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Friday, December 4, 2009

Slickrock, white cliffs, and snow biking

Before departing Moab, we hiked on a dome of Entrada slickrock. The rock contained ripples that looked like high-tide marks, likely left behind back when the sandstone slickrock was deposited by receding waters at least 100 million years ago.
I have a very hard time understanding geology, even though I desperately want to comprehend how the domes and canyons of Moab and Fruita formed. However, I find it very difficult to visualize the three dimensional landmass interactions or the 100's of millions of years involved. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good book about the geology of the Colorado Plateau?

At the top of the dome, sun-bleached sandstone blocks sat, teetering on the edge of tumbling down the slope. Behind the blocks, the snow-covered La Sal Mountains barely peeked through.
K gazed at the alien landscape while sitting next to me on the warm stone.
Alas, eventually the hour of reckoning arrived, and we hiked back toward the car. Although it was early afternoon, our pack cast long shadows on the slickrock. Our images almost look like rock art!
Because of my back pain, we always divide our trips into short segments. We were ultimately heading for Aspen, to meet our family for a late Thanksgiving celebration. However, we first drove to Fruita, spent one night, and took one last ride/run in the warm desert.

The trail that K and I played on in Fruita was at least 10 miles from the White Rim Trail that I wrote about the other day. However, some sections bore a striking resemblance to it. In this section, the trail followed the top of a series of undulating white cliffs. What a glorious place to ride!
Our ride also took us 'inland' away from the cliffs, onto deep crimson soil, with overlooks to the Colorado River.
One part of the ride became very technical, and I was having an 'off-day' where my reactions seemed a split second slow. It was partly that I'd busted yet another spoke in Moab, and my front wheel wobbled from side to side with each revolution. My record for breaking spokes is getting out of control. Maybe I need to drop a few pounds!
Believe it or not, this tumble of rocks was the trail. No worries - I didn't even try to ride it. However, just hoisting my bike down it was a major challenge. K didn't understand why her human was such a slow poke after she danced down it in seconds!
After a short ride, we started our drive back to winter, arriving in Aspen to see the ski area bustling and snow on the ground. We ate tons of delicious food, laughed a lot, and had a howling good time with our family.

The next morning, we headed up to the spot where the road to Independence Pass is closed. It's such a high pass, over 11,000 feet, that no attempt is made to keep it open over the winter. I'd brought my snow bike just for this occasion, and it didn't disappoint me.

We started as a pack, one snow biker, one human runner, and two dog runners. The dogs greeted the snow with ecstasy! They played with wild abandon.
I love their body language. They both look joyous!
After the rest of the pack turned around, I kept churning up toward the pass. For a while, the only other tracks were left by a coyote. He'd trotted purposefully toward the pass within the past day or so.
On a south-facing rock wall, melting snow had frozen into a cascade of ice. I kept wondering how moving water freezes. I can't visualize the process but the final product is astonishing.
The pedaling became much tougher for a stretch where ice lay under the powdery snow. But when this mountain appeared in my view, my motivation to keep climbing soared.
Eventually, I met snowmobile tracks (but no actual snowmobiles!) that had climbed up from the east side of the pass, probably starting in Twin Lakes, near Leadville. The packed snow made riding much easier, and I felt like I was flying toward the pass. I rode hard, striving to make it as high as possible before my turnaround time.

Alas, eventually, I knew that it was time to descend so that we could drive home. I took a short break and donned my extra clothes for the downhill.
At the beginning, I felt euphoric as I flew down the packed snow. Mountain ranges spread out on the horizon, and I rode easily toward our van. However, I soon realized that I should have packed extreme winter clothing for the never-ending descent. I'd worked up a sweat while climbing, and I was paying a serious price as I gradually froze. By the bottom, I was shivering so hard that I could barely hold the handlebars. I hopped in our van and sat directly in front of the heater (to the dismay of the comfort-seeking dogs). Soon, I was warm again. I love our van's propane heater.

We visit Aspen regularly to see our relatives, and I'm planning to summit Independence Pass on my Fatback on a future winter trip. That would be an amazing experience!

We headed for home, satisfied with a vacation that showed us the extremes of our region, from deserts, to rivers, to slickrock. I wished that scary things weren't waiting for me, like my spine situation, but I'd managed to have a very fun time before dealing with them. That seems like a victory!


  1. Khyra says she can't WAIT for this year's magic snow moments!

    Such scenery and such narrative!

    Thanks again -

    I updated brother Paul about your recent posts - he's thinking about you now!

  2. You certainly saw the gamut of temperatures and scenery. Lovely photographs. Still thinking positive thoughts for you and your back.

  3. Hey KB! I'm spending this snowy morning trying to catch up with all my favorite bloggers! Your photos are beautiful! So glad you guys had such a wonderful time.
    I like the snow and trees the best! Looking forward to your Winter posts! :)

  4. Hey there, KB
    It's been great catching up on all your outings. It seems that I have missed a lot, but thankfully one can read up on our friend's activities.
    Your pictures of your excursion to Moab and the surrounds are exquisite! That geological landscape is truly stunning!
    However, there is that undercurrent of a troubled back and I would like to echo that other readers' comment...How are you really?
    I really hope things are are a special person in our lives.
    With love from your friends in SA

  5. KB, Thanks for your comments about Marge's stride. I like hearing from someone else that she doesn't look like she has any issues. I've had a few other people tell me the same thing, but I can be so paranoid when it comes to Marge! I will continue to watch her and make sure there are no changes.

    I've always wondered how moving water freezes, too. Beautiful and mysterious, that's for sure.

    And, I really enjoyed seeing the pictures of K and R romping in the snow. Everyone seems like thy really enjoyed this trip you guys took.

  6. Kia ora KB,
    Aw this is just brilliant, from the desert browns to the white mountains. What a place to frolic! I guess water freezes one drop at a time. I recently saw a photo from 1911 when the people who lived by Niagra Falls woke to a strange silence, went out to discover the falls had completely frozen. Pretty stunning, I will find the photos and send them to you. Have a great weekend.

  7. Wow!!!! Fantastic trip and adventures. Beautiful photos.
    Glad you had that heater to warm up after the beautiful ride!

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  8. KB, I love to think about you climbing Independence Pass in the winter - I can visualize your journey! I've climbed it during the Independence Race on my road bike and have even gotten chilly in the fall! Loved reading about your Fruita and Moab adventures! (That shadow photo is awesome.) You would like the Escalante Wilderness because the dogs could accompany you - we saw 2 hikers with dogs when we were at Calf Creek - they were off-leash. Also, the wilderness going into Hell's Backbone is a dirt road and has several trails and side jaunts (which we didn't take). I believe you could camp/ride there and also on Boulder Mountain. Check for rules about dogs before you plan a trip, though. I had my Retriever, Breezy, there many years ago - we climbed Boulder Mountain and met a cinnamon bear on the way down. (At first we thought it was a Chow dog coming up the trail!) I grabbed Breezy's collar, but she wasn't prone to chasing wildlife - luckily the bear was as scared as we were and took off up a steep hill filled with aspens. I can still picture it! I knew a bear could run fast, but WOW!


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