Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Porcupine Rim: Moab, Utah

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 26, 2006

Man its only 8 in the morning and its already 80 degrees, I thought to myself as we continued to rise above the Utah desert floor, as we rose the vegetation changed. The sides of the road were pornographic to me, steep angled smooth rock slats stretched as far as the eye can see, these slick rock rollercoaster’s were followed by bowls and halfpipes made of smooth orange and red rock, beautiful I kept muttering as I got more excited. The rock was layered in different colors from the years of wind, water and flash floods that ravage the desert and its harsh environment. The rode kept going up, my temperature gauge in the car read 84 degree, I thought is was supposed to be cooler here in May, every other time I had been here it was 110 degrees which greatly hinders your ability to truly enjoy yourself. I remember my first time here, I rode for maybe 1hr and then had enough. When its so hot you have to go up, there are a few trails and hiking trails in the LaSalles but it aint what mountain bikers from around the world come to Moab for.

So the only way to this trail called Porcupine Rim, 3 miles of gradual uphill then 11 miles of blistering fast downhill single track. I was already getting pumped even though the ride up is quite long, it needs to shuttled hence the reason my friend was driving me up and was going to pick me up at the bottom in the 3 hours it takes to ride this trail. My camelback was full with 100ozs of water and another 16ozs in a small bottle, should be enough, how \much water do you need when riding downhill anyway I thought. While I was gone he was going to explore Arches National Park – a true treasure though our friend Edward Abbey had a hard time coming to grips with the roads being paved – which I in fact agree with. If the roads in national parks were unpaved the traffic would be cut down to people who actually wanted to explore the parks rather then pull up in their moving hotels jump out at scenic viewpoints walk 100 yards and take a picture, then jump back in and head to the nearest McDonalds for lunch.

Map in hand I jumped out and unloaded my Jamis XLT from my roof rack. There were few kids in the parking lot and we started chatting. “Hey you riding alone?” Yeh, “why don’t you ride with us?” And so it went at least I had some people who knew the way. Turns they were also East Coast dudes, from NY Tri-State area. Mostly riding 5 inch travel trail bikes except for the one guy on a hard tail and the one dude on a dh rig. Very friendly fellows. At the trailhead they stopped for a prayer to thank G-d for what we were about to enjoy. Jesus freaks some may say, I was actually very impressed, and let them know how I felt being an orthodox Jew. Its weird when you encounter truly devout people whether they be Christian or other, usually I am terribly impressed with their demeanor. These kids were not cursing at all, not talking dirty, just being totally cool. Recently while working on this years Congressional Campaign I had the opportunity to work with some Mormons who were attending Brigham Young University, besides being very interesting, after all they opted to live in Utah rather then the more happening East Coast, thy were extremely polite, well mannered and very courteous. We spoke of religion, and I got to finally speak to a Mormon. I showed off to them that I had lived near and visited Palmyra, were John Smith supposedly had his “vision” in 1830. They were actually shall I say Mormon Baal Teshuva’s.

So anyway we began our ascent of fairly easy terrain, though since we had just started riding our muscles were not working how they should and most of us got up and walked. The ground was a mixture of yellowish sand, small cacti and smooth patches of rock. I kept thinking how awesome the trail we were walking up would be coming down. Every single small cliff or rock lip I saw I imagined my self tweaking my bike sideways and landing smoothly 20 feet later, in a cloud of dust from the takeoff.

We were at the top, a glorious view shall I say, in the distance large buttes that made the valley seem like we were 200 miles south in the famous Monument Valley Arizona. The buttes and spires rose up off the flat desert floor creating this city of rock skyscraper like view. The valley floor was covered with sage brush, and large boulders, the sun danced off the painted red and orange rock desert as far as the eye could see, it was quite lovely, I hated the fact I had opted not bring my camera, because it was so bulky, its time for a small lightweight digital camera I thought to myself, which in fact I constantly think about, but just can seem to let go of my two Pentax Me SLR cameras. Is it anti-conformity or just stubbornness I wonder constantly as do all of my friends, who wonder how I can lug around this 30 year old behemoth, and on top of that film, tripods, lenses, the whole megilla.

The wind is suddenly rushing through my shaggy mop of hair, the sweat is drying rapidly in the extremely dry Utah sun, sand is clinging to the still wet spots on my forehead. My suspension is smiling as it finally gets a workout. I switch the fork lever from 4 to 5 inches, and feel as the forks natural Viagra kicks in, size or shall I say length of travel matters greatly with regards to mountain bikes. I see in the distance the downhill guy launching off a 3 foot ledge on the side of the trail, I follow suit and land smoothly in a cloud of dust just like I had dreamed of earlier, minus the full tweaked table top of course. The speed was killing my hands from grabbing my brakes. I thought of how bad it hurt to ride Plattekill Mountain back East, especially the first time of the season, as was this downhill the first big white knuckle downhill of the season.   

I was chugging my water when I realized I might want to consereve considering I still had 6 miles to go and had chugged a lot on the way up, it was well over 100 degrees by now, and I know what they say about dry heat and all, but once it hits 100 it could be humid no matter, its hot. So hot yet so dry and that makes you drink even more. I checked my camelback and to my dismay I had only 30ozs left, that’s always problematic, on a normal ride if I drink the whole thing in under 5 hours its very rare, so here I was in the middle of the desert with barely any water left. I started to ration but by the last mile or two I decided to leave my newfound Jesus freak friends to go ahead and try and hit the road. I knew as does any one who has ever been to Moab that at the northern intersection of routes 191 and 128 there is the spring. Actually a pipe coming out of a rock that spews very good sweet spring water that is potable. Springs are the best simply put, instead of filling up the sea of empty two liter bottles that grows in the back seat on every road trip in every gas station you come to, here you have the local watering hole literally. Here is where trail conditions, whitewater conditions, local climbing routes, best trails for whatever style your looking for, best local brewpub, best eats, etc… can be found. Its like an information booth minus the brochures, like a kick ass chamber of commerce where everyone is super chill and wants to make sure you make the most of your time in Moab. Well I was out of water completely when I reached the road, my friend wasn’t there yet so I rode wearily and rather weakly along the road, I was feeling the first effects of dehydration, not good I thought. I came to pull off and asked the sightseers taking pictures if they had any water, a 16 oz bottle was produced and I drank it in one gulp. After what seemed like an endless amount of time I arrived at the spring, and sat down. I had a pounding headache and just wanted to go to sleep. I remember Danny pulling up and grabbing me some ice cold water and then it was all good, too close I said, but thank the Lord I was fine.

It was well worth it the trail had almost killed me, but I was safe with loads of memories. And so we continued into Colorado in search of greener pastures and cooler weather.

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