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  1. #1
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006

    Utah Passion (Moab/St George pix/helmetcam)

    Just got back from a week in Utah with Sacred Rides. What a trip! We rode Slickrock, Porcupine Rim, Amasa Back, Thunder Mountain, Bunker Creek, Gooseberry Mesa, Little Creek, Bear Claw Poppy and JEM.

    (I shot helmetcam of everything and will incorporate it into this post as I finish editing it. So far I've done Porcupine and Bear Claw).

    Arrive Las Vegas and check into the South Point Casino. Vegas
    is the saddest town in the world but this is National Indian Rodeo
    Finals weekend so I pay $25 and pass the afternoon watching Navajo
    teenagers riding bulls and wrestling steers in the huge equestrian
    ampitheatre. They even play the Canadian national anthem at the
    beginning (there are many riders here from Alberta). I'm touched. I
    thought mountain biking was tough until now, but these guys are
    something else. Nobody seems to leave uninjured.

    Meet up with the other riders and our guide Eddie who's driven
    down from Fernie. We build bikes in the parking lot to the bemusement
    of passing gamblers. The group is almost entirely composed of former
    Sacred Rides clients and I know several of them, so we have a good
    esprit de corps from the get-go. We also meet our local bike buddy
    Mark, a gentle drawling Mormon who will shuttle the van for the next
    week while telling some of the tallest stories I have ever heard.

    After a two-hour drive to St George, Utah we change into riding
    clothes and manage a single shuttle run at Bear Claw Poppy, an instant
    hit of a downhill trail replete with berms, drops, hucks and little
    wallrides that sends us hurtling out onto the desert floor as the
    setting sun paints the huge mesas surrounding us a deep shade of
    crimson. At this point we realize this trip is probably going to be
    something special.

    Mark introduces us to Morgan Harris, a barrel-chested local
    legend who built the trail we about to ride. Morgan leads us through
    Gooseberry Mesa, a twisting pretzel of a trail that loops around the
    top of one of the local mountains through pine, cactus and juniper.
    The trail requires total concentration with several sections featuring
    several thousand feet of exposure, and others taking us through our
    first taste of the steep slickrock bowls whose infinite traction turns
    apparently unrideable steeps into red-lining anaerobic workouts that
    require you to believe that you can do the physically impossible.

    In the afternoon we shuttle to the top of J.E.M., another hurtling,
    smooth, twisty downhill trail whose twelve miles are gone in a matter
    of thirty minutes or so, the last section of singletrack snaking
    alongside the edge of a canyon, a couple of feet or so from what feels
    like certain death.

    Mark shuttles us to the 'top' of Brian Head Mountain. The
    elevation here is about 12,000 feet and the real top of the mountain
    is still above us, the simple climb made grindingly hard by lack of
    oxygen and several inches of snow that has just fallen. We're the
    first riders through the snow and Mark is worried, but we assure him
    we've seen snow before, and set off. The first few miles are a
    slip-fest, then the snow transitions to mud and we splatter our way
    down to the tree line, where the trail turns into a humdinger of a
    downhill sidewinder following Bunker Creek through yellowing aspens,
    where it seems a shame to even think about touching the brakes as
    thousands of feet of elevation shoot us out into a dirt road where I
    finally pinch flat on one of the hundreds of little rock drops it's
    impossible not to hit. Afterwards, Scott pronounces it one of the best
    trails he's ever ridden, and it's hard not to agree.

    As if this wasn't enough, the afternoon takes us to Thunder Mountain,
    a trail he discovered and now voted Utah's best. A long series of
    alternating downhills, bermed hairpins, and grinding climbs finally
    emerges into an utterly spectacular hidden canyon, the trail winding
    up between eerie redstone hoodoos then along a three-foot wide ridge
    with exposure on both sides, before ricocheting down a series of
    tight, technical, exposed switchbacks, culiminating in a balls-out
    rocket ride to the trail head along smooth, bermed singletrack.
    Afterwards, Scott pronounces it even better than the first trail and
    many of us feel that we've just experienced one of our best days
    riding ever.

    Finally, we arrive in Moab. It's a tiny, funky little town
    surrounded by huge vertical rock walls, a bit like Fernie in the
    desert. We meet up with our local guide Julia, and immediately embark
    on Moab's most famous trail, the Slickrock. Before we ride, Julia
    warns us that it's like 'three hours of stairmaster', and she's not
    wrong, but despite its fearsome reputation it turns out to be
    eminently rideable, and unlike anything any of us have ever ridden
    before. Terrifying climbs and descents are only made possible by the
    sand-paper like texture of the rock surfaces, and the 'trail' is
    simply a series of white lines painted on the rock surface. An
    unforgettable ride and one which features a seemingly endless menu of
    challenges, limited only by your own abilities and courage.

    Julia guides us through the famous Porcupine Rim trail. An
    hour-long technical climb along a rock-ledge-strewn jeep road finally
    crests at a spectacular lookout, and then begin a 10-mile descent. The
    first two-thirds is a bike-eating rock-fest featuring a seemingly
    endless roster of boulder gardens, drops, S-bends and whoop-de-doos
    before narrowing to singletrack as the trail teeters a thousand feet
    above the Colorado river, subjecting the rider to extreme exposure and
    considerable vertigo, as well as numerous extreme technical sections,
    before finally descending to the canyon floor where we wipe the sweat
    from our palms and crack open a beer. Another unforgettable ride.

    Moab's third 'serious' ride is Amasa Back. It's an
    out-and-back, with a two-hour technical climb followed by an hour-long
    fast-but-technical descent. Others enjoy it but I'm not riding well
    and the trail seems crowded with both riders and ATVs. I almost endo
    several times, and a whipping sandstorm makes life ever more
    difficult. It's not a bad trail, but we've been spoilt by Slickrock
    and Porcupine Rim, and I leave feeling a little deflated.

    Saturday afternoon, we head back to Brian Head in the hope of riding
    Virgin Rim, but as we climb into the mountains, a huge snowstorm hits
    and it's touch and go whether the van will make it to our lodging. By
    the time we finally make it to the ski lodge, there's five inches of
    snow and the temperature is -8C. The altitude (12,000 feet) is making
    several of us sick, and we decide instead to head back to St George in
    the morning to ride a trail we skipped earlier in the week.

    Mark finally gets on his bike and guides us through most of
    Little Creek. Also created by Morgan Harris, this is a sister ride to
    the extraordinary Gooseberry Mesa, and Mark says it's his favourite
    trail in the world. Within a few hundred yards we see why. This is a
    real bike-rider's trail, with seemingly infinite flow, from slickrock
    bowl to smooth singletrack winding through the rocks and cacti, to
    rock gardens and ledges, then back to slickrock drops and loops. The
    trail eventually gives out onto one of the utterly spectacular views
    over the vast Utah landscape we've now gotten used to, but within
    minutes we're back on the bikes and hurtling along the trail again.
    James and I get deliciously lost before finally locating the trail
    head and our companions. We only ride about half of the full trail,
    but it's an addictive place and of all the places we visit it's the
    one I'd go back to first. Not for the views, or the challenge, but the
    simple ride.

    Sunday night, we bundle back into the van, back to Vegas, and take out
    flights home. On the plane back I nostalgically review helmetcam, and
    as I drive home from Pearson Airport I think about the vacation.

    In a single week we've seen temperatures from scorching heat to
    freezing cold, ridden the desert floor and 12000 foot peaks, skidded
    through snow and mud, and found infinite grip on slickrock. To our
    surprise, our group is repeatedly complimented on its riding skills by
    our local guides, and in conversation we agree that although much of
    the riding is technical and exposed, overall it is slightly easier
    than the BC trails most of us have experience of. Also to our
    surprise, we agree that the little known trails around St George are
    easily a match for the famous rides around Moab, with Thunder Mountain
    probably the highlight of the trip for its unforgettable combination
    of scenery, flow and technical challenge.

    Last edited by pinkheadedbug; 10-21-2008 at 10:31 AM.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  2. #2
    Reputation: KERKOVEJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Very cool! I just got the VholdR camera about 3 weeks ago.....and shot some footage at Moab last week after the 24 Hours of Moab. Still trying to get the proper setting on the helmet.....nothing a few more rides won't cure.

    <object width="400" height="302"> <param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /> <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /> <param name="movie" value="; &amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portr ait=0&amp;color=c9ff23&amp;fullscreen=1" /> <embed src="; &amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portr ait=0&amp;color=c9ff23&amp;fullscreen=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="400" height="302"></embed></object>

    Just curious, what camera are you using?

  3. #3
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    I'm using the Viosport POV1. One fully charged set of AA batteries seems to last all day, and I carry 3x2GB cards. I only screwed up one day, mostly because I got dirt in the connector. Otherwise it's really easy to use. The only thing is you shoot so much footage that it's a chore to edit.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  4. #4
    Reputation: Jisch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Nice review. I had the joy of spending a few days with my wife and Mark around St. George (stuck to the lower trails since we were there in January). Agreed that those were some of the best trails I've ridden. Mark is a first class guy all the way, his stories are indeed as riveting as they are tall...

    Gotta get back out there.

  5. #5
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Yeah, I meant to put in more of a plug for Mark. He's one hell of a nice guy. His website is here:

    I can't think of a better guy to facilitate a trip. He doesn't guide himself, but he'll arrange a guide if you want one. I strongly recommend riding with Morgan Harris if you can... the guy's a legend.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  6. #6
    Reputation: crashtestdummy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by pinkheadedbug
    I strongly recommend riding with Morgan Harris if you can... the guy's a legend.
    He makes it all look very easy. I also think that he knows every twist and turn on both Little Creek and Gooseberry.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  7. #7
    Reputation: ryman's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Your guide Eddie, super cool guy...rode with him in Fernie a few years back when it was still Fernie Fat Tire
    Just ride down there and jump off something for crying out loud...

  8. #8
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Yeah, Eddy is very good. This is the second time I've ridden with him. I think he really enjoyed riding new trails as opposed to his usual BC beat.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  9. #9
    Purveyor of Trail Tales!
    Join Date
    Aug 2005

    Good job! Great Small World Buzz!

    Hi John,

    I really enjoyed all the pictures and video youíve posted showing your group ripping it up in St. George. My crew and I were there the same week and met you guys while you were having lunch behind Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane on Tuesday. You had just finished riding Gooseberry and were off to sample the goods at JEM Trail. Where you the photo-journalist Mark introduced us to?

    Another funny small world item is that we had Mark shuttle us when we did Grafton Mesa on SundayÖ..the day before Mark picked you up in Vegas. When we saw Mark on Tuesday he told us he had been entertaining your group with the details of his epic drive in the slicka$$ mud to get off Grafton Mesa and pick us up at the bottom of the ride. By his telling I swear that the drive was far more dangerous than the Grafton Mesa DH run we got to enjoy. If you get back to the area again I highly recommend this short but sweet and intense trail. There is a mini-Red Bull Rampage area at the bottom of Grafton Mesa thatís worth a few hucks as well.

    I want to second the Kudos you gave to Little Creek Mesa! Iíve ridden for a week around St. George last year as well as this year and I agree with you and Mark that Little Creek is IMHO the best riding in the area. As you said Thunder Mountain is other worldly, beautiful and unique but the riding isnít as diverse, challenging and interesting as Little Creek Mesa. Finally Iíll agree with you, yet again, when you favorably compare the trails around St. George to the more famous rides at Moab. Iíve only ridden for a week at Moab but got to hit the gems of the area. At this point I believe Iím biased toward St. George for single track sweetness and ride variety. That said I far prefer the funky bike town flavor of Moab to St. Georgeís upper middle class golf town atmosphere. As a Canadian how did the two towns strike you?

    I spent over 30 days this summer at Northstar Bike Park doing lift served riding on the VP Free so my trail bike, Enduro SL, hasnít seen much action of any kind until this trip. That said the incredible trails around St George, Utah meant that the Enduro SL was the weapon of choice! These trails are a total gas with natural stunts to be had everywhere. Rock and verticality abound so discretion is called for but fun can had on a continuous basis.

    This first shot is neither me, nor an Enduro SL, nor an action shotÖ.however it does give you a wonderful view of the outrageous trails, killer terrain and gorgeous scenery we enjoyed all week! This is on Gooseberry Mesa:
    Ricky_Little_Creek - Resized for Mtbr.jpg

    Wheelie Drops were the order of the day as most approaches were short and technical. This was on Little Creek Mesa:
    Michael - Little Creek Wheelie Drop 1 - Resized for Mtbr.JPG
    Michael - Little Creek Wheelie Drop 2 - Resized for Mtbr.jpg

    This was on Gooseberry Mesa:
    Mike_drop - Gooseberry Mesa - Resized for Mtbr.jpg

    This was my turn at a silly bit of ďplaying chickenĒ with the cliff edge on Little Creek Mesa. The cliff edge behind me is the beginning of a thousand foot vertical drop to the valley you can see in the background. I say silly because none of us were stupid enough to get close enough to the edge to really fall if something went wrong:
    Michael - Little Creek Cliff Edge Front Wheelie - Resized for Mtbr.jpg

    Iíll end by saying that once you learn these trails there were major pieces of air to be had. Iím looking forward to returning next year and seeing if we can up the ante a bit.

    Thanks, again, for sharing the passion generated by your wonderful trip!

    If you can't keep the rubber side least smile for the camera!

  10. #10
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Hi Michael,

    Yeah, I remember meeting you guys! I wasn't the journo but one of the guys buying coffee inside. We chatted about something, can't remember what. We all enjoyed Mark's story about downhilling in the Explorer. Most of his stories seemed to revolve around him being easily led into some appalling situation and this one was no different.

    Neat pix. I have a bad fear of heights and at the beginning of the trip, I was freaked out by all the exposure. By the end, however, I was tired of being scared and ended up just riding the damn stuff and ignoring the cliffs.

    I have some good helmetcam of both Gooseberry and Thunder Mtn and will post it once it is edited. TM in particular is really spectacular on the cam.

    PS if any of you guys ever shuttle with Mark you need him to tell you (a) the sailboat story and (b) the lost children story. You'll never forget either of them.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  11. #11
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Edit: I added in helmetcam of the JEM trail to the original post.

    Here's a direct link to the video:

    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  12. #12
    mtbr member
    Reputation: KRob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Great stuff Pink. It's especially refreshing to see all my favorites through the eyes of someone riding them for the first time.

    The drops off Little Creek Mesa and Gooseberry Mesa are more like 200'....then you'd roll for another minute or so..... not "several thousand" but you'd die just the same so I wouldn't recommend falling off.

    Nice video editing and music too. Can't wait for the TM and Bunker Creek footage.

    And shame on you for wasting an afternoon in Vegas watching rodeo when there are world class trails twenty minutes from the Strip. Next time, tell them you must do the Cowboy Trails.

    Looks like you guys had a great trip, great guides, and a great selection of the areas best stuff (with the exception of missing the Vegas rides).
    Last edited by KRob; 10-19-2008 at 10:58 PM.
    I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth...
    Isaiah 58:14

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Camaro_Dave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    AWESOME pics and video. porcupine rim trail looks sick!
    2016 Santa Cruz Hightower CC

  14. #14
    Out there
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Thunder Mountain was such an epic ride I had to divide the helmetcam into three parts. (I've edited them into the main post too).

    First one is mostly just forest riding then it gets gnarlier in the second and third.

    (PS you can see high quality versions by going to the YouTube page and clicking on the high-quality link at the bottom right of the video).

    Part One (Climb to the tree line):

    Part Two (Hoodoos):

    Part Three (The Spine + descent):
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  15. #15
    Purveyor of Trail Tales!
    Join Date
    Aug 2005

    Good job! Nice Work!

    Quote Originally Posted by pinkheadedbug
    Thunder Mountain was such an epic ride I had to divide the helmetcam into three parts.....
    Hi John,

    Thanks for doing the work to add this video. You've done a great job of capturing the magic "flow" of the Thunder Mtn ride! I'll share one shot from our trip that captures the "other worldly" nature of this landscape.
    Thunder Mtn 1 - Resized for

    Thanks again,

    If you can't keep the rubber side least smile for the camera!

  16. #16
    Sacred Rides
    Reputation: sacredrides's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    John, thanks for that great review of the trip. I spent the week sitting in the office trying not to be jealous that Eddy and you guys were out there enjoying all the great riding. I knew I'd be there eventually, so it wasn't too painful - I'll be heading there next spring. Can't wait to check it out!

    Currently in Guatemala riding some beautiful, technical singletrack!
    Life is better on a mountain bike,

    Mike Brcic,
    Founder/Chief Happiness Officer,
    Sacred Rides and Sacred Rides Getaways

  17. #17
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Nice pics! Thanks for sharing.

    That road up to Brian Head can get nasty. I've boarded there before and thought I was going to die, even while in 4x 4 and chained up going up that mountain. To this day, it is still the scariest snow drive I've ever done. Honestly, I can't even drive up there in clear conditions without having a mild panic attack as I relive the horrors of the drive and watching others slide off the road, only to miss going off the edge of the cliff by inches, or being saved by a tree.

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