrance. Yup, “Panty Wall.” Climbing crags and routes have strange names!

Red Rocks has a lot of terrific crags and this is one of them. One disadvantage to climbing within the park boundaries is that the road through the park is a one-way, 21km long loop, and parking at the crags can be a bit of a problem. For this crag, you park at the first pull-out. As a result, it is quite popular. Read More

Red Rocks’ Climbing Crags

Red Rocks is an amazing area in which to climb. With thousands of established and well maintained climbing routes, there are plenty of places to go, plenty of routes to absorb the climbers that flock to this area in droves, and plenty of places to play. There you can hone your skills, relax in some lofty perches with inspiring views and foster that love of getting on rock.

With a little research ahead of time, it is not difficult to find climbing crags in the Red Rocks area that can meet the variety of ability levels in your group AND keep you in the shade or in the sun. On hot days, shade helps to keep the rock “sticky.” On cold days you are wearing puffies, and the sun helps to keep fingers with feeling in them. The desert is strange that way… it can be very cold in the mornings and evenings and very hot at mid day and in the afternoon. It’s a place of extremes. Read More