Monday, April 25, 2016

A visit with the Ancients. Biking to Moon House ruins.

April 2016, D&J
After getting off the White Rim and getting shut down by snow and rain for our Escalante plans, we moved over to Cedar Mesa and finally, with a day of good weather, made a trip out to see Moon House ruins. As we drove out toward the trailhead we chose not to squeeze by a large rock that had come down and partially blocked the road. We could probably have fit through but we decided to pull off and camp at the top of a hill above the rock. We took our walk that evening and it dawned on us we had bikes. The perfect way to get to the trailhead.

The next day we rode out to the trailhead and spent the better part of the day exploring the ruins and downstream from the ruins. The full trip out to the ruins from our camp was about 18 miles round trip, including a couple hiking miles. They were spectacular and there is much more to see in the surrounding canyons. We will be doing many more explorations of the Grand Gulch area.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Canyonlands Utah: The White Rim, self - supported

April 2016, D&J
It started as a thought several years ago as we began discovering the Colorado Plateau. It blossomed into a goal. Joannie was a strong advocate of doing the trip without guides or SAG (Support And Gear) backup. Ok I'm sold! We didn't have bikepacking experience though we had used bikes to close adventure loops in the past. Over the course of the winter we planned the logistics, obtained the necessary permits, geared up and did a trial bikepacking trip in Death Valley.

All set? Yep! Off to Utah yet again.
First step was putting in our two water cache's. The plan was to carry 2 days of water and resupply twice in order to make it the 5 full days. We each carried about 9.5 liters of water to last those 2 days. I took the camper off the truck at Kane Springs campground and drove out to Gooseberry camp and cached 6 gallons of water. 5 gallons refilled our 2 day supply but I thought it might be nice to have a luxury gallon. It took 8 hrs to make the 46 mile round trip. I lost 3 gallons on the drive due to the rough road and the milk jugs failing. Luckily I had packed 13 gallons total to account for any losses. I then hightailed it back across Island In The Sky and Mineral Bottom road to the other end and cached 3 gallons at Labyrinth camp, our final camp of the ride.  It was an 11 hr day, just putting in the water cache's. As it turned out we had more than enough and had to dump some at both cache's. Now we had a couple days to kill before our permit would allow us to start.

Dino tracks at Klondike Bluff before starting White Rim

A few notes on gear. Our set up was frame bags, handlebar roll and top tube pocket (aka - junk drawer) for both of us. Joannie used panniers and I used a large seat bag and backpack. I also had a down tube bag. There's reasons for our choices but its subject for another blog.

What worked:
MSR reactor stove. AKA the wonder stove. Boils water faster than Beelzebub.
MSR Dromlite water bag. Good but expensive. Took one 2 liter.
Walmart Cyclone Hydro Reservoir. No fuss, no fail, removed hoses just like Camelbacks. Took one 2 liter.
All of our Rogue Panda bike bags. We used his custom frame bags and top tube bags. Excellent quality and fit.
Top Cap bottle mount
An old Gregory backpack accessory pocket that I strapped to my down tube. It carried a liter water bottle and repair kit.
Our camp chairs. I cannot over emphasize how worth the weight these chairs were. We even sat in them in our tiny Black Diamond First Light tent during rain spells!
My Hyperlite Porter pack.
Joannies Axiom bike rack and bags. I had to heavily modify the rack to fit Joannies bike and the bags are not really built for this purpose. That said both worked well with no issues. I question the bags long term durability given continued bikepacking use.
Revelate seat bag and handle bar harness.
An assortment of dry bags.
Extra large duffel bag. To keep all those pesky gallon milk jugs corralled on the drive out to cache, not taken on the actual ride.
The milk jugs for caching water. Crushed and carried out as we went.
And of course our good old trek bikes. Outfitted for bikepacking.

What didn't work:
Platypus Platy bags. Lucky we did the trial Death Valley run. 3 of 4 bags failed and leaked.
Camelback Antidote 3 liter bags. Not nearly the level of fail of the Platy bags. We removed the hoses and taped over the hole to ensure that we didn't accidentally stick something into the hose outlet and release the check valve and that was successful but the o-ring seals on the cam type fill openings leaked. All of our Camelbacks leaked a little when laying down.  Took four 3 liter.

On with the story. Well we live in a visual world so mostly I'll let the video and photos tell the story. We had a wildly successful trip for a couple of backpacking newbs.

Day 1,  Parking to Shafer camp. Mileage- 21.3
We left the truck parked halfway back Mineral Bottom road to reduce our last day mileage. Turned out to be a lifesaver on the BRUTAL last day in the wind. We hit pavement and had about 8 paved miles before entering the park and turning down Shafer Trail road.
6.5 miles up Mineral Bottom road before we hit pavement.

Taking advantage of some shade and our camp chairs

Day 2, Shafer to Gooseberry camp. Mileage - 23.9
The day started with a several hundred foot climb back up to the White Rim. Nice, not-too-hot weather. Jelly beans, the newest member of the super foods group. Who'da thunk right? Stunning scenery what with canyons and towers and archs around every bend.

Climbing back up out of Shafer Camp

Monster Tower left, Washer Woman arch right.
Shade break below the towers

Gooseberry canyon. Camp is near rim.

Day 3 Gooseberry to Candlestick camp. Mileage - 26.2
The weather is beginning to turn and I greatly under estimated Murphy Hogback! It was tough just pushing our loaded bikes up the hill. Joannie had to take some weight off her bike and put it on her back...Tough day. However Monument Basin is stunning! It was VERY windy at Candlestick camp and the theme for setting up camp was "more rocks, more rocks"

Monument Basin

Monument Basin

The Totem Pole in Monument Basin

Last part of the climb up Murphy Hogback

The top!

View from the top

First view of the Green River
 "more rocks, more rocks"
Day 4 Candlestick to Labyrinth camp. Mileage - 16.6
Relatively easy day despite the rain. One pretty significant climb out of Potato Bottom. Talked to Mike with Magpie Cycling for awhile. He was kind enough to ensure we were in good shape and had enough water. (We were, and did)

Potato Bottom

Day 5 Final day. Labyrinth back to our truck parked on Mineral Bottom road. Mileage - 14.7
Definately the most brutal day. We had a thousand foot climb ahead of us to get back up to Island In The Sky but that was minor campared to the mud and vicious headwind. Once up to the plateau we faced a 30+ mph cold headwind all the way to the truck. Those 7.5 miles felt like 70.  

"C'mon, lets get DIRTY!"

End of the White Rim road and start of county road.

Did I mention the mud?

One more switchback to the top.
The photos pretty much stopped here as the wind was just tearing us up once we reached the plateau. The video has some footage of the last miles.