You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

DESERT RAMBLE

10 friends, bikes & cameras take on the Kopokelli and other obstacles

Story by Glenn Charles November 16th, 2014

Waiting for the group

How do you tell a story of this magnitude and depth? I for one, seem to always be at a loss for words, so instead of verbose text, I will try and share what I saw and felt, using my images, with only the most minimal amount of text.

001_20141031141121_0019.jpg
002_20141031190732_0154-Edit.jpg
004_20141031195546_0168-Edit.jpg
003_20141031191146_0160-Edit.jpg

Fruita

Everything in this town is bikes, no matter where you go or what you do — bikes, bikes, and more bikes…

005_20141031202634_0033.jpg

Arrival

10 of us in total, the arrival begins. Bikes, cameras and food are the order of the day. Cass Gilbert joins us and demonstrates, that he too, has a frame bag which actually isn’t a frame bag, but instead a giant piece of luggage!!

007_20141101185846_0218-Edit.jpg
008_20141101192314_0061.jpg
009_20141101194855_0067.jpg
010_20141101205151_0226-Edit.jpg

I would eat more pizza on this trip than ever before...

Jason warned me that Bobby smiled a lot… he was not exaggerating

011_20141101214756_0258-Edit.jpg
012_20141101215647_0290-Edit.jpg

The first morning

It poured the night before, but I, holed up in my hotel room, could only have empathy for the crew gathered at the campground. With first light, the day certainly looked promising…

002_20141102122921_0109.jpg

Coffee, Whiskey, Final Prep

013_20141102113253_0085.jpg
014_20141102122032_0101.jpg
015_20141102122048_0103.jpg
016_20141102122120_0105.jpg
018_20141102124601_0123.jpg
019_20141102125058_0129.jpg
020_20141102125715_0131.jpg
022_20141102131144_0139.jpg

really, a new bottom bracket now?

Who in there right mind installs a new bottom bracket the morning of the depart?


021_20141102130820_0137.jpg

we all had faith - little did we know

Our ring leader, and chief instigator promised us a fun route.

023_20141102132246_0302-Edit-Edit.jpg

Day 1

And so it begins… Rain the night before had left everyone a bit disheartened and quite honestly, a bit concerned about heading out. The forecast was more rain, which was sure to make the Kopokelli difficult to traverse. With clearing skies and food in our bellies, the decision was made to move out.

024_20141102144005_0145.jpg
025_20141102144049_0151-Edit.jpg
026_20141102144327_0312-Edit.jpg
027_20141102144805_0324-Edit.jpg

19 miles

We rode, and hiked, a mere 19 miles on day one. The rain had turned the trail into a sticky goop of mud and clay that only added insult to injury as our bikes were already fully loaded with food and 1.5 days of heavy water.

028_20141102162155_0328-Edit.jpg

more pushing than riding

029_20141102170606_0181.jpg
030_20141102173258_0197.jpg

fatbikes and mud

I would have paid money for a scale just to weigh our mud caked tires

031_20141102174230_0201.jpg
032_20141102174317_0205.jpg

Rain, sun, rain, sun

What was it going to do…

036_20141102183040_0285.jpg
001_20141102181648_0271.jpg
034_20141102174910_0231.jpg
033_20141102174329_0209.jpg

outrunning the rain

The light was fading fast, the next wave of rain was approaching and we desperately needed to make camp. A brutal day of pushing bikes had put a bit of a damper on day one.


037_20141102194326_0299.jpg

chasing rainbows

The life lesson of living in the moment — the pain of the day was simply washed away as we were treated to rainbows and light that would set the mood for the rest of the trip.

001_20141102200956_0348.jpg

day 2

It rained all night long and while some had shelter, others, well not so much. My decision to travel only with a SUL bivy was a painful mistake. I slept the night tucked under a shrub with my rain jacket over my face in an attempt to stay dry. Still, the smiles on everyone’s faces the next morning spoke volumes to the character of the guys I would be traveling with.

Vain attempts to dry things out
040_20141103102521_0346-Edit.jpg
Always smiling
042_20141103103231_0362-Edit.jpg

seriously, just fill the bag with water

044_20141103103644_0371-Edit.jpg

the landscape

It was unlike anything I had ever seen in person. The views grew stronger as the days passed and the sky, well the sky just got bigger and bigger and bigger

046_20141103125317_0396-Edit.jpg

finally riding

After the challenges of day 1, day two gave us a chance to finally get the bikes rolling. Still laden with mud that was quickly drying into some form of hardened clay, we all rejoiced at a quickening pace and the potential to put in some much needed miles.

045_20141103123857_0386-Edit.jpg
047_20141103130449_0368.jpg
048_20141103132819_0410-Edit.jpg
049_20141103132825_0417-Edit.jpg

clearing skies

Midway through day 2, as we crested one of the plateaus overlooking the Colorado river, the skies finally began to clear and hopes of a sunny trip were upon us. Bikes still caked in mud, some of us began the process of removing it as best we could.

The Monkey takes it all in
050_20141103142442_0372.jpg
053_20141103165627_0389.jpg
054_20141103165640_0394.jpg

the views

Everywhere you looked, the landscape was hue and the views inspiring.

051_20141103143242_0420-Edit.jpg

bobby enjoys the sun on the river

We descended down to the Colorado river and one of the boat launches that also happened to have fresh water. We all used this stop as an opportunity to fill up on fresh water, dry out our soaked gear, and in Bobby’s case, get in some quiet rest. The Cottonwoods created an amazing contrast between their golden yellow leaves and the now bright blue sky. A scene that would repeat itself for the remainder of the trip.

055_20141103175717_0401.jpg

omg, the light

It was an evening unlike anything I had ever experienced. As we worked closer and closer to camp, the light became golden with the dramatic storm clouds in the background. Cass, Jason and I played leapfrog as we took pictures of one another for what seemed like eternity…

001_20141103190243_0428.jpg

Lelan was fast -- really fast

059_20141103195728_0445.jpg
001_20141103183434_0418.jpg
057_20141103193215_0486-Edit.jpg
058_20141103193257_0496-Edit.jpg

camp, shelter, dry

060_20141103203439_0461.jpg
061_20141103205522_0474.jpg
062_20141103210610_0508-Edit.jpg

day 3

The skies had cleared, the moon had risen, and we went from damp to dry and cold. Blue skies the rest of the trip.

064_20141104095611_0491.jpg

coffee, its all about the pour

Yes, the story is true, I did in fact carry my Porlex Grinder and almost a pound of beans, which I happily shared with all. Seriously, if you are gonna travel, might as well enjoy!


065_20141104095718_0502.jpg

the legend

063_20141104094356_0485.jpg

the photography never stopped

We had set a plan to break camp early, but even that was not enough to stop the crew from climbing hills as they chased the early morning light

066_20141104102135_0528-Edit.jpg

whiskey, for breakfast, ok

067_20141104111701_0517.jpg
068_20141104111704_0520.jpg

skinny tires

Erik, and his ECR, had the skinniest tires of the pack

070_20141104121030_0566-Edit.jpg

the terrain never dissapointed

069_20141104115141_0542-Edit.jpg
072_20141104124931_0562.jpg
073_20141104124933_0567.jpg
003_20141104124432_0543.jpg

the river

The Colorado River is the life blood of this terrain. Everywhere it flowed, green and color sprung up to meet the gray and arid surroundings. The contrast of blue sky, and bright, golden cottonwoods was always pleasing to the eye and the soul.

006_20141104125611_0573.jpg

teamwork

On more than one occasion, the group would come together, lifting, pulling, and pushing bikes up and over some challenging obstacles.

007_20141104125841_0581.jpg

What goes down, eventually goes back up

076_20141104131310_0602.jpg
077_20141104132041_0643.jpg
078_20141104132153_0676.jpg

The climb

Most of us pushed, a few were able to ride

001_20141104132208_0687.jpg

what goes up, must go down

080_20141104132220_0693.jpg
081_20141104132903_0709.jpg

Seriously, kleans on the down tube

Many of us did it, and we all suffered the same fate. Mud caked onto to everything exposed to the elements.

082_20141104153425_0743.jpg
083_20141104153435_0747.jpg

decision time

The plan, a figure 8, from Fruita to Moab and back. The reality, well, that was not going to work. Out of water and faced with the option of filtering murky CO river water, the decision was made to take the 30 miles of road into Moab and regroup. Like all good trips, flexibility and patience are key.

001_20141104142413_0731.jpg

The road to Moab

084_20141104154305_0757.jpg

THE Colorado River

While not the dirt we all craved, that 30 mile section of canyon walls and the Colorado river was one of the most gorgeous rides ever.

086_20141104164332_0761.jpg
085_20141104160101_0582-Edit.jpg
087_20141104172001_0769.jpg

the good news, beer

Arriving in Moab, priorities were lodging, beer, then food.

088_20141104190655_0590-Edit.jpg

day 4 and a new plan

Our bellies full and our bodies somewhat rested, we hatched a new plan of attack. Today, lets go ride rigid Fat Bikes along the Porcupine Rim…Tim and his Bluto equipped bike, would be the only one without sore arms by the end of the day.


090_20141105122505_0779.jpg
091_20141105122940_0787.jpg
092_20141105123001_0793.jpg

A slow climb

We rode out of Moab and into Slick Rock, where the climb up to the rim was slow and steady. The rock formations along the way were simply spectacular.

093_20141105141636_0594-Edit.jpg
094_20141105142147_0608-Edit.jpg
095_20141105142626_0809.jpg

The top

Our climbing efforts were rewarded with stunning views and a peacefullness that I could have embraced for hours on end.

096_20141105142719_0851.jpg
097_20141105154330_0859.jpg
098_20141105170345_0887.jpg
099_20141105171156_0913.jpg
100_20141105171305_0921.jpg

lelan, aka 'the goat', would clean it all

101_20141105181847_0644-Edit.jpg

others would follow

Rigid fatbikes, on this trail, well, not the smartest of choices. Doable yes, smart, well probably not…

102_20141105181903_0652-Edit.jpg

sometimes it works, sometimes not

I feel like it was my fault. I scoped out the shot and as Brady approached told him to ride over a certain point. It apparently was not clear that a drop ensued. Ooops

015_20141105184849_0969.jpg
016_20141105184849_0971.jpg
017_20141105184850_0973.jpg
018_20141105191846_1011.jpg

beer anyone?

We all survived the full day ride up to the rim and back, which once again meant more beer, and for some, more Pizza

107_20141105195051_1049.jpg
108_20141105203422_1081.jpg

Jim, Erik, Bobby

109_20141106102343_0658-Edit.jpg
110_20141106102526_0666-Edit.jpg
111_20141106102607_0674-Edit.jpg

day 5

I only have a few pictures of Lelan as he was always in the front and I was always at the end. The new plan today, load up the bikes and head out into the canyon for an overnight loop.

113_20141106121014_0682-Edit.jpg

sure,we can fix that

I swore I would not tell how it got broken in the first place and I am sticking to that pledge…

114_20141106122156_1093.jpg
115_20141106122218_1105.jpg
116_20141106122238_1117.jpg

the canyon

Cass came up with the plan for the day. We were all searching for an easy ride, something that would get us out of town and into the wilderness without pushing us too hard. The canyon road out of town was simply spectacular.

117_20141106141233_0724-Edit.jpg

Dropping down

We were headed down and in search of the Kane Creek trail.

001_20141106145631_1143.jpg

switchback

119_20141106150103_1177.jpg

Cotton woods everywhere

Anyone with a camera on that afternoon would have gladly spent the entire day simply photographing scenes that took place in the first 10 miles of our ride. It was that beautiful.

120_20141106151450_1195.jpg

Lunch

There was not much shade out there, but we managed to find a little spot to relax. Jason brought out his little wood stove and smoked us all out.

121_20141106165735_0768-Edit.jpg
122_20141106170942_1219.jpg
123_20141106173521_0784-Edit.jpg
124_20141106173528_0786-Edit.jpg
125_20141106173533_0788-Edit.jpg
126_20141106173558_0794-Edit.jpg

wet feet

We followed Kane Creek and the ATV trail that would snake back and forth across the chilly water.

127_20141106182117_1241.jpg
128_20141106182119_1245.jpg
129_20141106182142_1269.jpg

Seriously? You are gonna share?

132_20141106184129_0814-Edit.jpg

My Hero

130_20141106184108_0804-Edit.jpg
131_20141106184115_0810-Edit.jpg
133_20141106184135_0818-Edit.jpg

750ML of Jameson fits in a Platypus

134_20141106191232_0824-Edit.jpg

drying socks is truly an art

135_20141106191310_0826-Edit.jpg
137_20141106191453_0828-Edit.jpg

it never ends

001_20141106191402_1287-Edit.jpg

chilling the beer in the creek

138_20141106192021_1307.jpg
139_20141106192221_1313.jpg

friends

What better than a fire, beer, whiskey, food, stories, cameras and friends that have suffered a bit together

140_20141106192222_0836-Edit.jpg
141_20141106192428_0848-Edit.jpg
142_20141106192950_0853-Edit.jpg

makers

143_20141106193000_0854-Edit.jpg
144_20141106193252_0868-Edit.jpg
001_20141106200926_1349-Edit.jpg
146_20141106201126_0892-Edit.jpg
002_20141106201143_1357-Edit.jpg

i don't even want to know

148_20141106201143_0894-Edit.jpg

waiting for the moon

We camped amongst the canyon walls, and as the full moon rose higher and higher, it began to illuminate the opposite canyon wall before ever cresting into sight. We all sat by the fire, taking pictures, telling stories, watching and waiting for the show to commence.

149_20141106212136_0912-Edit.jpg
150_20141106212310_0928-Edit.jpg
151_20141106212331_0940-Edit.jpg

empties

Four beers was not enough. A bigger pack next time?

152_20141106212549_0962-Edit.jpg
153_20141106212951_0980-Edit.jpg
154_20141106214038_0989-Edit.jpg

The Rising moon

The far canyon wall is lit by the rising full moon


155_20141106224528_1369.jpg

bonding

There is nothing like the collective suffering followed by a sense of accomplishment and then peacefulness, to bring Man together. A true life lesson.

156_20141106225954_1387.jpg

by moonlight

157_20141106231216_1395.jpg
158_20141106231955_1405.jpg
Salsa Ti Mukluk lit by the rising moon

day 6

The morning light picked up where the full moon left off. Soft and warm with the promise of another beautiful day. Tim still sleeps peacefully in his Nemo Bivy.


163_20141107095430_1481.jpg
001_20141107095628_1485.jpg

wake up sunshine

Ah, again, the grinder, beans and the ensuing pour over #coffeeoutside

160_20141107094631_0994-Edit.jpg
162_20141107094834_1007-Edit.jpg
164_20141107095600_1017-Edit.jpg
165_20141107095605_1018-Edit.jpg
172_20141107100553_1061-Edit.jpg

seriously, put the water in the bag

Enough already, please, bring the water to a boil and add it to the freeze dried package, not the other way around…

170_20141107100142_1523.jpg
161_20141107094752_1002-Edit.jpg
169_20141107100134_1052-Edit.jpg
171_20141107100536_1056-Edit.jpg
174_20141107101556_1073-Edit.jpg
168_20141107095904_1037-Edit.jpg

no doubt, Rohloff was the way to go

I have often thought about it, read about it, researched it to no end, but never experienced it. Without a doubt, for this type of trip, and IGH is the way to go. End of story!! — Reeb, Gates Drive, Rohloff, Revelate

175_20141107120119_1543.jpg

that morning light

176_20141107120145_1545.jpg

cass gilbert - while out riding

177_20141107120254_1551.jpg

Salsa Ti Mukluk

This bike and these Porcelain Rocket bags, have taken me everywhere I have asked of her. Just an unbelievable machine!

178_20141107120458_1561.jpg
179_20141107122652_1579.jpg

very cold feet

001_20141107123631_1593.jpg
181_20141107123916_1086-Edit.jpg
001_20141107130136_1639.jpg

working our way out

It would be a gradual 6 mile climb up and out of the canyon before we could access the road and work our way back into Moab. The morning riding was sublime.

019_20141107131457_1735.jpg

done

184_20141107143256_1745.jpg

Moab

Back in town, the story repeats itself. A race from the trail head to Love Muffin for lunch, and then beer and pizza for dinner.


185_20141107161459_1785.jpg
187_20141107194202_1823.jpg
188_20141107203534_1095-Edit.jpg
189_20141107204604_1825.jpg

9 fat bikes on the roof

A big thanks to Collin for making this happen!

191_20141107221744_1112-Edit.jpg

the group

Some of these guys I knew well; others I only knew via the internet; and still others I had never met. I am honored to have traveled with you — Glenn, Erik, Cass, Jim, Eric, Jason, Lelan, Bobby, Tim, Brady

001_20141107181434_1803.jpg
Footnote: A very heartfelt thanks to Jason for including me on this trip and for the other 8 guys that made this one of the most memorable trips of my lifetime. All images shot w/Leica M240 or MM --P&L, G-
Moab, UT