PXL_20231020_164356089-denizmerdano moab deniz
A Photo Story

An Escape to the Desert

Photos Deniz Merdano
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How often do you get the opportunity to take your bike to places where your suspension feels like shit, there never seems to be enough air in your tires and you still roach a $200 set of sticky tires? Well Karin Grubb and I felt like we deserved a little pedal-away after finishing some renovations and re-introduce Karin to a responsibility lite lifestyle that she'd long forgotten about.

We pointed the Coyote Courier to the southern border and drove and drove and drove. We stopped at some beautiful places for coffee, snacks and some riding, and here is what bounced off my camera for 12 days.

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Twin Falls, Idaho home of Knievel's canyon gap site

Driving through southern Idaho through what seemed like an eternity of flat earth, we decided to check the trail app. Indian Springs trail network provided the much needed leg stretch and allowed us to brush up on hardpack riding skills. Jagged volcanic rocks provided the spice on a 15km ride with a relaxed 360m(1000ft) elevation gain. The Backdoor trail was a visual feast along a tiny version of the canyon Knievel jumped decades ago. The trail head was teeming with folks who were happy to help us with a nice route. This rather insignificant looking but historic area, especially for dare devils, turned out great.

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Empire Pass, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah was our first major stop on a massive drive through Washington, Oregon and parts of Idaho. We pulled up to the fastest growing city in the US to meet up with our friend Conor. Conor guided us through the Pirate trails of Park City which I've heard alot about and the Aspens were incredible at around 3000m (9000ft) altitude. If we had been there a week or so ago, we would have caught the peak colours but the weather was in our favour this time. It was nice and warm for a cruise in the high altitude trails of this cool little ski town.

It was easy to hit speeds the excess of 60km/h and and our suspension felt locked out with North Shore air pressures. The lack of rough on the trails suggested short travel bikes but the speeds begged for long wheelbase stability that big bikes had to offer. When in Salt Lake city, bring the biggest bike in your fleet. You will appreciate it.

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Karin going for the speed tuck through the mesmerizing fall colours

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We don't get these colours on the West Coast

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Karin riding blind on perfect Park City dirt

A couple of days well spent in the North West Corner of Utah, we decided to bid adieu and head to our actual destination; Moab. But before packing up, we visited a gem of a brewery in the heart of SLC called the Templin Family Brewing. Dog friendly and with the best backyard any brewery has to offer, we enjoyed some award winning brews before a good night's rest for the 4 hour drive to Moab.

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La Sals in the distance; it's a Whole Enchilada kind of day

We have some big descents in Canada, no doubt. Even on the Shore you can do a 1000m (3000ft) plunge if you know where to look. But we have nothing like the Whole Enchilada; a 46km, 3000m (9000ft) descent with a 1000m climb scattered all over it and you get to just race your buddies. Yea there is no chill way of doing the ride and it's best is done with friends and lots of them. We met up with 5 of our friends from the Shore and had a lovely day passing through multiple ecosystems. Weather in our favour, we only had to ride some hard packed snow for a very short period of time. Bring as much water as you can carry as the further you descend, warmer it will get. 3+ liters of water was consumed by my internals and not a single pee stop. Brutal.

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I got to dance through the Aspens this time, shortly after crashing hard due to being "distracted by the views"

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We were waaaaay up there.

As we plunged deeper and deeper into the canyon below, the incentive to take the camera out faded away and we got in a fast dog fight over the last few kms of Porcupine Rim. The Colorado river was waiting with the cooler full of cold beers we left at our campsite.

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One of the coolest campsites ever

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You have to move quickly and wake up early for good campsites in the Moab vicinity. We lucked out after a couple of strikes and it made logistics of riding in the desert with a dog along way easier. Sasha could chill in the camp ground in the comfort of shade and water.

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The nights were spectacular with an interstellar show

You can't do Moab without a lap around Slickrock trail, just outside of town, and we attempted our lap from the campground. A 15-ish km pedal just to the trail head was all fine in the freezing pre-sunrise temperatures. As the sun rose over the horizon, the temperatures quickly climbed as we rode the sun exposed rocks of Slickrock trail. A new addition to the network called the Above Abyss was something we wanted to see and it was well worth the extra miles. The seemingly impossible climbs getting ticked off with the immense slick rock traction was exhilarating. It wasn't until we kept seeing people going the opposite direction that we realized we were doing the whole loop counter-clockwise instead of the preferred clockwise rotation. We made the loop a bit harder on ourselves with steeper climbs and a longer one at the end of the ride. It is amazing that you can do the ride either direction and get a totally different experince, which I will make sure to enjoy every time I ride in Moab.

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Climb, descend, jump, drop, nose manual, the slickrock is a one giant skatepark for playing.

After a few full, satisfying days in Moab, we pointed to Van back up the map for a stop in Hood River, Oregon. The Columbia Gorge; another unique landscape to test traction. We explored the delightful and easy going trail network of Post Canyon and Syncline. Two very distinctly different areas across the river from one and other.

We enjoyed the little welcoming town and again all the delicious breweries. We settled for some tasty beverages at Ferment Brewing with our dog company and had their version of Fried Brussel Sprouts for snack. We loved the vibes Hood River radiated and understood why many people come here to play and live. A gem not too far from Portland, where weird is rewarded, Hood river gets it done in a more traditional but unique way.

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Syncline trails under gusty winds..

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Oregon is diverse all throughout.

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The desert was cool but we were ready for a change

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The bloody, chapped lips were relieved with the arrival of moisture

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Hadn't seen this shade of green in days!

A one last stop before the border was in Olympia, WA to visit friends and join in on their Tuesday Night Ride. Rain came down and it came down hard! The heavy downpour was not an obstacle for the 15 of us as we pedaled around the maze of a hill trying to figure out what was going on. Our teeth were filled with dirt and there wasn't a dry spot on our bodies. We enjoyed the proper wet welcome home after a much enjoyed time on the road.

It was a tiring but refreshing 4600kms of driving through the most majestic landscapes. Every time I can roadtrip across the USA, I jump in on the action. I always wish I'd taken more photos but always happy to be there with the people I love. This trip was one of those and the riding happened to be top notch too!

Can't beat a late October in the desert. I recommend to anyone!

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+7 Deniz Merdano Christian Strachan Pete Roggeman Karin Grubb Unkas Tim Coleman Spencer Nelson

I shouldn't have clicked on the article, for as I wake up this morning in cold snowy Alberta, it only makes me long for the desert of southern Utah! Just back last week from our yearly fall trip to the region, actually, but it was two weeks of camping and hiking, with no bikes. Next year we'll mix it up- it's been too long since I've ridden Moab.



Cold and frosty on the North Shore too. These photos will have to be the reminder of warmth just a few days ago


+4 Karin Grubb Deniz Merdano Christian Strachan Pete Roggeman

Awesome photos Deniz! Need to get back there, I just realized it has been almost 10 years...

Loving all the recent travel content!



Thanks Niels! 10 years is a long time!



The problem is there are too many other destinations that are great too!


+3 Karin Grubb Deniz Merdano yardrec

Nice writeup! The Whole Enchilada must be experienced, but infrequently, IMO, given the pounding of the middle double track portion. If you ever make it back, the Jimmy Keen single track alternative to the Kokopelli double track portion is fantastic.

Hood River — my home stomping grounds for 35 years before Portlandia overwhelmed us with crushing numbers of humans — has great riding where you found it, but don’t miss the Road 44 trail network if you make it back. Especially when the larch are turning.

Personal side note on your Evel Knievel Twin Falls Jump note: My “uncle-in-law” built the ramp for that crazy idea. Evel never paid him, but did once offer to trade him a Cadillac convertible!


+1 Kos

We considered the Jimmy Keen option but opted out to make the ride a little shorter. Kokopeli was kind of fun in a fast and dangerous way. 

It was a toss up between Post and 44 trails for Hood river and the ease of access won over for Post canyon this time. Definitely going back for a few other zones we missed this time around. Southern Wa and Oregon will need it's own trip it seems. Canadian Thanksgiving maybe the prime time for that!

The amount of dirt moved for a seemingly impossible jump on a steam powered bike is insane!


+3 Christian Strachan Pete Roggeman Karin Grubb

As a well-rooted inhabitant of the Western Slope who has felt massively out of depth when visiting B.C. trails, it's a bit reassuring to read a reciprocal statement of my adopted local riding - "your suspension feels like shit, there never seems to be enough air in your tires and you still roach a $200 set of sticky tires"


+2 Karin Grubb Deniz Merdano

Looks like you were camping at Goose Island?  If so, yeah, that's the best campsite in Moab as far as I'm concerned.  I was just there at the end of September.  Felt good to tick Mag 7 off the bucket list, as well as The Whole Enchilada. 

I can't wait to go back.

edit:// were they still lighting up the canyon walls at night for the Canyonlands by Night tours? That was wild.


+1 Deniz Merdano

Yes good eye!  We did really love Goose, it was close enough to pedal to town and nice and shady. The boat tours were still going and lighting up the canyon - that was such a treat!!


+2 Karin Grubb Deniz Merdano

Dreams of a desert road trip have kicked in, thanks! I’ve got this idea for my imaginary adventure journal website to do a trip write up of the three grand descents of western CO/Moab: Palisade Plunge, Ribbon/Free Lunch, and Whole Enchilada with of course post-ride stops at the local breweries in each town.


+1 Deniz Merdano

Palisade Plunge is on our list(s) for a return trip too!  It looked a bit long for this trip since we’d have to leave Sasha alone.  I hadn’t heard of Ribbon so thanks for adding that in!   I always seem to come back from trips with a longer list for next time ;)


+2 Deniz Merdano Karin Grubb

Funnily enough, I've just returned from a similar road-trip and rode the Palisade Plunge then the Whole Enchilada two days days later. 

Strava tells me the Palisade Plunge took me 4.5hrs elapsed time whereas the Whole Enchilada took me 5.25hrs elapsed (both starting from shuttle drop off time).

(I opted to avoid the first "cross country" section across the Mesa top, so that saved some time/distance - from what I'd read, that section is a bit meh)

Overall, I'd say the Plunge (or technically, the Rim section) was more interesting riding but maybe not for anyone scared of heights or exposure (I rated it as more exposed than the Portal trail...)



Be sure to tack on Free Lunch to the end Ribbon to add a little spiciness :)


+1 Hbar

Man, I'm always way too paranoid to leave my dog at the campsite while I ride. No way could I do that.


+2 Hbar Jotegir

I was going to ask for more details on this from Deniz. I’m also too paranoid to do it and I reckon just trying to do it would also ruin the ride experience for me. :(


+6 Pete Roggeman Hbar Jotegir Kos Karin Grubb Spencer Nelson

We are setup pretty well for this. 

The van is fully insulated and front windows get covered from inside. We also have cold air intake and hot air exhaust fans. House batteries run the fan and solar system keeps them charged. So on a 30c day, it is at most 21-22c inside. She absolutely loves it.

For the whole enchilada day, we left her in the concrete floored garage of a friend's rental. Seemed like a better option.


+4 Kos Jotegir Pete Roggeman Spencer Nelson

We’d never leave sasha alone outside the van, she’s kept inside.  The van is strangely enough a purchase mostly motivated for her comfort - she’s a bit of an anxious old lady so having the same place to be no matter where we go keeps her calm.  She doesn’t do well with kennels, staying new places or with new people taking her on walks. She was a stray, so knowing where home and her family is is super important to her.    The van has a max air sensor fan and the side windows open at the bottom (t-vent) so there is tons of air circulation that keeps is cooler inside than outside as long as we cover the windows.  Shade also helps a lot.  I got a remote temperature sensor to check in at first, but we’ve been using the system successfully now for 4 years so I feel pretty confident in the temperature control.  We give her a good walk before and we usually find she’s sound asleep when we get back :)


+1 BarryW

2019 I did this on an organized trip where the bikes were driven down and 10 of us flew rented a house, great trip



Next level baller!



Sounds like a great trip, thank you for the pictures and writeup.


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