Last week I went with my son’s Varsity Team to Moab for some high adventure, and that is what we got.
Before arriving in Moab, we stopped across the street from the entry to Arches National Park where there is a huge, steep sand hill. People frequently play there and slide down it like they would slide down a snow hill. The boys did some crazy stuff there. No amount of dusting off boys kept the sand out of the vehicles.
After driving to our campsite and setting up camp, we loaded up our mountain biking gear and headed up to the world famous Slickrock Trail. We did the 2.5-mile practice loop to test out people and equipment. It was extremely challenging. It was good to test out equipment, because we found several cycle issues that needed to be corrected before doing the long trail.
We then high-tailed it to some forsaken desert location midway between Moab and Monticello. One of our leaders realized a few miles out of Moab that his vehicle was running on empty. He assumed we would soon run into a fueling station, but no such thing exists in that barren stretch.
Per arrangement, we met some fine people from Monticello, who took us to a private ranch. They set up two of the finest rappelling courses I’ve ever seen — one was 40 feet and one was 90. The cliffs consisted of rock that is very much like Slickrock. There’s plenty of fairly level area on top. The edge has a nice, gradual round off to a vertical wall. It was almost like poured concrete. Even the members of the group that were apprehensive at least did the 40’ wall.
Our hosts explained that we were just as far from a fueling station either way. We decided to head toward Moab, and then use a second vehicle to go for a container of gas when the vehicle ran dry. The boys had a prayer on the road. Somehow, the SUV pulling a trailer kept going and going up and down hills until we pulled into a gas station, having gone nearly 70 miles on empty.
The next day we hit the 12.5-mile Slickrock trail early in the morning. The weather was perfect. People come from all over the world to do this ride. It’s very technical. (The printed guide says, “Technical = This is against my better judgment, but here I go anyway.”) And it’s incredible. They say to allow four hours to ride it. With a group of 15 with a wide variety of skill levels and equipment qualities, we were surprised to make it in 4.5 hours. We only lost one boy’s bike and some skin from one leader’s leg in the exchange.
My son likes extreme sports. He was doing some pretty crazy stuff on our first day out. He’s quite a physical specimen. But he was feeling ill before we headed out to Slickrock. I gave him meds, got him hydrated, and told him he had to come. He did OK at first, but he kept slowing down. Finally, about five miles in, he was just mechanically pushing his bike with a fixed stare. When he saw how far the others were ahead of us, he sat down and felt he could go no further. He looked awful.
One of the other dads, who had been behind us, came up and offered my son various energy items and drinks. My son refused them. Then the two of us gave my son a blessing. Literally within seconds, it was as if someone flipped an energy switch on my boy. He got on his bike and started to go. We rested from time to time and ate. By the last few miles, my son was doing superhuman feats. It was an amazing turnaround.
Later we took those with a desire to a campsite a few miles west of Moab where there is some ancient rock art (see here). But the main reason we went is that there is a chimney type slot in a rock face that ascends about 50 feet (just to the left of the guy in the picture at the link above). It can be climbed. I found that a bit challenging. The kids found the descent more challenging, but that wasn’t too bad for me.
We took all of the boys into Arches National Park and hiked to Delicate Arch. (That’s the one you see on the Utah Centennial license plates.) There were hundreds of people hiking the trail from all over the U.S. and from various nations. We heard a variety of languages being spoken.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at our campsite, other than to sleep and eat. The place thankfully had shade trees, but I don’t think it had a single blade of grass. We could see lush lawn across the fence on the high school football field, but we camped on very hard-packed dirt. We had nearly perfect weather conditions during our stay. It was clear. It never got cold and it wasn’t unbearably hot. I’m just grateful that we didn’t try this trip in July or August.
I was the safety minder on the trip, continually reminding the boys about adequate hydration and sunscreen. My first aid kit came in handy several times, particularly on the Slickrock Trail.
We packed a lot of high adventure into a few days. The boys all did things they thought they were incapable of doing. Ditto with some of the leaders. I would really like to have had a high quality mountain bike like some of the boys and leaders rented, with a carbon fiber frame, hydraulic brakes, and a superb gearing system. But you could buy more than a dozen of my bikes for the purchase price of theirs, and they paid nearly as much for two days rent as I did for my entire bike.
As with other resort communities, everything in Moab is expensive. So you either bring with you everything you need, or else you need to be prepared to drop a wad of cash while you’re there.
By the time we got home, we were all pretty tired. But it was a good kind of tired.