Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Arbitrary ratios, botany, and naked women at the trailhead

As I mentioned yesterday, while my brother was home busting his butt on Suncrest, I was in Moab, hanging out with a guy who knocks people out for a living, the Psycho Rider, a bean counter, and two sleazy divorce lawyers. Or in other words, some of my friends from Boise.

I’ve gone to Moab with these guys every spring since 2005. When I lived in Boise, it was a big deal, and we’d take a week off of work for the trip. Actually, they still do. But since I live 3.5 hours from Moab, it’s someplace I can go for a weekend. I met up with them for a short night ride on Friday and a ride on Saturday then came home. And still didn’t feel as though my drive time to recreation time ratio was out of whack.*

* Way back when I lived in Indiana and was miles and miles from anything fun to do, I determined that if one-way drive time is <= recreation time, it was a worthwhile tradeoff. We routinely drove to Chicago for baseball games or just to go to dinner, and I often drove to Northern Michigan to fly fish. Living in Utah has really thrown that off, because there’s lots to do within an hour’s drive, and pretty much anywhere in the state is accessible within four hours.

I would say this trip to Moab was colored more by Alex than anyone else. Since I began reading his blog, I’ve taken much more notice of the natural world when I ride. And while I don’t pretend to understand anything that’s going on around me, it’s still fun to observe. One of the sleazy divorce lawyers also studied geology and can talk intelligently about rocks, which is also cool in Moab for, um, obvious reasons.

Given Alex’s influence, I thought it fitting to start with this photo of my friend Steve (not to be confused with my brother, Steve, or Dug’s brother, Steve, or my friend Steve’s neighbor, Steve, who came with us last year, as did my brother, Steve). You’re welcome.


Is there any better place in the world to put a ribbon of singletrack than Moab?

I love riding the rocky step-ups. Yours truly on round two of this move so I could do it for the camera.

Going to Moab in the fall is nice because you’ve had a full season to build fitness. But you miss the one time of the year that the desert is really alive. The best solution? Go spring and fall.

Anyone know why some cactus flowers are yellow…

…while others are pink? Because other than that, the two look identical. At least to someone like me who doesn’t know much about identifying plants.

This green and yellow lizard was easy to spot against the red rock. He was not, however, easy to convince to hold still for a photo. Thanks to a 12x optical zoom and cropping in Picasa, it looks like I got a lot closer to him than I ever did. Wish there was something in the photo to show scale, because he was over a foot long. Unless he is actually a she.

I would describe this shrubbery as a Piney Looking Thing. I’m sure it has a real name though. And probably isn’t a pine, either.

If you’ve just been scrolling through hoping to spot naked women like Psycho Rider did at the trailhead for this very trail a few years ago, I’m sorry to disappoint. But I would like to share with you the extent of my botanical knowledge: this tree is a Colorado Piñon.

And here are its needles, below. They’re in pairs, unlike the Singleleaf Piñon, which also grows in Utah. I still have not decided which to plant in my yard, but last night made some progress towards doing so, as I ripped out some of the scrawny, mostly dead trees. I don’t know how they were alive, as one of them came out about as easy as pulling a dandelion and had no roots other than the root ball from when it was planted six years ago.

If you haven’t ridden the Baby Steps trail, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my new favorites. Very similar to Sovereign trail in that it’s technical enough to be interesting, but not like Porcupine Rim where you feel like you’re going to shake your derailleur clean off if you aren’t on a freeride bike.

And for those still hoping I’ll fill you in on the naked lady reference, Baby Steps shares a trailhead with Klondike Bluffs. Years ago, Psycho Rider and his friend Mike arrived at the trailhead just as a couple of fit, attractive young ladies were finishing their ride.

Apparently these women had no better place to change clothes than the parking lot, so they disrobed and changed right there, in full view. Needless to say, it was somewhat distracting. When they started the ride, Mike said “hey, look at my socks.” He had on one black and one white but somehow failed to notice this detail while putting them on.

Matching socks or not, Moab is always worth the drive. The only reason not to go more often is that the alternatives, such as St. George or skiing or riding in the Wasatch, are an embarrassment of riches.


  1. Good post and good Moab photos.

    I wasn't that impressed with baby Steps. Some of it's lines seemed forced. It's an OK trail, but I had more fun just going back down Klondike - ripping down that broken slickrock is a hoot.

  2. Hmm I've always called those pinons, junipers. But then, anything evergreen I usually call a "pine" anyway.

  3. Kris, I didn't think the features felt forced at all--thought it had a nice flow. To each his own, I guess, though I'd encourage you to give it another try.

    Adam, piñons and junipers are often found together, and in fact, these piñons were way outnumbered by junipers. I just took the photo to make sure I could identify the piñons reliably as I want to plant one in my yard and need to know for sure what I'm looking for. Here's a hint, though: the junipers have berries this time of year. And although their leaves are small, they're still clearly leaves and not needles.

  4. We rode Baby Steps when it was fairly new so maybe it's settled in since then. It was good enough I'd give it another ride to see if it's improved.

  5. Awesome post. Biking and botany always make for a great post. If only you’d managed to deliver on the third item- then it’d be the Best Post Ever! Sounds like you had a great weekend. Glad you’re enjoying the plants as well as the riding and happy to hear my blog has been helpful. Now to the plants:

    You’re spot on with the Colorado Pinon ID- great job! I don’t think you’ll find a Singleleaf around Moab, though you’ll see them all around Gooseberry and out in the West Desert.

    That “Piney Looking Thing” is Mormon Tea. It’s a cool, weird plant, unlike anything else around it. It’s not an angiosperm (flowering plant) and it’s not a conifer (pine, fir, spruce, etc.) It’s another thing altogether. The genus is called Ephedra, and a related plant in Asia produces ephedrine. So does this one, but the amounts are so tiny you’ll never manage to get high off it. More info in this post.

    The flower color question is too big to tackle in a comment (it’s a monster post of its own.) But 3 quick things to keep in mind. First, there are something like 200 species of prickly pear (Opuntia) and a bunch look way alike. Second, how we see a flower isn’t necessarily how a bird or bee sees that flower. Birds see more colors than we do, as do some insects, and bees have their color vision spectrum shifted toward higher frequencies, so they see UV for example. Third, the important thing is that the flower looks bright, and different from the plant (so not green) so it catches the notice of a pollinator. Either red of yellow can do that, depending on the pollinator.

    Lastly, that lizard looks awesome. Think I’ve seen it in a guidebook somewhere but can’t remember the name. I’ll bet my son knows. He’s alseep now; I’ll ask him in the AM. Again, awesome post.

  6. How could I ever forget my inaugural ride in Moab years ago? For the longest time I called it Klondike Buffs in memory of the bare naked ladies. Of course, we only saw their backsides.

    I had to make sure my wife heard the real story from me, and not some over-dramatized story from one of my so-called "friends".

  7. "Wish there was something in the photo to show scale, because he was over a foot long. Unless he is actually a she."

    i think the lizard in question is over a foot long, whether male OR female.

    "but not like Porcupine Rim where you feel like you’re going to shake your derailleur clean off if you aren’t on a freeride bike."

    the last maybe 6 times i've ridden porcupine have been on a rigid singlespeed. feels the same to me.

    "Apparently these women had no better place to change clothes than the parking lot, so they disrobed and changed right there, in full view."

    last november at fall moab, in the crowded gold bar/gemini bridges parking lot, cori jones stepped out of the car and pulled his pants off (to make it easier to put his bike shorts on).

    5 feet away, a family of 4 (two daughters) were prepping their atvs. the man said "hey dude, would you mind not getting naked in front of my wife and kids?"

  8. Looks like there have been some changes to Baby Steps - it's now a loop:

  9. It looks like a lot of fun, even though you hang out with a sordid group that watches strippers which severely limits their ablity to get dressed with matching socks.

  10. Baby Steps is a really good single speed ride for me, especially in the winter. It is nice to figure 8 the trail with Klondike and do a couple loops

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