Tuesday, November 21, 2017

holding pattern

We are absolutely in a holding pattern in greater Salt Lake: winter has not yet arrived and it is almost Thanksgiving.  That is not good: the ski resorts are pushing back their openings because there is scarcely any natural snow, plus it has been so warm that they haven't been able to make much snow either.  Last year at this time, it had been a bare early November but had starting snowing in earnest right around now; right now, the forecast looks pretty bleak for the near future.

We did get over to Park City (again) last Saturday to have lunch with our friend Ted, with whom we skied once last year.  He has a condo in Park City and was in town to set the place up for winter so we met him at Squatter's to catch up.  And then on Sunday, we drove up to Alta and picked up our season passes ... so if winter does actually show up, we're ready to hit the slopes.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

once more 'round the valley

We have a complicated relationship with Utah.  For example, we enjoy the heck out of the cool mountains of the Wasatch and yet we are never happier than when we are in the desert rockscapes near Moab.  And while we are impatiently awaiting the arrival of cold, wet weather so that we can go skiing, we were pleased when it was mild and dry enough for us to go MTBing one more time at Round Valley on Sunday.  The skies weren't perfectly clear and blue and it was slightly breezy (which picked up to gusty by the time we'd finished) but it was certainly pleasant. We weren't the only ones who thought so either: the Quinn's Trailhead parking lot was fairly busy when we got there noon-ish.  We saw a number of people out on the trails as well - not summertime crowds (and everyone out there was experienced enough to practice good trail etiquette) but there were definitely folks looking to get more trail time in.

Given H's research last weekend, we didn't exactly do our usual route (either backwards or forwards), but changed up some pieces here and there.  We started out the same but when we had finished the [former] My Nemesis* climb, instead of staying straight at the four-way intersection to head to the bottom of Hammerhead*, we turned left to make our way out along Cammy's Trail to Rademan Ridge.  We went down what H had gone up last weekend, landing at the bottom of the Sagebrush Switchbacks* of the backside of Rambler, then climbed up Rambler.  At that point, we went down Rusty Shovel, which has some tight turns but also some beautifully banked corners - so if you aren't a chicken descender like I am, Rusty Shovel would be super-fun to ride down.

Lean in

At this point we found our way back to Rambler (see, everything leads to Rambler) and went up as far as turn #8 of the Sweet Sixteen* switchbacks.  I passed two other riders going up in this section AND managed to ride turn #6 for the first time ever since we've been riding this loop.  Riding that turn had been my goal for the summer and I was psyched - now there's only one turn (#8) that I haven't been able to ride.  New goal for next summer, I guess.  At turn #8, we left Rambler for Highside and then Kari's, which brought us back to the top of the Practice Loop.  While H did some extra climbing, I started riding out, now retracing the first bit of our ride.  Despite riding further than I did, H made it back to the truck first ... because I had to stop to pat a couple of golden retrievers.  (I always stop for golden retrievers.)

If that was truly our last MTB of the season - and we really, really hope it is because it needs to start snowing - then that was an excellent way to close things out.  And I'm still psyched about riding turn #6!

*  Apologies for using all these pet names for pieces of the trails.  Since so much of our loop seems to be on the Rambler trail, we've taken to re-naming sections for our own identification.  You certainly won't find "My Nemesis," "Hammerhead" or "Sweet Sixteen" on any Round Valley trail map.

Monday, November 13, 2017


We have, the past few years, done a hike at Solitude/Brighton after the first snow of the year, to say goodbye to summer and welcome winter.  The original route was from Silver Lake to Lake Solitude, up and over the back of Solitude, past the Twin Lakes dam and along the Sol-Bright trail back to Silver Lake.  Last year, since the snow situation was looking dire in the early season, we did that loop backwards and lo, last winter we had the best snow we've had in years.  H, who is not superstitious about anything, announced on Friday that we would be doing the Sol-Bright hike on Saturday and, since it worked so well last time, we would again be doing it in reverse.  So much for not being superstitious.

Silver Lake, early winter style

It was pretty chilly in the morning so we busied ourselves with some chores: house-cleaning, laundry, making oatmeal-dried cranberry cookies.  We got up to the Solitude Nordic Center at Silver Lake around 12:30 and were surprised to find plenty of parking places; the Big Cottonwood Canyon road had been pretty busy on the way up and the various hiking trailheads had been quite full, so we assumed Silver Lake would be jam-packed too.  Happy to be wrong!

View of Brighton

We went clockwise around the lake on the boardwalk, teetering on the ice, then turned off onto the Twin Lakes trail.  Although the snow wasn't super-deep, we were walking on snow for the most part, unlike last year when there wasn't any at all.  It was mostly sunny, with a light breeze, and temperatures were in the low 30s but noticeably colder in the shade.  We warmed right up climbing up to the Twin Lakes dam, then kept the grind going on up to the top of Solitude's Summit lift.

Top of Summit lift

Once past the dam, there was more snow and so many animal tracks.  Deer, porcupine, coyote, squirrels and smaller critters - the snow was positively trampled in spots.  We stumped our way up to the top of the lift to enjoy the views of Honeycomb Canyon, Brighton and Guardsman Pass across the canyon (now closed for the winter).  Then, before we could get too chilled, we retraced our steps for a ways before turning off onto an access road down into Solitude.  The snow was deep in some spots here, coming up to nearly my knees, and we found a couple of short pitches where we were surprised no one had come up to ski.  No fat bike tire tracks either - just critters.

Totally skiable

We went around Lake Solitude, the snow depth dropping with our elevation, crossed through the woods and under the Sunrise lift, heading back towards Silver Lake.  In a shady grove we happened upon a small herd of mule deer: a buck and what we guessed were two does and two fawns, now old enough to have lost their spots and look like mini-mes of their moms.  The buck was skittish but the does were not, standing their ground and watching us, warily and interestedly, but not at all scared.  We watched them for a little while and then continued on our way, letting them go theirs.

Very much unafraid

Back at the car, we were surprised to find the parking lot busier than before; there seemed to be lots of photographers taking advantage of the afternoon light.  We paused at the Silver Fork on our way down the canyon, stopping in for a couple of beers and some chips and salsa (they have a restaurant license and have to serve food, even if you're just sitting at the bar), and talked with another couple (transplants from New Jersey/Maryland) about how awesome Utah winters are.  And we're ready for another one.  Let it snow.

Hike stats:  4.92 miles; 1:59 hours; 1,400 feet of elevation

Friday, November 10, 2017

h gets in another one

I was unconvinced Saturday morning that I wanted to go MTBing.  It was stormy-looking over the mountains and a chilly 43 F in Park City at 9 a.m., with dropping temperatures and showers forecasted for early afternoon.  H, however, was jonesing to go, so I shooed him out the door with the thought that he might do some more exploring on the Round Valley trails we don't normally ride.  There were a few people out on the trails with him; he saw twenty or so, and seemed to be mostly women.  It never warmed up and actually dropped a couple of degrees as the day wore on, so he wore long sleeves and leg warmers against the chill.  Here's what he rode, doing 19.78 miles and 2,200 feet of climbing in 2 hours and 18 minutes of riding time:

Dark and stormy over the mountains

He started out our usual way, taking Fast Pitch or Hat Trick (one of those) and doing an out-and-back to the top of the PC hill, which was narrow, overgrown and not good for riding.  Then he got back on our regular route, Matt's Flat and up what I call "My Nemesis," then down the Round Valley Express to the RVE/Rambler junction.  He then continued riders' left up to Rademan Ridge, then linked up with Cammy's Trail, looping back to Valderoad.  He went down what we call the "Nouvelle Loop" above the National Ability Center, then climbed back up the Practice Loop, turning left onto Somewhere Elks.  Somewhere Elks is a long climb with tight turns and he took it to Nowhere Elks.  Then down Rusty Shovel with its many, many switchbacks, turning left onto Ramble On.  He went down to the jeep road, then back up Rambler (climbing the "Sagebrush Switchbacks") and then down the other side on Rambler (the "Sweet Sixteen" switchbacks), turning off onto Highside around the eighth turn.  From there, he took Highside to Kari's, then reconnected with Rambler again (Rambler is seemingly everywhere!) back to the Practice Loop and then back to the truck.

He got to almost all the trails

H said he didn't really want to stop riding but he had gone through several snow flurries throughout the morning, and the last few minutes of the ride it was actively sprinkling.  Rather than get cold and wet, he opted for a beer and a veggie burger at Squatter's before coming home - always a good choice.

Pretty good amount of climbing, eh?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

possible last mtb of the season

H was not so banged up on Sunday that we couldn't go for another MTB ride.  At this point in the year, every MTB ride we do has the potential for being that last one of the season.  Sunday was pretty gorgeous - breezy, just a few thin clouds, slightly cooler than the Sunday before - so we figured we should take advantage of the day. 

We still waited a little while for it to warm up to comfortable, if cool, temperatures in Park City.  Quinn's Trailhead had some action but did not seem overly crowded, and the cooler fall weather meant that nearly everyone had a dog or two with them.  I suggested that we do our usual route but backwards again, to give our brains a bit of a work out.  The climb up Rambler on the sagebrush switchbacks side is so much easier than the way we normally go up and I was thrilled to ride the whole thing except for that one really rocky corner.  Going down the other side is actually not as fun; the top half is good hard dirt but the bottom bit is rockier and makes me nervous - I am a very nervous descender. 

Apparently I'm wearing the same outfit as last time

When we were almost out (and H was way ahead of me, speedy on the double track), I scared up a herd of about seven or eight mule deer, who bounded away from me up a sagebrush-covered hill.  Then I had to stop and pet a 150 lb., 7 year old wolfhound who was walking with his person.  The man warned me that I'd get slobbered on but it was worth it to say hello to that giant, gentle dog.  We got a little more dog-time a little later, when we stopped by the Park City Brewery.  They don't serve food, so they're dog-friendly, and the picnic tables outside have carabiners screwed into them so you can park your dogs there.  We hung out with three dogs for a beer or two, chatting a little with their people, before heading home.  If that's going to be the last ride of the season, it was a pretty good way to finish up.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

going glenwild

While I was out tromping around at Alta, H met up with a buddy from work for a MTB ride in Park City.  Darren is a really good MTBer so I was more than happy to bow out, knowing that there was no way I could keep up with those guys.  They drove through Parleys Canyon to Park City, parking at a trailhead behind the Park City Brewery to get onto the Glenwild Trails.  It has been years and years since H and I have ridden at Glenwild and all I could recall is that the trails seemed rocky and there was a lot of climbing.

Darren on the trail 

After their ride, H reported that while he didn't find the trails too rocky, they definitely did a lot of climbing: 1,700 feet right from the start, up a wash and then switchbacking up and over a ridge, with a total of 2,200 feet climbed by the end of the 17-ish mile ride.  For comparison, the 16+ mile ride we regularly do at Round Valley has only 1,300 feet of climbing. 

The guys were evenly matched on the climbs but H was a little more cautious than Darren on the descents.  Caution aside, H still managed to overcook a turn on one descent, and then hit the brakes a little too hard, launching himself over the handlebars and into a sagebrush bush.  His MTB was unscathed and he only got some cuts, bumps and bruises, so all ended well enough.

Friday, November 3, 2017

wolverines and grizzlies

While we anxiously wait for it to get cold, we are trying to take advantage of the remaining good weather.  H had made plans to MTB with a friend from work on Saturday; since I cannot keep up with them, I decided to take a hike up at Alta.  I didn't want to do the usual route, though, and thought I might change it up a little by going up to Catherine's Pass, then up and over Tuscarora and Wolverine, around Wolverine Cirque, down to Twin Lakes Pass and out through Grizzly Gulch.  That was the plan - I love it when a plan comes to fruition!

Blue sky start

After waiting for it to warm up a little, I got to the parking lot above Albion base lodge at Alta around 11:30 a.m.  There was a helicopter working hard, transporting pieces of the new Summit lift towers from the Goldminer's Daughter parking lot up to the mountain, and there seemed to be a fair number of people up there just to watch it work.  To keep out from under the flight path, I decided to go up the Summer Road to the Catherine's Pass trailhead instead of making my way up through the bunny slope.

Lakes Mary and Martha from Tuscarora

By the time I reached the trailhead, I was warm enough to take off my gloves.  It was still cold enough in the shade to keep the trail frozen but out in the sunny spots the mud had warmed and softened.  It was a bit of a challenge in places to stay out of the mud, but I did my best, wanting to keep from messing up the trail.  I came across just a few hikers as I neared the pass but otherwise had it to myself.

Wolverine Cirque, Superior and the Salt Lake Valley

From Catherine's Pass, I turned north and climbed up to Tuscarora.  My only concern about this hike was if the ridge would be icy with leftover snow from the last storm we had.  From my vantage point on Tuscarora, there looked to be snow on the Brighton (east) side but the top of the ridge looked okay.  I met another hiker, coming the other way, and he confirmed that the ridge was okay with just a couple of snowy spots.

Giant floating selfie head

There was some snow to cross between Tuscarora and Wolverine but I stayed in the footprints of those who had gone before.  At the top of Wolverine (around 1:30 p.m.), I could see the whole trail around the top of the cirque and could confirm that it looked okay.  I took my time going around the cirque; luckily, the trail tends to go to the western/sunny side of the ridge and there were no issues with slippery footing. 

Snow-covered boulder field

The only sketchy bit was on that last boulder field coming down off the ridge to Twin Lakes Pass.  There was a lot of snow here so again I stuck to the footprints that were there, avoiding having to break trail and post-hole.  I met another hiker here: he was on his way up and seemed under-equipped with sneakers, no gloves and his shirt off.  He asked some questions about the trail - had never done it before - and then we continued on our ways, him up and me down.  I lost the trail for a little once off the boulder field and into the woods where the snow was sparser, but it was easy enough to get down to Twin Lakes Pass (2:15 p.m.).

Flowers are past-peak in Grizzly Gulch

After that, it was all downhill and out through Grizzly Gulch.  I started seeing a few more people there but again, it was certainly nothing like the summertime crowds.  I followed the old mining road down, then the flap poles directing hikers to the final bit of trail down to Alta and my car (3:00 p.m.).  That helicopter was still working hard - got to make hay while the sun shines, I guess, with winter coming - and I watched it as I had my post-hike beer.  Gorgeous day in the mountains of northern Utah - and I hoped H had had as good an outing as I had.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

home turf

After our fantastic Fruita/Moab trip, it took us a few days to re-acclimate to non-vacation life.  We dealt with laundry and the other mundane details of being back at home but by Sunday, we were ready to get back on the trails.  We had both been a little frustrated with our MTBing on vacation - which is what happens when five weeks go by without riding - so we felt that getting back to trails we were comfortable with would be comforting and good for the ego.  Plus, it would only have been five days since our last ride, so that had to count for something.

Cool enough for long sleeves and gloves

We had to wait for it to warm up in Park City and thus didn't end up getting on the trails until around 11:30 a.m.  With the late start but the sun still low in the sky, and all the leaves off the scrub oak, the light was a little weird.  But we know those trails so well that we were able to ride with confidence.  There weren't too many people out either, and that's always nice when you don't have to keep pulling over to pass on singletrack.

Monday, October 30, 2017

desert trip, part 6

All desert trips must come to an end, it seems.  We slept in a little Tuesday morning, then walked to the Moab Diner for breakfast (oatmeal, hash browns, English muffin with peanut butter and fruit).  We cleared out of our motel room and drove up to Dead Horse Point State Park.  The skies were mostly clear, just some light, thin clouds, and it was cool but not cold at about 54 F.  There were a few other cars in the parking lot with MTBers getting ready to hit the trails. 

Once we got out there, however, we really didn't see more than a handful of other people - just the way we like it.  We did the Big Chief loop, which has a couple of hike-a-bike sections at first but then is rideable and fun for the rest, then across the sagebrush flats on Crossroad to cross the road to the newer trails.

Scenery for days

We were both riding better than we had been and I had my best ride ever on Whiptail and Twisted Tree, never even putting my foot down on Whiptail except to let another rider go by.  Maybe fresher legs (from not doing double sessions the day before) helped?  Regardless, we felt good and it was wonderful to be out there under those desert skies.

I mean, look at that

We finished up our ride and had snacks/beers while people-watching and putting our gear away.  Then it was time to say farewell to Moab once again and, with a stop in Green River at Ray's Tavern for veggie burgers and beers, our desert trip was done.  Until the next time!


Ride stats:  16.41 miles; 2:21 hours; 7.0 avg. m.p.h.; 16.9 max m.p.h.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

desert trip, part 5

Monday found us with the same routine as the day before, perhaps ten or so minutes later.  Armed with our weird little book, this time we drove into Arches National Park - not very busy yet - and out to Balanced Rock.  We turned left onto the dirt Willow Springs Road and went in about a mile to another intersection (Salt Flat Road) that had a wide turnout for parking.  The south rim of the Eye of the Whale mesa was our goal.

Heading up the wash

After another in-the-truck breakfast of bananas, bagels and peanut butter, we left a "just gone hiking" note on the truck's dash and started off down the Willow Springs Road around 9:30 a.m., noticing the tons of small critter tracks (lizards, mice, squirrels, rabbits and coyotes) in the undisturbed dust.  We walked down to where a wash crossed the road and found a flap pole with an arrow pointing up the wash, indicating foot traffic only.

At the old dam

So up the wash we went, past the remains of an old dam to the first of three cottonwood trees.  It may sound vague but this is verbatim how our book (this time, Forty More One-Day Hikes in the Moab Vicinity) describes this part of the hike: "... into the wash above the damn, then hike up it toward some cottonwood trees, to where it is feasible to climb out on the left to the higher sandstone slopes there.  Explore these at any level, continuing generally toward the northeast, finally ascending to the highest sandstone level."

This is, in fact, the "trail"

And that's what we did, scrambling up on the rock at the first tree.  Once up there we had to watch our step a bit to avoid dry potholes, crevasses, cryptobiotic soils and lichens; we also tried to minimize stepping in any sand to maximize "leave no trace."  There was plenty of sandstone to safely walk on, however, even if we did have to do some backtracking to get around gaps in the rock.

Big spaces in the desert

We worked our way up the terraces as high as we could to the northeast, finally stopping at sandstone domes where we had views of the Klonzo MTB trails, Routes 313 and 191, the LaSals, the Henry Mountains and various features at Arches - truly amazing panoramic views.  We poked around up there for a while, peeking into little oases and gullies among the domes and noting what we presumed were desert bighorn tracks in the sand.

An oasis among the domes

Having kept those cottonwood trees in sight, we were able to make our way back into the wash and out again.  A couple of jeeps passed us as we walked back on the Willow Springs Road, and a couple more went by as we had our post-hike beers.  But that was it: a whole half day in Arches National Park and only seeing a handful of people.  Awesome.

Nice spot for a snack

To be completely honest, we weren't feeling all that inspired to double-session it on the MTBs, so instead we drove out Route 128 and found a spot where we could sit and watch kayakers on the Colorado River and MTBers finishing up the Porcupine Rim trail.  It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny but not hot, and just pleasant to be outside, even if we weren't exerting ourselves all that much.

Our signal cottonwood tree

Our evening plans consisted of getting cleaned up, chatting with the motel staff about living in Moab and finding a place to eat.  We'd intended to go to 98 Center and were disappointed to find that they were closed for a private catering event.  Miguel's Baja Grill is always a good option (if you can get in) but they tend to be a little expensive, especially if margaritas are involved; Peace Tree Cafe was a bit pricier than we were looking for as well.  So back to the brewery which, while not fine dining, gets you a good amount of bang for your buck.  And you can't go wrong with their Johnny's IPA.

Awesome sign (even if "boundary" is spelled wrong)

Hike stats:  6.72 miles with a whopping 700 feet of elevation; 2:23 hours moving, 2.8 avg. speed. 

Great afternoon for a float

Thursday, October 26, 2017

desert trip, part 4

Up at sunrise in Moab: got organized for hiking and MTBing; stopped at the grocery store for bagels and bananas, coffee, etc.  We drove down the Potash Road (Utah 279) for about 10.5 miles and then parked, as our guidebook (Moab Country Day Hikes: Forty One-Day Hikes in the Moab Vicinity by Fran and Terby Barnes) directed, "at the open end of a huge culvert."  We breakfasted in the truck because it was 37 F in the sun and then, thus sustained, proceeded to get our hike on around 9 a.m.

"At the open end of a huge culvert" for reals

Colorado River view

This book that we've got was written in 1996.  Some things - like walking through the huge culvert to start - have not changed since then.  Other things have.  The book gives vague directions to our destination - Jeep Arch - by going up the Culvert Canyon wash.  Since then, a trail has been signed and cairned for this hike, following the sandstone terraces up looker's-left.  We opted to follow the trail up and then perhaps come back down via the wash; the canyon splits several times and we figured it would be easier to navigate on the way out.

Heading towards those sandstone features

As we made our way up the rock terraces, taking care to avoid cryptobiotic soils, dry potholes and lichens, we had the whole canyon to ourselves.  It was completely quiet, save for a few bird calls, and the views were staggering.  After walking for a while, a sign indicated a loop option, one heading up and one heading down.  We bore left, on the high side, going clockwise on the loop.  We climbed a couple of levels, scrambling a bit to get up between two looming sandstone features, then continued up a shallow wash.

Wide open, dizzying views

Jeep Arch is so named because it is a jeep-shaped cut-out in a massive stone fin.  It's quite big although the stone wall it is in is narrower than I expected, eventually flaring out down canyon.  The loop trail scrambles up one side so you can stand in the arch, and then continues down the other side.  We paused for a few minutes at the arch.  Again, all to ourselves.  Again, staggering views.

Sort of jeep-ish

We completed the rest of the loop and then, back at the sign, H noticed a definite trail coming out of the wash below us.  We figured that this was the old way up and, as such, could be our way down.  We carefully made our way down the drainage, with some route-finding whenever we reached an "impassable pouroff" (per our book).  There was a surprising amount of water still in some deep pools and we guessed that some of these grottoes were pretty popular with locals on hot summer days.

H in Jeep Arch

As we got closer to the mouth of the canyon, we met a few other people.  We also started seeing more birds, including one falcon who seemed indignant at our passing by.  We came back out through the culvert, getting back to the car around 11:30 a.m., just in time for lunch which consisted of beers and hike snacks.

Scrambling up to the arch

After re-organizing for MTBing and a quick trip down to the end of the road, we headed back towards town and up to the MOAB Brand trails for some MTBing.  We were there later than we usually are so the light seemed very different.  Luckily, we had cool temperatures (in the 50s, light breezes, bright sun - not even any clouds over the LaSals) and sparsely-populated trails.  We did our usual loop (Rusty Spur/Bar M loop) twice, then hung out in the parking lots for a bit for beers while H cleaned up the bike chains.  As we were getting ready to go, a family with a couple of little kids rode up to their car beside us.  One little boy exclaimed, "Whew - I did great!"  H asked him if he hit any big jumps.  The kid very seriously replied, "Oh no, I don't do that," and then launched into a full discussion of how they drove all the way from Colorado, while his mom rolled her eyes and we both grinned.

Jeep Arch is pretty big

After that, we returned to the motel, gave Frank the office dog some belly-rubs and were told that whenever we were ready for a new dog of our own, she [Katie, who owns the place and rescues dogs] could hook us up.  Keeping that in mind for the future, we got cleaned up, had a beer at Woody's and then devoured a veggie pizza at Zax to wrap up our day.

The way we came up

Hike stats: 4.36 miles; 1,000 feet of elevation; 2:36 hours total time; 1:58 hours moving, 2.0 avg. m.p.h.

The way we went down

Bike stats:  18.95 miles; 1:36 hours; 11.8 avg. m.p.h.; 20.9 m.p.h. top speed (H, of course)

How could you not smile with a sky like that?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

desert trip, part 3

Another sunny and cool morning in Fruita found us breakfasting at Camilla's Kaffe (open 7 days/week, breakfast and lunch only), then packing up our room and heading a little way out of town to the Kokopelli trail system.  The trail head was very busy with lots of MTBers buzzing around but once we got out on our trail - we did the Rustler's Loop - we saw no-one.  The trail was great: flowy and mostly hardpack, with fantastic views over the Colorado River.

The Kokopelli trail signs were very funny

We did just one circuit (about six miles) and then moved on to the third major Fruita trail system, Rabbit Valley, not far from the Colorado/Utah border.  The Rabbit Valley trails are mixed-use, having originally been established for dirt bikes and OHVs but with the addition of MTB access with the rise of cycling's popularity.  The singletrack is for MTBs and dirt bikes; doubletrack is for everyone, including ATVs and jeeps.  This means that the trails are a little more chewed up than those that are MTB-only.

Rustler's Loop view (Kokopelli system)

We did a combination of Trail #2 and the Kokopelli Trail, getting out to the state line and back, and passing tons of primitive BLM campsites.  The ride had nice rolling hills but a real mix of surfaces - hardpack, red sand, gravel, loose rock and slickrock.  Sand usually freaks me out but at this point we were riding through so much of it that I started to figure it out: shift down and keep the revs high, relax the deathgrip on the handlebars, stop holding my breath.

Rabbit Valley singletrack

It was also terribly windy, like, crazy windy and the blowing sand got in our eyes and mouths.  By the time we got back on a firmer gravel road, however, I was so grateful to be off the sand that I refused to complain about the headwind, even when it almost stopped me cold.  We had quick beers and sandwiches back at the truck, huddled down beside the wheels to keep out of the wind, and then continued west.

Sandy section

To mix things up just a bit, we took the scenic Route 128 to Moab, past Fisher Towers, through Castle Valley and along the Colorado River.  At this point (midafternoon), all the riverside BLM campgrounds were full; Moab itself was jumping, with NO VACANCY signs at most of the hotels on Main Street.  Made me glad for our reservations.

In another wash, this one rideable

We checked in at the Kokopelli Lodge (we figured this was our tenth time staying there!) and did our usual clean-up/do laundry/put together a plan for the next day before walking to the Moab Brewery.  It was super-busy as usual but we scored seats at the bar pretty quickly.  The bartenders were outstanding, managing the crowds with finesse and good cheer.  We ate (veggie burger and veggie burrito) and enjoyed our beers (Johnny's IPAs) and had a good time people-watching.

Route 128 is scenic all right

The day finished up with us adjourning to the chairs outside our motel room for one more beer whilst wrapped in fleeces, warm hats and wool socks.  That night's forecast was for 30 F and the temperature was falling fast.

Ride stats:  14.9 miles total (both rides); 2:05 hours; 7.1 avg. m.p.h., 23.3 max. m.p.h.