Early one summer’s morning, I rode up Mega Steps from the North Klondike trailhead (TH), at mile post 148.5. Just before reaching the top, I started getting pretty excited about my first ride on the new Alaska Trail that I had designed the year before. The Trail Mix (TM) crew had just finished the trail about 10 days before, and I finally had time to do a ride.
I rolled to the top of the climb and stopped. A stiff, refreshing breeze greeted me. My gaze fell on the red cliffs at the north end of Arches N.P. and the graceful mounds on the floor of Salt Valley painted by the soft morning light. Besides the wind whispering through the trees, the only other sound was the rough call of the steel blue pinyon jays flying below me. It was a magical moment that made me feel like I was a million miles from civilization, and I soaked it in for a good while.
But hey! The new Alaska trail was waiting, so I pedaled onto virgin dirt. One of TM’s priorities for new trails is flowy, red dirt single track and this trail has a ton of it. The ridge section also has some cool rock work and I soon dropped into a tight space between house sized boulders on a manmade rock ramp which took Geoff and me 4 hours to build – it rode just the way we’d hoped. After riding more smooth single track for a while, I suddenly popped up on to the “knife edge” - a narrow rocky section that falls away on both sides and requires your full attention. Then it was on to more single track that wound playfully through boulders and pinyon/juniper, popping out to the cliff edge several times for great views of places like Sunshine Wall and the Book Cliffs.
At the end of the ridge section, I peered down into a gnarly looking valley I call Cougar Canyon. A lot of people might have thought “there’s no way you can get a ridable trail through that jumbled mess of boulders”, but kudos to Scott for flagging the sweet lines! This section will put a smile on the face of any fit, upper intermediate rider.
Next was an unusual slickrock downhill section that I call “Tiger Slickrock” – it has yellow stripes in the bone colored Morrison rock! This section was so much fun I was wishing it was longer, but no whining - it was on to more flowy single track that led to the “Cowboy Camp” area. It’s a ripping fast dirt downhill that at one point uses an existing large, natural rock slab tilted at about 40 degrees to cross a wash – wooohooo!
I finished the ride with a cool downhill section of the Nome Trail that had me grinning from ear to ear. This new Alaska trail complex also has a downhill trail called Homer that is designed to be a really fun way to drop off Alaska and join the brand new section of Dino Flow near the BLM Sauropod Track Site which, BTW, has a bathroom :-).
Building this trail system involved moving more large rock than any of my other trails, and a typical work day started with a 45 minute hike to the top of the ridge – not to mention the long hike back at the end of the day. To accomplish this huge task, I worked with Brian Lugers, Kathy Grossman, Scott Escott, and Geoff and Sandy Freethey in the midst of the summer heat. We also got help from Miles Gurtler and Todd Murdock of the BLM, Tim Walsh and Alex Petitdemange.
Since all the trails in the Alaska complex were built this summer, the dirt portions will be loose as is always the case with new trails in the desert around Moab. After several cycles of rain and riding, the dirt sections will “burn in” and become the cement-like riding surface we all know and love. For those trying to up their fitness level, riding the new dirt after a good rain will provide a great workout and help harden the trails.
It’s called Alaska because it is the trail farthest north of Moab. Don’t worry though, it takes essentially the same amount of time to get to the TH as it would to go to the Klondike TH, and it’s quicker to get to than the Mag 7, Intrepid, or La Sal Mt. Trail Heads.
Brooks Carter retired from the Corps of Engineers and now has a 2nd career as a mountain bike guide at Rim Tours. During the cold months, he’s a ski instructor at Brighton. As a volunteer for Trail Mix, he designed & helped build EKG, Mega Steps, Little Salty, UFO, Alaska, Nome & Homer trails, and he’s constantly imagining new ones.