In the Saddle: Slickrock rocks
October 6, 2006
And the Lord said unto the offseason residents of Aspen, “Go thee unto Moab, Utah, and thou shalt find a natural terrain park most gnarly.”I went thusly. And gnarly it was.I awoke Monday morning to warm, dry desert air at my canyon campsite near Moab – a relief after recent weeks of wet weather in Aspen. High red cliffs above, the Colorado River below, I yelled some echoes against the canyon wall, wrapped up the tent and drove to town. I’d been riding my mountain bike around town for weeks with annoying drag from a busted back brake, so I stopped at the Poison Spider Bike Shop. The guys replaced my old brakes for little – and I don’t think I’ve been called “dude” and “brah” so many times in one day – and I drove to the top of the mesa to ride.It’s been 10 years since I rode the trail, but I was feeling good. Monday morning, so no crowds. Warm, but not hot, and a little overcast, so the squint factor was low.I started with the practice loop, which is a warning to the ill-prepared: “If thou doth not get thy groove on here, proceed thee no further.”I think they hand out the powers of Spider-Man along with the $5 entrance ticket to Slickrock. My bike tires stuck to the steep walls of rock, and I climbed places that might take a rock-climbing rating. Crawling uphill, standing high in the pedals and stomping on my trusty granny gear, I thought, “How am I doing this?””Slickrock” is really a misnomer – more like “grip rock” – and the trail makes a superhero (Spider-Man, that is) of anyone.So much of it is trust. The best way to get down a whoopdee-doop drop and rise up the next ridge is just letting go of the brakes and picking up a little speed. And I learned that when I gripped tight on my brakes on a steep drop and my back tire started to lift up – if I hadn’t let go of the brakes, I would have flipped. There is nothing like whipping around the sides of a bowl-shaped curve that seems carved in the rock for just that purpose or reaching the ridge top halfway point and looking out over the Colorado below. OK, so I took a few diggers in the sandy parts, and lost momentum on some of the steeps and had to walk, but slickrock made a hero out of me that day, and I was sad to turn in my Spider-Man powers and drive home.But slickrock awaits me in the spring, and on the way home I heard another voice: “Go thou and ski thy face off on Aspen Mountain.” Now praying for snow.