Make your knees weak’ views on Moab bike trail come at physical challenge
I have oft wondered what it would be like to stand on the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. So when I found out that the Top of the World is not far away in the Himalayas, but is a mountain bike trail just this side of Moab, I decided it had to be climbed.
Starting from the Entrada Bluffs Road it is a 5-mile grunt one way, rising 2,000 feet up a rocky four-wheel drive double-track. Wooed by the reportedly “killer” views that would “make your knees weak,” I customarily glossed over the section of the guidebook that described the trail as “technically and physically difficult to downright masochistic.”
Last Sunday morning saw my husband, Chad, and I hop on our bikes and set out from base camp headed for the Top of the World. With a light breeze and blue skies, we quickly traveled a mile of easy gravel road to the trail head. As the route turned westward, I cast my eyes toward our final destination. A vast slab of pinyon-covered rock tilted toward the sky, stretching several miles before ending in a sharp line against the shimmering blue.
At first the trail was a low-angle double track and we span easily along in the middle chain ring. With room on the road and in our lungs, we rode side by side, chattering and marveling at the sego lilies, penstemons, paintbrush and other desert wildflowers that passed us by. Of course it wasn’t too long before the trail started its climb in earnest and the first indicators of a potential suffer-fest became evident.
Dropping to our small rings, conversation became rather sparse as we applied ourselves to the task at hand. Twisting and turning, we navigated the increasingly rocky and ledgey terrain and settled into a steady rhythm slowly grinding uphill. Though the trail never got too steep to require a forced dismount, I confess to occasionally using the designated trip photographer excuse in order to catch my breath.
The trail became even more challenging. Sparse conversation was replaced with the occasional grunt as the terrain became steeper and the ledges bigger. Focused now only on turning the cranks and hopping knobby tires over rocks, the surrounding scenery became a sweat-smeared blur. Precisely at the point when it seemed impossible that it could get any worse, the slickrock steepened even further. I leaned harder into the hill and stomped down on the pedals. My needle crept closer and closer to the red line.
Then suddenly we were miraculously saved from further punishment as the trail abruptly ended, the rock shearing off beneath our feet and plummeting over a thousand feet to the valley below. We had finally reached Killer Viewpoint, the Top of the World.
Although my knees were severely weakened by the climb, my legs buckled even further, as promised by the guidebook, when I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and looked over the edge. The views were indeed killer. Immediately below were the Fisher Towers and a little farther off the Colorado River meandered its way through Professor Valley. As we swiveled on our rocky perch, 360 degrees of spectacular scenery filled our eyes.
To the east the Uncompaghre Plateau in Colorado, to the South the La Sal Mountains in Utah, to the west Canyonlands and Arches national parks and to the north the ever-present Bookcliffs stretched far on either side of the state line.
The return from the Top of the World was the complete opposite of the grind up — fun and fast as we bounced, hopped, dropped and weaved our way down the technical track. Back at camp, I pondered the day, our successful summit bid and the beauty found at such lofty heights.
Although clearly not as brutal as climbing Everest, I would submit that our Top of the World is just as spectacular. And it’s certainly a lot closer than going to the Himalayas.
Read about more of Ann’s outdoor adventures on her Outdoor Junkie blog at GJSentinel.com.