Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Gooseberry Mesa: it's not Moab
'So you're going to Moab because everyone else does?' The woman behind reception at the Driftwood Lodge in Springdale was utterly unimpressed with our travel plans. And that, is how we came to abandon our trip to Moab in favour of hitting up the trails in Zion National Park, Utah last week.
Now, now. Don't look at me with that same disparaging glance as offered by Chipps at Singletrack when I relayed the tale. It's fair to say Zion is completely overlooked by most Brit-based MTBers in favour of its eastern cousin. But the lack of riders means you have slickrock to yourself, spectacular views and noone to hear you swear as you plunge back first into a cactus.
Tom (with a broken hand - respect) and I hired bikes from Bike Zion in Springdale which is the gateway town to the park. They were Kona Dawg Deluxes and it's fair to say they were tripe. Crap brakes, awful tires, sluggish handling - basically a bike with an epic hangover. We headed up to Gooseberry Mesa - seven miles away on a dirt road - which has a series of trails ranging from green to double diamond (or as Americans say - 'yeah, that's a double diamond dude!' with raised eyebrows and an intense stare which American double diamond blacks never really seem to warrant.)This, in the south western corner of Utah, is where they hold the Red Bull Rampage every other year, so it's not easy riding by any standards.
The Gooseberry trail was the hardest of the lot, kicking off with steep slickrock descents which turned into ascents quick enough to have you barreling over the handlebars in an instant. It rose gently uphill but you never really felt that until you popped out, about a foot from the edge of a huge cliff with the entire basin in front of you. Quality. It's not traditional cowboy scenery but it's still huge and close enough to have you exercising caution on otherwise simple obstacles.
The second half of the trail - the south rim - was a lot easier and leaves time for you to fill your pockets with petrified wood as you go along. But after four hours of ridng in 30 degrees we were feeling it somewhat so called it a day with the loop complete.
So no, not Moab but the riding in Zion lacks the tourist-trap feel of the Arches area and is worth checking out for that alone. Just drive very quickly through Colorado City ...