May 27, 2024

UT: Moab - Raptor Route

 I had time for one more ride while in the Moab area and I couldn't think of a better route to do than the new-ish Raptor Route off Sand Flats Rd. It's a series of trails: Eagle Eye, Hawks Glide, Falcon Flow & Kestrel Run, that gives riders coming down the Whole Enchilada route another option back to town. I'm guessing most folks shuttle it as a day ride, but I was solo and of course, don't mind climbing.

I needed to be finished around lunchtime so I wouldn't arrive back home in the desert too late since I needed to be back at work the following morning.

Quite the view driving into town from our camp. If you've never ridden in Moab, part of the famed Mag7 route is up on that cliff's edge and the Portal trail cuts down it.
I grabbed another burrito in town, then made my way up Sand Flats Rd. It is a fee area, $10 gets you in, pass is good for a week FYI. I made my way up to the trailhead at the bottom of Falcon Flow. Time to climb.

It's a well graded dirt road, some washboarding and not too much traffic this morning.
It begins fairly mellow, but there are a few pitches to elevate the heart rate. I made good time reaching the top of Falcon Flow where another rider was taking a break in the shade - I didn't notice her at first until she said it was time for the downhill!! Nope, I'm going all the way up. Have fun!!

Really nice contoured grade through here.
Then the road kicked skyward. Oof. You know it's steep when they pave a section of the dirt road. There were two such sections and I'm happy to report I didn't stop once. I think my fitness has finally turned a corner, elevation acclimation felt good too. Don't get me wrong, it was a grind.

I reached the Whole Enchilada route before 10:30a, making good time for a change.

Iron Ranger at the top too, for those riding in from above.

I had to make the short 0.2 mile ride over to the LPS trail...

...because of this. This, right here. All-time classic shot anywhere.

Castle Valley close-up.

The Raptor Route is now an official option to close out the Whole Enchilada. Is it worth it? Let's find out.

I love the tight, twisty, fast sections like this.

Eagle Eye was first up and started with fast swooping forest singletrack, then some famous slickrock.

Views of the snow capped La Sal Mtns. were a nice touch.

Cool dead tree & slickrock.

Shade break if you need it.

This trail had a little bit of everything, good Moab sampler.

Plenty of signage too. Now on to Hawks Glide.

Yeah, this is gonna be good.

Tree archway!! We aren't too far from Arches Nat'l Park.

Endless views as the trail hugged and contoured the side slope.

Mini Bell Rock approaching.

Here, a series of rock-armored switchbacks take you down.

You've been warned. It wasn't too bad though, a couple spots I halted to see what lie ahead, but was able to ride all of it.

Snowy La Sals still visible here as is Sand Flats Rd. from earlier in the ride.

Nice rock work on the Hawks Glide runout.

A short overlap on Sand Flats Rd. brought me to the start of Falcon Flow.

It begins with a short climb on the hillside.

Then has a more backcountry feel as it bends away from Sand Flats Rd.

Sweeping shelf ledge riding here.

Look!! More slickrock. Shocker, I know.

I really enjoyed the routing of this trail.

What a backdrop!! A short rip through this meadow brought you to a short, semi-technical climb. It was a good challenge. No dabs.

Ok, I stopped for one photo on the way up.

Another short climb ensued, but this one was smooth.

More crappy scenery.
Somewhere in here I saw a couple of riders up ahead. I could see they were pushing their bikes up an incline. When I approached, I could see why, it was a stout grade. I kept a good tempo going and made the top. I was taking a short break when the riders caught up, two kids around 15 years old. One kid definitely looked like he was fairly experienced while his buddy was sure to tell me this was his first ever mountain bike ride!! I told him he was doing great and that last hill was a tough one. If you get through this ride and don't hate mountain biking or your friend, it's the sport for you!!
Huge slickrock switchback, so grippy.

Yep, this was a fast section.

Again, good signage at the road crossings.

Nearing the end of Falcon Flow.

Still time for more downhill fun though.
I took a look at the time and decided I could do the upper section of Kestrel Run to where it crossed Sand Flats Rd. It went another 2 miles or so, but would require climbing a steep section on Sand Flats. Plus, it was getting a bit warm and I still had the long drive home ahead of me. Am I really starting to make sound life decisions while riding??? Who is this guy??
Enter into the rock dunes.

You get to create your own postcards here.

Sticks and blue dots mark the trails here.
I reached Sand Flats Rd. and made the short ride back to my car. Heck, I actually finished the ride about the time I had planned. Whoa. Talk about an anomaly.

Anyway, the Raptor Route exceeded all expectations and is a worthy ride all on its own. Highly recommended. I'm sure I'll be dumb enough to ride the Whole Enchilada, peel off and do the Raptor Route, then climb back up to LPS to finish the Whole Enchilada proper. The more I think about it, the more awesome it sounds.


Hmmm, what is this? It's a new development, Lionsback Resort, practically right before the Slickrock trailhead.

I thought this was cool. The pic itself is nothing amazing, but I snapped it in Blanding, UT. Ute Peak is in CO, Shiprock in NM and Pastora Peak in AZ. That's the four corners for those scoring at home.

Google routed me a different way across the Navajo Reservation. Indian Route 15, while a bit bumpy, was spectacular.

I-40 is so boring compared to this.
I made fairly good time getting home and actually arrived before 9p. Crazy. What a fun, whirlwind weekend with great friends, new outdoor pursuits and incredible riding. Until next time...ride on.

May 26, 2024

UT: San Rafael River Packraft

 I left the Strempke's place early, bound for Green River where I'd meet up with Scott and Lindsay for a hike and packraft loop. But first, a quick stop in Moab for a burrito from Giliberto's. Oh my, that was tasty!!

I've been wanting to try packrafting for a while now. I've only been in one once, but that was up on Molas Lake just floating around, not actually trying to steer down a river. When Scott proposed this, I couldn't resist. He has all the extra gear, except a third backpack - once again Andrew to the rescue. Without hearing the route, I did have images in my head of strapping my bike to the packraft and doing a ride, float, ride loop. But Scott knew better for this route, it would be a hike, float, hike loop on one of his favorite rivers, when floatable, the San Rafael.

The breakdown was this: 7 mile hike, 10 mile float and a mile trek back to the start. Let's go!!

Scott & Lindsay picked up some decent gas station burritos at the Maverick in Green River. We made our way down I-70 and its 80 mph speed limit in no time. It was odd to have an interstate exit that wasn't an exit at all, rather a dirt road you simply pulled off on. Strange, but cool and convenient.

All loaded up, we made our way along Black Dragon Rd for a couple of miles.

We were on the fringe of the San Rafael Swell and the rock gawking commenced early on.

Small detour to the Black Dragon Pictograph site. Not sure the white outline was needed, but these were really cool to see after a short scramble up a loose trail.

Sure looks like a dragon to me.

Not sure what's going with this creature.

Looking back down the canyon from the pictograph perch.

I'm sure there's an interesting story here.
We were cruising along on the sandy road, only got passed by a handful of OHV users. I thought we'd encounter more. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Scott starts climbing a rocky hillside. This is the way. Good thing he had a track loaded because calling it a footpath is mighty generous, yet there was some semblance of a path.

Follow the path!! ???

This is an interesting shot. The flat area in the upper left below the mesa is I-70. The dirt road we started hiking on meanders in the center distance. Meanwhile, we gained a layer of geology.

See? There really is a path!! And another layer to gain.

Proper trail hiking!! Photo by Scott.

Steep up to gain the ridge. Photo by Scott.

Time to find a way down.

The wash below is our target.

Check your fear of heights at the door. Photo by Scott.

We found an occasional cairn helping with route finding.

Yep, it was steep and loose.

It was still hard to believe we were hiking through this terrain in search of a river.

Down in the wash, the hiking mellowed out.

Rock flow frozen in time.

Flat, slickrock area of the wash.

Caught this cool collared lizard posing.

This appeared to be a recent collapse. The gray-ish color of the rock surprised us.

Scott proclaimed we were only half a mile from the river. We were all ready to get in and float the afternoon away.

We found some shade in the Tamarisk to inflate the boats.
Hard to believe, but this was going to be my first time in a boat on a river. Scott gave Lindsay and I, she had been on a few trips before, so not a complete noob like me, a few tips on anticipating the turns and generally just try to keep the boat down the middle. And don't worry too much about getting too close to the sides, it'll happen.

Of course one of the tricky things to do is getting in/out of the boat. The launch was fairly anti-climatic, which was a good thing. I was in!!

Lindsay gets in and takes off down probably the swiftest section of the entire day. Might as well start with a bang, eh? Photo by Scott.

It almost looks like I know what I'm doing. Photo by Scott.

It took a while before I felt comfortable getting my phone out for a pic. For some reason, my settings got switched and I ended up with this warp speed effect, which turned out kinda cool. I fiddled with the phone for a moment in the sun to get my settings back to normal.

Already worth the price of admission. Yowza!! Photo by Scott.

This was our general view for the 10 miles. Calm, chocolate milk water, lined with Tamarisk and views of the surrounding cliffs / rock formations. Perfect.

That's a turn I don't want to bounce off of.
For the most part, I picked it up fairly quick. Of course there were a turn or two where I hesitated just long enough that I didn't have enough runway to correct the turn. It was a definite learning curve, but it was very engaging, yet not stressful. Learning new stuff is cool.

Never a dull moment out here.

The river was flowing around 4 mph, good pace, I thought.

Oars up!! Taking a moment to just float and soak it all in. Photo by Scott.

Aside from the entry, this was the only other section that sped up. Fun!!

Interesting pyramid markings on the cliffs.

Towering cliffs, good sense of scale to my dot on the water. Photo by Scott.
We were about halfway along and Scott knew a place to take the boats out for a lunch break. There were more petroglyphs too. It was a great way to break up the action.
A little difficult to see on the sun drenched walls.

Prickly Pear showing off.

Our 'beach'.

The rocks becoming a bit less dramatic.

I think the only time I was in the lead. Haha.

The second half of the river had a long section where we couldn't see any rock formations, only Tamarisk.

After 10 miles, our river journey came to an end.
There was some gooey mud that tried sucking my sandals off my feet, but otherwise it wasn't too bad getting up & out of the river. The next task at hand was packing up the rafts and finding our way through the sea of Tamarisk to a nearby dirt road. That stuff is thick!!

Back out in the open, only a one mile hike back to the car.
I had a feeling I'd enjoy packrafting, been wanting to try it for a while now. Thanks again to Scott for leading the way and loaning the gear to get it done. Now I have something else to buy!! There are a few good floats near home that come to mind and hopefully I'll get to do them with my bike. Ooh, bikerafting. Yes, please.

Early morning view from camp a few miles north of Moab.