J.D. Pauls
Great Divide
Moab Packed up and said goodbye to Salida.  Again, a little bummed that I couldn't complete the entire Colorado Trail this year, but so happy with our efforts over Monarch Crest trail and super excited to be heading to Utah for the first time. Of course we had to make a mandatory fly- fishing stop as we crossed the river. We climbed down into a canyon, 233 steps down according to the ranger, and followed along the water on an old railroad line for a few minutes until we found a suitable place to get near the water. Of course I caught nothing, since learning to be patient seemed to be the hardest part for me, and casting on the edge of an embankment seemed a little too advanced for my virgin fishing skills. One thing I was able to catch was a nap as I rested almost standing up on the steep shoreline and enjoyed the views to the top as I closed my eyes.  

Back in the car, and as the sunset, we drove into the sunsets of Utah, listening to podcasts and discussing life as you tend to do on long road trips.

Pouring rain greeted us in Moab. It’s not supposed to rain in Moab, right?! Not what I was expecting, and we were a little worried that the rain would derail our plans. The red dirt on the sections of the Whole Enchilada, turn to red impassable mud and may even be closed.  Even if we could get access, when that mud hits your drive train it’s game over.  It’s never coming off.  

Day one we chose Slickrock.  I had never heard of Slickrock before Daniel mentioned it when we were talking about this trip.  I knew from the excitement in his voice when he spoke of it that it must be worth the trip. WOW! It was like landing on the moon. The sandstone mounds and views to forever felt like something from a science fiction movie. Being able to climb hills so steep that I rode with my chest on my handle bars, and riding down the other side in full control was trippy.  My brain said it wasn't possible but my bike kept climbing. We conquered the full 20-30 ? Mile loop and made a few off route detours to grab views of the canyon that seems to appear from out of nowhere at times.  I felt so small as a human being. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was like nothing else I have ever experienced.

Day two was the Whole Enchilada!.  A series of trails that covers about 30 miles and descends near 7,000 feet. It didn't even seem possible when I first heard of it. We rented our "big boy" full suspension bikes at Poison Spider bike shop in Moab and arranged a shuttle to ride us and a handful of other riders from all over the world to drive us to the top of the route.  Well, almost the top. We were dropped off at a trail head and told that we must follow the trail and climb 1000 feet up to the top. Either the directions were bad or a few of us were only paying attention because we were lost in the first ten minutes.  We crisscrossed and blazed trails until we found what we believed to be the trail to the top. Traversing the rough field on these new bikes really gave me an appreciation of what these machines can do.

We passed a group of day hikers who were using these incredible dogs that would run water back and forth from the main group to the stragglers. Pretty impressive animals.  Once up the saddle, we spent a few minutes with the other riders as they tried to catch their breath after the climb and started to prepare for the downhill.  How bad could this be?? 7000 feet down over 30 miles. Pretty easy.

We started down the first hundred feet and I was already angry at what Daniel got me into!  This was so hard! It took me a while to get used to the feel of a full suspension bike and to learn to trust the bike. That was some pretty crazy trail conditions to be learning on. I took a beating and held on for dear life! A few mishaps, Daniel crashed hard, and I ashamedly had to walk a couple sections to avoid certain death. As the trail went on, the terrain changed and my confidence grew. We picked up speed, and flowed through the aspens, the open fields and before we knew it were at the half way point.  We were told we may have to avoid the red clay sections. Luckily they seemed to have dried up and were just tacky enough to create the perfect riding conditions. We flew! My confidence was soaring and I started taking air as I pumped through the trail. Felt so good.  

I think maybe I had too much confidence. We hit the Lower Porcupine Rim trail and we were back on to the sandstone sections.  Lots of terrain that before my trip to Utah I considered unrideable.  Daniel flew on ahead of me and had stopped to scout out a 4 foot ledge that he thought would be a good thing for me to try. I watched Daniel hit it well and thought to myself it can’t be that hard. I backed up, lined myself up with the stones on the edge of the ledge that marked the blind landing area and went for it.  I hit the edge well and flew through the air, landed slightly forward which would have been fine except I had a death grip on the handle bars and my front brake.  Over I went and slid down the rest of the landing area on my face, much to the amusement of Daniel.

We pushed through the rest of the Porcupine Rim Trail which curled along the canyon and tested my courage and abilities continuously until we hit the pavement and rode a few miles back to town. I loved every second of it.

Moab is a special place. The terrain, landscapes, the views and the possibilities are endless. To experience this on a bike is such a personal and enriching thing. You can drive by in a car and admire it, you can hear the stories, watch movies or look at pictures, but there is no better way to feel a place like this than to travel it by bike.


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J.D. Pauls

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J.D. Pauls
  • What was the genesis moment or inspiration for your upcoming adventure? Like many TDR veterans, the trail became part of my DNA, an experience so personal and unique that it actually changed me as a person. Salida, CO was a highlight of my trip last year because it was the point at which I knew I would finish the race. I had several really tough days leading up to Salida and as I crested the last climb before town I turned around and the storms I had been running from were lifting, and the sky behind me produced the largest double rainbow I had ever seen. I descended into the setting sun, the changing landscape was glowing in magical yellows, reds and browns. The pain of the previous hours and days, were instantly and unexpectantly replaced by joy and a truly satisfied soul. The Colorado Trail crosses the Great Divide and runs through Salida. This route is a beast, but pushing myself beyond what I thought possible has become a comfortable and necessary part of how I want to live my life. I don’t think there is a more beautiful trail to experience this on. Discovering the wild world at the intimate speed of the bike really can change the speed at which we live our lives. Oh, and sipping a morning coffee at Cafe Dawn in Salida is definitely worth planning a bike trip around!
  • Have you traveled by bike in the past? I had a bike growing up, but an accident when I was 15 (1990) ended my childhood cycling career. I didn’t own a bike again until Dec of 2011 when I heard of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and decided I wanted to take on the challenge. I made my first attempt at the Tour Divide in June 2012, and due to lack of cycling base, unpreparedness, lack of knowledge and intense weather, wisely pulled the plug in Butte MT after 10 days and 750 mile complete. I worked hard to return in June 2013 ready to go and completed the 2800 miles in just over 25 days.
  • What do you hope to get out of this journey? A little different expectation this year. On my divide ride I was truly out to find myself and discover a new J.D. that I always wanted to know was out there, and I think I accomplished that. This trip, since I found that guy I was looking for last year, will be more like visiting an old best friend. It is going to be a blast. Sure I will be racing, but a smell the roses type of racing. What is the point in climbing a mountain if you don’t look around when you get to the top?


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