Kokpelli’s Trail

Sweep, back flush the espresso machine, mop, last dishes, count the drawer. Lock the door to the café by six.

Grocery store with Colleen.

“How much food do you need to take?”

“I think around 4000 calories’ll get me to Moab.”

Reese’s King Size Easter Eggs are two for $3. Can’t beat that- I grab four packets. Ramen Noodles, pepperoni (never go anywhere without Italian meats), and a block of motzerella. I add up the numbers on my phone. That should work.

Leftovers and coffee back at the house, pack up the last of my stuff and get in the car to drive out of the mountains. I hit the Kokopelli Trailhead in Loma at midnight. Trucks roar down I-70, their dim yellow headlights fading into the road.

There aren’t many stars out. I pull on my riding shoes, snap my iPhone onto the stem and turn on the GPS app. Alright, it’s Monday night, I need to be back here by Friday morning to get to work. That should be fine.

I start the first ledgy climb on Mary’s Loop. The loaded bike is a little tough to hop up the rock steps, but overall it’s riding good.

Up top the dirt is smooth, tacky and fast. Big berms are worn into the the old two-track. My dynamo light warms up, the beam brighter with speed. I’m ripping, this is so excellent.

Then the first intersection. Arrows pointing in every direction. Crap. Which one’s the Kokopelli? I ride up one trail, check the GPS. Nope, that’s not it. Back down.

Another intersection. Check again, stand around and try to figure out which way is right. I’m overheating in my puffy jacket, I yank it off and stuff it in my seat bag. Now I’m cold and sweaty, I pull on a wool shirt. I’ve gotta stop screwing around if I want to make any sort of time.

Back on the singletrack, I drop down a rock chute and flow along a fast section of hardpack. I know the Colorado River is over the edge of the trail a few thousand feet below, but I can’t see anything but a black void.

The trail turns sharply, then I’m dropping down, around a switchback, and down. As far back as I can get, ass on the saddle bag.

The trail flattens out at the bottom of a deep canyon. Scrubby little bushes scratch at my face and arms. Back up the other side of the canyon the trail is steep and narrow. I push my bike in front, struggling to lift it over big boulders.

I stop at the top and eat a Reece’s egg. Not much over 15 miles, already a few hours in. Man, I’m never gonna make it down to Moab and back in time.

Back on the bike, off the singletrack and onto a fast dirt road. Sweet, now I’m making some tracks.

A few miles to Rabbit Valley. I stop to look at my map. Should I camp now? It’s 2:00 in the morning. Nah, I’ll keep rolling for a while. Rough Jeep road now, it’s rocky, slower, and weirdly damp. The wet dirt grabs at my tires and makes it tough to keep rolling.

A couple hours later see the first Donnie Darko rabbit. No, that was just some sagebrush.

4:30. Another rabbit. No, sagebrush. I’m pushing up an incredibly steep climb. Getting so tired . One more rabbit, and I’m calling it a night. Rabbit. Sagebrush. I’m out.

I unroll my sleeping bag on a big flat rock.

Two hours later, the sun comes up.

I pack up and push the bike the rest of the way to the top. Man, I was almost there last night. Maybe I shoulda kept going.

On top of the mesa, the sand is damp and deep. Thank the Surly for fat tires, but it’s still slow going. I’m following the tracks of somebody on Nates– I kinda hope I catch up with them, it’d be cool to see somebody else out here. Probably won’t happen though.

A couple more miles on the mesa top, then down onto pavement. Man, that feels nice. I coast and eat pepperoni.

Back onto dirt, cruising across some wide open space. Then not.

Tumble weeds, totally blocking the road, 15 feet deep. I’ve gotta go around them, no way to ride though that spikey mess.

The first few clots are funny. This West, so wild with all its funny little rolly shrubs.

After five or six blockages, not so funny anymore.

Ten miles later, the tumbleweeds have totally lost their novelty. They wrap around my wheels, stick in my brakes, jab my legs and hands. Fuck tumbleweeds. I’ll be happy if I never see another one. Into another pile. Dammit.

The La Sal mountains are closer now. The trail heads up there, but it looks snowy. Might have to bail on that part of the route.

A little more pavement, then back on dirt, up and over a little scrubby mountain thing that’s all tracked out by motos in every direction. It looks like a less-grey slag heap.

Down by the river, I stop for a pepperoni sandwich. I’m running low on water, so I’ve gotta filter.

I sit down on a rock, and the tired hits me. A full day of work, full night of riding, barely an hour and a half of sleep. I’m not gonna make it to Moab. No way. Shit. I’m 70 miles from the car, and 40 from town. Maybe I should just turn around. But I don’t have enough food. I have to keep going.

No, I have to take a nap. I lay down in the dirt.

An hour later, I wake up and rub my eyes. Stand up and stretch. It’s a little past noon now. I feel way better, it’s like a restart on the day. Only 40 miles to Moab, I’ll knock that out before dinner. Easy.

I go down to the river to purify some water with a SteriPen. The Colorado is really silty, so I tie my bandana into a bucket, scoop the water up and let it drip into my bottle to pre-filter the dirt. Then zap it with the UV light, and dump it into the water bladder. Repeat four times, and I’ve got a day of water.

Back on the bike. I feel great now. Push up a steep trail, then a little over ten more miles of great Jeep road. Then onto hi-way 128 at the old Dewey Bridge. I’m not going into the mountains. It’ll be snowy, and where the snow’s melted I’m sure there’s going to be horrible mud.

And I’m not going to mess with those pissed off looking clouds.

30 miles on the hi-way, and I roll into Moab feeling fine. It’s just after five, so I go over to the Denny’s to get a predictably bad hamburger. The waiter towers over me as I sink into the worn out cushion of the huge six person booth.

“Better go to the bathroom before you leave,” he drawls at a couple girls who had a few coffee refills. “It’s snake season.”

“Oh, I always look before I squat,” says one girl. The other looks extremely uncomfortable.

I pay for the food and roll down to the gas station to resupply. Four Reece’s Fast Breaks and a bag of jerky. Back out of town, hopefully I’ll find a spot to camp before the sun sets.

“Wooohooo! You made it! Welcome!” yells a hippy chick on an old cruiser. She throws up her arms.

“Thanks,” I say. Wish I could hang out longer.

The sun sets five miles up the road. I plug in my light, and it slowly spreads white light on the asphalt. After that bad burger and coffee I’m feeling great. I could probably make it 30 more miles back to Dewey Bridge tonight.

I pass two campgrounds. Move over into the ditch by the side of the road when I see cars headlights coming around the canyon walls.

A car passes pretty close. Man, this is a bad idea. I’m not really in a hurry, no reason to risk getting hit. I better turn around and call it a night.

I ride two miles back to the Big Bend Campground and set up my tarp in the wind. Which is a giant pain in the ass. The thing’s flapping all over the place, then when I get it all tensioned out, it’s laying on my sleeping bag and still not keeping out all the wind. Might have to rethink my sleep stuff for Tour Divide. I pass out immediately.

Next morning I sleep a little past sunrise, lay my sleeping bag on a picnic table to dry and munch on some jerky. It’s about 100 miles back to Loma. I’ll split it up over two days, camp in Rabbit Valley tonight. That’ll get me home sometime Thursday afternoon, and I’ll be fresh enough to enjoy all the singletrack at the end.

Pack up, start rolling out of the canyon.

A couple hours of spinning and I’m back to Dewey Bridge. Back onto the trail, and up a ledgey climb. It looks like a herd of cattle was just driven down the road. Everything is chewed up by hoofprints, and the dust is as fine as curry powder.

After navigating a few high-security gate systems, I make it back to the spot by the river where I napped yesterday. I feel so much better this time through. I just needed a little sleep.

Down the other side of the slag heap looking area, and I’m cruising back toward tumbleweed alley.

Maybe 50 miles to Loma, and it’s not even 2:00. Just take your time and enjoy it.

No, don’t hold back. You feel good, ride it out to the end tonight. Should be able to make it back before midnight. I bash through and around the tumbleweeds again.

A pair of beefs. Perhaps someday they’ll be dried and salted and riding in my frame bag.

Hours later, I’m back on the mesa where I slept the first night. There’s some new tracks next to the fat bike tracks I was following the first day.

I wonder if that big kitty likes to play fetch with zip-ties like my cat at home. Maybe he’d prefer rebar. Or my limbs.

Down the hill where I slept on a rock after the third Donnie Darko rabbit. It’s just as steep as I thought it was that night- I sit on the saddlebag, ride both brakes, try not to crash into the sagebrush.

I make it to Rabbit Valley before dark. Hell yeah, I’m finishing this thing up tonight. Ripping the fast doubletrack (it’s all dried out now), hipping the bike sideways off little kickers, really making good time.

The sun sets with about 15 miles to go.

I plug the dynamo back in, and drop back into the canyon down to Salt Creek.

Hike to the top of the other side. Stop at the top to eat some candy bar and pepperoni. I’m actually looking forward to the singletrack. This is great.

Troy Built, Lion’s Loop, up a steep climb, drop off a rock ledge- the loaded bike thumps heavily into the dirt, the dark void stretches way out below.

Mary’s, the last trail and only a couple miles to go. I hit a rock, something pinches between my shoulder blades. Christ that hurts. My back locks up a little, but that’s fine. Only a little bit to go.

Down the last ledges. Ouch, ouch, ouch. My back stings with each hit. Then I’m on the gravel. And done. 220 miles in under two days.

I think that’s a little like what Tour Divide is gonna feel like. I’m not quite as sacred now.

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