A Desert Loop — Multisport Vacation

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 19, 2009      

While I know most of you wildsnowers are jonesing for the white season to begin your ? year of backcountry skiing, I hope some of you are enjoying the perfect desert recreation weather we’ve been having here in the Colorado/Utah banana belt. We were down in Moab a few weeks ago enjoying a bit of hiking, mountain biking and petrochemical entertainment, but this past Thursday we pulled out all the stops and did a 4-day loop through southern Colorado and on back through the Moab area and Fruita. Check it out. Nothing like a bit of Indian summer traveling to make the Colorado lifestyle complete! To start in good style we drove part of the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway down to Gateway Canyons resort. As if that wasn’t scenic enough, the trip just got better and better as we progressed through four days of Colorado and Utah’s best.

Gateway Canyons

Gateway Canyons resort in south western Colorado. The place is already somewhat of a legend. Built by Discovery Channel founder and multi gizzilionair John Hendricks, Gateway Canyons was plopped smack dab in the middle of a depressed ex uranium mining region that had seen better days. Needless to say, the place has caused a bit of a local stir. I liked the concept and the execution. A network of BLM desert trails in the area provide everything from beautiful hikes and single track mountain biking (first real test of my new Trek EX7), to backcountry 4x4 driving nearly on par with Moab. And the resort is full service, replete with everything from a gas station to a grocery store. The big swimming pool can even be pressed into service for lap swimming, and the fitness center is world class. We got out on a beautiful evening hike behind the resort, then did an excellent mountain bike ride the next morning.

About the only thing you cant do at Gateway is backcountry ski.

View of Gateway resort from trails west of the facility. The design does a nice job of blending in with a sort of faux Spanish adobe motif. It's a bit over the top, but seems to work.

Gateway auto museum.

The truly odd but somehow excellent feature of Gateway Resort is the world-class antique automobile museum. Yeah, I know you guys were wondering when I'd work petrochemical entertainment into this desert fun blog post, so here you go. But laugh all you want. Go visit this thing and you'll be blown away if you have any art appreciation cells left in your brain. Pictured here is one of dozens of restored antique automobiles known worldwide as some of the best. In this case, a 1947 Chrysler Town & Country convertable (same year as our Willys Jeep).

Gateway Chrysler Town & Country 1947

Chrysler Town & Country wood bodywork. With our son majoring in industrial design and doing the requisite wood working, I thought he'd appreciate seeing these.

1947 Chrysler trailhead approach vehical.

I don't know about you, but I saw something sexy in this hood design on the Chrysler. Perhaps because we were on our 15th honeymoon? I should mention that also displayed in the museum is the famed 1954 Olds F-88 concept car that's said to be the best example of automotive art to ever come out of North America (as well as the most expensive antique car ever auctioned, at $3.24 millon.) I got some good photos of the 88, but I'll leave that to your imagination to perhaps inspire you to visit. Take my word for it: Worth the drive. Ride some of the trails while you're at it, or do some rock climbing in nearby Unaweep Canyon.

Colorado Utah State Line

After a couple nights at Gateway, it was time to move on. To keep it interesting, we took the adventure drive (2-wheel-drive dirt) up through John Brown Canyon, across the state line, then over the LaSal Mountains and down via Castle Valley (near Moab) into the Colorado River valley. This is simply one of the most sublime drives I've done in a long time. Varied terrain, incredible views, little traffic. Nice 'backdoor' to the Moab area.

LaSal Mountains drive

When you crest the La Sals you'll see an obvious parking area for an un-improved overlook and hiking trail. Stroll out there, and you get this view of the amazing Taylor Ranch in the Onion Creek Valley. Talk about 'big sky country,' well you don't have to go north to find it! And don't worry about this area getting too crowded.

Next stop, Fisher Towers trail

Next stop, Fisher Towers trail on Hwy 28 east of Moab. They've improved this trail quite a bit, it's even got some steel that reminded me of something in Europe. True to form, someone was even talking German in the vicinity! I guess it's 'build the ferratta' and they will come, or something like that anyway. Due to limited sky views this was a good hike for testing my latest attempt at liking a GPS, this time the Garmin 60CSx. It worked flawlessly.

Fisher Towers

I did a couple of big wall climbs here in the 1970s and early 1980s, including getting in on the first ascent of the Titan's west face, marked in the photo. This 1,200 foot high beast was originally called the 'Monster Tower' by climbers in the 1950s and 1960s, until it was tamed in 1962 by Layton Kor (along with George Hurley & Huntley Ingalls) who did the first ascent via the Fickle Finger of Fate route, designated by the telltale finger visible to left in the photo. Even that route is a chore -- but the big wall routes on this formation will wring you out and discard you like a dried out dishrag. They include little amusements such as mud curtains you have to hack through to reach solid rock, and 'cone bugs' that suck your blood during bivouacs unless you fight them off. Highly recommended.

La Sportiva for the backcountry.

I'd like to say this trip was 100% underwritten by La Sportiva, dream, but they did support us with a nice pair of Halite GTX light hikers for Lisa. These are the right weight and beef for desert hiking, but the Gore Tex layer is probably overkill and makes them a bit hot. On the other hand, they're the perfect light hiker for more alpine environments where you might be tromping through wet or snow. In other words, some high lakes fishing trips for next year?

Fruita bicycle training for backcountry skiing.

Next stop, Fruita, Colorado. This is the town that mountain biking (and a natural gas boom) saved from oblivion. The town was bankrupt in 1989 after a refinery closed. Around that time a group of visionary locals started promoting a variety of nearby cycling trails. The system evolved and is arguably some of the best single track riding in the world. Such attracts enough people to support three bicycle stores, lots of local services, and a town that looked like a busy place despite our slow national economy. We did a ride on the trails north of town. Amazing. Our ride found me rocketing down a sluice, turning my bike by angulating at the hips just like I was riding tight turns in the powder forest on Marble Peak last winter. Challenging as well, even if it was just a grade 2 out of 5...

Desert honeymoon in the backcountry.

Nothing like a few days in the desert to bring a couple together. And check out the hat hair!

Fruita single track.

Fruita single track - a metaphor for a life of WildSnow? Or just, singletrack? I have to go back there and figure it out.

Gateway Canyons website.
Fruita mountain biking website.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


14 Responses to “A Desert Loop — Multisport Vacation”

  1. Mike October 19th, 2009 10:02 am

    Looks like a great trip, definitely one part of the country I’d really like to explore.

    Are the in-post ads here to stay? It seems like it was only Friday that you were poking fun at another blogger for doing the same thing.

  2. Mark October 19th, 2009 10:11 am

    Nice country. Hope you like the bike.

  3. shoveler October 19th, 2009 12:49 pm

    Nice trip, good job exploring what we’ve got to offer.

  4. Lou October 19th, 2009 1:44 pm

    Mike, I was just experimenting with the product placement, no way I’ll be embedding ads in the middle of posts on a regular basis, though I might place a relevant one at the end now and then. My view is that an add to a relevant product that I recommend and have tested myself is ok once in a while, at the end of the post. Like the camera link. And yeah, I was making fun of doing that as it easily gets out of hand.

  5. Mira October 19th, 2009 2:54 pm

    I think Mike has a good point. There were six in-line ads, 25 banner ads, three product “suggestions” and a request for donations on that page. I know “print is dead” but if this is a glimpse of the future… belch.

    On the Fisher Tower photo, didn’t you do the second ascent of the Sun Devil Chimney and is that the line you were referring to? If so, I think the dotted line should be further to the right.

  6. Mira October 19th, 2009 2:58 pm

    oops, make that “farther” to the right.

  7. Lou October 19th, 2009 3:43 pm

    Mira, I totally agree with you guys. Too much advertising. I don’t know what I was thinking!!!! In fact, I’ll fix. One thing I will keep doing on occasion are embedded links in the content text, which are done as a reader service as much as anything. This especially in positive gear reviews.

    As for Titan, I did first ascent of West Face approx as marked with Harvey Carter, as well as Michael Kennedy, Kendall Williams and Tom Merill (latter guys didn’t finish the route). Mike McCoy and I did the second (at least I think that was the #) of the Sun Devil which is over to the right.


  8. Lou October 19th, 2009 3:47 pm

    Cleaned things up. I know it’s an old song to sing, but please keep in mind that the banners make it possible to keep WildSnow.com going as it’s pretty much a full time job, and also has fixed costs. But the ads in the posts are usually too much, I totally agree.

  9. Mira October 19th, 2009 4:51 pm

    > But the ads in the posts are usually too much, I totally agree.

    Don’t despair – I’m sure they’ll show up in TetonTele.com tomorrow.

  10. Tom Gos October 19th, 2009 5:08 pm

    I guess I don’t expect so much from my blogger. The world is filled with advertising. I generally divide the blog world into two camps: blogs that share personal info between family and friends, and blogs that are commercial endeavors. Of course nothing is black and white, but to me Wildsnow is currently without doubt primarily a commercial endeavor as evidenced by all the banner ads and frequent reviews of free product. Nothing wrong with that, everyone has to make a living, and I think it’s pretty obvious what I’m getting when I surf over to Wildsnow so I’m not being mislead. This isn’t meant to in any way dimish the value of Wildsnow, or to understate my enjoyment of it. In the end I’m willing to let Lou keep making a buck in exchange for continued updates and useful information. Incidentally, Lou, I haven’t seen you make any comment regarding the new federal commercial disclosure rules or guidelines for bloggers. Did I miss it? If not, what’s your take on this?

  11. Lou October 19th, 2009 5:19 pm

    Tom, thanks for the words. And yeah, I’m a professional blogger with a commercial blog. Imagine that! And yeah, I’m not going to clutter up my content but I will provide buy links now and then as reader service (and of course to help with expenses).

    Regarding the disclosure rules, it appears they don’t apply to “professional” bloggers so I’m not too worried about it. Besides, quite a bit of stuff we review is on loan so that is a wrinkle as well, and some of it we even buy (and sometimes return after some testing) as I sometimes prefer doing that over dealing with a company which can take quite a bit of time as well as get unpleasant if it’s product we’re not high on! Just to be safe, everyone should just assume that we end up with nearly everything we like, and that’s how we like it (grin).

    I should also share that I’m not big on bashing product just to appear “unbiased.” I’d rather just mostly review stuff we like, find a few cons to talk about along with the high points, and move on. Debate about thread count and type of DNR coatings can take place in the comments (grin).

    Some bloggers seem to have made a big deal out of the Fed rules, but I found it nothing more than a small distraction from trying to get going with things like beacon and ski reviews that I know we need to start pumping out!

  12. Lou October 19th, 2009 7:01 pm

    Mira, as will my latest design ideas? :cwy:

  13. mooddude October 19th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Great pictures Lou! I did a similar trip this past weekend, except to Red Canyon, Bryce, Zion. Great Mountain biking and hiking. With so much rain in early summer, I hope the snow holds off for another month so I can get more biking, climbing, hiking in. Although, if tons of the white stuff hits the Wasatch – I won’t mind either 😉

  14. Mark W October 20th, 2009 6:17 am

    Fisher Towers eh? Realm of the tough guys. And you even get parasitic bugs! Icing on the big wall cake!

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