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April 25, 2010

Gooseberry Mesa 2010

Filed under: MTB Travel, Virgin Utah 2010 — anotherheader @ 10:15 pm

Josh rolling on the Navajo Sandstone of Gooseberry Mesa

Clear skies met us on Saturday morning.  The storms had finally passed and the rushing brown Virgin River next to our campsite was receding.  Importantly for us, the roads and the trails had dried out enough to give us a shot at the signature Virgin area ride, Gooseberry Mesa.

Follow the dots

Driving up to the top of the mesa on the newly gouged and rutted and still soggy roads was particularly rough.  But, in the end, we made it without issue.  Still, it was good that we had waited until Saturday.

When I haven’t ridden a favored area in awhile, I’m always skeptical of my memories of the place.  Was the mountain biking really as much fun as I remembered?  So it was on this return visit to Gooseberry.  But, when I reached the first extended, convoluted, and seemingly improbable rock climb on Cattle Grate Trail, there were no more doubts.  Gooseberry is a great place to ride.  It is one of the best places I have ever ridden.

Our route took us from the parking lot to Cattle Grate Trail.  Cattle Grate terminates at the start of South Rim.  South Rim Trail, particularly the last section, is perhaps the most challenging of the trails on the mesa.  Towards the end, two particularly steep, challenging, and seriously exposed climbs emphasize this point.  From the end of South Rim, we rode out to the point of the mesa for the requisite break on a small pad of rock surrounded by spectacular red rock views and 270-degrees of shear cliff edge.  Retracing the “Point” trail, we reached White Trail, an ATV trail that bisects the mesa.  White Trail took us to a short and sweet stint on Yellow Trail that winds through the mid-mesa sandstone mounds.  Yellow terminates where the fast and flowy North Rim Trail starts.  Our quick stint on North Rim ended when the trail wandered back near White Trail.  We cut over the ATV path to Hidden Canyon Trail.

Hidden Canyon is one of my favorites.  The trail features numerous sections of extended, inventive routes over the fields of Navajo Sandstone and around the bulbous sandstone formations.  It is hard to not giggle in amusement as you pass over these long slickrock lines.  Indeed, the longer, bigger, and quirkier trail segments are what differentiates Gooseberry from Guacamole and Little Creek Mesa.  They are what make Gooseberry so good.

Josh making a climb

The left-hand branch at the end of Hidden Canyon took us back on to the South Rim Trail.  In the opposite direction, the trails at Gooseberry are a completely new and only vaguely recognizable experience.  What was one of the ever-present super-steep challenging sandstone climbs is now a tricky technical descent.  It is particularly frustrating to balk at a descent that you climbed in the opposite direction!

The sun had dropped low by the time we sped down the rolling and fast Cattle Grate Trail in the opposite direction.  When we finally finished the ride at the truck, the Camelbak bladders had been sucked dry into a vacuum.  The ride took us over five hours to complete.  We were exhausted and stomach-to-the-spine hungry.  But we were happy.  Gooseberry Mesa is a great ride.

Many more pictures can be found on Picasa.

A prior trip report can be found here.  A video from a later visit can be found on YouTube.

More Gooseberry information, including GPS way points, is in this link.

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