In the days prior to our mid-April mission to Moab from Crested Butte, people warned us about how busy it would be. It was Moab's annual Jeep Safari Week after all. The kids in Utah and Colorado were on Spring Break. It's still snowing in the Rockies and half of Colorado was migrating to the desert. Despite the warnings, and being on a collision course with a storm system blowing west from California, we piled ourselves and the dog into an overstuffed '99 Honda CRV and headed west against a wicked headwind.
We set up camp on BLM land off Willow Springs Rd. about 10 miles north of Moab proper. The first night could've been our last. Gale-force winds nearly flattened the tent. Rain drops sounded more like ricocheting BBs trying to pierce the wispy rainfly. Sleeping on the windward side caused the tent wall to intermittently surge inward and press down against me like a piece of damp Saran Wrap. By morning, billows of charcoal-colored rain clouds rolled in from from the west and it was raining sideways by mid-day. Needless to say, riding bikes was out of the question so we killed a few hours browsing the bike shops in Moab and stocking up on supplies. By evening the storm started to roll out and the next morning broke cold and clear.
When we reached Dead Horse Point there was fresh SNOW on the ground. At around 6,000 feet in elevation, it sits pretty high, so I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised. After some brief squawking about the biting cold, we layered up and ventured out on the Intrepid Trails for our first ride of the year.
CB local Rusty "Trip Leader" Thompson knows Moab better than most people know their own backyards, and he put us on a perfect ride. The flowy singletrack circuits featured moderate step-ups and the occasional rock crawl, but for the most part this was a cruiser's paradise flanked by mind-boggling views of earth's most intricate and beautiful sandstone architecture.
The origin of the name "Dead Horse Point" is based on the following legend:
Around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck was then fenced off with branches and brush. One time, for some unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.
After an awesome first day of day riding at Dead Horse Point, we kicked back in our camp chairs and watched the moonrise. Nothing but clear skies and more trails to ride on the horizon.
The "Brand Trails" are just a few miles north of Moab and offer up everything from mellow singletrack (Lazy-EZ) to more challenging mixed terrain (North 40) to straight-up slickrock (Circle O). There are around 10 total trails, and four of the trail names (Bar M, Circle O, Rockin A, Bar B) are based on cattle brands and spell out M-o-a-b. Hence the "Brand Trails."
Rusty gave us the beta on how to loop a bunch of the Brand trails together, and before we knew it three-plus hours passed. It was our second ride of the year, and while the stoke level was high, our endurance levels were not. Satiated, we finished off a lap on North 40 and rallied down Maverick back toward the parking lot.
Another day, another new zone to ride. Klondike Bluffs (just a few miles north of Willow Springs Rd.) features a well-signed and maintained collection of trails. We rode Jurassic to Baby Steps to Mega Steps to Dino Flow. It was a great loop (once again courtesy of "Trip Leader Thompson") that covered 16 miles give or take, and spanned singletrack to slickrock and back again.
After three days of riding in the desert sun we were feeling pretty cooked. So Lori, Denny and I did a quick morning lap on the Sovereign Trails and then headed to Mill Creek for a little chillaxation. The dog was stoked, too.
We could spend another 10 days exploring the trails around Moab and never ride the same thing twice. But home was calling, so we're left with a map covered in notes and lines ID'ing all the things we missed and will surely be back for. As for the crowds we were warned of, well, from our experience they were non-existent with the exception of Moab's main drag and the popular Jeeping trails.
After reluctantly packing up camp, we dropped into the nearby Brand Trails one more time and rode until our legs could take no more. Until next time, Moab.