I drove from Colorado to Utah for what I planned to be a recon trip that would introduce me to some of the Trans American Trail. As I drove southwest towards Montrose, Colorado the rain increased, the temperatures started to drop, and my idea of riding 200 miles, in two days seemed less than realistic, not to mention my motivation was in the gutter with the current weather.
So I did what I thought was smart and cut the route in half but kept the guts. This would allow the trail to dry up and also warm up, while keeping Moab in the route for a resupply. So the new plan was to drive to La Sal, Utah, a small town east of Monticello just south of the La Sal Mountains. After arriving late, I found a good parking spot on some BLM land at the start of the route, I crammed my bike and myself in the back of my Subaru and fell asleep to the sound of light rain hitting my car.
As the clouds lifted, the La Sal mountains made their presence. These mountains are no duds, with many of the peaks reaching 12,000+ feet. Meanwhile I would continue to descend until reaching my turnoff for the La Sal Loop Road.
I stumbled upon a handful of cattle gates, and rode over even more cattle guards. I was certainly in ranching land.
As I turned off dirt and onto the La Sal Loop Road, the riding got much less technical yet much more steep. The La Sal Loop Road is a paved route open year round – it traverses the La Sal Mountains, showcasing the stunning mountains, and canyons below. It’s not uncommon for locals to escape to the mountains in the summer to recreate and escape the heat of Moab.
The portion of the Trans American Trail I rode was from the turn off to Geyser Pass on La Sal Loop Road, all the way to Moab. To this point, the route was super easy outside of some steep paved climbs, which with a loaded bike, and a 38 tooth chainring on my 1×11 driver, it made for a few frustrating moments, but nothing that would last that long.
After I turned off the paved road and onto the upper portion of Sand Flats road, I stumbled upon some stunning views, beautiful homes, and this sign, easily the best sign I saw all day. “Up Yonder” and the “Cougar Cottage” really made me want to see what it was all about, but alas, I was not allowed.
To me, the main beauty of Moab is the stark contrast between the mountains and canyons. It’s truly something special, unlike anywhere I have ever been. It’s also a quick drive from my house. But there is a down side, it’s busy. Especially in the spring when everyone wants to get on their bikes and ride in the warmth.
The thing I was looking forward to all day was Milts Stop N’ Eat, a delicious old school burger joint that makes great burgers, and even better milkshakes. It’s a must on every Moab trip. While I was waiting on my food I re-assessed my plan to see if I wanted to continue on route, or camp close to town. With it being a Friday evening, I figured getting as far away from town would be best, so I pushed on up Kane Creek Road.
I stopped and enjoyed what was an unbelievable early evening. Temperatures were in the mid 60’s, the sun was scorching and I was sweating pretty good. It had been a good day on the bike, so I stopped and found camp for the night.
The downside of the evening was that I had forgotten my spoon. Upside? I had beautiful views of canyon walls and bright stars. This tent camping was hard to beat, and considering the weather outlook the day before, I was happy with the outcome of the day overall. I was hoping for more of the same tomorrow. I pedaled 63 pretty easy miles in 7 hours. All I had left was 30 more.
I woke up and realized I had forgot my coffee in my car. Major bummer as I’m a cranky dude without coffee, but I thought, whatever, what is a day without coffee. It turns out a day without coffee is a day with a headache.
As the day started, I noticed clouds in the air and a general sense of melancholy. I was away from the crowds and the sun was not beating down like it did the previous day. Even more interesting was what I was about to get into on the bike. Kane Creek Road turned into Kane Creek Trail, a 4X4 road that had some rough stretches the first couple of miles, then I saw this sign and at the time, I didn’t think much of it.
After enduring countless creek crossings my bike was simply angry at me, gears grinding and sand in every nook and cranny. I thought one or two of these crossings would be just fine, but maybe a hundred, well that was simply demoralizing – not to mention the soft sandy conditions I faced after exiting the water every time.
It was still beautiful, but my ass never really settled in that day.
I hit Hamburger Hill and thought it would have been a good time for a juicy bacon cheeseburger, but I was heading in the opposite direction of Milts, and had a lot of hike-a-bike ahead of me. Luckily the convenient map showed I was at mile 11 of 12.5, so I was nearly done with the Kane Creek Trail 4X4 Road.
This showcased the mood I was in, perhaps someone else didn’t fare as well as I did.
After seeing the first humans of the day, traveling in more water and hiking a steep hill, I had finally reached the end of the trail. I was kindly greeted by some college hooligans who offered me a beer, and told me “good work”.
The support and words of encouragement lasted all but 5 minutes when I realized that I had picked a route that was along a natural gas line road. And while I could have pedaled the highway in which it paralleled, I hate riding with cars, and especially 18 wheelers, so this was the best option, albeit demoralizingly slow.
This was the 1000th beer can I saw. Apparently they like their Budweiser and Natural Light. Ohhh how natural it is to liter ink covered aluminum along a natural gas line road.
As I finally reached my turn off, which happened to be at this natural gas plant, I said good by to the crappy route I chose, and hello to my vehicle, which was still something like 10 miles away.
But at least it was on some good gravel, and as the wind really started to whip, I reached my car. 25 or so miles in 5 hours, beat and exhausted, but relieved, happy, and ready for my next adventure.