Timing it right in Moab

August in Moab conjures one word for me. Hot. It is after all in the destert. There might be the Colorado River right next to town, but it's still a desert. When we decided to finish out our trip in Moab, I was worried about the heat. How would we be able to get some good rides done with temperatures soaring? I figured we'd have to get up early at least once - beat the heat and greet the sun. But when we rolled into Moab, the clouds were already building and rain drops sprinkling from the sky. A little humid, but pleasant. We got the keys to the condo and some grocery shopping done. Finally - a place to cook and be able to eat real food! Being able to cook and eat normally is so important - and it doesn't take more then a few days without that ability to make it even more evident.

Nick's first priority while we were in Moab? Captain Ahab. He loves that trail. He would be happy as a clam just doing laps on that trail all day. I'm starting to like it even more - I get more comfortable with the exposure and drops every time we ride it. This was no exception. I felt a little sluggish on the climb up Hymasa, but smooth on all the rock slabs. Even though I felt slow, it was still one of my better rides up - I was even able to look around and enjoy the views on the climb. Made a few more things on the descent and all around just enjoyed the ride more then I have in the past.
Everything in Moab feels huge. Just a tiny dot of color among the sand stone towers on the Hymasa climb
 After the ride, it was time to start planning. If Cam could make it down from SLC in time, he and Nick were going to ride part of the Mag 7 loop. I would play shuttle bunny and run while I waited for them to finish. Well, Cam didn't make it down - but I still wanted to run. And I really wanted to run at the Moab Brand area. Part of exploring is new trails, and an easy run on the Moab Brand trails would be a great sampler. And it was cloudy out - so I wouldn't be baking in the August sun. Nick joined me and did a shorter run, then waited at the van. I didn't want to worry about a map or getting lost, so I opted for the straight forward North 40 loop. I could repeat the smaller loop at the far end if I wanted to for some extra distance. Perfect choice. For the kind of run I wanted - slightly rolling, some techy stuff but nothing crazy - North 40 was the best trail. Some good rolling climbs, a few slickrock sections and rock gardens, but generally a great trail for running. I wouldn't want to be out there in the middle of the day, but with the cloud cover it was a perfect afternoon run.
Running on the North 40 loop in the Moab Brand trails
 And then came the big decision - it was the end of August. The Whole Enchilada was clear. A shuttle would be running on a Saturday for sure. We usually are in Moab in November or March - and the La Sals are snowed then. And here we were, with the ability to finally do the Whole Enchilada. It would mean not exploring the Grand Mesa at all and having to drive straight home on Sunday. But how could we resist? We couldn't... The condo was available for another night and there was room on the shuttle.

So Saturday morning, bright and early, we found ourselves smushed into a van with 11 other eager riders for the long drive up to Geyser Pass. And it was long. Flat at first, then gradually climbing on pavement, then steeper climbing and finally the turn onto the narrow, winding dirt road that would take us to the top. Out of the desert and into the pine forest of the mountains. It was actually cold when we were getting the bikes unloaded! I didn't need the ice in my pack at that point. We'd both frozen about half the fluid in our hydration bladders - sure it would be a hot day once we hit the UPS section.
Making sure things are working before starting downhill. Trail repairs at the top of Burro Pass!
We were among the first riders heading out onto the trail. It was very much like any Crest shuttle - all the riders sizing each other up and trying to figure out where they would fit in the order. I think Nick just wanted to get going! That initial climb up to Burro Pass was a kick in the pants. I knew it was coming, but wow. Not ready for that steep of a climb so early in the morning! But once we got to the top, the views were incredible and it was mostly down hill from there. I got a chance to take a few photos since Nick needed to air up his dropper post...

View to the east from the top of Burro Pass
And those were the only pictures I took. Once we started down, there was no stopping. The descent off Burro Pass wasn't what I was anticipating at all. Steep, tight switch backs, rocky singletrack and multiple creek crossings. Even in August, Mill Creek was raging. Deeper then I wanted to ride through in a few places! I wasn't as clean on the switchbacks as I wanted to be, but was handling everything else well. Nick was pushing the pace a little since he didn't want to get caught and start yo-yoing with one of the groups right behind us. Which was fine, but I was definitely getting dropped on everything. We almost caught the one guy ahead of us on the Hazzard County climb, but he knew the descent and was able to easily drop us. At the crest of the Hazzard County trail, I should have stopped. The entire Castle Valley laid out below us, red desert with sandstone spires rimmed with  the green of the upper mesa. A stunning view. But there was no stopping! Not with Nick. Hazzard County was a little different - fun but different. More bermy and banked, swooping through scrub oak and brush. Not knowing the trail really kept me in check - it only took a few misjudged twists to make me slow down. After the short double track jaunt on the Kokopelli trail, it was time for UPS. And back to the land of 1000ft exposures! Eyes on the trail - no sight seeing unless stopped....

Last time we rode LPS and Porcupine Rim, it was at the limits of my exposure tolerance. This time? Much better. I still need some work on line reading and slow motion hucking (or hucking in general, honestly...) This time, I was much more comfortable and having fun trying to jump off as many little rock ledges as I could. I was also doing my fair share of searching for the easy line, but most of the time just followed Nick. Down the bumpy, chunky double track of Porcupine Rim and onto the fun singletrack. More exposure, more focus on the trail. The only thing I didn't ride that I wanted to was the waterfall near the end. Nick rode it this time - taking the big line with the foot drop at the end. I saw the slight left switchback to avoid the drop, but chickened out. I should have had Nick come back up and give me a spot so I could try to ride it - but mentally I was worn out. A lot of new trails and trails ridden at faster speeds then normal and my brain was tired. Next time!

And why was it perfect timing? Because Sunday when we woke up, clouds covered the valley. A downpour started just as we began loading the van. The La Sals were completely socked in, getting hammered. Even in Colorado, the Grand Mesa was getting soaked. Chances were that we would have had a miserable time in wet weather had we not stayed that extra day. So the Grand Mesa will have wait for another trip.

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