Wake warming to the half sun lifting above the ridge. Legs don’t feel too bad, J and S are already gathering cooking tools for coffee. The flat valley is even more striking than sleep’s memory allowed, can intuit that we all want to linger here but instead make a committed effort to pedal into the day. We’d run into some cyclists on the route last evening who indicated that they had a support vehicle meeting them in the campgrounds a few miles beyond our camp, and that they had plenty of water to save us the trouble of treating the streams we’d soon enough see. After an hour we reach the trucks coming up the track toward us, chat with the drivers, play with the dogs, gratefully refill our water packs.
The near term agenda is an all-morning dirt climb followed by a ripping descent into Castle Valley. Then we’ll climb back up to elevation on pavement before reaching the top of Porcupine Rim. A steady day, one where we’ll spread out from each other to ride in thoughts or absence, regroup at lunch and snacks, Logan’s hilarious jokes, Skyler’s deadpan, Joel’s immutable grin.
Up top, we’re wobble stand exhausted from the climb. S put his headphones on but ran out of battery, L and I had traded singing song lyrics to our favorite black metal songs, J shaking his head in mystification. The official Kokopelli route here descends the road to the Slickrock trail, passing the seemingly always full camping areas. It parallels the Porcupine Rim Trail, a classic Moab route, deserving its preeminent status. We dig in our packs for whatever is left, a little glassy, murmurs of burritos and beers in town. A little speech about how easy it would be for us to say that we’re done, we’ve done the route, just coast into town. But how much better to finish in the bucking blaze of some concentration riding, we crunch onto the single track, castles below.
With at least twice yearly visits to Moab for a decade starting in the late 80’s, can’t say how many times I’ve ridden this trail. But never in this light, the breathless excitement of fatigue and the end of our food, never with the whole desert rock sand cliff dusk warping wrapping around us like a well told fairytale. The horizon pools impossibly blazing watercolor canary yellow and purple, bikes rumbling skipping on the distinctive perpendicular orange fins. We’re burning with reentry enthusiasm, leaping heavy bikes, surfing our whoops.
By the time we get to the wash, it’s dark. Avoid putting on my headlamp to the very last moment, gingerly touch our way along the ledgy parts where I know there’s a highway and river below. The final down climb across the small cliff with the bikes on our shoulders, roll to the bottom, under the highway and there are festive strung lights at the first campsite. The gang there tell us they’ve been watching our lamps, that we came from where?, and here are some snacks and brews. We laugh with their kindness, remount and time trial to Moab, arrive center town at 9:47, Joel sweet talks the maître-d’ into sneaking us under the last call for food, don’t even wash our faces before we’re digging into our dinner.
Here’s the thing. The Kokopelli trail has been ridden and raced for so long, it has turned into a shrugging cliché for bikepackers these days. That was my fool’s attitude. It’s a tremendous ride, though. Whether you’re jaded experienced or planning your first multi-overnight, do this trip. Find all the logistical details on Logan’s Pedaling Nowhere Kokopelli Route writeup.