TandemHearts

Be Careful What You Wish For – Telluride to Moab

July 6th, 2012

Both of us came away from our White Rim Tour in April thinking,  “What a great experience!”, but that we could do with a little more challenge.  Hmmm….

We asked the folks at Western Spirit about other tours and which ones would fit our criteria of being a little tougher, but not too technical and not have too much exposure – steep sections with drop offs.   Telluride to Moab was on the short list.  We knew we had to look at our calendar before we could commit to dates. So, when an e mail from Western Spirit arrived with tour dates that fit perfectly into our schedule, it just seemed meant to be.

OH MY!  Was this ride ever hard!  Although most of this ride was on well packed dirt roads, almost all of the ride was more than 8,500 feet above sea level.  At each of the daily pre-ride reviews, the riders’ questions focused on climbs and elevation – how high are we climbing? What’s the elevation at camp? etc.   We became obssessed with elevation. Not elevation gain, as we would be for a road ride – just the actual elevation.  The two days we dropped below 6,000 feet, we noticed the temperatures soar. As we climbed over the shoulder of the La Sal Mountains, we noticed that the aspens returned as we climbed above 8,000 and disappeared quickly as we ripped down the hill to 4,500 in Moab.

Unlike road riding, where the wind noise drowns out most other sounds, mountain biking lets you appreciate the sounds of riding: the growl of rolling through deep, loose gravel; the rasping of your breath as you motor up a climb; the thrum of the knobbies on the paved sections; your heart pounding in your ears as you fight your way up the steep sections. Mountain biking has it all.

We flew into Salt Lake City and drove to Moab. Since there are a lot of direct flights from the Bay Area, this is the most convenient way for us to get to Moab. Our personal fleet averages about 8 years old, so we spent the 4 hour drive to Moab playing with the sat radio and the infotainment display of the modern rental.  The interior LED lights and backup camera were novelties that we enjoyed in Moab.

Day 1: We shuttled to Telluride, CO  which just happens to be 8,750 feet above sea level.   That’s a mere 8,700 feet above where we live.  We then rode our bikes up nearly another 2,000 feet to Last Dollar Pass.  Historically, Veronica struggles a bit when at elevation.  Her plan was to just motor along at a manageable, sustainable pace.  This strategy proved to be perfect as long as we stayed below 10,000 feet.   Our camp for the day was at 10,200 feet with 180 degree views.  It was awesome.  The next morning we woke early and watched a herd of elk make their way across an open plain below us, with mama and a baby bringing up the rear.

Day 2: This day started with a nice, flowing descent and a couple of water crossings.  Of course, then we started climbing again.  During lunch in a lovely aspen grove, we watched some self-supported riders go by with their bike weighed down by gear. We just shook our heads and grabbed another ice cold drink from the cooler.

Day 3:  Today was the day with the most mileage – 54 miles.  After about 1  mile we got on to a forest service road and stay on that one road all day.  The morning views were limited to the tunnel of trees we rode through.  Lunch today was at Windy Point with amazing views of the La Sal Mountains. After lunch, the trees receded and the views down off the plateau were impressive.

Day 4:  This was the short, “easy” day at just 17 miles, but 1,900 feet of elevation gain.  Our general rule for road rides is, it’s a tough ride if there is 100 feet of elevation gain per mile ridden.  Just because it was short, did not mean it was easy.  In fact, the day started off with a long, steep descent, so most of that elevation gain came in just 5 miles (at the very end of course).  Veronica had some “short issues” on Day 2 and she opted to ride in the truck, hoping to be able to tackle the really tough climb coming up on Day 5.   Because we arrived in camp at lunch time, the guides had time for some “extra-aboreal” activities and some much needed bike maintenance.

Day 5:  Today marked the one trip through a “town” during the riding. We dropped 3,000 feet into Gateway, CO.  While we didn’t pay much attention to the town, we did notice that the temperature went up as we went down. Most of the trip had been in the upper 70s, but at the start of the climb out of Gateway, it was in the low 90s.  John Brown Canyon is easily the hardest climb we’ve ever done. The road is packed dirt, so traction was never an issue, but it was tough. Averaging 9% for almost 6 miles, with half mile sections of 12%+, this is tough.  After lunch at the top of the climb, we both decided to ride in the truck so that we could be sure to enjoy the next day.

Day 6:  On the last day , we had the longest paved section and the best trails of the trip.  We started the day with a quick look at some dinosaur tracks and then dropped into Castle Valley on the back side of the La Sal mountains from Moab.  From there we enjoyed a beautiful  paved ride up into and then above the trees.  What goes up must come down, so we zoomed down the Kokopelli trail toward Moab. The trip ended with a couple of miles across the desert back into Moab, where the thermometer sat comfortably as 100.

This trip is hard. Fun, but hard. Some of that difficulty is the terrain, but the altitude was a major factor. Only riders who like to climb should consider this ride.  The views are great and the well packed dirt roads have little or no traffic. There were only a few sections that required any technical ability.

As always, the guides were always on hand to attend to any need. The food was tasty, filling and extravagant at times. Fish tacos! Chocolate mousse with blueberries and whipped cream! Cold water at the end of  hot ride!  We will certainly do another Western Spirit ride, but it will probably be something closer to sea level.

Tags:, , ,

Most Recent Photos

Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo
Tandemhearts' photo

Tags

Archives