Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kokopelli Trail: Day 4 - Bitter Creek to Loma

by Don Lyman

'Twas the last day of biking, when all through the desert

Not a creature was stirring, not even a lizard;

The mountain bikes were slung by the RV without care,

In hopes that they held together for the last leg of the dare;

We rode down the cliff side we might end up dead,

While visions of endos danced in our heads;

And Larry on Marin, and I on my Haro,

Rounded the Western Rim for a long honkin' hill,

When on the horizon cut the river grand,

I sprang from the bike to push through the sand.

Through Rabbit Valley we flew like a flash,

Spooked a horse/rider causing a dash.

The slog to the crest with camelback in tow

Gave the luster of mid-day to Salt Creek just below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a place to go swimming, just under the pier,

Larry descended the hill, so lively and quick,

But I crashed in a moment, I made a wrong pick.

We thought of Dad's eagles but only crows came,

And I whistled, and shouted, and called Larry by name;

"Now, Troy Built! now, Lions! now, Mary's and Home!

No Rustlers! no Steve's Loop! no Handcuffs I'm done!

To the top of the ridge! to the top of the hill!

Now coast away! coast away! coast away all!"

On Troy Built he left me, his bike it did fly,

Great views of the river, rock cliffs to the sky,

On to Lions Loop the sprocket heads flew,

With a pack full of Gatorade, and Cliff Bars too.

The double track of Lions, is best going backward

The rocky ascent the other way is awkward.

As I pumped up the hill, my chain jumped a tooth,

I was frustrated, mad, sad and uncouth.

Far down below, a lone tree with two elves at its base,

Sat Steven and Ross, come to size up the race;

A bundle of beers they had flung in a chest,

Liquid courage for peddlers, now not at their best.

Don's eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

He swallowed two Coor's, his nose like a cherry!

His dry little chain was bound up like a knuckle,

Ross had sun tan lotion to lube the debacle;

The cream did the trick: quite clever I say,

And the sojourners moved on to the last leg of the day;

Mary's Loop since the 80's has become quite well-known,

And is traveled by bikers from Tampa to Nome.

I've ridden and blogged it many times my own self,

Suffice it to say, its a fun little shelf;

Like Larry checks me with a twist of his head,

Let's go back to a story of a thing that need said;

On Lions we met two bikers oncoming,

They asked where we came from; then turned with a jerk,

Because Larry said "Moab"; the thought was berserk,

Back to our tale, the final ascent we arose;

We cranked to the top, to his wife gave a whistle,

And down to the truck hand in hand like a missile.

Kokopelli exclaimed, as we drove out of sight,

"Happy Riding to all, and to all a good bike."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kokopelli Trail: Day 3 - Dewey Bridge to Bitter Creek

Day three and we rise early. Our butts are aching and who knows what the day will bring. We eat breakfast, mount up and cross Dewey Bridge to take an immediate left. It doesn't take much riding to find that Larry's flat is getting so bad we have to stop and fix it (photo 1). As we cross into a wide valley the trail moves away from ridge, causing me some worry that we missed a turn (photo 2). I decide to keep going after consulting the map and it turns out we are fine. A couple of miles in you can spot some cool arches along the cliffs.

Once the Kokopelli trail turns toward ridge, the ride gets fun. After a gentle ascent to gain the ridge there is fun biking as the trail follows the ridge top. There are big bare sections of slickrock here (photo 3&4). We don't see any other bikers, but we meet up with motorcycles, ATVs, and Jeeps. At one point we experienced a surreal site as we pass a Suzuki Samari with a couple that remind us of mom and dad. After crossing a long flat we stop beneath a large boulder for a snack. Two miles from highway we crossed a fence with lots of petrified wood around. Or was it bone? Once you reach the fence and the saddle point of the ridge you are rewarded with a fun descent back to highway 128.

The trail follows the highway for a ways, then follows a dirt road out across desert. This is a long and boring ride to reach the river. Once you approach the river you are treated to an exciting descent to the river that is more fun than intense (photo 5&6). Here Larry and I took our first dip of day. From here the Kokopelli snakes a nice single track along river.

The nice single track ends too soon and then you face a long ascent leading away from the water. Here the desert scenery looks a lot like the moon. We follow the trail as it winds back down to the river and we take another dip at the Cisco landing. Here Larry decides he likes the river.

The next section of the Kokopelli includes a long and straight section as you make mileage through the desert (photo 7). Though there's no technical riding here, it is nicer than I thought it would be due to cliffs in the distance that separates you from I-70 and adds to the aesthetic. I broke the buddy rule here getting about six miles ahead of Larry. I was just cruising. Finally we reach the road to west water after a descent by ranch land.

The Kokopelli is paved again as you ride up asphalt on the West Water Road. Far up the road you return to dirt at a well marked diversion point. The 4WD road backtracks a ways making you feel like you wasted some time and energy, then winds through the pinions toward the Bitter Creek overlook (photo 8). By now the day was getting very late and Larry was getting to end of his rope. We both hadn't expected this part of the trail to be so long and we weren't certain where Steve had parked his RV. Larry called in the rescue squad.

Kari De and kids come up in my pickup and brought us pasta and beer. We found Steve's RV right at the overlook at the end of the road. Larry and Kari both were surprised he would drive it up this rough road. The next morning we discovered the outhouse that was blown apart by the wind that Steve and Ross were joking about. In the daylight we found that it was quite a nice camp spot with an awesome view.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kokopelli Trail - Day 2: Bull Draw to Dewey

All the hard work gaining altitude on day one is rewarded on day 2. The dirt road that descends Thompson Canyon is a fun and easy downhill (photo 1) to the Hideout Canyon overlook. The views from the ridge are expansive and humbling (photo 2). We met our first group of Kokopelli travelers coming up road opposite our direction. They weren't too friendly, but we would find out why as we cruised down all the terrain they had to crank up.

The descent to Onion Creek is a bit more technical, but still not hard (photo 3). We took another dip in the creek at the Hideout Canyon campsite, but it was not as cool or full. The trail from here makes an ascent to a gap over to Fisher Valley. The road then zigs here and heads back North. After a mile you reach the first truly awesome biking challenge. The descent here is a black diamond descent that is quite fun with many obstacles that hold your attention (photo 4). The ascent on the other side required a hike-a-bike when going our direction.
At the top we met up with a FJ Cruiser rally. About 20 FJ Cruisers were about to descend the difficult section we hiked up. They gave us some water and we started the only extended uphill on this section (photo 5). At the top we met the second set of Koko travelers. We didn't converse with them too much. They were from Germany and didn't speak much English, plus they looked very tired. After seeing the very long gravel road they had to come up, we understood their consternation.

I'm glad we were descending instead. The gentle slope of the road made for a gread downhill cruise if not for the gravel. The front forks on my bike are about worn out and the rattling was notable on this washboard gravel of a road.

The Kokopelli Trail takes a left onto an ancient jeep trail just past Blue Chief Mesa. Here the biking gets technical again. Larry went first and made a nice descent hopping rocks and ratcheting his pedals. I followed with pride usurping fear, but crashed and bent my chain of all things. I was happy I had my chain tool, although I used it in an unconventional way to get my chain straight enough to continue. (photo 6)

Once you rejoin the main road the ride gets easy and fun (photo 7). We reached Dewey Bridge and our camp just as the sun was setting. I took a dip in the Colorado River. Larry lost his cookies: I guess downing an entire can of apple juice wasn't a good idea in hindsite. Steve and Ross came by with a cold Coors and we shared a joke or two over the campfire. Half way home and enjoying life!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kokopelli Trail - Day 1: Moab to Bull Draw

We trained all summer and the day was finally here: the start of the Kokopelli Trail. My brother Larry and I planned to ride the 140 miles from Moab, Utah to Loma, Colorado in four days.

I snuck out of work Wednesday afternoon and headed for Grand Junction hoping that we could get two camp trailers set up and get to bed before it was too late. We dropped off my camp trailer at Dewey Bridge and everything was going as planned until Larry's transmission went out pulling mom's travel trailer up the steep road out of Castle Valley to Bull Draw. We left the trailer in the middle of the road and coasted in the pickup down to a spot where we could call my sister Veronica to come rescue us. She had not had much sleep, but her and James came and pulled the trailer to the campsite. We discussed whether we should still continue the ride, but Larry was determined.

The next morning I got to hold my new grand-niece for the first time. Aubrey is a beautiful little angel. Then James gave us a ride to the Slickrock trailhead. We felt pretty good even with little sleep and it was a beautiful day.
The Kokopelli trail does not necessarily include a trip around the famous Slickrock bike trail. It seemed a bit odd to instead ride our bikes up the well maintained dirt road. The slog up Sand Flats Road is not terribly exciting except for the scenery (photo 1). As you slowly crank your peddles you can see the shadow of every pebble on the road. This section involves hike-a-bike much of the time at least it did for us.

Once you reach the plateau of the Porcupine Rim you can tell you've gained altitude because of the changing vegetation. The turn off where you leave the
Sand Flats Road is very scenic with a combination of huge rocks, trees, and colors that make it seem as if it was landscaped on purpose (photo 2). Here you encounter the
first and only single track of the day. We met a group of riders who were dropped off at the top and were riding down to Moab. They were having more fun than we were.
The single track ends once you reach Porcupine Rim. From here it is a never ending ride up a four wheel drive road as you try to get to the Loop Road. A couple of deer hunters on ATV's joked that we should be riding our bikes rather than pushing them. As you look down into Castle Valley you can see the burn area from a massive fire this summer 2008 (photo 3). You do encouner an old mine in this section and a truck from long ago.

Just when your quads have had about all the pump they can stand, you finally reach the La Salle Mountain Loop Road. From here your mountain bike turns into a road bike for the remainder of the trip to Bull Draw. After all that ascent the downhill on pavement through the aspens is liberating. My GPS clocked us at speeds up to 35 mph.

Once you hit Castle Valley Road the pavement starts back uphill for the final ascent of the day. After a couple of miles the road crosses a creek, so we stopped to clean up and cool off. The long and winding road seemed to last forever (photo 4). As each pickup or car passed us we questioned our mode of transportation (photo 5).

We finally made it to camp with about a half hour of daylight left. We payed our dues with the long and gruelling ascent and we looked forward the the descent on day two. James and Veronica came up to share our campfire and a celebration brew. A fitting end to day one!