Tour Day 3: Moab, UT to Moab, UT

April 29th, 2009

61.88mi / 4:58:26 time / 12.4 mph avg. / 42.5 mph max. / 3368 ft. climbing / 2mi hiking
Staying at Arches National Park Campground

I actually managed to sleep past dawn, and then we gathered up our breakfast stuff and rode the final two miles to Dead Horse Point on our lightly-loaded bikes to eat there. I bet you’re asking yourself “self, why is it called Dead Horse Point? Will Neil give me a hint here?” Sure, no problem. This plateau 2200 feet above the Colorado river narrows to a neck barely 30 feet wide, from which you could fall 2200 feet, if you’re into that sort of thing. Supposedly some people (Native Americans? Cowboys? I dunno, look it up on the Internet!) used to round up horses by chasing them up there and the barricading the neck. Then one time some absent-minded Indian or drunk cowboy forgot take down the barricade, and all the horses died up there stuck on the point. Touching story, eh?

For us, the barricade was down, and someone built a road on the neck, allowing us to ride right to the end of the point and look down those 2200 feet to the goosenecks of the Colorado River and the unimaginably vast expanse of wild rock formations spreading out below. I don’t know if it was quite a fair payback for the hills AND wind of the day before, but it probably would have covered the bill due for one of those menaces.

Then, we got the a bit more payback from the 22 mile descent from the plateau. And even though we were backtracking, there were actually many places that I was seeing for the first time, since I had seen very little besides asphalt or my speedometer on the way up.

Then it was on back to Moab to resupply, with lunch at the stupidly-named Eddie McStiff’s (enchiladas + ice cream + beer, yay!) and then City Market trip #4. And, back out north again for more climbing: this time to Arches National Park.

After cresting the switchbacks of the first 500 ft. climb into the park, its “National Park” status was immediately apparent. The scale and impossibility of the towering rock formations managed to outclass everything else we’d seen so far. We had a bunch more climbing to do, and wanted to get into camp fairly early for once in our lives, so we didn’t stop too much for pictures, but it would be hard to do it justice with pictures anyway. We had a bit of a tailwind for these hills, and took them at a nice steady pace, so although it was difficult, it was a much more manageable day than yesterday. My knee is almost back to full strength, after riding for a couple days without clipping my shoes into my pedals, and Dennis and I seem to be synched up pretty evenly by now.

But it’s pretty incredible how hot the crazy sun here can make a 77 degree day feel…being here when the temperature is actually 95 degrees must feel like 140. And at 9% humidity, the water gets sucked out of you pretty easily. But really, the weather has been almost perfect, with no shortage of clear blue skies.

Before dinner, we took a hike on a short trail leaving the campground which was far more impressive than I expected for a campground trail that isn’t really on anyone’s “favorites” list. We went through (or stood under) two giant stone arches, but I was actually more affected by some of the natural fortresses that we found ourselves in. Thin fins of rock one hundred feet high would entirely enclose an open gallery some 40 feet on a side, with the only access through a narrow trail. And by narrow, I mean a 300lb. park vistor (of which there are a surprising number) would not be able to make it inside. These hidden intimate spaces, with their floors covered in fine sand and ceilings open to the clear blue sky, would be a perfect base camp for horse thieves or bandits; I actually looked around for a cache of weapons or supplies, but they must have been too well-hidden.

A couple different people here at Arches mentioned the wind yesterday, which is rather comforting, because if drivers took note of the wind, it must have truly been bad and not just our imagination.

Dennis scored another batch of free and dry firewood (in exchange for pumping a little girl’s bike tire) and along with the enchiladas for dinner (a refinement of our previous attempt at Mexican food) and the relaxed pace, it was a nice way to wrap up the first day that I could call a good representation of what I like bike touring to be.

2 Responses to “Tour Day 3: Moab, UT to Moab, UT”

  1. Swati Says:

    Lol @ the questions you presume we ask. Wonder what influenced that thinking? 😉 Glad to know your knee’s doing better. So your query if the Colorado National Monument was just overlooked and if there was anything more spectacular in store is being answered. 🙂 Can’t wait to see these myself. Will take care to bring ample H2O. BTW, I wonder if Dennis is going to get addicted to getting his free firewood and to what lengths he’ll go. 😀

  2. Mom Says:

    Neil sleeps past dawn! Dennis had to be happy to get in a few extra winks. 😉 Good that your knee is getting stronger. Love the stories behind the names plus breakfast out on the plateau. Great that you had a more regular bike touring day. Anything but regular to us. Hope the sunblock is working. Have another good one 🙂 Love you.