Crested Butte, Fruita and Moab

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We were very excited to check out Crested Butte, but we knew it was rather late in the season… I had taken notes from Pedaladventure’s great post on that fun adventure town, but we ended up just exploring it on foot and Westfalia instead of riding the trails (already covered in snow).

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We boondocked here a few nights, near Almont.

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And woke up to this!

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It was beautiful… but a bit cold for camping.

Desperate for some good riding, we headed to Fruita where we had been in the Spring, but had only explored one sector (18 Road). This time, we checked them all and loved them (here’s  another post by Pedaladventure on Fruita  if you want more info).

Desperate for some good riding, we headed to Fruita where we had been in the Spring, but had only explored one sector (18 Road). This time, we checked them all and loved them (here’s another post by Pedaladventure on Fruita if you want more info).

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In Fruita, we rode some great trails in the Kokopelli trail system.

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Then, we went to explore the Rabbit Valley area, still technically in Fruita, but closer to the Utah border.

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And rode this amazing trail all around the rim you see down there (called Western Rim).

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It’s now in my top 3 trails.

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You can see the Colorado River down there.

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We also rode a few trails on 18 road (still Fruita) for Mathilde’s birthday (we love PBR, Joe’s Ridge and Mojo).

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That’s Joe’s Ridge. Simply amazing.

That’s Joe’s Ridge. Simply amazing.

And of course, we went to Moab (I wrote so much about Moab, just do a search in the location bar and you’ll find plenty). We had a chance to connect with friends there since it is that time of year where many of us converge to this area. Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

And of course, we went to Moab (I wrote so much about Moab, just do a search in the location bar and you’ll find plenty). We had a chance to connect with friends there since it is that time of year where many of us converge to this area.
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

JF and Mathilde on Ramblin Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

JF and Mathilde on Ramblin
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Me on Chisholm Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Me on Chisholm
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Mara on Big Mesa Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Mara on Big Mesa
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Our group on Big Mesa. Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

Our group on Big Mesa.
Photo by Ching from Live Small Ride Free

As I’ve shared here before, one of our girls wants to go to school, have external academic and biking motivation, deadlines, a schedule, to be graded… She is an organizer that thrives on structure. She makes lists, plans and wants to know what’s coming. Her Christmas gifts are ready weeks in advance.... You get the idea...

I was hoping that providing as much structure as possible with a Google calendar and online classes with clear external deadlines, timed tests and grades would satisfy her… But she says she’s done with life on the road. She wants stability. A totally normal desire. We knew it would very likely come, but still hoped it might not. Of course, it is out of the question to leave her with friends or family and keep travelling. It's not an option for us. We travel to have more time together.

A few people have asked us why we would settle down if one child wants to settle down and another one wants to keep traveling. Why would we put more importance on the desire to settle down than on the one to keep on traveling? Is is because it is what is expected or more *normal*? Teenagers need a group of peers, need space from their parents, etc. Of course, their life on the road provides plenty of that with bike teams and races, tons of friends of all ages we meet along the road, lots of time alone either in the bus while the others are gone riding or time alone on rides, daily texting with friends, etc… but it’s not the same as being in one fixed location.

So, this is our work right now: finding out what is fear of not offering a normal teenagehood to our girls and what is sticking to our family values and the needs of the other members of the family?

Some might philosophically say that kids will be angry at their parents nonetheless, that they will turn out fine anyways, that we adapt to anything… and there is truth to that of course, but these are key years in one’s life and I don’t want to rob them of these important years. We have a huge decision on our hands...

Another very important aspect of this decision is my mental health. I’ve talked about it here before. I take meds all year round and use my light therapy glasses everyday of the fall and winter EVEN on the road during Arizona winters. I need to be active outside in the sun almost everyday to keep anxiety and depression at bay. The first winter I spent in the south in my entire life was a game changer: I realized I could feel good all year, have energy and drive to do things and not wake up with an elephant on my solar plexus and struggle to get out of bed. I was 35. And I never looked back. Since then, I spent one winter in Quebec and it was really hard. You’ll tell me winter is hard on you too, but when you suffer from SAD, it’s a different level of hard. I don’t ever want to go through this again. Especially not when my girls are going through a major transition like entering high school.

So yes, this is a big factor and a top priority. It might sound egocentric, but if I’m sick, nothing is going to work. So yes, we could veto another 3 years on the road and tell our daughter that we will make sure she has high quality online classes and that she can settle down in 3 years when she goes to University. But that doesn’t feel right to force her into that life against her will… but then, settling down means forcing her sister into a life she doesn’t want either… And that’s where we will have to make a hard decision.

It’s no secret that we are not excited about settling down (we don't even know WHERE we would settle down at this point, but it would very likely be in Canada). Settling down means finding a home base and furnishing it (we have a big dog and finding a furnished rental is very unlikely). We don’t own anything anymore. Settling down IS a big deal. This bus is the home in which I lived the longest in all my life. I don't want to sell it. Same for the Westy. But in the North, these are not winter vehicles and need to be put in storage when not in use… And problems show up… Which also means that we'll need a car (or two) and another job to pay for it all…

So, it’s not a matter of simply *trying it for a year*. If we settle down, it will likely be at least for the next 4 years (or until our youngest is done with high school)... because we won’t turn things around again. Especially since the daughter who wants to settle down wants to do it because she is done leaving friends behind.

A part of me wants to believe that we can turn this into an adventure… If we find an interesting school in a new location where we can live in the bus for part of the year (and maybe an AirBnB for the few colder winter months…), that maybe could work. But the other part of me is like: are you crazy? No friends or family around in such a tough transition. No way!

And I dream of Europe...

I’m sure many of you wonder why I share all this personal stuff here. There are a few reasons. First, this is how I think. By sharing ideas and listening to feedback. It helps me frame my ideas and make sense of it all. Also, and above all, I feel like there are not many families on the road with teenagers and I know I wanted to hear their stories when my girls were smaller, so that’s mainly why I share mine here. It’s the same reason why I started blogging 10 years ago: to connect with likeminded people who questioned the mainstream path. There is less and less of us on that path when the children turn into teenagers and I feel like we need to hear the voices of these parents, their worries, their reflexions and yes, their fears… Because as much as we exude confidence, when you make a choice that is outside the norm, the fears are always there in the back of your mind, nagging. But you turn away from them and look at your teenagers and see that so far, you have done a decent job and that maybe you know the path… against all odds.

I have so much to say about this different life we live together that I am writing a book right now. If you feel encline, let me know in the comments what you would like to find in that book.

Mary Jane Canyon and some Moab updates

Driving on Ranch rd/BLM 98 to get to Mary Jane Canyon. What a view!

Driving on Ranch rd/BLM 98 to get to Mary Jane Canyon. What a view!

After about 5 minutes of walking on the trail, you have to get your feet wet!

After about 5 minutes of walking on the trail, you have to get your feet wet!

And it just gets better.

And it just gets better.

The sandstone is so red it's almost purple and when you walk in the water, it looks like there is blood around your feet.

The sandstone is so red it's almost purple and when you walk in the water, it looks like there is blood around your feet.

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Finally found a quiet camping spot about 25 minutes out of Moab. With a gorgeous view of the  Fiery Furnace .

Finally found a quiet camping spot about 25 minutes out of Moab. With a gorgeous view of the Fiery Furnace.

Silence. Finally. After days of constant OHV noise.

Silence. Finally. After days of constant OHV noise.

If you type Moab on the Home page search bar of the blog, you'll see a ridiculous number of posts pop up. We just love Moab and have been coming here every year for the last 5 years. The more helpful post for bike trails and general info that I wrote is this one and this one contains more photos or trails (all the info is still good, except that the coffee at Bike Fiend was NOT good this year, stick to Moab Coffee Roasters and the good cheap laudromat by the Village Market and Chili Pepper Bike shop is not a Domino Pizza and you are left with very few options for laundry... We ended up going to Moab Laundry (that we call the Gringo Laundromat, because it's pack full with travelers and it's ridiculously cheap and the driers take forever to dry... buuut, it's right by the City Market AND Gearhead (where you can fill your jugs with delicious spring water for free), so we can kill 3 birds with one stone.

Coming here every year for a while also means that we have seen the effects of more and more people camping on the public lands and that every year, we camp a little further away... Last year, we stayed on Dalton Wells Road since Willow Springs Road was packed and this year, after spending a few very noisy days on Dalton Wells with people riding and racing their OHV all day long in front of our bus, we moved further out of town.

There has been lots of discussions on Instagram lately among the vanlifers about the repercussions of sharing the exact coordinates of these free campsites (and other beautiful locations). Many of us feel directly responsible for drawing crowds there (and some of us truly are... I know I am for at least a few spots I first reviewed on Campendium). It’s a complex issue and many of us stand on the fence here. We’re not a select little group who should be the only ones to have access to this information. HOWEVER, as Kerri McHale (@asolojourner) says: “There’s surely enough info already out there to get anyone’s feet wet; even if every single one of us stopped geotagging today. (…) This land is open to everyone, and everyone’s free to explore it. We’re not putting up “no trespassing” signs; were just not putting up neon arrows to the road here”.

Of course, I will keep sharing these special spots with people I know. And I will keep sharing them here on the blog. I receive lots of messages from friends and acquaintances (and readers!) planning trips and never refuse them a piece of advice. However, I know these people and know they will not trash them. These places are our second homes, our refuges, as Kerri McHale says. She continues: It’s not good for everyone to crowd onto one pinpoint on a map—it changes the land, even when people *aren’t* trashing it. I’ve talked to many locals lately, who see places they’ve come back to for decades overrun and trashed. I once thought, “I don’t have that many followers…how could I really be affecting this?” But that’s kind of like saying, “I’ll just drop this one coke can on the ground. No one comes around here anyway,” isn’t it?

So if you have read this far, let me share with you here one of Moab's best kept secret: Mary Jane Canyon. When the crowds are invading Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (and Corona Arch trail too now...), there are a few hidden gems that you will likely only have to share with a few other hikers if you are willing to drive a few extra miles (or 20). Last year, I told you about the Fisher Towers (still our favorite hike in the area!) and this year, we discovered Mary Jane Canyon. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go all the way to the end where the true gem is: a beautiful 30 feet high split waterfall INSIDE the slot canyon because we ran out of light. It is a long hike (9 miles/14 km round trip) mostly IN the water, so plan accordingly. It is however perfect on a hot day when the crowds are all at Grandstaff Canyon (aka Morning Glory, aka Negro Bill Canyon) to get their feet wet. Some people have reported being able to keep their feet dry by rock hopping, but it'll be a lot of work (and you'll likely slip and get wet or injure yourself). You CAN be in the water 90% of the time, but you will likely have to be walking in it at least 50% if you follow the trail that meanders in and out of the creek. We don't have Keens, so we simply used our regular sneakers with wool hiking socks and it was perfect. JF did it in his Chaco sandals and said it was not ideal because the sole became abrasive under his feet after a while. If you have weak ankles, brink hiking poles. The water was pretty shallow when we did it at the beginning of April (mostly ankle deep, some spots mid-calf) and cold but not freezing. We called the BLM field office in Moab beforehand since it had rained a few days prior, but they said they do not monitor the water level there, so I guess it is not as likely to get flash floods there. The water level does vary during the year and it is usually dry at the end of the summer.

Once you reach the trail head, make sure you take the right trail. The more obvious one is for Professor/Sylvester Creek, which is NOT where you are going. The trail to Mary Jane Canyon is just across the parking lot by a no camping sign. The best info I found about it is on this blog (with photos of the trail head). The canyon walls get higher as you hike further into the canyon, and eventually will reach upwards of 100 ft. I also read that there are several side canyons that allow for exploring tighter slot canyons.

 

Moab, 2017 Edition

Intrepid Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Intrepid Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Big Chief Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Big Chief Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Cross Canyon trail, Klonzo North trail system.

Cross Canyon trail, Klonzo North trail system.

We went to the Outerbike Moab bike festival, tried some great bikes and scored some nice swag!

We went to the Outerbike Moab bike festival, tried some great bikes and scored some nice swag!

Demoing bikes at the Outerbike festival. Riding North 40 in the Moab Brand (Bar M) trail system.

Demoing bikes at the Outerbike festival. Riding North 40 in the Moab Brand (Bar M) trail system.

Circle-O trail, Moab Brand trail system.

Circle-O trail, Moab Brand trail system.

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Gemini Bridges Rd.

Gemini Bridges Rd.

Beautiful campsite among the boulders (only accessible for short 4 X 4 high clearance rigs). I posted it  here on Campendium  if you'd like the coordinates.

Beautiful campsite among the boulders (only accessible for short 4 X 4 high clearance rigs). I posted it here on Campendium if you'd like the coordinates.

View from Gemini Bridges Rd.

View from Gemini Bridges Rd.

Driving on Gemini Bridges Rd.

Driving on Gemini Bridges Rd.

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Ramblin trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Ramblin trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Chisholm trail (Horsethief trail system).

Chisholm trail (Horsethief trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Trying to play the trumpet with Stéphane.

Trying to play the trumpet with Stéphane.

Our beautiful campsite on Dalton Wells Rd.

Our beautiful campsite on Dalton Wells Rd.

I've already written a lot about Moab since it is our 4th time here (I published a long post containing lots of practical info last year), but we still had a long list of trails to ride. We stayed in Moab 3 weeks this year and rode almost daily, so we checked pretty much our whole bucket list! The Navajo Rocks sector blew our mind (Big Mesa was a favorite) as well as Bull Run (Mag 7).

We went back to Milt's as is our tradition for the girls birthday now and discovered that the food is much better if you eat inside than outside (that was the Milt's we knew from 5 years ago - we had been disappointed in the quality of the food in the last few years). The space inside is very limited (a snack bar counter and two tables, but it's well worth waiting at the back door for a party to leave - it is still much faster than doing the line outside and waiting 45 min to be served).

We drove the whole Gemini Bridges Rd in the Westy. This year, we ended up staying on Dalton Wells Road since Willow Springs was very crowded. We found a great spot off the main road along some beautiful green cliffs. It gets pretty windy on those flats sometimes, but there's no avoiding it in that area. Just keep your awnings in check.

We also discovered a great place to get awesome espresso without having to wait in line at Moab Espresso and Gelato, it's a little bike shop café called Bike Fiend

We spent a lot of time at the Poison Spider bike shop since our bikes got damaged just before we got to Moab when a trucker backed up in our Westy while we were parked in a truck stop to cook dinner one night. Lucky for us, the trucker's insurance company was great and covered all the damages and bike rentals while the bikes were getting fixed (JF got a brand new bike). We had great service and if ever you need anything while in town, go see Russell, one of the managers, he's really an awesome person!

 

If you really knew me...

You would know that I sometimes feel like a fraud. I’ve been climbing on and off for 20 years and I still struggle on a 5.9. Granted, I’ve never committed to it seriously and never really trained (if it’s boring, I’m not doing it, I don’t train, I play). I can’t call myself a beginner in mountain biking, but I often make rookie mistakes. I walk most of the hills, I have a panic attack when I am too out of breath and I grunt like a woman in labor while trying to do power moves…

I have strong legs, but poor cardio (see higher: I don’t train). I’m a strange mix of adventurous daredevil and anxious wuss. I’m not a natural at sports, physical things don’t come easily to me. I learn and improve *very* slowly.

I was the kid that was often picked up last in the teams in Phys. Ed. I was the kid that hid at recess to not have to play dodge ball. I was the kid that was scared to bike to school. I was the kid who didn’t do any sports *for fun*. Oh, I danced and even went to semi-professional ballet school in Italy at 18, but at 5 feet tall, they didn’t even consider me for an audition…

I’m not the typical wiry, sinewy rugged looking woman you see on the trails that seem to be born with a bike under her and flows and flies with her every turn.

Why do I keep doing it then? Some days, I have wondered that, but I do less and less. As long as the fun vs fear/frustration ratio is leaning on the right side, I’ll keep at it. I’m just happy to be out there with my family, heart pumping, learning alongside my girls. They are actually the ones teaching me now, calling the features ahead (big drop on the left mom! Tight sandy corner!), cheering for me and waiting for me. It’s awesome and humbling. But growing is pretty humbling.

All I want to say is that: you don’t need to be born with the athletic gene to enjoy yourself out there. This is not a select club, even if it might look like one from the outside.

After reading an inspiring article last year, I’ve stopped saying: “sorry to keep you waiting” every time I go on rides with people that have to stop for me to catch up with them at intersections, but rather: “thanks for waiting”! It’s not a small difference. It’s like saying: I’m proud to be out here even if I’ll probably never be the one who waits for others, but I’m doing it and having fun!

And to all the guys who wish their girlfriend would love mountain biking, don’t bring her on your favorite trail the first time, she probably won’t like it. Rent her a good full squish bike with big tires and ask the bike shop if they have a woman saddle (trust me, those cheap hard men saddles they put on rental bikes make the ride much less enjoyable). Take her on a fun green trail (I know green doesn’t rhyme with fun in your head, but try to remember what it feels like to be a beginner). Pack a lunch (with beer!) and take picture breaks on top of hills so she doesn’t feel like you’re stopping just for her to catch her breath. Tell her you’re happy to be out here with her and that you don’t care to do an easier ride if it means riding with her (go do a harder ride before, so you’re nice and relax and full of endorphins!). Remember that most of us don’t like feeling vulnerable in a situation like this (me, well, you’re reading that post, vulnerability is my second name), especially in a discipline in which you kick our butts. Be reassuring and understanding. And try to have fun! 

**The pictures are from our hike to the Fisher Towers in Moab. It was the most beautiful hike we did in that area. A real Dr. Seuss landscape. The first picture was taken on the morning of my birthday when we were woken up by a hot air balloon taking flight just outside our bedroom windows!

Hiking and swimming in Negro Bill Canyon, Moab, UT

In the beginning, we all felt like Aïsha: not sure I want to get wet and hike all the way with wet shoes and wet clothes... but it didn't take long that we were all standing knee deep in the water!

                                                                                       And yes, dripping as we hiked...                        

Natural waterfalls are the best!

                                                                       This base jumping guy gave Misty and I the creep! We thought he was falling off that cliff... until his parachute opened!            

 Free camping at its best.

The kids spent hours playing outside in the desert around camp.

Those who have been following our travels for a while might remember that we gave this hike a try 3 1/2 years ago, the first time we visited Moab. However, it was in November and the water was freezing cold and Aïsha fell in the water (some would argue that it was freezing cold this time too, but they can't say that to a Yukon girl.... ). I happily played and sat in the waterfalls with the kids. It felt amazing to cool down! That's definitely a hike you want to do on a warm day since there are at least 5-7 mandatory stream crossings. It's so awesome to see (and smell!) all that greenery at the bottom of the canyon. It feels like an entirely different place than the surrounding desert land.

It's the perfect hike to do on a (bike) rest day. If you hike all the way to the end (we didn't), you get to an arch called Morning Glory Bridge.

Where to ride in Moab and more practical infos

Klonzo North - Cross Canyon trail

Moab Brands (Bar M) 

Klonzo South - Carousel

Klonzo South - half-way throuh Roller Coaster, a really fun trail.

Jennifer made sure the girls got to celebrate their birthday again as soon as we got back together!

When you tell people that you are going to Moab to ride, almost all of them will talk to you about The Whole Enchilada (28 miles with 7000 feet of downhill, it is an epic whole day adventure for strong, skilled riders only - with a shuttle - and the top part is only open in the summer, the last part is the famous Porcupine Rim that can also be ridden separately). Or they talk about Slickrock (10.6 miles of pure slickrock goodness, black, pretty steep and very physical). Of course, these trails are epic in their own ways, but there is so much more in Moab! First, install the Trailforks app on your phone (MTB project is missing a part of the Klonzo trail system), it will come in very handy to navigate your way through all the trail systems around town. Then, come find a spot on Willow Spring Road to camp (14 day BLM, free) and enjoy the view! There are tons of pull-outs (some close to the roads, others further away (we suggest you find a far away one since there is quite a bit of trafic on that dirt road (especially on Fri-Sat-Sun) and it can get pretty dusty (and loud since half the crowd is here to do some four-wheeling on some other trails). 

After 3 times visiting Moab for a few weeks, here's what we can tell you about our favorite trails (by trail systems):

Klonzo (sometimes included in the Sovereign network) : This is a newish trail system with some great trails.
Klonzo North: Start with Dunestone (super fun combo of slickrock and dirt) and up Secret Passage, Vertigo (some black sections), Wahoo and down Borderline (all blue except for parts of Vertigo. We heard Gravitron is a fun black, but didn't get to do it. 

Klonzo South: Lots of easy fun ones for beginners (Hot Dog + Midway and the whole Carousel area for some slickrock introduction), as well as some good blue ones (Roller Coaster, The Edge, Zoltar) and a great black one (Houdini) that is mostly slickrock with not much elevation.

Horsethief: This is a new sector (also sometimes included or confused with Navajo Rocks). Combine the Mustang Loop (blue) with Wildcat (blue), Hildalgo (blue) and Whirlwind (optional) for a super fun ride. Just know that you go down for a while first and you have to climb back up... Make sure to do Getaway (blue) and Bull Run (black and blue sections, some sections near cliff edges) which is the beginning of Mag 7, a single-track composed of 7 trails that link the upper and lower ends of Gemini Bridges Road and that can be ridden as a point-to-point with a shuttle.

Navajo Rocks: Only fun trails! Do the big blue loop or only half of it (Ramblin and Rocky Tops) and come back for the other half (Big Mesa/Big Lonely)!

Moab Brands (aka Bar M): Warm  up on EZ and Lazy (super fun greens) and go do North 40 (blue), it's our favorite trail there. Circle-O is supposedly a fun black that we didn't have time to ride. Deadman's Ridge is a much more technical (rocky and bumpy) black that you can skip...

Klondike Bluffs: Don't miss Dino Flow (blue) and Alaska (if you are up for a climb, the view is totally worth it). For Dino Flow, you might want to consider doing a shuttle (leave a car at the Klondike South parking lot and start at the Dino Tracks parking lot). If you're up for a climb and do not want to do a shuttle, you can park at the Dino Tracks parking lot (don't park at the first parking lot by the highway, you'll have to ride a boring 5 miles on a dirt road to reach the trailhead), go up Homer and Alaska (blue) and down Mega steps (black). You'll even find dinosaur tracks along the way! You can then take Dino flow back to the parking lot. If you want to do Dino Flow all the way without a shuttle, park at the Dino Tracks parking lot, ride Dino Flow all the way down and come back up Jurassic, Jasper East and Midline (all green) for an easy uptrack, or take Baby Steps (blue) if you still have some juice left.

This comment about this sector made me giggle: The Klondike Bluffs Trail is perfect for your teenage son who fancies himself a racer, if you are worried he might kill himself on the Moab Slickrock Trail, which is certainly possible (from here).
And a good reminder: On a sad note, the dinosaur tracks in the Klondike Bluffs area are being destroyed by people who, with no skill or education, are trying to make molds of the prints to take home. We have seen everything from plaster of paris to spray foam. Needless to say, if people do not know how to make molds safely (using a plastic wrap to protect the track), then they probably should be shot on site before they mess this area up for the true amateur paleontologists. Leaving plaster or plastic stuck to the inside of a track is only one small step away from trying to crack the tracks out of the sandstone. Please do not stand on or mar the tracks in any way.

Amasa Back: For the very strong/expert riders only, sounds like Captain Ahab is not to be missed!

For a fun challenge, try Pipe Dream (black trail) located in town and try to do it without setting a foot down!

The Bartlett Wash (aka The Bartlett Bowl) seems like a pretty unique slickrock feature! Check out "The Toilet Bowl" here.

Here's a great site that list all the trails in the area.

Moab is a pretty cute little town that is pretty busy during high season (April to October, but busier during Spring and Fall, summers are hot!). You'll never see so many awesome bikes in such a high concentration! There are lots of bike shops in Moab, but we recommend Chili Pepper and The Moab Cyclery

Just know that everything is a little more pricey in Moab. There are lots of rental bikes on sale at the end of the season (November), but most of the regular sizes are so beaten up you really want to get such bikes. Four years ago, I got a really good deal on a XS bike that barely got out during the season. So, unless you are an XS or an XL, I would pass on the rental bike sales. If you need to rent a bike while in Moab, do a weekly rental (around $300/$350), which is much cheaper than daily ($80/$90).

As for food, you best one spot shop is the City Market (where most people shop with muddy legs and bike protections on). We really like the little health food coop called Moonflower. They sell delicious local greens and produce at decent prices. The rest is quite pricey.

Milt's Stop and Eat is an institution in Moab and every night of the week (except Monday when it's closed), you can expect to wait a good 30 min to get your burger, fries and shake, sitting outside among other bleeding and dirty riders. We make a point of eating here at least once when in Moab, but we have to say that it seems to have lost some of its quality. Our friend Karl had to bring back his large fries because there truly was only a handful of fries in there. They apologized and gave him a new order for free. Our fries were quite pale and undercooked and the avocado melt... didn't contain any avocado. The burgers were good, but not as juicy as they used to. Our chocolate-vanilla malt was as good as usual though.

Four our girls' night out, we went to the Spoke and liked their food (gluten-free bun option for their great burgers), good drinks, homemade ice cream and one of the nicest ambiance in town.

The boys went to the Atomic Loung/Moab Burger and found the food really good (great fries, homemade bacon, delicious burgers), but the atmosphere kind of so-so.

Our friends hit the Moab Brewery and didn't think much of it. The food is average and the beer is well, Utah beer. So if you like 4% beer, go for it, otherwise, forget it.

Grab and go: Try the Quesadilla Mobila. You can't miss this yellow truck. A bit pricey (like everything else in Moab), but it hits the spot.

Coffee. Try the Eklecticafé, nice ambiance, good coffee, vegan and gluten-free options. For a grab and go delicious coffee (or beans $13/lb), hit Moab Coffee Roaster, by the post office and almost in front of the health food coop Moonflower.

As for camping, there's plenty of options. There are a few big and crowded RV park in town, but the largest and most common place to camp is up at Sand Flats Recreation Area, a 10-minute drive up above town. Sand Flats road is the home of the Slickrock trail, and Porcupine Rim trail. There are over 120 campsites up and down the dirt road that runs through the recreation area. Campsites have pit toilets but no water. There's a fee to use the recreation area, and you pay at an entrance gate as you drive into the area. The Internet cell connexion is not great there.

We much prefer boondocking for free on the BLM land on Willow Springs Road, 12 miles North of town. It's closer to most of the trail systems we like, the view is amazing (view of the La Sal Mountains and Arches National Park from our bedroom!), but it's a bit of a longer drive to town (20 min), but the connexion is better here. Still, you might need a booster to get good 4G.

For laundry, you can choose between the gringo laudromat (uber clean and more expensive), conveniently located beside the City Market and the Moab Cyclery, so you can shop while you laundry dries and the locals' laundromat (Moab Speedqueen Laundromat, no website, of course), located in the same strip mall as the Chili Pepper bike shop and another smaller and more expensive grocery store (Village Market). No wifi on the premises, but go sit in the grass outside in the La Quinta Hotel and get their signal. There are a few more that I didn't check (Wet Spot, close to Main and Center).

You can go fill your jugs of water with delicious spring water for free inside the Gearheads outdoor store (by the gringo laundromat and the City Market).

Recycling: Moab has probably the most recycling per square miles of any town. There is recycling for everything and a garbage container in the Information Center Parking Lot. There is also some recycling at the Moab Cyclery (no tin). Cardboard recycling between Gearheads and the laundromat. Arches National park has plastic and tin, but not glass.

Showers and pool. You can shower at the Moab Cyclery for $5 or at the Youth Hostel for $3 (Lazy Lizard), and at most campground for $4 to $6. We think that the best deal is the Aquatic Center ($20 per family) where you can enjoy the nice warm pool with a super fun waterslides and diving boards (and clean warm showers that do not run out of warm water!).

Receiving packages : UPS can be shipped to the UPS Customer Center at 1030 Bowling Alley Ln Ste 2, Moab, UT 84532. Pickup times vary so call ahead 435-259-5593
Shipping from any carrier at Canyonland Copy Center (375 S Main St Moab, UT 84532 435-259-8432) There is a fee of $5 per package

Dump and Fill: at the Maverick on the South side of town (free, no purchase required). You can also go to the Slickrock Campground (north side of town, so closer to the BLM) and dump and fill for $5.

Wifi: Library, Information Center, Moab Coffee Roaster, Love Muffin, Eddie McStiff

 

Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, UT

There are so many awesome trail systems in Moab that you could pretty much ride every day for a month and never do the same trail again... I'll talk more about all of them in a next post, but for this one, I will focus on Dead Horse Point State Park, for no other reason than Isa took lots of good iPhone pictures and that the view is incredible. 

This trail network is probably one of the easiest in the area, but it still offers some fun technical sections and an amazingly rewarding view. Actually, the view is so amazing that it's almost dangerous because you cannot help but look at it while riding! None of the trails is close enough to the rim that it feels scary (no exposure). 

This is one of the only trail network that requires you to pay an entrance fee (since it is in a State Park). It's $10 for a 3 day access. After the ride, drive or ride to the view point at the end of the road, it's 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River. The State Park is right on the edge of Canyonlands National Park. You can also hike the Rim Trail (an hour or two before sunset is the best time!).

If you are planning to go, here are some information about the trails. All the trails start at the end of the Visitor Center Parking Lot (the Visitor Center is at one end, the trails start at the other end). Ride Intrepid to Great Pyramid and the the whole Big Chief loop (stop to eat lunch at the point of Big Chief, then take Crossroads (green). If you still have some energy left, do Whiptail (blue), Twisted Tree (black) and Prickly Pair (blue with black sections) back to the Visitor Center. If not, just come down Prickly Pair. Don't take Raven Roll down (unless you are very tired after Big Chief), it's a very boring green. 

Salt Wash View Area, UT

We stopped there for the night on our way to Moab and pulled in in the dark. When I opened the curtains in the morning, my jaw dropped. We made coffee and went outside on the rocks to admire the incredible view. The Salt Wash View Area is located on the north side of Interstate Highway 70 about 52 miles west of Green River, Utah. This Roadside Look-Out has spectacular views of the San Rafael Swell and the stupendous rock formations. This View Area is on the lonely stretch of Interstate between Green River and Salina where there are no town or services along the highway for 110 miles (closest town is Emery). There are about 25 parking spots and there is good 4G Verizon. You can spend the night there (there are no no camping signs).

The Fiery Furnace, Arches NP

The Fiery Furnace is a maze of canyons and slickrock where it is highly recommended to go with a guide in order not to get loss. You can however get a special permit to go in there by yourself. With JF as a guide, we felt pretty safe! 

It was so special to have this whole place to ourselves, to go explore slim canyons, climb on fins, crab walk over ridges, back track and explore some more.

It was the perfect last hike with our sweet friends. We went back to camp at sunset and ate our meal together around the bonfire. We watched movies we had prepared for each other from pictures of the last 6 months and GoPro footage. All of a sudden, in the darkness of the night, fireworks exploded from the other side of the mountain and colored the sky. It felt like a perfect ending to our amazing adventure.

I recounted our funny tour with self-righteous Ranger John in the Fiery Furnace two and half years ago.

Corona Arch, Moab

One of the many amazing things about Moab is that everything is right there: the hiking, the rock climbing and the mountain biking, which means that even if the boys finish at 2:30/3:00 pm, we still have plenty of time to go enjoy the outdoors with them. One afternoon, we stopped by the Arches National Park Visitor Center to get the kids Junior Ranger badge (and got an amazing ranger who spent more than 20 minutes answering all their questions with very interesting explanations about the rock formation in the park... Did you know that the arches were formed because the Navajo sandstone was pushed up by the salt in the soil?) and secure a permit to go explore the Fiery Furnace (an awesome maze of canyons in Arches NP that is usually only possible to visit with a guided tour) by ourselves in a few days and watched an interesting video teaching us about the biological soil crust and how to protect it by walking only on sandstone and sandy washes. We then headed to Corona Arch.

Corona Arch is one of the most impressive arch in Southern Utah and is much less crowded since it is outside Arches NP. Reaching it requires a 45-minutes fun romp, mostly on slickrock. Corona is mammoth: 140 ft high, with a span of 335 ft. Bowtie Arch is a bonus sight. It appears that a haywire missile from a passing spacecraft blasted through the back wall of its deep alcove...

You can read the crazy adventure that followed our visit to Corona Arch last time we were here...

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands NP is covered by wave after wave of deep canyons that have been formed by the currents and tributaries of Utah's Green and Colorado rivers.

We went to the Island-in-the-Sky district of the park and hiked to Mesa Arch. This area sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa, quite literally an Island in the Sky. From the viewpoint of the arch, we can see over 100 miles, a panoramic view that encompasses thousands of square miles of canyon country.

Last time we hiked here, it was covered in snow

Devil's Garden and Double-O Arch, Arches National Park, Moab

Devil's Garden in Arches National Park leads to Landscape Arch (the longest arch in the world with a 306 feet span). After that, the path becomes a more challenging primitive trail along narrow slickrock fins, requiring some scrambling. This is where the fun begins!

When we arrived at Double-O arch (a hike I did 2 1/2 years ago alone with Aïsha), the kids started working on some bouldering problems (once you start rock climbing, you never look at a rock wall in the same way...) and Jennifer went walking on top of the arch. My legs were wobbly just looking at her. Karl and JF followed, while I happily helped the kids with their rock climbing...

But my friends know me and know I like to push my limits... but that I often need some support to do so. They helped me find my strength and confidence and JF and Karl came with me, while Jennifer snapped some pictures and cheered from down below. It was one of the most amazing view I had seen in my life... Fiery red rock fins fields all around with snow capped mountains in the background... I felt completely exhilarated. And very proud.

Then, the dads led their girls (one by one) over the arch. It was a very touching moment... Our mama's hearts were bursting with love as we looked at them conquer their fears and raise to the challenge.

I did it!!

JF with Mara and Karl with Ellie

Arches National Park is definitely one of my favorite National Park and Moab is just such a fun city with a cool, laid-back vibe. It reminds us of Whitehorse in a way. All those people in biking gear at the grocery store, super friendly staff that walk their talk in the outdoor stores... We could get used to such a place!

Delicate Arch at Sunset

Watching the sunset at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Moab, is a popular attraction. We joined the crowd in that spectacular natural amphitheater for a moment of grace. Of course, many of the people wanted their photos taken under the arch, while the crowd standing on the other side was shooing them away in order not to have anybody in their pictures. There was a big round of applause when these "gooseneckers" finally got the message and moved out of everybody's sunset shot! We hiked down as night was falling and the bats were waking up. What a fantastic night!