This past fall, our ambassador Reese Ruland and her Áspero went off the grid to Bears Ears National Monument for three days of epic terrain and exploration. Post a 30k trail running race no less. We caught up with her upon her return, and needless to say, this is a trip we'll be adding to our list.
Cedar Mesa Loop
We set up camp on Muley Point. This area is spectacular. It sits atop Cedar Mesa and overlooks the San Juan River, Arizona, Monument Valley, and just about all of Southern Utah are visible from this point. Cedar Mesa is a public land area home to ancient ruins left by the Anasazi culture over a thousand years ago.
We left camp and tried to haul ass on the pavement section, as we knew we'd be stuck in the sand and going very slow on portions of this ride.
There. Is. No. One. Out. There.
This was a very very desolate ride. We turned right onto Snow Flats Road and that’s really when the adventure began. The terrain was easy enough and it seemed like we were following 3 people on what appeared to be 2 MTBs and a fat bike. Though we never saw them, we did create stories about who these people were. Eventually, we hit sand. And not just a little sand, but miles and miles of deep sand pits. Every now and then we'd get a cruel break and try to pick up speed only to be quickly hurled back to reality—generally around a shadowy corner—in the form of, you guessed it, sand. Somehow neither of us tipped over, though there were points of sheer fear. Turns out, hitting 9 inches of sand at 20mph is actually terrifying. My bike, with 650b x 47, performed SO well. This bike is part gravel bike, part MTB adventure vehicle.
On Snow Flats road, we were trending downhill to Comb Wash. We stopped at huge canyons on either side of the road that seemed to just come from nowhere. The rock formations and the absolute isolation of the area left us feeling like we were alone on Earth.
Comb Wash came upon us quickly and we were anticipating a bit of hike-a-bike, even though so far we didn't have to walk at all. Our 3 anonymous amigos ahead of us hadn’t fared as well, and we saw their footprints all over the place. Luckily, Comb Wash was actually very pleasant and somehow not sandy. Instead, it was a terrific gravel road home to massive tumbleweeds—our only company out there.
Eventually, we got to Valley of the Gods Road. Which is an incredible, 16-mile road that highlights mesas, buttes, mushroom rocks, and the like. Lady in the Tub pillar was my favorite because the night before the ride, I found a tiny little tub in the rock near our campsite and...well... I like irony.
After Valley of the Gods, we had Moki Dugway to climb, which dumped us out at the road to our campsite. Though way steep, THIS ROUTE WAS GLORIOUS.
We climbed, we saw, we went back to camp and had a beer. We proceeded to eat food, consistently, for the next 4 hours. (not an exaggeration) and we made plans for Day 2.
Natural Bridges and Bears Ears
Today, our legs were...less than fresh. So we decided to do a lap of the Natural Bridges Monument and then head up to the top of Bears Ears, which was a bit of a climb. Turns out, we just did some out and backs mainly to get beta for our next trip, because there will be a next trip. Again, this area is pretty remote. We didn't see a lot of people out, and there is just so much to explore.
National Monument to Grand Junction, CO
This was a last-minute decision. I wanted our trip to be longer AND I wanted to go to the best place to eat in Grand Junction, TacoParty. We decided to ride through National Monument to get there, and while today was all paved roads it was still such a pleasant day on the bike. It’s one of the most breathtaking rides, the kind where every corner is stunning and with every vista you see something new and beautiful.
Things learned from this trip:
The desert is all about perspective. Everything looks different depending on how and where you view things. Move just a bit, and a whole new layer of Earth is visible, a tower becomes the shape of something else—something familiar.
Big tires are so nice for sand. I'm a level 10 expert sandpit rider now. Deserts, or maybe just sand, require you to be focused, yet very flexible and fluid.
Always bring special treats for particularly beautiful or hard sections of a ride.
Sand. Gets. Everywhere.
Protect more lands. Visit them.
An experience shared is quite possibly one of the best things you can do for yourself. Taking on huge rides, creating memories, being silly—these are the things that you'll want to hold on to for a lifetime. Grab a friend, go explore. Don't waste any time, you aren't getting younger. While you're alive, be as alive as you can.