Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 1st, 2009 - White Rim Trail

It says right there on the bag that Maverick is "Adventure's First Stop" so after some McMuffin's, coffee and stocking up on Cliff Bars, trail mix, and Gatorade, by 7 am we were headed out to tackle the White Rim Trail.

We used the Wells book to find the counter-clockwise starting point at Mineral Bottom Road which leads to Horsethief Trail. Only a total idiot would confuse this with Mineral Bottom Trail that leads to Horsethief Camp. Fortunately, this morning, we did not fall into this category. The road was fast but deeply rutted from what looked like recent rains. At 55 mph, if you lost concentration for a sec, it was easy to find yourself bumping along for a quarter mile in one of these ruts until you could find an opportunity to hop out.

We'd heard a lot about the switchbacks on either side of the trail. "Hit them early in the day when you're fresh" etc. Didn't really seem to make any difference since there were steep switchbacks on both ends of the trail and compared to the loose grapefruits coming down from California or Ophir, these were cake.

Once at the bottom, we generally skirted the left side of the canyon, at times climbing on trails rising up on the steep, red rock walls.

We followed a little side trail that was on the GPS track we'd downloaded somewhere and found the first of many lonely bathrooms scattered along the route. Here Ann is either signifying that this is the first of the day's bathroom stops or indicating which number she did.

Not too long after, we encountered the first obstacles of our counter-clockwise route. The first was some deep sand running for maybe 100 yards ending with a turn up to the left. The Orange Crush crew will be disappointed to hear that I didn't drop the F800GS in the sand but definitely had to paddle a few sections to get myself and pillion through.

The next section was the climb up Hardscrabble Hill. Ann and I had been feeling pretty confident riding rough trail with both of us standing and didn't even hesitate as the incline increased and small steps started to appear. But then they kept coming... We communicated over the Scala the whole way with me mostly trying to infuse confidence into statements like "Okay, big bump coming up. We got this?" After a sunny stretch along the canyon wall, the trail turned left into the shade and I think we both let out an "Oh $H!T!" when we saw a jumble of rock shelves and small boulders across the width of the track. We kept our momentum, stayed flexible in the knees, and pretty much just hung on as the big bike bounced up and over the whole mess.

Definitely one of the more exciting 2up experiences and all caught on the helmet cam. Something must be wrong with the difficulty detection meter tho because, of course, on the video, it really doesn't look that steep or challenging... There's some "chase bike" video too that might look more impressive.

On the other side of Hardscrabble Hill was a challenging descent. The step itself was probably about similar to the ones we'd encountered on the way up but the precipitous drop on the right side was enough to make us decide that I'd attempt it without Ann on the back. Even still, I managed to psych myself out enough that instead of following the smoother (but MUCH closer to the edge) route I'd be planning, the bike's self-preservation instincts headed closer to the wall through loose baby heads towards the 18 inch drop I'd wanted to avoid. At that point, I panicked, dabbed my rear brake foot (rookie!), and ultimately dropped the big beemer which then received a swift kick to its saddle for its insubordination.

This guy had an easier time.

As did Ann happily waiting at the bottom.

Soon after, we hiked up to some shade for a lunch break.

By this time, the sun was rising to the center of the sky and the temps were rising. Ann, blocked from the airflow behind me and wearing a black pressure suit was beginning to really feel the heat. We were just about 50 miles in, halfway, and had at least three or four more hours to go. Dave and I were feeling good so we pressed on with frequent shade stops and making sure Ann had as much water as she could drink. Our increasingly frequent bathrooms stops made us confident she was staying hydrated.
We pressed on through more amazing scenery with cliffs of equal scale climbing above us and dropping below us.

The next challenge we'd read about was Murphy Hogback. I had been quoted (while sitting comfortably on my couch) as saying that it really didn't look that bad from the pictures. Prepared to eat my words, I warned Ann, kept our speed up and just charged it. The F800GS threw us up and over with little fanfare.

And Dave made it look like nothing.

The rest of the trail was a bit more of a slog, possibly just because we knew the obstacles were behind us and Ann was still running hot. We just kept pressing on and finding shade when we could.

At least the view was nice during our stops.

About 8 miles before the final switchbacks, we came across two brand new rented Toyotas (a Highlander and a RAV4) filled with 8 or 10 French tourists. We stopped and talked to them about the trail, giving Ann as much time as we could sitting in the driver's seat with the AC cranked. They had been told by a ranger that the trail would be no problem and planned to camp one night along the way. Thinking back Hardscrabble and Murphy Hogback, we told them we weren't so sure about that. In the end, one of the French guys gave Ann his bandana soaked with cool water and we set off in different directions.

Just at the base of the final switchbacks, we caught up with another family of French tourists who willingly allowed Ann to ride final 30 minutes or so in the back of an air-conditioned rental car instead of the back of a tight, bumpy, dusty and HOT F800GS.

Though they were tempted to keep her, we negotiated her release at the top and revved the big bikes up to 90 as we sped towards the campground pool and a welcome dip. It was a long day on the WRT with all of our shade stops but quite doable on the big bikes and with a willing passenger. Of course, we were pretty well warmed up after two weeks on the trail, but the two main obstacles could be walked by a passenger if necessary. The usual WRT warnings apply - bring lots of water and enough food and supplies to crawl under a rock and wait out the sun if you need to.

It was a tough day for Ann, but looking over my shoulder as I was reviewing the pictures to write this, she just said, "We should go back and do that again in October."

 

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