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julia-canyon

If you haven’t figured it out already, outdoor adventure and travel are a big part of my life and pretty much what inspire all of my artwork. My prints wouldn’t be what they are without a lifestyle that includes hitting the road, exploring, and discovering new places. Whether I’m on foot, on my bike, on skis, or a stand-up paddle board, getting outside is such a huge part of who I am. So I’ll be sharing my adventures with you in an ongoing series of blog posts that document my adventures. The goal is to give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires my artwork, and hopefully to inspire you to plan your next adventure!

I was originally going to post this in one part, but it quickly got very, very long! I’ll be posting it in two parts, so watch for the second part early next week!

Last week Brian, my husband, and I took a week off and headed into the desert backcountry. We biked the Kokopelli Trail, a 142-mile trail that stretches from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah.

Before we embarked on the trip, we debated the logistics of traveling the trail and how we would carry our gear. Some folks carry all of their camping gear, food, water, clothes, etc. with them on their bikes, but we were warned that this is very challenging on the Kokopelli. There aren’t many places to access drinking water, so that means carrying a lot of extra water weight (even if you filter it yourself, which we are used to doing when we backpack). Other people hire a company to shuttle all their gear from one overnight destination to the next, but this can get quite costly. If we’d had a larger group of people we could’ve taken turns driving the gear from one point to the next, but when you only have a party of two, that’s not exactly a fun or realistic plan.

cars

We decided on a leapfrog method of travel, driving two vehicles to the desert and then shuttling one car to the day’s destination in the morning, then retrieving the other car in the evening. This worked ok, but was time consuming and not the most environmentally friendly option we could’ve picked. We did a LOT of driving.

Although a few crazies out there do the whole trail in 1-3 days, we decided to take the route at a more sane pace, stretching it out over 5 days. This came out to an average of about 28 miles per days, but we biked anywhere from 17 to 41 miles per days, depending on the access points to the trail and the difficulty of the terrain.

wet-shoes

My poor wet shoes and our soaked tent floor!

Day 1: We had planned to rise early and knock out about 33 miles, but the weather had other plans. It rained cats and dogs all night, and everything the next morning was soaked to the bone.

We tried to shuttle our car to the first destination, but the mud was AWFUL! We were lucky our vehicles didn’t get stuck. We knew we wouldn’t make it far on our bikes.

Fortunately in the desert, everything dries out pretty quickly. After a leisurely brunch at Camilla’s Kaffe in Fruita, and a stop for a few last-minute supplies, we were able to get on the trail by afternoon. Since it’s starting to get dark pretty early these days, we had to adjust our destination for the day by about 12 miles, but we were happy to be able to get 21 miles in (13 of which were fun singletrack!).

The first part of the trail follows the popular Mary’s Loop Trail, a singletrack trail with breathtaking scenery high above the Colorado River. The cottonwood trees below us were changing to a beautiful golden color and we had the trail almost totally to ourselves.

colarado-river-marys-loop

julia-day1

All in all this first section took us about 5 hours. Not too bad considering the Bikerpelli guide book suggested it should take 4, and we still had to deal with a bit of mud here and there. This was definitely one of the most technical sections of the trail. About halfway through the day we had to do some serious hike-a-biking over large boulders. It made me glad we didn’t have all of our camping gear, food, and water with us!

brian-hiking

We spent our second night at a dispersed campsite in Rabbit Valley, a BLM recreation area right before the Colorado-Utah border. We made chicken burritos and they were absolutely delicious after a long bike ride!

Day 2: After shuttling a car to our next destination, Fish Ford, we headed back to pick up the trail where we left off at Rabbit Valley. The next several miles were on jeep trails with just a few technical spots we had to navigate. Crossing the state line was uneventful as we didn’t even notice a sign marking the border (nor could we tell exactly where it was). I found this kind of funny, because along I-70 it seems to be such a big deal. The signs are huge and creatively designed, and there’s always at least one car stopped to take a picture.

We broke for lunch near Westwater after a fun, fast, 4-mile descent on pavement. The area was a bit less scenic – not much in the way of views and clearly the resident cows had visited recently.

After lunch we continued on to Fish Ford, following a relatively flat dirt road through what almost felt like prairie.

day2-1

Not long into the sunny afternoon, we caught sight of the La Sal Mountains in the distance:

day2-2

The guide book describes this section as dull, but I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. We clocked 41 miles in total in the same amount of time as the previous day. That’s twice as fast! And there was something about the desolation of this section that was so peaceful and beautiful. We saw only one other mountain biker, as well as one dirt biker, the whole day. We saw about 10 times as many antelope (unfortunately I didn’t get a picture).

We were pleasantly surprised at how un-tired we felt when we reached Fish Ford. We could’ve definitely done another 10 (if not 20) miles of similar terrain.

Brian was worried about having enough gas since we were heading further and further away from civilization. He drives an Xterra, which is not exactly known for great gas mileage – especially when we’re quasi 4x4ing on jeep trails. Since we had to drive back to Rabbit Valley to retrieve my car, we headed back into Fruita to gas up and get dinner. I was planning on cooking when we got to our next camp, but it didn’t take much for Brian to convince me to go get Hot Tomato in Fruita. In case you’ve never been there, they have the BEST pizza on the western slope – I highly recommend it!

After dinner we headed to Dewey Bridge to camp in a more established campground along the Colorado River. It was pretty uncrowded, but we camped next to two other bikers and looked forward to chatting with them in the morning as it appeared they were truly bike packing (and not leapfrog car camping like us).

Read Part II (days 3-5) of this post here!