Day 1(62mi/100km): Moab
I was warned that the John Brown canyon road was steep and ended up pushing my bike most of the way up. A seismologist going up to the mesa was the only person I saw, still no sign that the road was passable to Moab.
Just when I got out of the canyon I discovered that this was only the start. I still had to go across the La Sal mountains.
The way down was north-facing and it was just like back on the iceroads, except I had no studs and unlike the Mackenzie river, this was downhill.
The whole reason I was here is that I've heard the name "Arches", so I wanted to see it. Moab is a tourist town, plastered with different adventure businesses offering rides, flights and tours in the surrounding canyons. I met with a local warmshowers host and two Alaskans that have escaped the bitter winter and came down here to cycle, hike and raft.
Day 2(31mi/50km): A walk in the park
I left the bulk of my gear in Moab and headed out to Canyonlands national park. There are few ways to get there and I stood at the junction debating the backroads vs the paved highway. The instructions said: turn right at jug handle arch, and so I did.
This was like a walk in the park. Not that it was easy - there was just a lot of walking! The road consisted of loose rocks, sand, big rocks and was definitely meant for ATV's, dirt bikes and very ambitious jeep drivers (one of which I saw on the way up).
Happy to see the toll booth to Deadhorse state park closed, I snuck by to see a mountain biker standing beside the road. There was a good trail system and I took one of the trails, a little rough for a loaded touring bike but it was easier than the road I took up.
Day 3(67mi/108km): The Canyonlands
I woke up at 5am and headed out to Deahorse point for the sunrise. It got its name when in the past cowboys used to round up wild horses at the point then barricade the narrow channel connecting it to the mesa. Then they picked the mustangs they wanted but left the other horses to die in the heat and lack of water.
My first stop was Mesa Arch
As I was riding on the road a car slowed down:
I saw the alaska license plate as they continued. A bush pilot and a marine biologist from Fairbanks, they had driven all the way here. A lot of alaskans do to escape the winter.
After watching the sunset over canyonlands and being warned for the 2nd time that the storm which flooded California is coming here I decided to hitch a ride back. I didn't have my rain gear and the Shafer trail road may become impassable with the water.
Day 4(0): Rest Day
I've been thinking about the Grand Canyon and hiking there, a rim-to-rim in winter may be difficult. Few online posts talk about snow up to the waist on the north side and frigid temperatures. Somebody recently gave me some money so I found a used pair of snowshoes. It's on! But first what brought me here in the first place: Arches.
Day 5(15mi/24km): The Arches
I rode out at 5am, snuck by the rangers while they were sleeping and went into Arches national park. Parked my bike at the first rest stop and started walking, the park is too big for a day's ride but hitchhiking would be better.
A couple from Arizona picked me up and I joined them for most of the day hiking and driving around the park.
Then came the famous Delicate Arch...
I watched the sunset at Delicate arch, met two students from California who can drive me back to my bike. We ended up waiting a bit more while the GoPro was taking time-lapse of the sunset only to discover that I didn't turn it on :(
We decided to grab Deadhorse outside the car and go to town. One of the highlights of the day was reading out the Chinese fortune cookies at dinner to the waitress who said, with the most awesome accent:
"I don't know man, I'm from Thailand."
Day 6(30mi/48km): Lockhart Basin
A dotted line on the Canyonlands map offered a great alternative to the highway. It was Lockhart basin road. A google search produced an image of two jeeps winching themselves up across some rocks, now that would be fun!
Moments after the turnoff I found myself pushing my bike up boulders, loose rocks and sand - at ridiculous grades. I did not even attempt to ride the bike. The only thing that got me through this mess was that image of those poor souls trying to drive jeeps across here. (And No, there would be no towing out of there!)
Sometimes the road was gone, the only thing indicating the way were rubber tracks in the stones or faint ATV prints in the sand, nobody has been here for a long time.
After two hours of walking, pushing and wondering why I am here I got out of the washes. The road improved and as I went across the bumps with a fully loaded bike (snowshoes and 15L of water as well!) I got used to it. It was fun trying to find the best line, looking out for those big stones and the moments when I stopped to look around were well worth it.
Day 7(~22mi/35km): Out there
From time to time the road got good but for the most part it was still very rough. There was always the possibility of getting off the bike and pushing. Turns out I lost a second speedometer, without the need to follow the great divide maps, this one will not be replaced.
Day 8(~54mi/87km): It's winter after-all!
A ranch on the map where I was hoping to find water was empty, aside from a friendly dog. Next place was a town some 40 miles away.
Today was an unfortunate day to find that my waterproof gear was no longer waterproof. Jacket, pants and those shoes that had held up well so far were all soaked in the wet snow.
At Monticello a senior asked me if my bike was a motorcycle, it didn't seem that he believed me when I said that it was a bicycle and after an awkward pause he told me that it will be cold tonight. He sure thought I was crazy! I set up at a closed campground in town with all my soaked gear tucked in my sleeping bag to dry.
Day 9(~72mi/116km): Mexican Hat
I felt down today, too much to worry about. The grand canyon hike would be about 70miles with no services and unike Denali, Alaska hiking in the park isn't free, so I would have to go under the radar. Or maybe it was the cold and the clouds. I was able to sit in the visitor center at Blanding to warm up and dry my clothes.
Day 9(22mi/35km): Monument Valley
On the way to Monument Valley I saw a dog beside the road feeding on a carcass. Shared some of the meat I got for the canyon hike and gave him water. I was unsuccessful at flagging down a car to see if they can call animal rescue or find someone who can take him. Down the road I saw a native selling jewelry and he told me there are many wild dogs out here.
I was also at the hill where Forrest Gump stopped his run. The grand Canyon was far and I would have to backtrack back to here anyway. Dominic offered me a ride down to Kayenta and a place to store my bike when I go hiking.
Well... why not. Hitchhike to the Grand Canyon, hike through and then back to Monument valley!