Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

2017 Revival of the Moab Canyons Endurance Ride

October 31 2017

"We are the lucky ones!" - ride manager Sheri Griffith

I got two words for the Moab Canyons Endurance ride: Spec. Tacular.

Even if you aren't infatuated with Utah's red canyon country, you just aren't quite human if you aren't overawed as you ride beneath and around imposing, towering red sandstone buttes and monoliths and spires, in the bottom of twisting hidden golden-cottonwood-lined canyons, and over white navajo sandstone slickrock overlooking the entire geological picture. It's simply a magical experience on horseback.

Back by popular bucket-list demand, October 27-29 saw the revival of the Moab Canyons 3-day ride outside of Moab, Utah, after a 4-year absence. It's a massive undertaking for someone with a high threshold for stress (that is, ride manager Sheri Griffith): marking 150 miles of big loop trails in Big Canyon country, recruiting volunteers, dealing with the gargantuan task of providing water in the desert (2 two-tank trucks hauled water constantly from Moab - a 40-mile round trip - into the desert, to ridecamp and water troughs out on trail) and expense, and a whopping number of riders, much more than expected… and not to mention two loose horses one night and a harrowing rescue of one, one lost rider that wasn't found and fetched till well after dark. Around 118 riders (both distances) started Day 1, around 112 started Day 2, and 96 started Day 3 (plus 14 Intro riders). Wow!

Ridecamp was in its same spot, at an old cow camp on the flats, with a fine sandstone hill standing guard. Over the days, ridecamp grew into a small city. It got so big that I never even saw some friends who were there riding!

The Moab area has become (over) popular with bikers and off-roaders, and the BLM was very happy to have horses on the trails, and particularly this 3-day endurance ride. Campers were entertained, waking to horses riding by their motorhomes and campsites, and motorcycles and ATVers and bikers we met on trail were always polite and pulled over for us. One group of motorcyclers helped rescue the lost rider, driving all the way out to our ridecamp to let ride management know.

We three Idaho Crick ladies were thrilled to be here with gallant steeds: Steph/Smokey, Carol/August, me/Steph's Standardbred Hillbillie Willie. Willie, former racehorse, was agog at this remarkable country. He has taken to the trails so well, I'm sure that in a former life he was a cow horse in the West. Maybe even an outlaw's getaway horse. Possibly both. And this country is where some of the famous outlaws roamed - Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.

The trails for Day 1 (55 miles) and Day 2 (50 miles) were the same as the 2013 event, but just as awe-inspiringly Spec. Tacular. (We didn't ride Day 3.)

Day 1 took off into the sunrise above the La Sal mountains, to and all the way around the base of the boringly-named but massively impressive 900-foot high "Big Mesa", through the bottom of the hidden and twisting slickrock of Surprise Canyon, alongside another long impressive mesa, to a refreshing lunch for beasts and humans (catered lunches for us!).

Loop 2 headed west and dropped down into white slickrock country around Spring Canyon where outlaws most surely hid out, just around the next draw.

Day 2 travelled along the western face of Big Mesa, down the golden cottonwood-laced Bartlett Wash, then climbed up onto the upper layer of the white Navajo sandstone slickrock, where we had the most spectacular view of how this country formed: the softer upper Navajo sandstone eroding and dissolving into the twisty little canyons, and detaching little muffin tops that eventually separate, then fall apart and disintegrate and mix with the rest of the desert sand.

Just before lunch we rode along the rim of a red mesa and looked down upon the scene below that we'd be riding after lunch, another massive mesa, Lost World Butte.

Dropping off the mesa (on the gently sloping side) to lunch beneath The Needles, where a too-cute dog worked his food hustle, we then headed for that lost world we'd seen, riding along a shelf layer beneath the cliff we'd gazed from before lunch, then dropping onto the desert floor to circumnavigate the lone Lost World Butte.

Moab is always a good challenging ride, 155 miles over soft jeep roads, single track trails, sand, deep sand, sandstone, and crammed with eye-aching splendiferous colors of red, pink, salmon, maroon, cinnamon, vermillion, crimson, white; and always the jaw-dropping cliffs and canyons to leave you gawking in reverential awe. We were indeed the lucky ones.

It was a terrific birthday week, no better place to be! - great ride, awesome scenery, fine companions, phenomenal horses.

Photos and more on the ride at:

*fabulous top photo of Day 2 by Steve Bradley!