Gooseberry Mesa … Challenging – Technical – Exciting – Fun
I had heard so much about Gooseberry Mesa… I hoped I wasn’t in for a letdown. I had Jens as my personal guide (Catherine decided to take a day off after doing Guacamole the day before).
To get to the trailhead from Jens’ home in New Harmony we traveled south on Interstate 15 until we reached exit 27. Then we took Highway 17 for 9.2 miles which placed us smack in the middle (the eye) of… Hurricane, a town in Utah. We then drove 9.1 miles southeast on Highway 59. Heading up the highway we drove right along the base of Gooseberry Mesa.
As we passed Gooseberry Mesa I assumed we would soon make a left turn, and drive along the south side of the mesa. But no, Jens told me to keep on driving up the highway.
After a couple of left turnoffs we approached the parking area. We were the 5th car to take up a spot. The weather was perfect… none of the powerful wind gusts we had experienced the day before on the Guacamole Trail. Jens and I quickly readied our bikes while Catherine and Cindy got a few things ready for their hike.
We left the Gooseberry parking lot through an opening in the wood rails surrounding the parking area, the beginning of Gooseberry Mesa’s South Rim trail. I had to stop right away as I forgot to turn on my GPS. With two video cameras and a GPS I find it increasingly difficult to get everything turned on and off at the correct times. Jens was waiting ahead and asked if I wanted to go first. I told him to go first and we would alternate positions. I asked him if the trail was difficult to follow (the Guacamole Trail was a little tricky the day before) but Jens said Gooseberry was marked with white painted dots, just like the famous Slickrock Trail in Moab.
The South Rim trail started as mostly flat with dirt and small trees and only an occasional slab of limestone … but seemed to get progressively rockier and steeper as it passed through some gullies and returned to flat rock sheets with play-pool size basins etched into their surface. I found myself huffing and puffing even though we had done no extended climbing. I guess the periodic scaling of rock surfaces can produce the same physical effect on the body … especially since we were at an elevation 5,194 feet.
Jens was following me as we came around a large rock to find a young boy at the bottom of a small climb. He looked as if he was getting mentally ready to ride up the next section of rock trail. Upon passing him I noticed some people on top of the rise with their cameras out, prepared to catch the boy’s efforts. As I got closer I identified the people as two adults and another boy. I said hello and quickly rode past, trying to get out of their camera shot in case the youngster at the bottom decided to begin his assault on the climb.
Less than a mile later we came to the junction for the South Rim Trial. As we sat looking at the sign, the “photo” family pulled up and asked about the trail. Jens told them the South Rim Trail was quite challenging from that point on… maybe too tough for the boys. The other alternative was to either go right or left on the dirt road that was a continuation of the one we pulled off when we parked the car.
With a minimal amount of small-talk we found the family was from Sweden. The boys’ names were Nicolas and Victor, the mom was Eva while the dad went by Lars. They were staying in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and were trying to become American citizens. The boys were about 10-12 yrs old and looked quite small for their bicycles. We left them as they tried to decide whether they wanted to do continue on the South Rim trail, or ride on the jeep road.
The next section of the South Rim did prove to be more challenging, with larger boulders. Jens was quick to point out the pinkish tinge (rose) color of many rock surfaces. We both surmised as to why this section was not gray, like 99% of the rock on this trail. Neither of us came up with any logical explanation… another question for Cindy.
At one point, with Jens in the lead, we tried to ride up a small waterfall and failed. Jens walked up it but encouraged me to try it again. I walked back down and gave it another shot. The hard part was the sharp left turn followed by a steep rock ramp with a curb-size protuberance crossing it. On my third attempt I hit my knee on my Contour camera (which I had mounted on my bottom tube) and knocked it sideways, and then just came to a complete stop.
I extended my left hand slightly and leaned against the rock wall and … just sat there, laughing. After readjusting the position of my pedals I pushed off the wall and tried to make the final 5 feet. It was not to be. I grunted and strained and wobbled and… tipped onto my right foot, going no farther. I did not try again, closely following the “Three Try” policy I had learned from reading a book written by Elden “Fatty” Nelson, a “famous” bicycle blogger.
After walking up the remainder of the climb, feeling totally defeated, I noticed I had broken the mount for my Contour, making it useless for the remainder of the ride. Damn! I was looking forward to watching clips gathered from this wonderful little camera on this great trail.
As I was putting my Contour in my pack Jens told me he had taken a couple of photos of my flailing attempts. Boy, I couldn’t wait to see the look on my face in those photos, distorted and grotesque like most photos of people in the midst of grueling competitions.
After getting the Contour put away I turned to go and found myself looking at a sand dune … compressed into solid rock … but still looking like the ridges and waves often formed in beach sand. I had to take out my still camera and get a photo so I could show Cindy when I returned to the car.
I turned to take one last look back down the falls and noticed Nicolas and Victor at the bottom … starting to push their bikes up. I guessed they hadn’t shied away from this difficult portion of the South Rim trail. I was kind of glad they didn’t ride up the falls… thinking my ego probably could not have taken it.
The next stretch of Gooseberry Mesa Trail was the best we rode all week. We dropped into the crevices that separated slabs of rock the size of basketball courts, winding along orange sand trails, only to find ourselves grinding back onto another slab. The general direction of the trail was southwest… toward the rim of Gooseberry Mesa. It was during this stretch that Jens began to talk about biorhythms.
To help visualize the landmarks I talk about in the rest of this story, or to aid in your own ride on Gooseberry Mesa, please enjoy this interactive, trail map. Click the icons for info on land-marks, both general and personal to this ride.
Have you ridden on Gooseberry Mesa before? What did you think of it? Share your story with us and other visitors to this page here.
He asked me (yelling from the trail behind me) if I had ever tracked my biorhythms, to which I shouted, “No.” He said he was in a low spot with his biorhythms. When I asked what that meant, he said each person could trace these fluctuations in their body and determine what kind of energy they were going to have on any particular day. I began to think, does everyone have the same biorhythms as time passes by? So I hollered to him, “at what point in our lives do these biorhythms begin, what is their reference point?” Jens responded with, “From the day we are born.” “So, what does that mean for you today,” I yelled over my shoulder. He shouted back that he was not feeling that strong and things were not going to be at their best for him. I have since began to wonder if all the people born on the same day and year as I, have exactly the same fluctuations, the same ups and downs as me even if they lived in a different part of the world or had totally different factors in their lives? I guess I’ll have to check and report back to you on that.
After we reached the top of a Gooseberry Mesa ridge we met a fellow biker riding the opposite direction. The rider introduced himself as Paul… from Bend, Oregon. I said, “No way! Just two days ago I met another guy from Bend Oregon!” (See Cosmo on my Blue Diamond page.) I asked Paul if the trails in Bend were as good as Cosmo had claimed, to which he replied “Yes.” He said there were over 2,000 miles of trails in and around Bend.
Then Paul immediately asked how I felt wearing cleats on such uneven, rocky terrain. I told him I really liked not having my feet slip off the pedals. He said he had little experience on this type of ride (slickrock) so he did not feel comfortable with them, but had decided to give them a try anyway. He said he had never ridden Gooseberry Mesa before but had recently ridden Bootleg Canyon (Boulder City, Nevada) on a unicycle. Jens’ and I both just sat and stared at this guy. Finally I said, “You mean… a one-wheeled cycle?” He said… “Yes.” I immediately whipped out my still camera and chest mounted Playsport and filmed this guy! Riding a mountain bike trail… any kind of trail… on a unicycle?
Not more than 100 yards past the “Unicyle” guy I rode gradually up on a rock about 3 feet high, crossed over its somewhat flat surface… and started down the other side, a short, steep, drop. As I began to descend I noticed the dirt at the bottom was not flat running away from the bottom edge of the rock, but… instead formed a small bowl, maybe two feet in diameter and a couple inches deep. I knew if I didn’t make a significant effort to throw my weight back… my front tire was going to stick in the hole and I was going over the bars again. I positioned my butt behind my seat and lifted hard on my bars. My front tire hesitated for a split second… and then rolled out of the bowl and down Gooseberry Mesa’s South Rim Trail. I was relieved… for I knew I’d just avoided trouble.
Next thing I knew I heard Jens laughing and groaning at the same time. What had happened back there…? To find out please click Gooseberry Mesa (page 2).