Written by Kirk Turner Tuesday, 28 April 2015 16:11
This travel report is part two of the my month long MTB Tour of the Southwest. Check out part one if you missed it, here. Now back to the story. We pick up halfway into the trip in the Southern part of Colorado, Durango, to find things cool, but slightly dryer. The sheer volume and variety of riding in that one single mountain town is staggering! There are over 100 trails, some of which go to 12,000ft; its easy to see why living here has produced some of the top racers in the country. Todd Wells, Ned Overend, you get the picture. There are too many trails to mention but Horse Gulch, Animas Mtn, and the Colorado Trail stand out.
The section just outside of town is classic, with long tight single track, and after a few days of fly fishing (also amazing) we checked out some of the alpine single track that was mindbogglingly beautiful. With a fresh coating of snow on the surrounding peaks, all was going well until we hit a sheltered northern aspect on a pass at 11,000ft or so which meant pushing and carrying the bike for an hour or two to get out before dark. Note to self, fall and winter come early, be prepared for anything. One more fantastic day of fly fishing and it was time to start the trek back to Utah.
Once again MTBProject came in handy and we decided to stop off in southern Colorado in Cortez at a place called Phils World. Little did we know we had just stumbled onto one of the most amazing trail networks I have ever had the pleasure to ride. It is simply that good. Some sections of hard packed single track felt like a giant pump track - flowing, varied, and fast beyond belief. If you ever get a chance to ride here, do it, no questions asked. Which trails? ALL of them. Bring lots of water and food and make loops. End of rant. I saw a tarantula too! It hissed at me then it was back in the car and up to Moab.
One of the few places I have been in the Southwest is Moab. So, for variety, we decided to check out the west side of town this time. We camped along the Kane Springs Road and checked out Capin’Ahab, and Amasa Back. Both trails were enjoyable, but beware they do mean “Advanced”. I managed to snap a shifter cable unfortunately so with a little bit of trail wrenching I made a stick into a derailleur stop that allowed me to use a middle gear and limp back.
We then headed over to Dead Horse State Park, not to be confused with the one Arizona mind you, tragically it would seem in the past that was just a fixture of life in the southwest, but I digress. Easy and rolling miles of single track flew by with views of the tombstones, valleys, and across into the distance, the La Sal mountains. Dad dropped me off for a new classing called the Mag 7 which enchains seven classic moab trails as it slowly loses elevation back to the town. Six of the parts were phenomenal. There are two ways to end this ride and I chose the wrong one. At one point, one can bail into a wash and be picked up early, or you can join the Golden Spike Jeep trail for a few miles and then take the Portal trail back to the river. DON’T DO IT! Or you have at least been warned. I am sure the trail might be fun in a heavily modified jeep, but it is not on a bicycle. The trail darts up and down the slick rock at very steep angles, and throughout there are 18-48in rock ledges which are very difficult to safely ride up or down. This was not really an ideal end to a pretty enjoyable trail, but such is life. The portal trail is also memorable as it hugs the side of a cliff with a 300ft drop off the left side in many spots with signs that say “Get OFF your bike, People have Died here.” Needless to say I obliged, the lower section is highly technical with some very, very difficult sections even on a 6in travel all mtn bike.
After the fiasco the day before it was nice to check out some mellower trails in the Bar M Loops area, which were more of the same, rolling and sometimes rocky single track. Another afternoon of climbing and it was about time to call it a trip. Driving back to Salt Lake City, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty. It’s hard to not get your expectations up when you spend months or years dreaming about a trip while cooped up in a dingy shop or computer lab slaving away, but this trip had delivered. I am so glad I fought to find the time to make it happen and that my father was able to accompany me on this amazing journey. Nothing is perfect: it rained, it snowed, it was cold, we got saddle sores, everything hurt, we got sun burnt, we ate ridiculous amounts of food (that was mostly good), but its all part of the journey. I hope this trip report provides a little bit of inspiration to do something you have always dreamed about and do it. Make it happen. Now. Not later, whatever it is it will be worth it. Now it is time to finish my portfolio and get back to the realities of life, like finding a job and figuring out whats next. The memories will live on for a long time to come. Thanks for reading if you stayed with me this far. Have fun and stay safe out there! -Kirk
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