I woke up the Sunday after Thanksgiving feeling exhausted and refreshed. Hard to explain, but imagine your whole body feeling worked but relaxed. And imagine waking up among miles and miles of sand but never feeling cleaner. These are the reasons for my pilgrimages to the Moab area time and time again–soul refreshment.
Sunday morning was beautiful–sunny with blue skies, few clouds, low winds, and a nibble of cold in the air. Still, I always seem to know when it’s time to leave the desert before I do something stupid like get hurt or lost. It was time to go. I said goodbye to my friend the crow/raven (grr, why don’t I know the difference?),
who just happened to be picking over last night’s grilled salmon
and headed to Fruita. Fruita has become, along with Salida, Moab, Winter Park, Sedona, and other places I’ve never heard of, a mountain biking mecca. Dirt lovers descend upon Fruita in droves, drawn to it by its pristine singletrack. This would be my third visit to Fruita, albeit my first (and hopefully last) alone. Since the biking accident last summer, I have become incredibly cautious about riding alone. Some would say I’ve finally smartened up. Nope. Fear and fear of pain are running my biking decisions these days, and I’m not exactly thrilled about it.
For those of you who have a favorite place, a place where you go to gain peace and solitude, one of beauty that overwhelms you no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you know what I’m about to write.
As I drove the thirty miles or so to I-70, an east-west ribbon of road that cuts the northern section of Colorado from the southern, I felt sad. I was leaving a place of contentment, never mind the rrrrr, rrrrr from the dirt bikers and the ATVers. I was nearly brought to tears by every sunset. I sat by the fire at night, just breathing and drinking green tea, exhausted but invigorated by the day’s adventures. Now all that was over. Yeah, yeah, yeah, until next time. But it sucks that I even have to leave.
I-70 in eastern Utah is desolate. There are instructions on what to do in a sand/wind storm alongside the road. There’s one exit with services and many other exits with only ranches. Fruita is about 90 minutes from Moab, depending on speed and exact point of departure. Fruita boasts two great ridng areas, one on each side of the highway. The northern section of trails near the Bookcliffs, which houses my favorite Chutes and Ladders trail, was too muddy, the folks at Over the Edge bikeshop informed me. I was disappointed but understood. Mother Nature had pounded moisture into the area over the past few days. It’s not like water evaporates or nuthin’.
So I set off for the southern section of trails. The temps were in the mid 50’s, but I suited up with wool, long-fingered gloves, and tights under my riding skort. I hate to be cold. I had 100ml of water with me, two Clementine oranges (a compact source of food and liquid), and two energy bars. I would ride Mary’s Loop, part of the Kokopelli Trail System out by exit 11 near Loma.
Mary’s Loop is strictly intermediate stuff and leads into Moore Fun. Mary’s Loop is unspectacular but safe, except for this section of trail.
Truth is, I’m deathly afraid of heights. Fear of heights (which is genetic, I swear) kept me from snowboarding for ten years (couldn’t get on the lift) and induced a severe panic attack in the towers of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona a few years back. I hyperventilated the entire staircase climb up then had a nervous breakdown once back on the ground.
But that’s a post for another time.
So, I’m either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. Here’s a look from the other, safe side of the precipe. Look at the right center of the photo
Yup. That’s a couple on a TANDEM mountain bike. I had passed them a few miles earlier but had paid them no heed I didn’t even notice they were two people on one bike. Musta been all that *&^%$ climbing I was doing. Anyway, I think they turned back.
Too bad. They missed out on this view, which was just around the corner.
After this the trail gets fairly technical–lotsa skinny singletrack fraught with rocks, roots, and off-camberness. I walked more trail than I usually do (fear and fear of pain kicked in). But when Mary’s Loop turns into Moore Fun, things get a little less technical and much, much closer to the parking lot, which is where I ended up eating my Clementines.
On my next trip to Fruita (this spring), I’m doing Steve’s Loop and Horsethief Bench. And I’m bringing posse with me, even if I have to drag them.