Our first day in Moab turned out to be better than we could have imagined. Rather than having 100-110+ temperatures and bright sun we had cool temperatures with occasional light rain and overcast most of the day. In addition, we met a great new friend, named Imu, at the motel that has ridden most of the trails in the Moab area and gave us a wealth of information and suggestions on the trails to ride.
The forecast was for moderate rain all day so we had decided to stay on the pavement and ride to the Arches National Park to see the sites. We geared up and left the motel around 7:30 am in occasional light rain. We rode to all the overlooks and even walked a few times and the moderate rain never came!
While riding to the last overlook in the park we had passed a gravel road that appeared worth investigating. The road is right by the Balanced Rock viewing area and is named Willow Flats Road. On our way out of the park we decided to take this road, which would eventually take us out of the park and end on highway 191. It turned out to be an excellent choice and we had a great ride over solid rock, packed sand, climbs/descents and even a couple of minor river crossings. I highly recommend this for a scenic and fun ride. It is not extremely difficult but had enough items to keep our group entertained.
Imu had recommended doing the Gemini Bridges Road off of highway 191. Only later did we realize that is the TAT northbound out of Moab. Shortly after leaving paved 191 we started to climb up the face of one of the plateaus on pretty steep and complex dirt 2-track. Plenty of solid rock climbs and other obstacles but our entire group made it to the top with no incidents. I can now state that I love my KTM 350 EXC-F. That bike had no problem with any terrain we encountered and it loves to chug along in 2nd gear climbing rocks like a mountain goat.
On the top of the plateau, Gemini Bridges Road still has lots of action all the way to highway 313. At that point we planned to turn south to ride Long Canyon Road back down to the Colorado River then on Potash Road back to highway 191 and Moab. This plan worked until we came to the first descending switchback. Most of us had stopped at the top to take some spectacular pictures of a canyon spilling out to the Colorado River. Steve and Terry had started down the first incline to a very sharp turn to the right, which descended through a very narrow cut in the rock face. They rode back up to where we were still taking pictures and Steve said “Mike you aren’t going to want to ride this!” They describe what they saw around that bend and he was right. I could get a view of the trail from the top of the plateau and it was impressive. It was a very steep and narrow trail that had been washed out by heavy rain. In several places it looked like solid rock with a drop off at the bottom.
I stated that I wasn’t going down that trail and I would ride back around on highway to meet them at the bottom or at the motel. After lots of discussion, Woodrow, Matty and Jeff decided they were going with me. That left Steve and Terry who still wanted to give it a try but first they would hike down the trail for a better look. We watched them from the top while they scouted the descent all the way to the bottom, several hundred feet from where they left their bikes. They spent lots of time finding the best line and we at the top figured they would ride it all the way down.
They finally got back up to their bikes and then we could see that they were going to walk their bikes down the worse of the drop, which was to about halfway down. Terry was first to go by using his front break to control his bike while he walked it down some very steep rock faces. Steve had tied a strap to the back of Terry’s bike and walked behind providing additional drag to prevent the bike from getting away. They got it down to the area from which they could ride the rest and then went back up to get Steve’s bike. At this time we decided Steve and Terry would be ok and mounted our bikes for the 30-mile ride back to Moab on pavement. We hadn’t been at the motel more than 15 minutes and here comes Steve and Terry. They said after they walked the bikes down the worse section, the rest of the ride was not a problem and was in fact a beautiful ride along the Colorado River.
After looking the bikes over, we found the rear muffler mount bolt missing on Matty’s CRF. After searching all over town we were unable to find a replacement because the auto-parts and other hardware stores were closed by the time we started looking. They plan on getting to the store at 7:30 am tomorrow. That was the easy one to solve.
Terry’s KTM 690 has ReKluse auto-clutch problems. He had it installed just before we left Little Rock and didn’t have much time to give it a long test ride. The KTM won’t disengage the clutch at a full stop, which is how the ReKluse is supposed to work. Even normal operation of his clutch isn’t working right and he can’t get it into neutral most of the time. He plans on missing tomorrows ride so he can get it into the shop early if they will be able to take it.
We also learned today that the White Rim Trail is basically shut down due to washouts and Shaffer Trail being under construction. We are still not sure if we can get to the rim via Potash Road but we will give it a try. We are also going to try to get to Chicken Corners Trail based on input from Imu.
Our priority is to get all the bikes repaired in anticipation of heading out early Thursday morning on the TAT. We have a long 218-mile day on Thursday to Castle Dale. More tomorrow evening.