Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Klonzo, Sovereign, Brands Trail Systems

This is the final installment from my Utah trip. I've been missing all the novel riding terrain and thinking about where my next travels may take me.

Last week Monday's Rim ride broke Dave's frame. He was set on riding the La Sal Mountain road loop before we even left on the trip.  Road bikes are much cheaper to rent than a high-end MTB, so that pretty much clinched the deal for Dave. He'd rent a road bike for Tuesday while waiting for warranty replacement parts to come in.

I wasn't as interested in the loop. I still had a functioning MTB. I'd seen half the loop three times from a car on Monday (shuttling). Sure, I hadn't seen Castle Valley from below yet, but there were so many trails to ride that one couldn't possibly ride everything in one trip. Dave was cool with riding the La Sal loop solo. I too, do not mind riding in remote areas by myself. Half my MTB trips are solo. The other three New Englanders in Moab were going to do something short and easy in anticipation of a White Rim Trail ride on Wednesday.

I decided to hit the Sovereign Trails, which have been in place for a while now. Two new areas near the Sovereign trails have been built up more recently, one still a work in progress. These are the Brands trails and the Klonzo trails. I parked at the Bar M parking area, which affords access to all three trail systems.

I hit Klonzo first. This is mostly dirt riding and beginner to intermediate terrain. These trails are not open to motorcycles.  Refreshing after riding the partial Whole Enchilada the day before. Bombing back down was a blast, all high-speed carving.

Next up was a Sovereign/Salt Wash trail loop, much longer and more technical. Sovereign Trail was mostly slickrock, mostly intermediate terrain, with a couple challenging step-up/step-down sections. Crossing over to Salt Wash Trail at the far end of my planned route, there were the infamous switchbacks. Not sure if anybody can clean these going up. Stupid steep moon dust. Don't think I would try to ride down them either. I was warned that Salt Wash would be all sand and suck. There were sandy bits, but the direction I rode it put almost all of the sand downhill. I had no trouble cleaning all of it. In fact, Strava tells me I was the second fastest to date riding this trail in that direction. Kind of boggling, really, as I even stopped a couple times to take photos. Strava segment timing does not stop when you stop. The clock keeps running from start until finish. It's not moving time, like Strava gives for the whole ride.

It was getting seriously hot, and I was enjoying myself way too much. Going 3+ hours on what was supposed to be a recovery day for the White Rim Tail didn't add up. Did I really think I could do a 80-100 mile MTB ride after riding hard five days straight?

I decided to do a truncated loop through the relatively new Brands trails. More beginner/intermediate terrain here, although I believe there is some expert material too, which you can see from the road. I finished with 32 miles in 3.5hrs on the Garmin. A few pics from last week Tuesday:

Self portrait at Klonzo Trails

Klonzo descent to trailhead a couple miles in distance

Sovereign trail with some color

Looking down on the Sovereign moon-dust switch backs

Salt Wash Trail

View of La Sal mountains from Salt Wash trail

On either the EZ or Lazy trail at Brands riding area.

I moved to New England just over 16 years ago, when I was still pretty much brand new to off-road riding.  Mountain bike racing was in its heyday, but riding opportunities were limited. Nearly all trails were created by non-mountain biking users for other purposes. Much has changed in the last 16 years.

I've been fortunate to be able to visit many states with the primary purpose to go trail riding. Both locally and in my travels, I've noticed a huge increase in trail development specifically for mountain biking. Most of the trails I rode in Moab last week did not exist 14 years ago when I last visited Moab. Communities, parks and land managers have warmed up to the mountain biking community developing and maintaining trails on public land. We know how to build sustainable trails for all passive recreational use.

This trend especially holds locally. Most trails I ride these days did not exist when I moved here. There's been an explosion of trail building, really, in just the last five years, and the momentum is still building. There are almost too many places to name just within an hour's drive of my house. Bear Brook, Willowdale, Russell Mill, Horse Hill, Great Brook, Lowell Dracut, Georgetown Rowley, Harold Parker are just a few places that have seen recent trail work. NEMBA is the catalyzing force behind this.

Durango is seeing new trails emerge too. One would think with hundreds of miles of singletrack in the mountains, why would you need more trails? The new trails are being built closer to town, like Twin Buttes and in the Horse Gulch area. Kansas City, a less likely MTB destination, has seen a plethora of new riding opportunities pop onto the scene recently. Swope Park is a fine example.

This bodes well for the future of mountain biking across the country. While there is growth in certain racing formats, like enduro, ultra-endurance and multi-day stage racing, the greatest interest in riding off-road seems to be just going out on challenging terrain with friends.  Strava seems to scatch the competitive itch for many.  Half of my "training" hours last year were off-road cycling. That ratio may increase this year


Dana Ernst said...

Come visit Flagstaff next year. The mountain biking is incredible.

Scott said...

If this is a reference to Flagstaff AZ, definitely hit the trails in the Mt Elden and Walnut/Sandys/Fay/Skunk Canyon areas. Phenomenal stuff. Also consider biking the Redington Pass/Mt Lemmon loop near Tucson (but take the FR-4450 connection instead of the Webb Rd route I once told you about). Beautiful, lots of climbing, and (mostly) very quiet.

Hill Junkie said...

I definitely plan to hit Arizona next year, earlier in the season. When are the Mt Elden trails clear of snow?

Scott said...

Depends on the trail.

The higher elevation trails on Mt Elden (e.g., Sunset), as well as the ones in the south end of the Schultz Pass area (e.g., Schultz Creek and Schultz Loop), are usually snowed in or muddy until May sometime. The Arizona Trail segment that goes into Walnut Canyon is slow to dry out too.

Last year, I was able to bike Forces of Nature trail almost all year (for whatever reason it seems to dry out quickly). Most of Lower Oldham Trail (Mt Elden) should be bikeable most of the year too.

Something you should know about Flagstaff is that the extent and time of snowfall is highly variable from year to year. I might recommend biking there in September or October (it won't be too hot, and the summer rains should be over).

If the trails are wet, the road up to Snowbowl (about 2,000 ft ascent in 7 mi) and the loop road through the Wupatki and Sunset Crater areas are awesome. Lake Mary Rd is also great (the last two are only mildly hilly, but very scenic).