The Pain And Beauty of the Desert Ramble


Lelan, Bobby, Jim, Brady and Tim regroup after a long fireroad section of the Kokopelli Trail.


The weather in Salt Lake City did not bode well for the start of the Desert Ramble.


The airport in Grand Junction, CO has it’s own unique flavor. Luckily we didn’t see any of these on the trip.


Eric, Tim,Cass, Bobby and Jason make their way up Kane Creek. The creek itself supports it’s own independent ecosystem, with plants and wildlife that otherwise would not survive in the desert.


Left: Bobby crosses Kane Creek. Right: The Kane Creek Canyon is something else to ride through.


Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to some of the best views, and mountain biking, horseback riding, motorcycling and 4x4 trails in the country.


Holes in the rock in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. I have no idea what made these, but they are awesome.


Tim, Bobby and Lelan break out lunch while Jim lays out his gear in the sun to dry at a Forest Service Ranger Station along the Colorado River.


Glenn and Eric make their way up a rocky section of the route. The Kokopelli Trail features a great many places where pushing or carrying are your only options.


Cass climbs up Sand Flats Road.




Left:Riding Kane Creek means innumerable creek crossings, and very wet footgear. Jason dries his socks on a stick while shoes line the fire ring.


If you want massive, sweeping vistas that will awe and humble you, the high deserts of Colorado and Utah won't dissapoint.


Some things are still best done the old fashioned way, on horseback with a good cattle dog.


At the top of a ridge, preparing to descend and then climb to the top of another ridge, on the Kokopelli Trail.


Bobby pauses at the top of a climb to take in the view.


Bobby, Jason and Eric enjoy the sunshine in downtown Moab.


Left: A rare break in the clouds allowed us to be greeted by a double rainbow as we rolled into our campsite. That didn't last long, but it was pretty while it did! Right: Bobby checks the gear inside of his tent after a rainy night in the campground in Fruita, CO.


Cass and Tim take in the view of the steam shrouded Colorado River during sunrise.


The sun starts to set on a rainy day on the Kokopelli Trail. We made 19 miles in five and a half hours.


Checking in.


Flying over the impressive terrain that is the source of both joy and pain on the Desert Ramble.


As awesome as bikepacking trips are, there are some things worth coming home for.

It all started some months back when Jason, aka Gnat, set off a discussion amongst a small group of us. The topic? A fatbike only bike-packing trip along the Kokopelli Trail to celebrate his birthday with Glenn, Eric, Lelan, Jim, Bobby, Brady, Cass, Tim and myself. The Kokopelli is a gorgeous, 142-mile, very tough, multi-use trail connecting two of the great meccas of mountain biking in the United States: Fruita, CO and Moab, UT. We’d each have to pack in several days worth of food and a good day and a half’s worth of water, or more. This was not going to be a fire road jaunt from service area to service area. Jason had something else in mind. The route featured a ton of technical single track, rocks, places where we’d carry our bikes up embankments, and long stretches of desert. Hearing about it was more than a little intimidating. Time passed, work piled up, money got short, training time never appeared, home life stress multiplied exponentially. One week before the trip and I wasn’t so sure I should be going at all. But this was Jason, one of my best friends I only get to see once every two years, if that. While there was every logical reason for me not to go, there was no way I could back out.

Now, like I said, I expected to have a little bit of a tough go from the start, as the British would say. I was dead wrong. I had a MASSIVE bit of a tough go from the start. As soon as we left Fruita, where it had rained on us while camping overnight, it started to rain again. Before we even hit the trail head, my legs were letting me know what they thought of the whole idea (hint: not much) and my back tire went flat. Twice. Like a space cadet I had neither the tool required to affect the fix nor the supplies to fix it. Luckily, Bobby had both and was kind enough to lend me a hand. This is also the guy who brought along a full repair stand and toolbox in his truck. You know, just in case someone needed a major bike repair done before we left Fruita. He comes prepared like that.

When we actually got to the trail, things got worse. In the places we could ride, the mud was slick and splattered all over everybody. In the places we couldn’t ride we were pushing our bikes, fully packed with camping gear, food and water, up and over steep, rocky inclines. It didn’t take long for the bottom of my shoes to get packed with mud and small rocks. The muck made it impossible to get in or out of my clip less pedals, which meant I started crashing. Often. My shins and forearms became covered with bruises, cuts and scrapes. To say that my mood, which wasn’t great to begin with, started to nose dive rapidly would be an understatement. I got so frustrated at it all that I almost left the trip entirely. We came across a railroad spur that led to the local highway and it was all I could do to not ride out and go back to Fruita.

But here’s the thing—for every down, there is an up. This would be proven, time and time again, along the entire Desert Ramble. Some concrete examples:

It was a terrible first day, but Bobby was kind with is tools, I saw incredible scenery every single place I turned my head, and I got treated to a double rainbow at the campsite.
I endured a wet, dismal second night in a row on the trail. It was so bad that Glenn slept with his rain jacket draped over his head and torso in order to try to stay dry while he slept. But then I woke up and discovered that hot water, a little Maker’s Mark, oatmeal and raisins make arguably the most delicious trail breakfast I have ever had. Later that same day, after riding and hiking through, shocker, more mud and rocks while collecting more scrapes, we were treated to golden leaved cottonwood trees, and a sunset that literally made the clouds look like they were on fire. And, a dry campsite! After two nights of sleeping in the rain, a dry place to sleep and the ability to have a group dinner is something special. The simple pleasures are often the best kind.

I could go on, offering more proof and talking about the long climb up Sand Flats Road and the views, tourists, cowboys and cowgirls you can meet out there. Or about the exhausting slog that is Kane Creek Road and the once in a lifetime experience of watching a massive, blindingly bright full moon rise over the canyon walls. I could talk about cattle drives that take over state roads, scraping the length of your shin on a huge rock after falling over in exhaustion but recovering in time to take part in a 27-mph, fatbike paceline down the highway, the groans of despair at the sight of ANOTHER steep hike a bike and the sounds of laughter as we compared notes on life, being Dads, camera equipment, relationships, bikes and careers over whisky and a campfire.

People sometimes ask why, in this life I live with not enough time in the day, do I go on bikepacking trips like the Desert Ramble? Why, if I end up suffering and struggling, do I keep going out there? The answer is simple—it’s for the moments like those, with friends like these, which happen on each trip, that are too numerous to recount in one sitting. Whatever suffering and struggling that comes along as the price is absolutely worth it. It may sound trite, but you can’t get these kinds of experiences, see that kind of beauty, sitting at a desk or on your living room couch.

(Huge thanks goes out to Jason for organizing the Desert Ramble, and to Glenn, Eric, Lelan, Jim, Bobby, Brady, Cass, and Tim for their friendship out on the trail. If you’ve never ridden the Kokopelli Trail, I can’t recommend it enough.)