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This place needs an enema
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Last week, N8 called to invite me on a little ride. I've been so buried with trying to figure out how to run a business that I didn't know how to lift my head from the work pile to say yes, no, or even maybe. Fortunately for me, he wasn't taking no for an answer.

The idea behind the ride was simple: take a tour of the White Rim in Canyonlands, on the shortest day of the year. Since neither of us are at our fittest, we knew that the amount of daylight we had to work with wasn't enough to complete the circuit in daylight hours. And since I'd prefer to start in the dark than finish in it, N8 picked me up at 3:30 am and off we went.

A few hours of good conversation later, we parked atop the Mineral Bottom switchbacks, dropped trow in the chilly air to don chamois and jerseys, then clipped in and off we went at 6am sharp.

N8's a fast starter and I am emphatically not. After just a few minutes he was completely out of sight. Or at least I think he was--neither of us used our headlamps due to the adequate illumination of the waning quarter moon. So he coulda been 'right there' and I never woulda known. Knowing how differently we pace ourselves, we agreed to meet at Murphy's Hogback, ~65 miles into the ride, to check in on each other before continuing.

Zipping along in the dark on the hardpacked dirt road was energizing, mostly because of the 20 degree temps. But as light came into the sky and silhouetted the desert landscape there were lots of interesting shapes for your creative subconscious to latch on to.



After a little over an hour I hit the paved park road, and was greeted by a handful of mule deer and a stunning view of the Sierra La Sal.



Gradually descending the paved park road I lost all feeling in my feet. I'd opted for my spring/fall shoes, as I knew today's temp would climb to over 50 degrees. Knowing that I had a huge descent down Shafer Trail just a few minutes away, I did what any toe-loving human would do: got off and walked. Less than a quarter mile later my tootsies were toasty and I hopped on and dropped in.



This is where the ride really started to change. The scenery just keeps improving, while (less than 2 hours into a long day) I knew that I was already gearing down into survival mode. Sept/Oct/Nov are my off-season, and it was obvious immediately that I've lost my base fitness and have a long way to go to get it back. Rather than dwelling on that sobering fact, I simply enjoyed the views as they unfolded, knowing that this qualified as Training Day number 1 for the '06 season. Here I'm looking east over the canyon of the Colorado River.



The next few hours were rhythmic and silent. I've previously ridden the White Rim about a dozen times, and there are always crowds of people riding, hiking, jeeping, and camping. That's what the route is here for. But today there wasn't another soul around. Excepting N8 somewhere out ahead, I had my own private trail, and my contemplative mood suited the melancholy silence I found out there. I cruised along and took a few photos when I could be bothered to stop and extract the camera.

Along about mid-morning, I started feeling like I was gonna have to, well, you know... I'm no stranger to squatting in the sage, but I was happy to sit and enjoy the scenery framed by the door. I've definitely 'gone' in less scenic spots...



On single-day excursions of this route I've never felt much like killing myself to 'clean' some of the tougher climbs. Today was no different. I walked a few short pitches of Murphy's Hogback to find N8 sleeping, like a lizard on a sunny rock, up top. He'd been there an hour already. I snarfed a Clif Bar and some wasabi peanuts while N8 repacked his gear, then we were off.

Murphy's is the high point of this section of trail, and the descent away from it flows sweetly. Punctuated by short, steep climbs every few minutes, it's difficult to do anything but grin as you grind because you know just seconds away is another swoopy fast down. Here's N8 on a short stinger, the last time I'd see him til the finish.



Fairly singing along on this gradual descent, before long you bottom out while paralleling the Green River. No surprise to see small flotillas of ice working their way towards the sea.



This is the last bit of the climb known as Hardscrabble Hill:



Again I was walking, but severely enjoying the scenery as I did so.

Roller-coastering along the top of Hardscrabble I came around a corner and saw what, to me, was a very surprising sight. Rivers freeze all over the world, but for some reason I never expected it to happen here among the warm red rocks. Obviously a shady spot at a meandering oxbow on the river had allowed the ice to collect from upstream. It'll take a good swell or a few months til the earth rotates around enough to allow the sun to get at it.



Once I dropped off of Hardscrabble and back to the river bottom I was out of the sun for good. The GPS told me I had almost 20 miles left to go and a prudent person, wet from sweat, out of food, and tired from over 9 hours in the saddle already, would have just put his head down and beat feet for home. But the light was far too good for that. Knowing that N8 had already climbed to the van and was napping in the sun waiting for me, I tried (really N8, I did!) to just pedal and enjoy the light. But I couldn't do it. Ultimately I shot ~30 photos as I made my way along the sandy river bottom trail.





My legs cooked, my back tight, my butt a little more sore than I'd like to admit, I came around one last corner to see this ampitheatre engulfed by the last rays of the sun on the shortest day of the year.



I ground and slaved my way up the Mineral Bottom switchbacks in the post-alpenglow dusk, topping out to see a smiling, wasted N8 leaning against his van. Tired, sore, stinky, gassy, and above all buzzing from the sweetiousness of the day, we loaded up the bikes and headed for home.

MC
 

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Excellent read/report, thanks!

Could you share what camera you use, and what photo-editing software you use? Is that a Sephia color effect? The only place I can find that is in Picasa, but then I can't get it to "change the image"...only while viewing it in Picasa.

Thanks!
 

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Harmonius Wrench
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Thanks Mike!

As always, Mike, an excellent batch of photos and an inspiring read! Takes me away from my slushy, dirty city streets, at least for a few moments.

I can't help but think of Ansel Adams when I see these photos. Truly majestic!

Thanks, I'll consider that my Christmas gift!
 

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Compulsive Bike Builder
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White Rim is now on my list

Beautiful stuff, for sure. I have read about White Rim and considered tours of it, but it seems just another nice Utah (it is Utah isnt it?) ride. Your pics and ride report have captured it better than any other description I have seen of it.
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
DirtDad said:
Beautiful stuff, for sure. I have read about White Rim and considered tours of it, but it seems just another nice Utah (it is Utah isnt it?) ride. Your pics and ride report have captured it better than any other description I have seen of it.
Yep, it's in Utah, about an hour (to where we started) from Moab.

I use an Olympus D40z digi cam. Nowhere near state of the art or even modern anymore, but it gets the job done and isn't too huge to lug along. Best part about it (and the reason that I bought a backup on ebay a few months ago) is that it uses 2 AA batteries so I can carry spares or buy new ones when traveling. Can't do that with any of the newer ones, unfortunately--they all use proprietary gotta-plug-em-in batts. I just use the basic Olympus software that came with the camera. It's easier than Photoshop by a country mile, but far less capable.

And yes, Mark, those pics were my present to you...!

Here's what they looked like that day. Obviously they're more vibrant with greater contrast in color, but that wasn't the mood that day and I wanted to (at least try to) recreate the mood.

MC
 

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Bunker Hill Bikes
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Beautiful!!

Mike,

Great photos of your solstice ride.

The pictures are great motivation for me to keep on training for the Kokopelli Trail Race in May 2006. Despite the Christmas Eve weather here in northern Michigan, I managed to pound out a 40 mile ride on the RIG. 40 degrees, foggy, and drizzle here in the north. Where is the snow?

Merry Christmas and thanks for the photo share.

----Chad
 

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meh....
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Sweet Mike! Great shots and report.

I want to do that ride in a day, and it's such a cool place to be. I've ridden it in 2 days, but packing overnight gear sucked. At least packing "my" gear sucked. Seatpost racks are most definitely NOT the way to go. Unless we got a permit for the camp spot out on the point before you get to Murphy's, going clockwise.

Monte
 

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burner said:
talent on a bike, talent with a camera.... and the terrain to showcase them both.

Thanks MC!

is it solstice or equinox in the winter?
I agree, excellent pics. Really captures the mood of the place during the solstice and also
Mike's feelngs of the day.

Oh yeah, winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, summer solstice the longest. The spring and fall equinox are both equal length days.
 

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Great

Great story!
BTW How can you stand to ride so long without bar ends? The pronation of a flat bar gets so tiring for me after half an hour already.
Also, what animal were you riding with that he outpaces you by so much?
Are those Kenda Klaws?
Merry Christmas to Y,All
 

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Ha, I know that particular toilet well.....Gooseberry right? We were three days into a 4 day tour years back and had woken up at Murphy's heading in the opposite direction of your tour for Airport. The weather had turned to crap and that little spot turned out to be quite the haven. There ended up being about 6 of our group in there and then a Rim Tour group showed up and it got out of hand. Especially when the female tour leader did a strip show to get into some dry(er) gear. Then on the way to Airport my Suntour XC Pro front thumbie lost it's friction and I had to hold it in a special way by jamming the bottom of my thumb in there to keep it out of granny which wasn't so bad because I had hardly any feeling in my hands anyway.

Glad that you had such nice weather for your trip ;) BTW, most people plan on doing that ride on the summer solstice, the er, longest day of the year.
 

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made the day

those photos really made the day for me. i can't wait ride there.
Bigwheel said:
Ha, I know that particular toilet well.....Gooseberry right? We were three days into a 4 day tour years back and had woken up at Murphy's heading in the opposite direction of your tour for Airport. The weather had turned to crap and that little spot turned out to be quite the haven. There ended up being about 6 of our group in there and then a Rim Tour group showed up and it got out of hand. Especially when the female tour leader did a strip show to get into some dry(er) gear. Then on the way to Airport my Suntour XC Pro front thumbie lost it's friction and I had to hold it in a special way by jamming the bottom of my thumb in there to keep it out of granny which wasn't so bad because I had hardly any feeling in my hands anyway.

Glad that you had such nice weather for your trip ;) BTW, most people plan on doing that ride on the summer solstice, the er, longest day of the year.
 
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