Biking Kokopelli’s Trail- Trip Report; Updates From Moab

25 July 2009

Kokopelli’s trail begins near Fruita, Colorado and ends near Maob, Utah.  The official trail length is 142 miles, most of it on roads, some paved.  I am uncertain what the “recommended” time is for the ride, but 5 days seems reasonable.  I make it a point to avoid learning too much about any ride, hike, or float and enjoy the process of discovery along the way. I used Porcupine Shuttle for my ride to the trailhead.  The owner, Bryan, is licensed to travel into Colorado and has flat rates for the vanload to destinations such as Green River, Grand Junction, Telluride, and Durango and per person rates around Moab.  Call him at 435-260-0896 to schedule shuttle.


Bike loaded with gear and water ready to leave Dewey Bridge.

On day one I began riding in the evening at about 6.30 pm, and rode for about 3 hours through the single track at Loma.  On days two and three I rode for 4 to 5 hours each morning and 1 to 2 hours again in the evening after it cooled down. Both of these days I spent the mid-day drinking water, reading,  and cooling off in the Colorado River, first at Westwater and the next day at Dewey Bridge.  Day four was a day full of pedaling, with very little rest.  That was the longest, toughest day, with about 13 hours of pedaling over the La Sals and into and out of Castle Valley.  There were plenty of options for camping and water along the way, and this long day could have been cut in half easily.  The final day, day five,  was a 12 mile downhill into Moab from high up on Sand Flats road amounting to about an hour on the bike.

My final calculation was about 31 1/2 hours of riding about 155 miles.  The ride could have been done in fewer days, perhaps combining the few hours of day one with day two. The same could have been done on the final day, making it a very long day, with close to a 65 mile ride.

The critical element in calculating daily distances, rest stops, and camp sites is the availability of water.  The first definite water source is the Westwater Ranger Station, where the is a hydrant.  The next is along the Colorado River- this could be Cisco take out, Fish Ford take out, various points along the single track before reaching Highway 128, and finally at Dewey Bridge. These are all very obvious from just looking at the map.  After Dewey Bridge I found at least 10 solid, semi-permanent water sources. I call them semi-permanent because you can never be quite sure with water in the west. I personally would trust that each of them will be there next year, and the year after that.  I won’t go into locations- if someone is interested feel free to email and I will give details.

I was never with less than about 4 liters of water.  The most I carried was about 12 liters- 24 pounds- at the beginning of the ride, again leaving Westwater, and leaving Dewey Bridge.  In hindsight, it was really an excessive amount, but taking chances in the desert, with the temperature reaching about 105 every day, is not a smart option.  I say carry it, and drink it.  Don’t hoard.  Follow the adage that water is better stored in your stomach, not in your canteen.

Food and Gear
I took 5 days worth of my own dehydrated backpack meals, along with an abundance of the usual snacks- peanut butter, Clif shots and bars, and so on. Although my food bag was on the heavy side with all the quick energy foods at near 9 pounds, I could have used more Clif shots, a few more bars, and more packets of Justin’s peanut butter.  I ended the ride with a few snacks and a couple of small reserve meals.  For more on making your own meals and meal planning visit the Desert Explorer Backpack Foods pages.


Shelter set up for the night.

I used the Jandd Mountain Panniers and they performed flawlessly.  Although a bit on the heavy side, they are strong, easy to attach, and have endless options for compressing and  securing gear so there is absolutely no bounce. I slept in my homemade mosquito shelter each night.  At about 9 ounces, it was a perfect fit in my 2000 cubic inch panniers.  I have discussed the shelter on the Desert Explorer Homemade Gear pages. The only issue I had with the shelter was the lack of a pole, and the lack of any method for stringing up the shelter on one night.  Some sort of micro pole would solve the problem, of course it would also add weight.  I improvised on that particular occasion by flipping the bike over and stringing the shelter over it. For a complete packing list see the Desert Explorer Bikepacking Pages.

Moab Updates

Matrimony Spring is still closed, although the pipes routing the water under the road have been vadalised once or twice.  There is still a lot of discussion about what to do with it.  Public sentiment is high for finding a way to treat the water and re-open the spring.  But it sounds like the county does not want the liability involved in trying to keep the spring safe to drink from.  In the mean time, Lyons Park remains closed because of the ongoing bridge work so water is still not available there.  Your best bet for fresh water is Gearheads, just south of City Market.  They have filtered water- as much as you can haul- for free. And if there is a piece of gear you’ve forgotten to bring along, you should be able to find it there.

Preparing for the Kokopelli Trail and Jones Canyon; Everett Ruess, and the Tamarisk Beetle

3 July 2009

I have less than a week before I drive back over the mountains.  This time my itinerary includes about 5 days on Kokopelli’s Trail, a day or so in Moab, then a few days in Jones Canyon in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness. The focus of the trip is the Kokopelli ride, but I have been thinking about exploring Jones Canyon for years and decided this is the time to do it. I am busy laying out gear and food for both trips, and as usual trying to lighten the load by going through it all again.

Jones Canyon

I have been through many of the canyons in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness including Knowles and Mee,  parts of Rattlesnake and Jones, and various other small drainages and treks around the area.  Jones Canyon is typically accessed from the south, via DS and BS Roads, through Glade Park.  It is a trek in itself to get to the Jones Canyon Trailhead which is at the end of the road.  I have decided, since I will be passing by Westwater anyway, to hike Jones Canyon from near its mouth at the Colorado River.

The plan is to  simply park at Westwater, ford the river, and spend a few days exploring the 80 kilometers or so of Jones Canyon. Of course this plan assumes that the BLM rangers at Westwater are okay with me swimming across the Colorado with my pack.  And then there is the question of whether or not the private land at the mouth of Jones Canyon can be skirted from up river.  I will bring along my PFD to help with the first issue, making a clandestine crossing at dusk if all else fails.  As for the second issue, I will asses the possibilities when I stop at Westwater on my ride.

Kokopelli’s Trail and Water

An unsupported bikepack of the Kokopelli poses the challenge of limited water at this time of year.  Over the first three days of the 140 miles ride I’ll have access to the Colorado River for water. But after that, on the two days of riding through the La Sals, I’ll be relying on what I can carry. Or on what I might be able to find.  In my experience there is nearly always water to be found out there.  Its the “nearly” that can get people in trouble. I’ll have the capacity to carry about 4 gallons of water with me, and may add another 2 liter Platypus bottle or two just to be safe.  I’ll make that decision when I do my final weather check, just before I hit the trail.

On this trip I am riding with panniers and Camelbak, not towing a trailer as I did on the White Rim Ride, so I am more limited on what I can carry. I’ll be adhering to ultralight principles to be sure.  At least most of the riding will be on roads by the end when I may be carrying more water, which will make it somewhat easier. The temperature promises to be in the 90’s, so as I usually do, I will be on the bike by about 0600 in the morning. Then I’ll be resting in the shade by 1000 or so, sitting out the hottest part of the day, watching the sun move across the sky from the shade. For more on bikepacking  and packing lists, see the Desert Explorer Bikepacking pages.

News From the Southwest

I have been meaning to add a few quick updates over the last month or so regarding events in the Four Corners region.  I mentioned the big bust of looters in southeast Utah in previous posts.  Another big event, which many people have already read about, was the locating of the remains of Everett Ruess. Ruess is an icon, a legend in the annals of desert mysteries.  His bones and a few identifying items were found early in the year along Comb Ridge, near Bluff in southeast Utah. DNA testing confirmed that the remains are in fact Ruess.

His last sighting was in November of 1934,  near the town of Escalante, over 100 miles away as the crow flies. His outfit- burros, saddles, journal, paints and so on- were found in a corral in Davis Gulch near the Escalante River.  Fortunately his journals were returned to his family.  These, along with his artwork- mainly his woodcuts, but also photos and paintings- allow us a look into the mind of this young adventurer that met his untimely death in the desert. His body his been found, but the question of what happened and how his body made it to Comb Ridge remains.

There are many great books and videos on the life of Everett Ruess.  The April/May National Geographic Adventure magazine covers the recent discovery. Two books of note are  Wilderness Journals/ Vagabond for Beauty combination edition by W.L. Rusho and On Desert Trails with Everett Ruess by Gary James Bergera. The film called Lost Forever explores his travels and the possibilities of his death. It is both entertaining and compelling in its presentation. And if you ever get a chance to see his art work, don’t miss it. In August of 2006 I saw a display of 25 of his woodcuts at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. I thought they captured the essence of the southwest and Everett’s travels perfectly in their detail.

On to bugs and trees- it seems there is already, or maybe I should say finally, as it was inevitable- a lawsuit against the government for the tamarisk beetle program.  According to the June issue of the Four Corners Free Press, two Arizona groups have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service for introducing the beetle into critical habitat.  It seems that tamarisk is the home of the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.  Apparently this flycatcher adapted to the takeover of native willows by tamarisk well enough. The fear is that it may not now be able to re-adapt to the slow reintroduction of native vegetation in areas previously overtaken by tamarisk. For more on tamarisk and the tamarisk beetle, see the beetle article at the Desert Explorer website.

Next post: Update from Moab after the Kokopelli ride.