I jumped at the chance to head a bit west and meet some friends for a ride. Until 15 minutes before liftoff we didn't know exactly where we were riding, only that we had a (gorgeous) day to spend and wouldn't mind seeing something new.
A few short minutes of spinning on actual trail brought us to our jump off point. We knew where we'd been, and we knew where we wanted to get to, but in between lay several miles of desert and rock. I wouldn't go so far as to say that any of us were worried about getting truly lost out there, but we emphatically didn't know where we were going nor what exactly we'd find en route.
The best rides always seem to start with some level of uncertainty.
We left the main trail and promptly portaged up a steep rock ramp. Bad omen for the rest of the day? Not if you ask Pivvay or Ion--both were smiling then and pretty much every minute thereafter.
Once onto the rock our options were plentiful. What's around that corner? What's over that haystack? Is that a peninsula or can you roll off it and onto that next slab? Is that as steep as it looks? Steeper?
We didn't know any of the answers, but we had an awesome time satiating our curiosity each time another question presented itself.
As the only true local to this area, His Fredness seemed most comfortable all day, probably because he always knew ~roughly where he was.
Each time we dropped into another rock bowl or slot and lost sight of the horizon, I'd get momentarily turned around and couldn't reset my bearings until I'd ground back up to where I could see the big picture. That kept the day exciting and always fresh, at least for me.
Many times we'd come to a point, regroup, discuss briefly where we thought it made the most sense to head, then we'd head off again--in differing directions.
Right way? Wrong way? Fah. Many ways.
"This one doesn't go..."
"But I think this one might..."
"It's never as smooth as it looks..."
Sometimes a dead end would set you back a minute or two behind the guys, which worked out great because then you could simply keep your head up and really look around until it was your turn to go scouting again.
"Oooooooo, what's this...?"
"That was fun!"
At several points we stopped to debate or discuss how certain features had come to pass. I don't think any of us really knew the answers, but that didn't stop us from tossing out random suggestive verbiage.
Sometimes, captions really aren't necessary.
Having spent the winter on snow and skis far more often than rock or bike, Ion started the day a bit hesitant.
That hesitancy didn't last, quickly morphing into smooth confidence and big grins.
"Honest, it gets worse thataway..."
What appears to be a wall to Ion's right is actually the head of a slot, with a several hundred foot drop and about as far across. Superman could cross it, but I'd wager heavily against Spiderman making it.
In case it wasn't clear: A day to spend, some likeminded fellas to spend it with, and nothing more than a rumor of a route to follow...
On a (very) few occasions we got flat stymied and had to walk across sand or downclimb.
Some techniques were less efficient than others...
Eventually we did in fact find some trail markings--painted dots on the rock. They'd clearly not been placed by human powered types (STEEP!), but they did get us to some pretty places.
In a way, following the dots was acceptable in that you could pay a bit less attention to where you were headed and a bit more to where you actually were.
Seconds after this shot was snapped we were treated to a precious first: a 'dot cul de sac'. Maybe you had to be there...
Back up the way we'd come.
"This has to be the mountain bike equivalent of powder skiing..."
Amen to that.
A little more climbing, some headscratching, and a little more bushwhacking brought us to a very familiar and much anticipated spot: The Portal.
Not having ridden it in over a decade, I let the flow take over and couldn't be bothered to stop for pictures.
Simply put, descending it was fun, fast, slow, chunky, exciting, inspiring, and not nearly long enough.
Awesome day guys--thanks for letting me tag along.