Saturday, September 29, 2012

bikes in the desert, pt. 3

H was up and at 'em early Saturday morning, getting on his road bike before the sun came up to ride to the start of the Moab Century Tour for its 7 a.m. start.  (More on the ride later.)  I slept in a little longer, then took my time putting my hiking stuff together, eating 1.5 blueberry muffins and deciding where I was going to hike: Negro Bill Canyon to Morning Glory Natural Bridge, and then maybe back up to Corona Arch if I had time before I was supposed to meet H.  He had promised to take his time this year, stop at the rest areas and eat enough on his ride; we figured a 1 p.m. meet-up would give him six hours to do 100 miles.

The creek at the bottom of Negro Bill Canyon

The trailhead to Negro Bill Canyon is about three miles east on 128 (a Utah Scenic Byway).  It's a four-mile out and back along a lovely stream.  The walking is pretty easy - a slight climb all the way up the canyon, with just a couple of short, steep scrambles - but you have to cross (and recross) the stream nine times, and the path is mostly soft red sand.  This is probably a great hike in the summer since it stays shady until the sun is well overhead, plus walking along the stream keeps things cooler.  It's certainly a popular hike.  The trail ends at the Morning Glory Natural Bridge, a massive 243-foot long rock alcove arch, the sixth longest natural rock span in the U.S.  It's 75 feet up in the air but only separated from the wall behind it by about fifteen feet, so it's kind of hard to photograph.  When I got up there, there were a bunch of folks on top of the arch and rapelling down the adjacent wall; apparently there is a back way to hike in if you want to do that - there's no way up there from down below.

Morning Glory Natural Bridge

After watching the rapellers for a bit, I walked out (approx. 2 hr. RT), enjoying the gorgeous canyon views.  It was just after 11 a.m. when I got back to the truck so I thought I'd drive down Potash Road and hike in at least a little ways to Corona Arch.  I'd forgotten that the trailhead is ten miles down the road, though, so it didn't leave me a ton of time once I started up the trail.  I got in far enough to see that spectacular arch - and watch a crazy local attached to a bungee cord throw himself off the top of it - before turning around.  I was just about to get to my meet-up with H fifteen minutes early when I got a phone call from him: "I'm at the motel. Can you come let me into the room?"

Heading out Negro Bill Canyon

H had done the century in just 5 hr. 14 min. (avg. speed: 18.6 m.p.h.) and was the first century rider to finish!  He'd had a good time of it, riding with several other riders on a couple of occasions, but tending to drop them all on the uphills.  The roads were dry, the skies clear enough for views at Dead Horse Point.  I was really proud of him.  We got cleaned up at the room and then returned to the Aarchway Inn finish line so H could get his Mexican buffet lunch (I picked off his plate, much to his annoyance) and one free Moab Brewery beer (we brought back-up PBRs with us).  It was quite pleasant, sitting under the tent talking to other cyclists and watching scores more come in.  No one knew that H finished first - because it was a charity ride, not a race - but I did.

We hung around our room for a couple hours that afternoon, reading and napping, and then strolled over to Woody's Tavern.  Neither of us was particularly hungry because of the late lunch, so we just had a few drinks instead: $3.75 draft microbrews and $4 tart and tasty margaritas.  When we returned to the motel, Main Street was busy with people in the shops and restaurants, but we'd had enough for the day.  One more MTB ride tomorrow before we have to head home!

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