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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paradise Found: Another Day in the Outdoor Life of Geezers at Play

Mesa: "An isolated flat-topped hill with steep sides, found in landscapes with horizontal strata." Gazing across southwest Utah's  land formations from high ground—and by "high ground" I mean a hard fought pedal up the Flying Monkey, a battle of a ride just short of war against the evils of age, gravity, and arthritis—I shudder at the view, shivering from the sweat induced chill of accomplishment. Mesas...interspersed with the craggy peaks and smooth domes of Zion...fade into the haze of filth that blows in from a highly misplaced  Las Vegas. So many disconnected plains of mesas, separated by hundreds of millions of years of erosion—cubic miles of soil and rock that fills the basement of the Sea of Cortez, inch by inch. If the southwest doesn't run out of soil, and water to carry the slurry, Baja will one day be a swampy delta that connects to mainland Meh-hee-co. It's our soil; maybe we could claim it as a new state, "Tortilla Flats."

This day's ride called for The Boonster and I to ride up to the top of Flying Monkey—about a three mile grunt—and meet fellow bikers that eschew "grunts," Bobbie, Jim and Gayle, at the top. They zoomed past us in cars as we were on the last leg...literally. 

Boonie and I, soaked to the bone in our own sweat, thought it a little cool way up on the mesa top. We needed to ride to warm up, but waited patiently for Jim...always the last, always late, but so lovable we can't hold it against him.

Finally we ride, taking the Hurricane/Smith Mesa Loop road for a mile, then cutting off on a Forest Service road that yanked us out to the running cliff-line. We ditched our bikes and walked the edge, taking in far views and the backdrop of Zion. Looking cross canyon, our rogue road up to the mesa top didn't look so steep, but our legs told another story. When climbing up a mountain on a bike, on the edge of being maxed out, and even though you can't see it, a biker notices the slightest degree of incline change; I'm talking decimal points. It saps speed, taxes lungs, legs, and life itself. Last nights dinner salt and beer streams down my face...stinging eyes and smudging sunglasses to the point of being useless. Ah, retribution for an unhealthy diet.    

Walking east along the rock-capped rim, we pause every fifty feet to take in a new angle of repose...serenity, tranquility, all aplomb. Dry creek beds have lavender sand; pocked condiment rocks of mustard, orange, and burgundy add flavor and interest to our walkabout. But it's the rim that draws us back again and again.

Circling around, we find our bikes and ride on...losing precious altitude that must be repurchased later in the day if we can't make a loop of this ride. The cost will be higher...

Somewhere along the east rim our undulations come to a halt at the bottom of a dry wash. Almighty Zion looks soft in the distance, almost surreal.  Kolob road is barely visible in the canyon bottom...stringing it's way toward the Glory of Zion's less traveled backside. As mentioned, I have a dream of making this a loop ride, one that ends back at our RV park in Virgin. Kolob road is the key to our return, but does our path ever find it? We ride on, curious as kids, trying to bare in mind that every foot of our merry descent might have to be regained if the dream peters out...which, of course, it does. Our bobsled run suddenly turned into a staircase, our bike ride into a hike and bike. 

I'm proud of our group, tho, they have the spirit and curiosity of a Columbus or Magellan...not afraid of failure or "monsters," not disappointed by a busted dream, not whiney at the thought of pedaling out of a hole that sucked them in, and not mad at the conspirator that suggested the route/mission.    

Our group Techy, Jim, turned me on to a GPS app for my iPhone. I had no idea the 4s even had a GPS chip in it! I downloaded the Trimble app for iPhones, and while there are some battery issues I don't care for, it does work pretty good when you finally wade through the non intuitive way it works. The above is a GPS map of our ride, starting with Boonie and I from the RV park...down highway 9 to Smith Mesa Road, up the Flying monkey switchbacks to the rim where we met Bobbie, Jim and Gayle. An abrupt right put us on our dirt path along the rim, as you can see by the close elevation lines, and then down, down, down to where we decided it was time to turn around and face the "music."

Jim, Boonie, and I, decided to ride down the Monkey. You can see where we broke away from Smith Mesa Road and shot cross country for a few more thrills in the hills, which landed us back in Virgin. A really cool app, but a battery sucker. I need a solar charger to keep the battery up for outings longer than 6 hours, tho. I'm sure someone makes a small "backpacking" charger...

Peace out from Paradise, 
the rv gang...outdoors and loving it.


  1. Having sold our full suspension mountain bikes when we left home 5+ years ago I had forgotten how much fun it was. Of course, the trails out here are more rocky instead of covered in roots and thankfully the views are far and away more spectacular.

    That said, it has been a blast and with any luck I will survive the experience. There is hardly anything better than a fast downhill and more importantly riding and hiking with hail fellows well met. That last was for Boonie's entertainment.

    Bobbie continues to inspire me in the hopes that I can stay on the bike uphill a bit longer.


  2. Great shots especially number 21. Fantastic to be able to ride in such beautiful country and with good weather. Make the most of it.

  3. Nice bike ride! Our hiking app works in airplane mode because it's using a GPS signal. This way it doesn't pull on the battery. We can go 10+ hours on our phone battery. You probably can just use the airplane mode, as well.

  4. You folks sure are having a heckuva good time out there. Stupendous photos and stories of all those rockbound adventures. But these vicarious thrills I'm getting are killing me at the same time. We're having highs in the 30s on Sunday with 50 mph winds. On the other hand, we do have lots of leaves to rake. :)

    Joe (in Maryland)

  5. Ain't erosion grand! There is a solar backpack with USB plugs.

  6. While standing on the edge of a Mesa, looking out in the distance, trying to wrap the mind around the unspoiled vastness, I understand the need to get closer to the edge. Great photo's of the hiking and biking of the RV gang. It's fun to watch you guys enjoy the area around Zion. Thanks for sharing...
    John Q

  7. While standing on the edge of a Mesa, looking out in the distance, trying to wrap the mind around the unspoiled vastness, I understand the need to get closer to the edge. Great photo's of the hiking and biking of the RV gang. It's fun to watch you guys enjoy the area around Zion. Thanks for sharing...
    John Q


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