November 12, 2017

UT: Gooseberry & St. George

Great riding adventures always happen when Evan and I align our schedules. We worked things out for a three day weekend up on Gooseberry Mesa and the surrounding area of SW Utah. He brought his buddy, Basil, and I roped Sam into another Utah adventure.

Sam and I arrived first, sometime after 11p on Thursday and set off to find a good camping spot. Our first two choices were already. We managed to find a small area nestled between sites on either side of us. Perfect. Evan and Basil arrived about an hour later.

The following morning we dialed up a route through the main Gooseberry trails. I was eager to ride two trails I missed during my weekend trip over Memorial Day, Hidden Canyon & Secret.

Ride 1: Gooseberry Mesa - Hidden Canyon & Secret
Welcome to Gooseberry Mesa!!

Artsy windmill. Photo by Sam (SG)

Early panorama, there would be many opportunities.
Evan cleaning a tricky corner.

Sam playing on the dunes.

Most of the moves here are short & steep.

Basil cruising the dots.

Into the Hidden Canyon playground.

Of course, much steeper than it looks.

Wonderful trail routing.

The hardtail held its own. SG

Sam on exit.
 We rode South Rim for a bit. It led us out to the edge where we joined the Secret trail and a bit of sand at the beginning. While there were a few sandy sections to negotiate, it was mostly rideable. The next few miles were fantastic as the trail meandered along the cliff's edge.
This particular bit brought your front wheel within a foot or so of the edge. Cool stuff.

My bike is ON the trail.

Amazing valley views for miles on end. SG

San Diego duo.

Carve it, Sam!!

Mountains, Mesas & Singletrack. Yes, please.
Trying to make this drop sketchier than it was!! ES

We were camped somewhere on the background mesa.

Rock rollers everywhere.

Half of the fun was seeing where the trail was routed.


Super dot marks the end.

South Rim felt like a superhighway compared to Secret.

Late afternoon camp break.

We ended up hanging around camp for a couple hours. One of our camp neighbors came over to introduce herself. Barb was down from Park City, all four of her friends bailed at the last minute but she was having none of it. She was determined to have a great time riding the trails with her dog!!

We eventually made our way back to the trails for a second ride of the day. Evan wanted to do a bigger loop, but that probably meant finishing in the dark. I wasn't too keen on night riding over this type of terrain, so Sam and I peeled off a bit early for a shorter loop.

Ride 2: More Gooseberry - North Rim Loop
Golden hour creeping over the Goose.

Sam on the North Rim trail.

Zion was all lit up for us.
Basil's on crack. ES

Sam & I made it back to camp just as the final rays of light disappeared.

We kicked back, cracked open a couple of beers and watched the sun dip below the mesa. A few minutes later Even & Basil showed up. We were surprised to see them so soon. I guess the loop rode a bit faster than they expected.

Evan mentioned that we may be camped next to pro mountain biker, Ryan Leech. I had heard of him and seen a few videos, but Sam was really enjoying the news!! He subscribes to Ryan's videos and pulled up his Facebook page just as a fresh photo was posted. A sunset over Gooseberry Mesa!! 'Hey, that sure looks like the sunset we're looking at right now!' I told Sam to shoot him a message and see if he wants a beer. A few minutes later he responded asking if we had a campfire, nope, no fire ring at our site. Only a camp stove or four!! Next thing we knew, Ryan had come over to say hello and invited us to hang out at his camp, which now had a blazing campfire. Cool.
It's not everyday that you get to hang out with a pro rider and BS about bikes and roadtrips for hours.
Barb was there too and had no idea who Ryan was. It was funny to watch her as she found out about Ryan being a pro rider. He's a genuinely good guy of our sport. In spite of all the years of touring and doing shows, he hadn't really ridden a ton of trails while out on the road. We gladly offered up good rides to do while out driving around as he is now trying to fit local rides into his travels.

The next morning I finally was able to track down Scott & Eszter for a ride. We'd meet them over at Wire Mesa for a spin before heading down to St. George for the afternoon.

Ride 3: Wire Mesa
Truck loaded...but wouldn't start!! At least we could easily get my car in position for a jump.
Our dusty shitshow arrived a few minutes late, but we were ready to roll. There's a new-ish side trail leading to Wire Mesa from the dirt road, so of course we opted to check it out. It only adds about 2 miles round trip and is routed well.
Ez getting her rock fix early on.

Sam on the return down the same rocky section. Photo by Basil.

Watch out for the single strand of barbed wire!! Barbed Wire Mesa??

If only the views were better here...

There may be some truth to the rumor that wonderfully terrible ideas are hatched when Scott & I ride together. Photo by Eszter.

How is that much air-time even possible?? :)

Everyone gets a pano!! Basil here.

ScampLife duo!!

Sam getting his monies worth for his first visit here.

Evan likes to color outside the lines and this is a good thing.

Scott riding to shouts of photo op instructions by 5 people!!

'I bet you could scramble down there and find water.'
Wire Mesa is a hoot. It seems to ride best in a clockwise direction, a bit of climbing to start, then fast flowy stuff in the middle and finishes with some technical rock sections after you're warmed up.

It was great to get a spin in with Scott & Eszter, keep an eye on their blogs to see where they're off to next!! Never disappoints.

We were ready for lunch and I had been hyping the burgers at Little Creek Station, yes, it's a Chevron gas station in Apple Valley!! The Station didn't let us down.
That'll do.
Our second ride on the day would have us looking for a trail called: Kentucky Lucky Chicken. No joke. The name alone made us want to ride it!!

We zigzagged through some neighborhood streets then found our steep turnoff to the trailhead that was located 2/3 up the side of a small mountain. I was a bit hesitant to take the Juke up the loose rocky road, but I managed to find a route through.

On our way up we saw a hiker coming down the side of the road. It appeared, from a distance, that they were walking with a cane and not overly steady. As we neared the hiker we could see it was an older lady who was having some difficulty finding her balance. She appeared drunk!! We slowed to a crawl as we came up next to her. She bobbled, stepped backwards a few times into the road and fell down. Sam jumped out to see if she was ok and then we realized she was out of water, her giant 8oz bottle was bone dry!! We got some water into her and were going to give her a ride down the hill after turning around at the trailhead 100 feet ahead. Two trail runners came down in the meantime and offered to get her down safely. That could've been a really bad outcome had no one been around. It was a warm afternoon and there wasn't much activity on the mountain. She clearly underestimated the terrain and heat.

Ride 4: St. George - Kentucky Lucky Chicken

Hat tip from a local, ride the loop CW direction.

Well contoured & graded climb up the switchbacks with some tech features thrown in for good measure.

A little Google-fu as Evan climbs a rock feature.


Hey Scott!! This one's for you!! SG

Coming & going.

Green valley surrounded by red cliffs. SG

All downhill from here, right?

Basil getting into the flow.

The trail winds down from the towers, but the climbing isn't done.

A bevy of tech challenges are dotted along the final mile+.

Trailhead in sight.
I'll steal Evan's line here: Kentucky Lucky Chicken > Kentucky Fried Chicken. No contest. It may only be an isolated 4 mile loop, it's well worth checking out. The climbing grades are built for mountain biking and the tech features all along the way keep you focused. Well done St. George.


Ride 5: St. George - Zen
We still had a few hours of daylight, so we boogied across town to a staging area for the Zen trail. This is one of St. George's most known trails. I had tried to mix it into a loop back in May, but the heat turned me back. That was a wise choice based on what I know now.

Zen is a technical piece of rocky singletrack with plenty of climbing and a few dicey moves. It's not signed or marked, so route finding can be problematic for some.

We started with a long gradual climb, passing by a group of people getting set to rappel into a side canyon.
First trail junction. Which way do we go??

We started down by the far green area & followed the incline next to the canyon.

Sam making his way through a boulder slot.

Ride to the light. ES

Not too many cairns along the way either. SG

Nearing the high point of the loop.

Evan had the most clearance!! :) Photo by Basil
High above the Three Fingers of Death!! (Not so deathly looking from up here) ES
Behold!! This is the land my bike conquers!!

The trail descends for miles over semi-technical terrain and dumps into this wash.

We reach the final 'cool down' miles along the base of the mountain in the waning daylight.
Zen, done. Ride #3 of the day, done. We headed back to Hurricane for some Mexican grub at Alfredo's A, which was a great call.

Back at camp, Barb had the fire going on this night. Ryan stopped by to see how our riding went and while we were chatting, the sky lit up. We all turned towards the east to see a bright green fireball streaking across the sky!! It was amazing, turning night into day for a brief moment.

For Sunday we had until lunchtime to squeeze in another ride before hitting the road home. Little Creek Mesa was the target since it was on the way out of Gooseberry and made sense for both the Phoenix & San Diego drives.
This thing was all decked out, super cool setup.

The man behind the training videos, Ryan Leech!! Too bad we didn't get to ride together.
Adios, Gooseberry!! Hey, isn't that an AZT sticker...
Ride 6: Little Creek Mesa
There were a couple of trails that both Evan & I had never been on, so that was the goal for the ride. Little Creek is very similar to the riding on Gooseberry, just a bit more primitive. There are no white dots to follow, only cairns to mark the way and they aren't always obvious. There's also a bit more dirt in between the slickrock sections here.
The slickrock areas are more wide open here.

I think Sam likes the rocks.

Basil making a clean run down the Waterfall feature.

Evan takes the quick approach!!

Second run.

Grit those teeth!! SG

Nice view from North Point trail.

Wedge bridge.

Across the way is Gooseberry Mesa.

Basil locked on to the rock bridge.

Evan going back for more.
The skinny B-option.

I walked it once, then decided to ride it. Photo by Basil.

Gooseberry Crew: Evan, Sam, John & Basil. SG

The slickrock was showing off its colors for us through here.

Lots of short power moves all over the place.

We wound back around to the Waterfall for another play session. ES

Sam riding the rock exit.


It's cool to have these pockets of slickrock practically in the forest.
Little Creek was the perfect ending to a long weekend of riding bikes in a cool area with rad people. I love that the Southern Utah & Colorado ride destinations are only a day's drive or less away. Now that the weather is cooling off, it's time for the long desert rides to take over. It's always prime riding season in these parts!!

Full photo album


Navajo Bridge

Colorado River south of Lee's Ferry.

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