For me, there are few things more magical than staring up at the night sky, trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue as they seemingly fall from the shrouded darkness. It allows me to reminisce about my childhood snow days and dream of the pow days that will soon be upon us. And while I love the snow, it fell in the least likely of places last weekend. My friends and I had planned a trip to Moab to escape the terror that comes with Black Friday shopping. Rather than be herded down crowded isles at our favorite stores, we chose to #OptOutside and spend some time on the trails. We were expecting brisk days around 40 degrees but little did we know, Mother Nature had different plans for our weather forecast.
We set out from Denver on Friday, leaving snow and single digit temperatures behind for what we thought would be dry, fall-like weather. As soon as we arrived in Arches National Park, we set out to hike the Delicate Arch. The trail was fairly crowded but we quickly made our way to the arch in time to take a few pictures and scramble down before the sun set. As we made our way out of the park, the snowflakes began to fall. At first I didn’t believe my eyes; it doesn’t snow in the desert, does it? Oh yes, it does!! As a group, we collectively decided it was too cold to camp (our original plan) so we snagged a room at a hotel, brought our bikes in and settled in for the night. Unsure of what conditions tomorrow would bring, we decided on a morning hike through Devils’ Garden and an afternoon mountain bike ride, weather permitting.
We awoke to a snow covered landscape and decided to stick to our plan of a morning hike through Devil’s Garden. The map measured it around 8 miles round-trip ,which would give us a solid workout with time and energy to bike that afternoon. As we set out from the trailhead, it became clear the route would be covered in snow and our toes would thank us for the wool socks we packed. The beginning of the hike was fairly tame, winding through a small valley with several off-shoot trails that lead to gorgeous arches. About 3 miles into our hike, we encountered a long slab of slickrock covered in ice and snow that we were supposed to traverse. When this type of rock is dry, it’s very grippy and fun to climb but when covered in snow and ice, it becomes challenging and terrifying, even for the experienced hiker. On the right side of the “balance beam” was a 30 foot drop off that would surely mean severe injury if you mis-stepped while the left side bore a 10 foot drop off into clay; only slightly less terrifying. After one attempt to walk the “balance beam” to the end without success, our group decided to hike around it, hoping the trails would meet up. Indeed they did, leading us another ½ mile before the trail became too dangerous to continue. As we made our way back to the car, the sun came out and melted a lot of the snow on the spots we struggled with on the hike in.
After an easy hike out, Megan and I decided we wanted to shred some slickrock so we packed the bikes on the car and headed out to Klondike Bluffs. We had intended on riding the Alaska trail but Mtn. Bike Project led us to the wrong trailhead, forcing us to ride an extra 3.5 miles to get to the fun stuff. I quickly discovered Utah mountain biking is nothing like Colorado mountain biking, but that was ok by me! Per a friend’s recommendation, we rode a trail called Baby Steps to Mega Steps, which consisted mostly of slickrock and some dirt…and a climb that didn’t feel like a climb at all! Riding on slickrock felt like floating on clouds. My tires glided over the rock with ease and my bike gave the perfect amount of pushback in the shocks to keep my momentum going. Each pedal left me wanting more! After 3 hours on the trail, we called it a day and snuck back to the car just in time to beat the setting sun. It’s safe to say that while this was my first Moab biking experience, it certainly won’t be my last.
A long day on the trails left us with sore muscles so we opted for a quick dip in the hot tub to ease our pain. My quad muscles screamed “thank you” and we were rewarded with a mini snow storm again! I thought we had come to Moab to escape the snow but I think it followed us there instead. While it spoiled our plan to camp, it also provided some excitement that a big storm was hitting Colorado.
Again, we awoke to snow on our car so we quickly grabbed breakfast, packed up and headed out to Canyonlands to explore. We picked a trail called Upheaval Dome which was an 8.5 mile loop through a vast and gaping canyon. It seemed almost surreal as we were hiking down but we soon realized hiking down that far meant we had to hike back out too. After 2 hours of hiking down into the canyon, we reached the halfway point with the dome nowhere in sight. The trail became challenging to follow in spots and we had to rely solely on cairns that were strategically placed so you could barely see your next move. With the easy part done, we started to conquer the hike out.
The trail led us straight up a rock staircase, over some clay and opened up to a scramble through a rock garden. While the scrambling got my heart rate going, it was easily my favorite part of the hike. We all got to pretend to be amateur rock climbers and showed off our courage by jumping from rock to rock over crevasses. After what felt like a century on our feet without direction, we finally rounded a corner and spotted our car! At that point, we were all so tired that we cheered for joy and began recanting parts of the hike.
After a quick break for Chipotle, we made our way back to snowy Colorado with 30ish miles of hiking and biking under our belt for the weekend. I am so glad we opted for sore muscles over shopping, even if we brought the snow with us. Moab, you stole my heart earlier this year but this trip solidified my love for you. It’s safe to say I’ll be having a date with you and my bike again in the very near future!