Kokopelli Trail

It felt good to dial it back a notch. The past couple trips have been strenuous, and I was looking forward to a chill couple of days on the Kokopelli Trail.

The rules: no alarm clocks, ample food and water, lots of photo breaks and no heroics. For once, everything went as planned and I had a relaxing weekend on some beautiful dirt roads.

Rule Five: No Bike Selfies.

On Friday morning, I boarded the Greyhound from Durango to Grand Junction. I slept a bit and read some Infinite Jest, but mostly just stared out the window and let my thoughts meander around the “nothing box.”

I met Jeremy for lunch, then rode the bike path twelve miles to Fruita and filled up three liters of water and Tailwind. Temperatures were balmy, though there was a bit of a headwind. Seven more miles of pavement brought me to the singletrack start of the trail.

Rule Five: Broken.

The KT starts with Mary’s Loop, a mostly flat trail that contours atop sandstone cliffs above the Colorado River.

Mary’s Loop

Occasional boulder problems punctuate the flow of this scenic section.

A rock or two keeps things interesting.

It turns out that the riverside cottonwoods were at peak foliage, an unexpected bonus. It was nice to get an extension on fall colors, which are all-too-brief in Colorado.

Westward ho!

Eventually, you start horsing around on Troy Built, then hit some legit hikeabike down to Salt Creek. It’s a good source and I definitely could’ve started with less water — one liter would’ve sufficed in the cool October temps.

The sun set when I hit Rabbit Valley, but the headwind continued, and some rain fell intermittently. I wanted to make some time and allow for a leisurely finish in Moab on Sunday, so I rode by headlamp for another four hours. It seemed like that was the least scenic part of the whole trip, so it worked out. My wife had made me a stellar playlist of blues and funk to keep my spirits and RPMs up, and it helped pass the time.

I was hoping to make it to the Westwater Ranger Station that night for water, but I ended up dry-camping sooner. This trip was stoveless because I hadn’t felt like running to the store to refill denatured alcohol, so dinner consisted of a burrito filled with instant mashed potatoes, salami, cheese and pretzels. Dessert was a gold mine … an ice cream sandwich with instant cookies-n-cream pudding as the filling.

Instant pudding in the middle. Winner!

I woke up with the sun the next morning and ate a half-dozen oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast. I normally do instant oatmeal like everyone else, but seriously? Look at the ingredients. Oats + wheat flour + raisins + brown sugar. You may as well just bring oatmeal raisin cookies at 130 calories an ounce and eat them from the comfort of your mummy bag.


It was a chilly morning, and the slow, chunky jeep road made it difficult to warm up. When the sun finally crested, though, it was glorious.

“Blue Rajah’s my name, but I will fork-give you if you fork-get.”

Eventually I hit pavement and spun out in top gear (30:11) on the way down to the ranger station. Turns out their water still required filtering, but it was better than the cow puddles I’d passed on the way, so the 1.5 mile detour was worth it.

Yes, this helmet is rated for impact, not just rockfall.

Evidently everyone and their mother uses this particular boat launch on the weekend. There were at least forty river rats queued up go do downhill … they looked like boulderers with their tiny little legs. Tee hee.

Westwater Ranger Station and boat launch

I filtered three liters and pounded some yogurt-covered raisins, then left the menagerie of hydrophiles in the hands of a rather frazzled ranger. Dude had a Rock Shox sticker on his Nalgene. What do you say to boaters for good luck, “Vinyl side down?”

I soon hit the longest, flattest dirt road in the universe. I was in the mood for it, though, no singletrack entitlement here.

“The road goes ever, ever on…”

The next segment was barren and dry, a tabula rasa, as though God decided to try his hand at minimalism. In spite of this — or perhaps because of it? — I find the desert to be an incredibly peaceful place. The sky is endless and my mind wanders through it.

“The Jundland Wastes are not to be traveled lightly.”

When the trail rejoined the Colorado River, cottonwood trees erupted from the earth. The audacity of foliage in the desert. I love it.

Water brings life…

… one last hurrah before dormancy.

A little bit of singletrack, then more dirt roads. I passed a couple eastbound bikepackers, but they were blazing on a downhill, so we didn’t stop to chat.

Evidently sand grows really well in this climate.

Several almond Snickers bars later, the terrain started to look a lot like Moab. I passed through some slickrock playgrounds, wide expanses of concrete-like slabs that were like natural skate parks. Entrada sandstone buttresses loomed in the distance. It was about the halfway point on the trail, and I started getting excited.

The stoke barometer is rising …

Fisher Towers in the distance, then the La Sal range.

I knew we were getting close to civilization when I ran into some ATV and dune buggy groups, and a guided MTB ride. A couple of moto riders helped me break the bike-selfie monotony of this trip report.

Sensory overload.

My tires were a bit undergunned for the sand in this section (2.4 front, 2.25 rear), but it wasn’t that bad. Dual 3.0’s would be a good float to weight ratio, no need to get all Moonlander on this stuff.

“Touch nothing but the lamp …”

Dewey Bridge

Then out of nowhere, the river magically reappeared. I busted down to the Dewey Bridge and grabbed some slightly muddy water, then took a lunch break under a bush. Over halfway done by mileage, but not halfway yet by vertical gain.

Peanut butter, honey and yogurt-covered raisins, followed by salami+cheese+Tabasco.

Time to go uphill. I turned on Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and thanked the gourd that I had a granny gear (30:42). I leapfrogged a bit with a couple of day-riders, then parted ways down into a rad canyon.

just call me Spinny!

Lots more climbing ensued and my legs started complaining. I fed them some Doritos, colby jack and gummy worms, and turned on my “NFG” playlist, which is pretty much an aural crime against humanity designed to make lactic acid dive for cover. It’s mostly early 2000’s pop punk and screamo. There’s only so much angst that lactate can handle.

“We’re on top of the world here tonight…”

Dusk fell and I started thinking of how nice it’d be to not ride by headlamp for a change. It just so happened that a gorgeous dry campsite was a couple hundred feet below in a horseshoe-shaped cirque.

Overlooking the campsite.

First I had to pick my way down the infamous “Rose Garden Hill,” which supposedly has been ridden by a human being on a bicycle more than once. (Not me!) It’s basically an avalanche slope of encephalitic babyheads. You’d better be in the mood for Mexican food, because your rims are going to be aluminum tacos.

This is the mildest segment of the hill.

Supposedly there was a spring at the bottom, but if there was, it wasn’t running in October. No worries, I was stocked for a dry camp. I nestled into some luxurious, soft dirt, rolled a couple Tabasco potato burritos, and read a letter addressed to Theophilus.

Instant garlic mashed potatos, salami, colby jack, pretzels and Tabasco.

The next morning I woke up at 05:00 and finished the other half-dozen oatmeal raisin cookies. I rode a couple hours by headlamp — cold! I wore every layer I brought and took several handwarming breaks.

playing in the sandbox again.

Lots of gradual uphill ensued. Sometime that morning, I hit the high point (~8600′) and passed some Ponderosa pines.

Good stuff.


Good stuff, cont’d.

I finally hit the top of whatever I was on top of, and promptly layered up for steep, paved descent. Unfortunately, the very last segment of the KT, La Sal Loop Road, was under construction (on a Sunday?!). This meant I had to detour around on Castleton Road to Highway 128 and follow the river on pavement back to town. Mileage was the same, but I had to miss out on finishing on Porcupine Rim.

Castleton and the Rectory

I was hoping to finish on Porcupine, but also kind of dreading the inevitable beating that I would suffer on my little 100mm travel hardtail. (PR regularly gets shuttled by downhill riders on burly full-suspension rigs).

… although I am wearing approach shoes ….

Eighteen miles of pavement brought me back to Moab, where a beautiful woman, a ninety-five-pound puppy and a bacon-bleu-cheeseburger and onion rings were waiting for me. Oh, and a couple corn dogs and chocolate milk, too, plus a few doughnuts and an orange, but who’s counting?

Altogether a wonderful weekend of rejuvenation in the desert.

By the numbers: 159 miles and 13k vert from downtown GJ to downtown Moab. 1 day, 20 hours and 30 minutes total, probably sixteen hours of which was sleeping.

The kit:

(Car sunshade instead of blanket, powerade bottle instead of Nalgene)

Notes for next time:

– The course is surprisingly well-watered, even in autumn. I had capacity for 3.75L and carried 3.5, but never really drank more than 2. Westbounders can fill up at Salt Creek (mile 20, from Fruita), Westwater (50), the river (70), Dewey Bridge (85), and Castle Creek (126).

– Dual 2.4 tires or slightly bigger would be an improvement for traction. Sand is probably more of an issue eastbound.

– Didn’t miss the stove at all, even though it was cold out.

– More hot sauce.

– Oatmeal raisin cookies for the breakfast win! Instant pudding for the desert win! Find powdered whole milk to add to the pudding for extra protein.

– Instant potatoes, instant pudding and Tailwind look pretty similar in ziplock bags in the dark … beware a catastrophic mixup.

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