The White Rim by Bike- A Nice Stroll Through the Park

I am writing this post from the public library in Moab, Utah. I am sure I am not the first to do so. The new library- a couple of years old now- is a great place to take a break. And the wireless connection is fast and free.

First, some recent Moab area happenings before I get to the ride. I am sure that most everyone has heard about geologic time ruthlessly moving forward, and the demise of Wall Arch in Arches National Park. But if you haven’t heard the news, tempus eda rerum- time devours all. (Forgive me if the Latin is mis-spelled or grammatically incorrect- I never took Latin.) An arch fell. Others will follow. Next, a coffee house has also fallen. Mojo is no more. It was in the Edie McStiffs plaza on Main Street, until about two weeks ago. News is that another coffee shop will open in its place shortly. I will strike it from my Moab web page soon, or perhaps replace it. Finally, about a week ago the area saw one of the biggest storms in recent memory, meaning old-timers couldn’t recall so much water in such a short amount of time. As luck would have it, most of the rain fell outside of inhabited areas, but quickly headed through washes towards roads and houses. There was no serious damage, no one injured. A few tourists had to be “rescued” from the far side of the Green River, and mud had to be bulldozed off a bunch of low spots on many roads. Most importantly, the Shafer trail from the Canyonlands National Park visitor’s center to the White Rim trail was washed away, closed down, and has been since the storm. On to the ride….

I was to begin my ride from the Canyonlands National Park visitor’s center, down the Shafer trail, to the White Rim trail. But nature would have me take a little detour. It really wasn’t all bad- Long’s Canyon and Pucker Pass were certainly interesting towing 90 pounds of B.O.B. trailer behind me. Or was the trailer pushing me? Even better were the next 11 miles up (UP) Potash Road to the Shafer campsite. I really do not mind signs that read “steep, narrow, winding road next 11 miles”. I mind them less when I read them on my way down.

All in all the detour only added about 20 miles to the normally 103 mile loop. It was a good thing I had added an extra day for rest- who needs rest anyway? All joking aside, the ride wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. Once I arrived at the Shafer campsite for my fist night of rest, drank a couple quarts of the precious water I had hauled behind me, and ate a huge dinner, I felt great. I enjoyed the quiet, calm, starry night and slept straight through. The next few days were rather easy rides. Of course there is the ascent of the Murphy Hogback- this happens whether you ride clockwise or counter-clockwise. I rode clockwise by the way. Later is the ascent of a wall near Hardscrabble Bottom, again, you do it no matter what. And finally there was the wonderful ascent of Horsethief Trail (a.k.a. Mineral Bottom Road), but only if you ride clockwise. If you ride counter-clockwise you will have to ride up the Shafer trail at the end.

After the first morning, I rose before the sun, ate a quick breakfast, packed up and was on the bike shortly after 6 a.m. This strategy really paid off and I highly recommend it for anyone riding the White Rim during the hotter months. I averaged about 4 hours of riding per day, about 25 miles per day. The rest of the day I enjoyed the geology, the clouds, and stories of Africa by Isak Dinesen. As for water, I started out with about 52 pounds of the stuff- about 6 1/2 gallons. I could have used roughly another gallon to get me to the river, but the storm left some tasty, clear water in potholes. I took advantage of this and pumped out a gallon at the end of day 2. By the end of my ride on day four, at about 1030 a.m., I still had about 2 quarts. This allowed me to settle water from the Green River for the afternoon before pumping another gallon or so for the night and the final day of riding up and out Horsethief Trail.

self protrait from white rim trail ride- on horsethief trail

Final morning, on Horsethief Trail, after the ascent.

I wouldn’t really change anything I did on the ride. Five days for 125 miles is perfectly adequate. Five days for 103 miles would have been even easier. Next time I may try riding counter-clockwise, just to try it in that direction. If you plan to do the ride, plan ahead, but remain flexible. Be sure to reserve your campsites well in advance, especially if you are riding in cooler months, along with the throngs of cool-weather riders. If you don’t mind 95- 100 degrees, as I don’t, ride it in August and you will have the park to yourself. Otherwise plan accordingly. Keep an eye on the weather. And most important of all, carry and drink plenty of water. For more information on water in the desert, see the Desert Explorer website. For more on the White Rim ride, the campsites, planning for it and a “bikepacking” packing list, visit the White Rim page of my website. (Note: I will have the page up after I return to Colorado, at the end of the month. Tomorrow I am off to the Escalante for week of backpacking.)


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