Before I go into the details of the trip, let me tell you a bit about how the trip came about...
Chris and I have been wanting to do a multi-day bikepacking trip for quite some time. In November we attempted to do White Rim in two days, had our bikes and gear packed up, and got stopped by 6 inches of unexpected morning snow. After Chris's first trip on the Kokopelli trail last year, we talked about doing the trail as a three or four day trip... one day far off in the distance. Both of us thought we'd get White Rim done first, see how it went, and then get bigger from there. After all, White Rim is only 100 miles and fairly nontechnical. Soooo... Chris emailed me at work two weeks ago, said our friends Bill and Nicolette wanted to do a three day, self-supported trip on the Kokopelli and had asked us to come. Was I interested? Umm, ok, why not? (as I've come to realize, if you ask me to do just about anything... out in the world... the quiet, quiet, world... while I'm surrounded by tattling 1st graders, I will most likely jump at the chance without much thought). Before I knew it, Memorial weekend came, and we were heading off with packs of gear and bikes loaded. Wait. What? I agreed to what? My furthest bike ride was... ummm... maybe 30 miles before this?? Sh*t
Day One shall be forever known as The Day Of The MudBikeMonsters.
After waking up early in the Super 8 in Fruita, Bill, Nicolette, Chris, and I ate some hotel breakfast, and drove to the trailhead in Loma. The morning was a bit hazy, with obvious rain threats in the skies. The temperature was coldish and I huddled in the car with all of my warm clothes on for as long as possible.
Finally we rolled out of the parking lot onto the familiar road leading to Mary's Loop. We were all pumped up, and super excited to ride. At this point, I'd resigned myself to the fact that I was going to do this, and it would only be harder if I had a bad attitude about it. So I got excited and Chris and I took off down the trail. We would stop now and then and look back for B&N (how they will be known now so as not to type their names a million times).
After waiting for a while at some point, they caught up and we realized that Bill had been going to battle with his paniers. He would continue this battle the entire ride, but he got much quicker at fixing them on the fly.
The Kokopelli Guide Book calls the first 13 miles "the most technical and singletrack-intensive of the entire trail" and "fast & exciting." I would agree with the technical, intensive, and exciting parts. I have a bone to pick with the "fast" part.
It took us 6 hours to do these 13 miles.
And not because of the technical aspects of the trail.
Because of the mud.
Once on Troy Built Loop, the clouds opened up ever so slightly and we got drizzled on.
After seeing the cloud that we were headed into, Chris and I both put on our rain jackets only to have the rain immediately stop. Bah. Lucky for us (ha), the rain came back in a little bit more of a drizzle. This is when the problems started. The dirt compound that makes up the trail, apparently, when mixed with water, turns into a wet cement type mixture and makes your bike look like this:
And your shoes look like this:
When that happens, hubby hikes his own MudBikeMonster up a hill, turns around to laugh at wife who is basically going nowhere with hers, then slops down and carries hers up for her:
I have the sweetest husband in the whole world. He would haul my bike up many a brutal hike-a-bikes on this trip, much to my sheer amazement and delight.
Anyway. After the mud slog up the hill, the rain stopped and we had to take time to clean the now hardening-cement-mixture from our bikes. Chris found an old piece of truck. I used a piece of wood. Our goal was to get them rolling as the sun had now come out and we didn't want to lose any more time on our first day. Soon we got them rolling and we limped them down to Salt Creek where we took another cleaning break. In all, we estimate we must've lost at least two hours to the MudBikeMonster alone. There's nothing better than hearing your bike make a whiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrr sound instead of a ccrrrunchcrunchcrunch sound.
We were excited to get our bikes running. Then we had to hike our now slightly mud-heavier bikes up a big hill. That was fun -- ummm, not. Beautiful for sure though. I've never seen such pretty flowers.
Luckily at the top the trail opens up and we had a great time blasting down the dirt path paralleling the highway. Soon we climbed up a road and stopped part way up to eat some lunch. I laid down, happy to be flat as my back and shoulders were not pleased to have this pesky thing called weight on it. A warmish subway sandwich and pringles never tasted so good.
From here we continued on through Rabbit Valley, got passed by a lot of dirt bikers and 4-wheelers, and even crossed the Colorado/Utah boarder. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I've never crossed a state line on a bike before, and I was super happy to see a sign (otherwise I would make one myself).
At this point the pesky rear disc brake rub that I had gotten "fixed" earlier in the week came back and between that and a dry MudBikeMonster chain, I felt as if I was fighting the bike with every pedal stroke.
We stopped and lubed the chain, but I was getting tired and the rest of the day is sorta a blur. I remember cruising through to the intersection with the paved road at Westwater and feeling a little worried about what the rest of the trip would entail. I tried really hard not to look up at the LaSal mountain range, knowing full well that I had to go through those to get to my destination. But then we hit the paved road and amazingly life started looking up.
There's nothing like a few mile decent on pavement to perk up anyone's attitude. Chris and I flew down the road, perking up, holding hands, excited that we were so close to our camp for the night.
Soon we found the ranger station. Found water. Found bathrooms. Found camp right next to the calm, but quick moving river. I immediately took of my shoes, laid down flat for a few minutes, muscled up the energy to get up and put my feet in the cold river. Life was good. Chris set up our tent and B&N set up theirs, and soon my superb tour guide/husband had dinner started and a bed made. We hung out, ate some amazing chicken/rice/veggie burritos (YUM), recapped the day's MudBikeMonster events, and soon crawled happily into our respective tents. Luckily for me, I was bunking with the guy who even brought graham crackers, nutella, and marshmallows for easy s'mores. It was sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.
Then we passed out in our tents.
Ok, Chris passed out. Bill apparently passed out. Nicolette struggled to sleep. I slept, but had severe leg cramps every time I'd try to move, and probably didn't sleep more than a few hours total.
But I made it through day 1.
A hard day 1, made even harder by the MudBikeMonster.
But I made it.
Farthest and longest mountain bike ride of my life. And I was supposed to get up and repeat for the next two days.
Somehow I was still smiling.