TandemHearts

Mountain Bikes in the Maze

March 20th, 2006

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We joined up wtih some friends and took an organized tour of the Maze. This part of Canyonlands National Park, in Utah, is very remote. The National Park Service issues a limited number of commerical permits, so there are not too many people in the park. You are free to go in on your own, but the roads vary from “not bad dirt” to “I don’t think that Jeep is going to make it”. It’s a few hour drive from Green River, UT and there is nothing out there but natural beauty.

A couple of years ago we visited Arches National Park in Utah. We made a small side trip to Canyonlands National Park, and vowed to return. In April we teamed up with some friends to sign up for a mountain bike trip in the most remote part of the Canyonlands – The Maze. This area is so remote that you have to bring all your water – and your own toilet. Rim Tours, of Moab, did a great job showing us part of this rugged country. In addition to riding mountain bikes, we managed to take a few photos.

We flew into Salt Lake City and hooked up with California escapees Brian and Sue for the drive to Green River, Utah. Green River sports a handful of hotels, restaurants, gas stations and not much else. The most interesting thing in Green River is a small coffee & ice cream shop, across from Ray’s Restaurant, run by a guy with the most amazing record collection. At the end of the trip we left Green River early. This place was the only thing, other than the truck stop, that was open at 6:30 on Easter Sunday. So, which record do you put on the turntable on Easter? “Jesus Christ, Superstar” of course. Good breakfast burritos & coffee and some righteous tunes.

Rim Tours picked us up in Green River to shuttle us to the Ranger Station at Hans Flats at the edge of the Glen Canyon National Recreation area. We jumped out of the van and on to the bikes. The tour company followed us through out the trip with a large 4WD truck that hauled the food, water and our gear. While riding all we carried were Camel Backs. This trip was entirely jeep trails, but that didn’t make it easy. Most of the trip was around 6,000 feet above sea level, which is just enough to make us gasp a little on the first day. In some places the road was very steep, sometimes with deep sand, and other times with rocky ledges. It was definitely not a trip for riders with no leg strength, but it wasn’t very technical. On the other hand, the scenery was great. We rode for 18 miles and set up camp at Golden Staircase. It was a little cool, so we bundled up while the guides prepared salmon and steak for dinner.

The next day we rode to the Maze Overlook. It was a short day, so after lunch we hiked down the canyon wall and out to the Harvest Scene. This series of ancient (like maybe 4,000 years old) paintings have archeologists stumped. They don’t really know much about the people who created them, so they don’t know what the pictographs represent. It was a 3 mile hike out, down a very steep rock trail, and was absolutely worth it. When we returned to camp, we watched the sun set over the most a-Mazing terrain.

Day three was supposed to be a trip to Teapot Canyon campground, but there was a change of plans and we went to a less used campground at Sunset Pass. That would have been fine, but it meant an extra couple of miles and a couple of steep climbs. The group was a little whiny about the change, but we survived. Day 4 was a trip out to Teapot Canyon to ride on some rocky, technical sections. This “trail” was so rocky that we were going much faster than the jeeps that we saw. It was a veritable traffic jam having to share the trail with 15 vehicles traveling in pairs and threes. It isn’t common to see that many vehicles out there, but we survived. We hurriedly zoomed back to camp as the weather threatened us with rain.

The rain started as dessert was being served. It rained a few drops and a few of us took that as the cue to retire early. About 10 minutes later, we noticed that the sun had come out again, so we roused ourselves to watch a great sunset. About an hour after sunset it started raining again, and this time it was serious. We spent the night being awakened alternately by the wind and the rain. About an hour before we got up, the rain tapered off. The bikes got a little washing, but we stayed dry.

The last day was a zippy ride down to where the highway crosses Lake Powell, near Hite, UT. It would have been a screaming trip down a gentle series of rollers if there had been no head wind. As it was, we had a to work for our speed, but it was still a great run. We jumped back in the van to Green River and flew out of Salt Lake City on Easter.

It was a great trip. Bill and Sarah brought Pack Flamingos, which multiplied through out the trip. There weren’t nearly as many crashes as the trips last year. We attribute that to less technical terrain and fewer macho riders. The guides were great; doing everything they could to make sure everyone had a great time. We don’t have any photos from days 4 and 5 because by then we had made the transition from photographer/rider to pure rider (and we had some camera problems).

As an added bonus, our GPS recorded the routes that we took in a GPX file. You can download them to your computer, open them in Google Earth and check it out for yourself. You will probably need to right click on the link and do “Save As…” to keep the file from opening directly in your browser.the-maze.gpx

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