Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Real Whole Enchilada

[Previously posted to FB on 4/22] There's this ride in Moab called the Whole Enchilada. It drops from the La Sal mountains all the way back to town. The vast majority of riders shuttle it. You can take shuttle service up to 8300ft on Loop Road this time of year or higher on dirt roads after the high country snow melts. I confess to shuttling this 4400ft downhill before. At one time, I had banked up about 80,000ft more climbing than descending from all my Mt Washington and Mt Equinox efforts. I didn't feel too guilty. Not this trip though. I had nobody to cajole me for "wasting" so much time riding to the top. Climbing is the best part!
I took Sand Flats road right from town. Starts paved, but soon turns to dirt. Once past the Slickrock riding and camping areas, traffic went to almost nil. Very peaceful watching the gained thousands accumulate. The climbing continues on forest road #634, which is part of the Kokopelli route.
Up top, there is a lengthy section of new singletrack call Jimmy Keen. It is open grazing land and the views were phenomenal. Much of this trail was smooth as a baby's butt, uncharacteristic of most Moab trails. Little did I know this was now the favored route down from Loop Rd. The shuttle machine was still going in full force and I had wave after wave of riders coming at me.
Coming this early in the season means you can't ride all of the Whole Enchilada from Burro Pass. Snow line was right at Loop Rd at 8300ft. The trail on the other side of the road was filled with snow. Lucky to be able to ride this far!
Heading down, I was now on material I rode once before on a 26" MTB in 2013. What a difference more travel and big wheels make! Was still very tentative on exposed bits and severe consequence sections. There are many exceptional riders on this trail, but I passed more than I got passed. I was also one of very few riders without a droppah post. Hmmmm...
Other than a few close calls, I had no mishaps. Passed at least 10 riders with flats descending into the Colorado River gorge. The weather as phenomenal, 40's to start, staying in arm and knee warmers all the way up until part way back down. 70's when I finished in town. Loop went just over 50 miles with 5300ft climbing (actual is probably more) in about 5.5hrs moving time. Other than being a bit more extreme than what I'm comfortable with, this loop compares favorably with other greats like the Monarch Crest, which most sane people also shuttle. The Hill Junkie isn't sane. 50mi, 5300ft, 5.5hrs.

Sand Flats Rd, probably around 6500ft elevation looking back down.

Further up Sand Flats. It's about to get heinously steep, like some of those climbs in the Canary Islands.

Zooming on distant mountains with Moab in center from around 7000ft. Per my maps, those mountains would have to be well over 100 miles away.

The La Sal mountains from Sand Flats Rd.

Forest road #634

Finally on singletrack, the Jimmy Keen trail. So buff. First 4mi was flat or slightly downhill, then last 4mi climbed a bunch. Most go opposite my travel, but I thought it was an excellent climbing trail.

Jimmy Keen trail and the La Sal's

Looking towards Moab from Jimmy Keen trail. The La Sal's need more trails like this!!!

La Sal's from Jimmy Keen

Jimmy Keen trail meandered all over this alpine prairie.

Taking in the view. Felt like Colorado, which is just the other side of those peaks.

Castle Valley from 8000ft. Will be seeing a

One of many exposed ledges on the Upper Porcupine Singletrack and Lower Porcupine Singletrack trails.

Castle Valley

When you hike the Bonds in New Hampshire's White Mountains, you have to take that iconic photo from Bondcliff. Well, this is the equivalent iconic photo from the Porcupine Rim in Moab. 
Don't let the view distract you. It is a long ways down!

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The rim that is followed all the way down. In Strava Fly-by, I noticed one other rider today earned his turns from the top. He started in Castle Valley and rode up the dirt road you see here to Loop Rd. A couple others rode up Sand Flats and picked up the classic Porcupine Rim descent much further down from Loop Rd. Good to see others embracing the climb.

Much of the descent was ledgy and chundery. Saw many flats.

The La Sal's made a re-appearance on the Porcupine Rim Trail. 
Beginning descent into the Colorado River gorge on Porcupine Rim Trail

If you fell wrong here, it would be all over in about 5 seconds, or however long it takes you to plummet 1000ft. 
Huge murky volume in the Colorado River below

Looking up the Porcupine Rim Trail from near the bottom

To the river at last, around 3900ft elevation, a 4400ft plummet with bits of climbing along the way.

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