Here is the “long” version of the wonderful ride I was blessed to be able to complete recently. It is long, but so was the ride. I hope you enjoy it, and are able to ride it someday.
Utah Epic – LPS Porcupine Rim Loop
May 1st, 2010
“Winter Storm Warning for the next 2 days- up to 2 feet of new snow is expected” This was the weather forecast that was ringing loudly in my ears, as I sat in my office looking at the already white ground. Still winter in Aspen, damn, I need to get to the desert and feel that Utah red dirt between my toes.
Just a few short weeks before, eight of us all on 36ers had a magical journey through the Canyonlands National Park, on the White Rim Trail. Since then, every day I look at the pictures from that adventure, and crave for more Utah desert. After hearing that weather report, I made up my mind that I was going back to the desert. Somehow, someway, I will fill all my responsibilities, and sneak away for a day and go MUni. Moab is only 3 ½ hours away from Aspen, and an easy drive as well. Daydreaming of a ride on my “must ride” list, the ride came to me. Porcupine Rim loop, not just the Rim Trail, and not just the regular loop, but adding the newest section to it- the LPS.
Porcupine Rim Trail is the quintessential epic ride in the Moab area. It is fabled for its long and demanding downhill; it’s numerous rocky, technical sections that will test the abilities of all riders. Most riders (bicyclists) are riding with 5+”s of full suspension. And by the way, most riders do this as a shuttle ride. There are numerous companies in the Moab area that provide shuttles to the top. Not this kid, I was going for the whole loop ride.
During one, (or maybe more) of the MMF 10 year run, this trail was on the agenda. I had participated in at least one of these group rides. The one that comes to mind is the one that Dylan W. or maybe Dan H. tried the gap jump between two huge boulders. The outcome was ugly, but somehow he was able to finish the ride. If you were there, you will never forget it, if you weren’t, it is in one of the uni videos.
Driving through a blizzard in Aspen, and then heavy downpours in Grand Junction, I was sure hoping that the weather was nicer in Moab. My blackberry showed no clouds in Moab, so I turned Bob Marley up louder, and smiled. My plan was to make it north of the area, and find a place to sleep in the back of the truck. Bingo, there I was in the desert and no snow in sight. The air temperature was well below normal, and the wind was whipping the truck around, like it was a balloon.
Waking up to freezing temperatures, I was so happy to be in the back of the truck, and not in my tent. The ¾ Waning Gibbous moon was still shining in through the topper window when I awoke. Early morning light was beginning to takeover the sky, so I headed to the parking lot on Hwy 128. Continuing with the Bob Marley theme towards Moab, my coffee craving almost made my truck go straight, instead my desire to get the ride going overrode it.
Thoughts of just how awesome this ride was going to be kept surfacing in my half awake brain. Shorts, long sleeve layer, jersey, helmet, sunglasses (not needed yet, but will need them later), first aid kit, iPod/headphones, camelbak, etc. My mind was ready for an Epic adventure, was my body? I pumped my Exiwolf tire up to almost 40 psi for the first part of the ride, which is along Hwy 128 then on Hwy 191 into Moab, all on pavement. The only humans I saw at this hour, 6:45 a.m. were a couple of road bikers riding up the Hwy, and a couple of motorists. We were all enjoying the magnificent sunrise that was unfolding all around us, a huge bonus for early risers. The slowly meandering glassy Colorado River was next to the road, one fall and I would be wet. On the other side of the road is the Navajo Sandstone jutting straight up towards the amplified blue sky.
The combination of the heat from the sun hitting me, and my heat rate rising from the methodical spinning of the pedals, had my brain waking up. And oh, what a joy it was to wake up to. My sense of smell was totally going into overload, as I pedaled into Moab. Fresh baked breads, onions, garlic, and the best of all coffee! If you’re in Moab, go to the Love Muffin Café, the best morning goodies in town. To busy for me though, as there was a big road ride event going on and it was filled with participants. I found the next best coffee in town, Philips 66. I enjoyed every sip of my coffee so much, as I stretched in the sunshine. It was time to head to the La Sal Mountains, to the TH of the LPS.
The climb ahead of me is about 3,500’, (1067 meters) in 12 miles, (19 Km’s), and average of 6 % grade. The paved section of this climb is testy, steep little bits with some nice switchbacks. I reach the Sand Flats Recreation booth ready to pay my fee, but it is too early, so I spin on by. The first of many campgrounds come and go, and very few campers are up. I can hear the ones that are up commenting on that unicyclist. Reality sets in as I pass the parking lot to the famous Slickrock Trail and turn the corner. There shooting upwards in the far distance are the LaSal mountains with a ring of puffy clouds surrounding their summits. Lying just below them is the very distinct Porcupine Rim. In the middle of this rim is a snow covered narrow opening, like a road, that appears to go straight up through the vegetation, to the top of the rim. I pray that is not where I have to go; it was so far off and looks very steep.
The fresh morning desert air is now being sucked deeply into my lungs as the climb goes up and up. I find a nice rhythm on my 29er, and the miles are now going by at a nice pace. More spectacular scenery keeps my mind from noticing the climbing I am doing. Round narrow red rocks the size of skyscrapers laid on their sides rise from the freshly matted down red dirt into the sky. The sky is so clear this morning, the affect of a 3-day cold storm. The winds are light and are not a factor in the climbing at all. Snow in the shadows of the junipers is now a common sight. The sound of the first vehicles come up behind me, they pass me slowly with eyes attached to the windows. These are vehicles doing the “Porcupine shuttle”. No dust today, as this can be a major bummer on this stretch, I am happy guy.
I am now riding in the snow and mud, wondering just how much further I have to go. The road is still rideable though, so I keep going up. Then, the Porcupine Rim Trail head comes up; I stop and talk to a fellow who is beginning his ride here. This is where the MMF group and most groups start from; it has a nice parking lot. I try to convince the rider to go up the road with me and start higher, he says no, that there is some tough road riding up there. Continuing up the road, the scenery gets even more dramatic. Mushroom-topped spires are grouped together on a couple of snow covered exposed ridges. Newly popped maple leaves are shining so brightly against the snow covered junipers and red rocks. I turn the corner and there in front of me is the next section of the climb. It appears like a mini Mt. Washington, I have to stop to take it all in and get ready for it. A few pictures later, I push up another short sickly steep paved section. I now see that they pave the steepest sections, to keep the road from washing away. My Garmin Edge 500 says the grade is over 22%, OMG. My legs burn, and I cannot go any further.
Looking at the Garmin after stopping, I check on my rides progress. So far I have gone 18 miles, (29 Km’s) and been out just over 3 hours. This is all new terrain to me, so I don’t really know how far to the top. It must only be a couple of miles at the most. But, at that this rate it will take me some time. I ride some, than have to stop; my heart rate is just too high to push any further. The steep pitches, over 20%, keep coming, now it is dirt though, must be because the road is not next to a cliff anymore. The shuttle vehicles now pass me on their way back down the mountain. I keep going up and up, I walk a small section due to the mud, snow, and it is easier to walk than ride. I still have the HUGE downhill to ride after reaching the top, happy and concerned thoughts race through my brain. I am looking for a cattle guard, where the LPS starts. Yes, there it is, I have reached the start of the LPS!
I put on the leg armor, and get ready for what could be the ride of my life. Hell, I’m having the ride of my life already, how can it get better. I feel great, the climb was totally awesome, and now I get to ride some new singletrak. A car pulls up and asks about the trail, I tell them, they decide to start where I start. They are all on phat downhill bikes. As their driver pulls away, one of them says, “She drove away with my camelbak”. Doh, lucky for him he has two friends with camelbaks. The temperature is perfect, still cool and the ground cover is a mix of mud and snow. Pictures are taken and I spin my way through the tight twisting singletrak. There are many sections of open rock, rock ledges, and difficult challenges. I come around a corner and if I don’t make the turn, I will end up going over the Porcupine rim, and into Castle Valley. I make the turn, stop and am in total awe of the view. What lie before me is Castle Valley, The La Sal Mountains, Arches Nat’l Park, and the Bookcliffs way off in the distance. I am on the edge of Nirvana this is my Sanctuary. I stay until the goose bumps wear off; this is totally epic cool MUni riding! Views into Castle Valley are many along this stretch; I do stop to take every one in. I am alone in paradise, and am in no hurry. The vastness of these spectacular views is mind expanding. The group of bicyclists that started when I did finally caught up to me, wondering how I had gotten in front of them. I followed the recommended path, down a cliff, and they took the non-recommended route, down a mudslide. They were all covered in mud from head to toe, bummer for them. Another tight corner turned, and all of a sudden, people everywhere sitting on rocks.
This spot is where the Porcupine Rim Trail intersects the LPS. I highly recommend doing the LPS to this spot, rather than the 3-4 mile uphill ride with all those people. You get the extra singletrak, which is sooooo worth it. I work my way through the crowd, I don’t like crowd’s. Comments are heard as I get away from them all, most are pretty respectable. From here the ride is flat/downhill/uphill and rocky. I play tag with a group of hardcore women on bikes, very fun that game. A couple that looks to be fairly new at mtn. biking passes me. The guy then starts to go over his handlebars, but catches himself. Now, he is slamming his crotch into the headset of the bike, trying to run it out and get the wheel back down. He eventually falls over in intense pain, holding his private parts. Being the EMT that I am, I stop to help. Not much I can do to help this poor guy, although I do have some Seat Saver gel that is numbing. I also have some pain med’s. I try to get him to relax, not easy when your nuts are in your throat. His girlfriend was kind of giggling, which didn’t make it any easier for me to keep my composure. I rode off after I made sure he was ok, he later passed me with a forced smile on his face. Bikes, Bikes, more Bikes. This has become a very popular ride, I am being passed and passing so many bicyclists. Most are very respectful, and can wait for me to stop.
Six hours into my ride, I find the perfect rock to get a suntan on. Most of this ride is surrounded by Crytobiotic soil, which you don’t want to disturb, so it was great to find a place to meditate on. . The sun was very warm now, so I took advantage of it completely. I was getting closer to the most famous section of the ride, the singletrak above Jackass Canyon. The heat is building in the desert now, and I am so glad to be prepared. My 100 oz bladder is almost ½ full, and I am ¾ of way done.
The section above Jackass Canyon has to be one of the most intense singletrak’ s in the world. I am riding along great, keeping my line going somehow, when a voice comes out and says to me, “ If you fall, they might not ever find your body”. WHAT??? So, of course I look down and get complete vertigo. I fall off and grab the 29er, just as it was going off the trail. I knew I was on a skinny singletrak, but didn’t realize the exposure. I can’t imagine anyone trying to ride some of this section, the technical level is a 10+, and with a fall you die exposure, unbelievable. You can see the Colorado River below and also Hwy 128, probably close to 1000’, (305 meters) drop to them. Finally the trail turns away from the cliffs edge and the anxiety wears off. From here it is techier singletrak with sections of smooth dirt. I can see the parking lot at the finish.
The trail ends going under the highway through a big culvert, I go up the sides with enthusiasm. Arms rise high to sky to thank the desert gods for a safe epic adventure. I reach the truck in my own amazement of what is possible on a 29er, and think to myself, what’s next?
I am now very thankful for the weather forecast that rang loudly in my ears just a few days earlier. Peace.
Distance 34.03 Miles 63 Kilometers
Elevation Gain 4,000’ in 13 miles 1219 meters
Moving time 5hr 55 minutes
Total time 7 hr 58 minutes
Average moving speed 5.7 mph 9.2 Km/hr
Average Heart rate 141 bpm
Max Heart rate 183 bpm
GB4 29er w/ no brakes, Exiwolf tire and shimano 175 mm cranks
Quotes from ride
Only ½ the workout, right?
Fall and you die
Tag, your it
Your fu…… crazy
You’re going to do this, on that?
Your reputation precedes you; they are all talking about you. said by one of two riders going the opposite direction as me.
Life is good- get out and ride
1st pic from LPS into Castle Valley
2nd pic on the climb to start of LPS