JayP and I often ‘chase the temps’, which probably surprisingly to many, can mean we are chasing warmth or cold, depending on the mission. We’d been putting off a trip off to St. George, Utah due to warm weather and dry trails here at home in the Teton Valley of Idaho. The only real plan we had was to leave Saturday, stop for a soak at Lava Hot Springs on our way to St. George, stop to visit a friend, and ride as much as possible. Once we were done with our visit and had some local trail info on St. George, we were on our way to riding and would spend the next seven days living out of the van with the furboys, Rippin' and Chillin', who are excellent travelers.
We rode some new trails off of the popular Jem trail, then headed up to Gooseberry Mesa to set up camp for a couple nights. Luckily, we ran into some friends from Teton Valley as we were heading the wrong way on a very rutted about-to-get-worse Jeep road trying to get to Gooseberry Mesa. They had ridden there before and showed us the way around the trails.
The following day we rode a trail which was not on the map named Gander on our fat bikes. It was super-fun twisty desert singletrack with sandstone, sand, short, steep climbs, good downhills and, of course, a lot of cactus with huge thorns.
That afternoon we headed over to Zion, which was just a stone's throw away. We set up camp then went for a ride along the quiet road and enjoyed the amazing scenery once again. By this time it was Thursday and the temps were suppose to get cooler in the area. Jay asked "Do you want to go ride the White Rim Trail in Moab?" Without hesitation, I said "Sure."
The White Rim is named for just what it is, a water eroded shelf of light colored sandstone. Honestly I think it looks like a ginormous margarita. Most people ride the White Rim in two or three days with a support vehicle. Permits are required for camping and can take up to one year to get. Some people ride it in one day, and that is what we were going to do. The riding is not overly technical, but it’s a long, 100 miles. There is sand, numerous short steep climbs, and four big hills that total 4000 feet in climbing. Combine this with the heat, carrying all your food, gear and water, and the challenge begins to add up.
We had ridden the 100-mile White Rim trail several years ago in the heat of the summer. The finish wasn't pretty that time around. This time the temps would be much cooler, which just seemed all around better.
We packed up and headed to Moab. It was snowing that night in the empty camp at Sand Flats, which is the camping area next to the well-known Slickrock trail. Friday morning we were greeted by a distant friend who recognized the boys running around (which they did a lot of). We rode a few new super fun trails with him in Moab, then headed to Canyonlands National Park to search for camp. This is where we would prepare to ride the 100-mile White Rim Trail on Saturday.
Jay decided to ride his Salsa Beargrease, named Cosmo, and I would ride Stoke’d, my Salsa El Mariachi Ti. This would help us ride more evenly together. We had a couple goals in mind this time around the White Rim; to finish before dark and to get most of the road out of the way at the start. I had a personal goal to finish in around ten hours.
Due to recent rain and possible mud we decided to drop in on the Mineral Bottom northwest side of the rim with hopes that if there were mud it would be frozen in the morning. We found a camp spot that would allow us to ride most of the road in the morning. We spread our stuff out on the picnic table and went through what we needed for our ride. Jay carried the fix-it stuff along with some extra food. I was very pleased with my Osprey backpack that allowed me to carry almost all my own water, food and clothing.
We woke at 5 AM. Jay got the coffee on and I got the breakfast sammies going. It was a brisk 30-degrees Farenheit, so we suited up in full rain gear and headed out about 6:30 AM. It was a beautiful sunrise, with the La Sal Mountains in the background and the glowing red dirt road before us. Once to the end of the dirt road, there is a 1000-foot drop stretched over a few miles of switchbacks as you drop onto the White Rim Trail. This made the first twenty miles fly by! The road is rutted and rough, but the scenery is breathtaking and makes it hard not to look around.
By 8 AM we were plenty warm and began to remove layers of clothing. The temps were perfect and the sun was shining! There was a bit of sand and frozen mud once on Mineral bottom, but the trail soon began to vary between, sand, slickrock, gravel and dirt, becoming steep and very exposed at times. After snacking all morning we stopped for a break and more substantial peanut butter, banana, bagel, and Mountain Dew. It was around 11 AM and we were at approximately mile 50. The ride was flying by.
We moved through the ride quickly, but enjoyed all the variable terrain, scenery and each other. I had to walk three parts, not any longer than 30 feet, but JayP was able to clean the entire ride on his fat bike! The views were constantly amazing; spires, balancing rocks, and history were all around. We only saw three other riders, and a few people driving the route. Two of the riders were a young brother and sister, with their dad driving the support vehicle. We thought that was super cool, but they were impressed we were riding the whole trail in a day.
The last few miles before the climb out, I started to get chainsuck pretty bad and scratched my frame. Turned out I just needed some lube. The climb out was a challenge just to look at, but I was ready for and looking forward to it! Jay got small real fast as he pulled away from me. I found pleasure in the what-seemed-to-be-never-ending maze of switchbacks and was able to pedal all the way to the top. I was stoke’d!
Jay was waiting up top for me. The sun was beginning to set and the temps were dropping. I urged Jay to go ahead. I was tired and knew I would be slow riding on the road back to the van, which was further than I thought, and probably would have known if we had a map. I got a bit cold on the way, but once I was back to the van I was so happy with our accomplishment I warmed right up! My ride time was 9 hours and 34 minutes, with a total time of 10 and half hours. Not too shabby for a last minute, 100-mile ride around the White Rim.
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Endurance cyclist Tracey Petervary is a New Jersey native residing in Victor, Idaho. She started adventure racing 18 years ago, enjoying multi-day, multi-sport team events traveling to places such as Fiji, New Zealand and across the United States. Her stable includes several bikes (MTB, road, cyclocross, commuter, fat, tandem), which allow her to ride every day of the year in any condition.