Searching for St George Singletrack

Big days exploring new trails on tired legs with fast guys. That was me after asking Jonathan Davis (who was also in St George - running the recovery station at Frog Hollow with his Elevated Legs) if he wanted company on the ride he had planned for Tuesday after the race. Nick and I were planning on almost the exact ride  - I say almost because we had anticipated parking at a different trailhead and just riding the singletrack. Meeting up with JD meant riding more of the True Grit course, having someone who had a better idea of where we were going with us and about two more hours of riding. Well, that was what we were there for - trail riding and exploring. The ability to do it with friends? Even better. I packed my Osprey Rev 12 with enough water for four hours and plenty of food. I had a feeling I was going to need it.

We left the Green Valley - Zen parking area and headed up the mesa across the canyon from Zen. Just a short road climb and we were descending big swooping drops in and out of the washes far below the cliff edges. Some - okay all - of those drops could lead to some big air if you knew what was coming. My first time on the trail so I rolled them all, pondering each time if I had the nerves to try to launch the next one. Then we were on the Stucki Springs loop - part of the True Grit course. The boys were riding just a tad faster then I wanted to so I kept falling off the back. No worries - they waited at every intersection and I could see Nick's orange helmet across the desert. We followed the True Grit course all the way around the Stucki Springs, with JD pointing out the Rim Rock loop - a little side loop off the main trail. We considered riding it, but decided only if we weren't exhausted later.
Nick and JD, studying the map for clues to the best direction to ride

That wasn't the goal of the day. The goal was a new trail for all of us - with the charming name of Suicidal Tendencies. None of us knew what was coming - would it be the big rocks and moves of Zen or the flowing singletrack we'd already ridden? We knew nothing about the terrain or technicality of the trail - one of the reasons I'd let the guys ride away from me and not struggled to keep up. We got to the info kiosk with a trail map and pondered for a while. At least the guys did. I was too busy scarfing down some food and catching my breath! As with most loop trails, we knew there had to be a preferred direction to ride. But maps don't tend to show that information. Finally JD texted an inside source (Lynda W) for advice. A few minutes later, we had our direction - go clockwise on everything - and he had orders to clean all the switchbacks. That's what happens when you ask your coach for help with trail finding on her local trails!

But before Suicidal Tendencies, we had Precipice and Sidewinder. Precipice trail was fun, tracing along the edge of the mesa with views of the wash below and just a few rock gardens to navigate. Then Sidewinder, switching backing up and up towards the summit of the mesa. The guys quickly climbed ahead of me, leaving me to enjoy the view alone. I picked my own lines through the rocks and corners, stealing glimpses around when I could. We crisscrossed from mesa edge to mesa edge, tracing a winding path higher and higher. At a trail junction, we turned left, follwing directions to go clockwise with all turns. We were closer and closer to the summit, with no sign of our next trail. Where were we going?


Nick on the switch backs
That's when I saw the switchbacks carved into the next mesa over. But how were we getting there? A sheer cliff dropped away to the left, not revealing it's secrets or the trail. At the tip of mesa, with nothing but air all around, the trail sign appeared for Suicidal Tendencies and cheerfully pointed us down. Turning to look, I saw the switchbacks snaking down the cliff towards the valley between the mesas. Tight and steep, a thin line of trail dug into the rocks. Yikes. And while JD was under orders to make all the switchbacks, I had no such command. I gave them all a go as we dropped into the valley, but with a dismal success rate - I made two cleanly, walked three and dabbed on another.
 
Nick on the rock slab I walked up - it's steeper then it looks and a lot more exposed

My turn - not as strong as I wanted

Then we were climbing again - up the edge of the adjoining mesa. A few more switchbacks which I happily cleaned, two rock slabs with some big consequences that I also made - eyes on the trail, don't look around type riding. I was getting my mojo back after the difficulty with the descending switchbacks, despite not making the next two really tight and steep turns. I got back on my bike, aware of the increasing exposure to my left and focused on the next obstacle - the trail squeezed between two rocks and made a gradual turn up and right. Should be easy, nothing to it. Eyes on the trail, even power, weight low to keep traction on the tires. Should be... It wasn't that big of a move. But my eyes kept focusing to the left and the now hundreds of feet drop below. Yeah. Not giving that one a second try! After that, the trail returned to the top of the mesa and meandered along the edge to the highpoint, affording us a huge view of the valleys and mountains to the southwest of town. A short break for photos and some food, then it was time for the return trip. I knew the rock slab was coming, but successfully kept my focus on the trail and rode smoothly down and through the rocks. I got the rest of the trail back down to the valley floor. As for the switchbacks up to Sidewinder? Well, I tried them all - but had a similar success rate as with the descent.
Spending more time looking around then riding hard

View from the top - wow!
After completing Sidewinder with a little more skills work on a simple looking but challenging rock stepup, we had a choice. Finish out the True Grit course with a lap of Barrel Roll or just return to the van. It would take us about an hour to ride Barrel Roll. Of course we opted for additional singletrack. Why miss the fun - we were there to ride and explore. I was getting hungry, having eaten my last snack at the finish of Sidewinder. Barrel Rolls offered more fun riding, with gradual climbs, some tricky little rock gardens and flowing singletrack up and down through the canyons and washes. Just plain fun, classic riding. I was happy we'd ridden it, but suffered on the final stretch back to camp. Luckily it was a mix of singletrack, double track and one really cool canyon with polished sandstone from the recent rain. Four and a half hours and 30 plus miles later, we return to the van. Awesome riding, made even better by the chance to ride with JD.

That rock and turn combo was harder then it looked!

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