Tuesday, June 17th
So, another couple of days off from work. Its funny to think of all the tag lines that go out about living authentic, or making the great days better, or live the life you’ve imagined…you get the idea.
Sometimes they can be kinda cheesy. Yet, often they still ring true.
A co worker/ friend and I had been talking about traversing the La Sals in a day for a few months. Looking to have a big day out of the office. I feel like there’s a few themes in my posts lately.
The goal was to start in the North and head South through the range and summit all of the peaks above 12,000′. There’s 12 of them. Our planning consisted of talking about it at work every once in a while and putting a date on when we would do it. Last weekend we actually looked at a calendar and realized that instead of having a couple more days to think a out it and plan, we needed to head up there the next night. So that day we finally looked at a map. Roughly. I was trying to avoid actually looking at a map to figure out miles and elevation gain and loss. We both knew the La Sals pretty well just from working in them a fair amount with Outward Bound.
On the night of the 16th we drove out to Bear Creek on the North side of La Sal peak. That would be our first peak. The road there was pretty spectacular. Driving away from Moab we headed out HWY 128 up the Colorado River and then to Castle valley. Driving past Castleton tower and gaining elevation into the La Sals. Within an hour we had passed some of the most classic desert scenes, landscapes, rivers, towers, and mountains in the American West. That alone is good enough for most people who fly in from around the world and rent an rv for the week.
We found our road that would take us eventually to Bear Creek. On the way we would scare up about 15 Elk that were in the meadows encompassed by the Aspen trees. Already it was worth just getting an hour from town. We found our way up the 4wd road and parked the truck where we would start the next morning.
Night came fast and we crawled into our bags as the cool mountain air surrounded us. The stars and the moon lit up the valley and the horizon line that we would be making our way up the next morning. I remember dreaming that night. Vivid dreams of hiking in the mountains. Random. With people that were on my mind quite often. Loved ones that I hoped to be spending time with in the further. The dreams that make you wake up and wonder if they were real only to see stars and the moon above. Maybe it was just the energy in the air for the following day.
4 am came. We stuffed our bags and grabbed our day bags that would have our essentials for the day. A couple of layers, sunscreen, water, lots of bars, jolly ranchers, and chocolate covered espresso beans. The essentials.
We made our way up the horizon line pretty quickly. Navigating by headlamps was pretty easy. As long as we were going up, we were headed in the right direction.Quickly , we warmed up and delayered as we gained altitude.
Then we hit the talus. These loose , sliding, stacked, asymmetric, sharp, pieces of fractured mountain, would be our pathway for the next 17-18 hours. The little ankle biters that would roll underneath you. That was our path.
We made great time as we traversed the Northern range of the mountains. Walking and scrambling up on top of 7 peaks by 10 am. La Sal peak,Castle, Manns, Waas, Tomasaki and 2 other 12,000′ peaks.
A front was moving in and all day there were sustained winds of 20-30 miles per hour, with gusts of 40-50. This was an element that we hasn’t really thought of. I mean all day. Having to fight to walk down hill?
Coming down from Tomasaki we ran into one of the Outward Bound patrols that was in the area. They were stoked to see us and likewise to see them. It seemed to bring some new energy to us. At least a little. From there we would travel down from Burro pass, up geyser pass, and make our way to the base of Mt Mellenthin. This was one of the few times that Steve and I could actually hold a conversation. The wind was calm, the Sun was warm, We could actually hear each other, and ourselves. If anyone knows Steve, you know what a great individual he is and how he empowers others to do great things. We walked along the trail, and up the road, discussing life, relationships and the challenges, some plans in the future. All while the 2,000′ stair master 5000 was looming above us. By this time we had already been going for about 8 hours. A lunch break was in order.
We stopped and ate and took a 15 minute siesta in the Sun and watched the clouds soar over us as they crested over mellenthin.
We made our way up the ridge line of Mellenthin gaining another 2,000′ of elevation. The wind was still blowing as we made the traverse across and ridge to the top of the summit. From there we can easily see the rest of our route. Laurel, then Peale, Talking, and then finally Tuk.
By far the most talus I’ve ever done in one day. The rest of the day was spent traveling up and down talus, leaning into the wind. Celebrating briefly the feeling of being on top of the La Sals before heading down and then back up. Finally we found our way up Tukuhnikavitz. Supposedly this was an indian word for ” where the Sun sets last”. Well, nice work on naming it. We got up there a few minutes before the Sun set. What we had accomplished was really perfect timing. If we had been there any earlier or later we would have missed an amazing gift. As we gained the top of the peak, the wind stopped and we were able to have some time to reflect on the day, take some photos, and kinda smile.
Traversing the La Sals is not some sort of record or something that National Geographic will probably write about anytime soon. But it was something that people talked about doing for a long time. And we wondered if we could do it . And we did. And that felt good. It was a great day that got better, it was living authentic, and it was a day that we imagined. So, there’s that. Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the photos. and even a link to a quick edit of some footage at https://vimeo.com/98825488
photo by Steve Creech, when we were still smiling.
A week ago I had a couple of day off from work.As I transition into a new type of work environment, I find myself looking for more grand scale adventures or challenges. Maybe its some sort of way to prove that I can still get off of my ass and have some big days. But, its also taking advantage of the time I do have to enjoy the nature that I surround myself with. Thats why I live in Moab right?
The kokopelli trail is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Its a mountain bike trail the goes from Fruita, Colorado and winds through the desert to eventually end in Moab. 140 miles of 4wd roads and some pavement. Outfitters in the area will help provide support for people to ride it in 3-5 days. Since i only had 2 days off, I figured I would just do it in a two days. A friend of mine, Emily, also had some time off and would join me for the second day.
I drove out to Fruita the night before, just outside of Grand junction, CO. Figured I’d get an early start to make some miles before they day warmed up. If you haven’t ever rode bikes out there, the single track really is pretty great. Some flowey sections and some challenging technical riding as well. The first section of the Kokopelli is on a trail called Mary’s loop. Beautiful. Fun. As you make your way from the trailhead, you are traversing along the Colorado River. I do wish I would’ve had some coffee before I started riding that day. Maybe it would’ve helped my riding ability. Maybe not.
Once past the single track, you’re more or less on gravel/sand roads the next 60+ miles. Traversing along I70 through the desert. This part of the West really is beautiful. Desolate.
Riding for 80 miles by yourself gives you lots of time to think. I purposely did not listen to music so that I wouldn’t be distracted from what was wandering through my head. A time of reflection and planning, moving forward with every pedal of the bike.
Until my rear derailleur cable snapped.
Coming out of Rabbit valley and moving toward West water my cable snapped. Knowing enough to at least piece it together, I connected what I could back to what I thought would work. For the next 50 miles I would have 3 gears. Which is pretty great. But I know people who do this trail on single speeds. Though that sounds like an awful idea, I had 3 gears, not one. So I had that going for me, which is nice.
There were very few people out there which was great. I saw one other dirt biker, and couple of other mtn bikers in rabbit valley, an a boat taking out from the Westwater takeout.
I arrived at Dewey Bridge around 5 o’clock. The Sun was definitely still up and it was warm. I cooled off by the river and then took a siesta in the shade of a truck in the parking lot. Body felt pretty good actually for 80 miles through the desert. My friend Emily showed up around 6 with cold beer and food from town. The plan was to get up early the next day and ride the last 60 miles into town.
We pulled out the maps and began to look at the trail for the next day. So, we’re on mtn bikes. Which I’m pretty sure are meant for trails, not roads. And these are my days off. They should be fun too, right? Looking at the map it was on 4wd roads and even paved roads for the next day.
At this point, we had already gone through our 2 beers each. It was 8 o’clock.
If we drove to back to Colorado, we could hit a brewery before it closed. and then ride some of the best single track the next day. This was looking to be more enticing.
Its great to be challenged. I had just spent the day riding 80 miles by myself, in the desert, with 3 gears. Of course the kokopelli is a classic ride, but not sure I’d put it in the fun category. But road tripping to Colorado, riding classic single track, and finishing off with a local IPA….I mean, thats a day off.
So, this entry, for me makes me think about the balance. The balance of the challenge, and of the fun, and the enjoyment of both. The satisfaction of knowing you can push yourself and also recognize when its time just …to play.
Dino photo by emilyklarer.com
This past weekend the rodeo came to town here in Moab, Ut. We had to go.
While I did grow up in Texas, I can’t say rodeo was a big part of my life. Its amazing to see what these people do. To crawl onto these animals that are nothing but muscle and want nothing to ride them, and then just hang on……8 seconds I’m sure feels like a lifetime.
What I was more impressed with were the bullfighters. They were there to protect those who had fallen off and give the bull something else to go after. Trying to imagine those times when the adrenaline is so high, and there is action surrounding you and stimulating every sense, and to focus on someone else and put their safety before yours. Those are the people I find I’ve looked up to. Whether it be in the rodeo, police force, protection services, rescue services, and those times when its a friend or a raft guide in big water. They put themselves out there. Vulnerable…