There's something about waking up in the desert - can't put my finger on it, but the air is somehow crisp like fall back home, yet you know it's going to be hot. Maybe the time change has something to do with it. I find myself up and outside much earlier. The sun was already pounding on the tops of the red rocks, but it was cold in the Spanish Valley.
Today we planned to ride with Tim's friends from Colorado, Bill and Gary. Last night at the Moab Brewery, Bill told us that someone had recommended the Poison Spider and Golden Spike trails to him. So this morning we met and headed north across the Colorado river on US 191 toward the Poison Spider Mesa.
As we turned left onto SR 279 we passed the old uranium processing site. Yellowcake anyone? Not anymore, the site is now in the midst of what looks to be a very orderly remediation. Check out the cleanup's fact sheet sometime, I find it fascinating.
A few miles of pavement with steep canyon walls on the right and the Colorado river on the left and we were at the trailhead.
Poison Spider and Golden Spike are Jeep trails rated as difficult and most difficult on recreation maps. They loop through the Poison Spider Mesa and link up with Gemini Bridge road. On a dirt bike, most jeep trails are readily negotiable, but this is Moab and there are sections of Golden Spike that will curl your hair. The last thing I'd want to be in is a Jeep.
The trail begins as a steep dirt road with sandstone outcrops and quickly turns into full blown rock mountains. The landscape is straight out of an old western movie, with gullys, gulches, washes, cliffs and canyons. The riding is fun - a little trials action mixed with desert gassing and 'paved' hillclimbs thrown in for fun.
At some point we get separated and loop around for a while until we get every one gathered back up. This is when the real fun starts: we unknowingly wind up on the only double black diamond trail on the Poison Spider Mesa. The climbs are hairy, the descents are steep and we begin the task of lifting the bikes over some obstacles in 85 degree dry heat.
The effort is worth it. Somewhere at an altitude of about 5,200 feet (Moab is at about 4,000), we stop at a lookout point and can see the valley below south to Moab and the entrance to Arches National Park. It's spectacular.
Later we stop and hike a few hundred yards to Gemini Bridges: gigantic arches that you can walk across with the canyon floor hundreds of feet down.
The ride back to the highway is a red dirt road that climbs over the cliff adjacent to 191 and breathtakingly drops down the other side. A few miles of blacktop and we're crossing the Colorado again and heading into town.
As the sun sets in the desert, the chill is back. The cliffs cast long shadows, but the sky is clear - promising another fresh desert morning.