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Trail Happenings November 2009

The Slick Rock Practice Loop (2.3) miles
Tom Dillon

Slickrock Practise LoopThe Slick Rock Practice Loop is generally mentioned as “No less difficult than the Main Loop, just shorter”, or some other single sentence in a description of the tomes written about the Slick Rock Trail. Well, bucko, we’re here to say that the Practice Loop is, in and of itself, an excellent quickie ride, perfect for a lunchtime workout, a post-work decompression or an alternate to waiting until it’s dark enough to start the campfire. Riding the Practice Loop is like dating the Main Loop instead of getting married to it.

Right out of the parking lot you’ll look longingly at the great rolling mounds of sandstone in front of you. After climbing that first hill, the trail opens, beckoning you to continue down to the right through the luscious, curving trail ahead of you. The thrill of letting go and rolling ever faster, letting the trail do all the work is exhilarating, leaving you on one of many short, steep climbs, which, of course, opens up to yet another inviting descent. The trick in making these first few climbs less difficult is knowing how much you can let go when you go down and to realize that the traction, unlike your lung, legs and sanity, is almost infinite.

After a few climbs and a couple of turns you’ll head down to a spur to “The View”. If you haven’t been there, set your bike down and walk out and sit for a spell. You have time, even if you’re still scratching your head over how long a “spell” is.
A few more zigs, a cheek-tightening zag or two and you’ll come around a corner to the bottom of a short climb with a steep little transition in it. Just power through it, like the quiet guy going through the crowd at a party when he first sees the cocktail shrimp platter across the room. There’s not really any place to fall since it rises up on both sides, so go for it.
An almost u-turn through a dip is just enough to take away all your momentum that you’ve learned to keep just in time for a rather steep climb. Don’t worry though, this is a good place to get off and walk up since you’re kinda hidden, unless it’s crowded. Then comes everybody’s favorite, the sand pit. Descending into the sand is a challenge at best and a mouth full of sand at worst.

After a descent into a u-turn which leaves you with a momentumless climb comes one of the hardest short climbs on the Practice Loop. There’s a horizontal crack and a drop off on your right. Yee-haw, this is a fun power up, but be sure to step off to your left if you find yourself stopped midway up.

It gets pretty easy after this. There is, however, one place where you can ring your bell if you’re not careful. There’s a rock overhang right where it’s tempting to skirt a sandy, bumpy patch in the trail. If you look up at the wrong moment, you’ll smack your helmet on the rock. Check out the variety of helmet brand impressions on it.

A few more whoop-de-doos and you’re at a crossroads of the Practice Loop and the Main Loop. You can head back to the parking lot or turn around and do the Practice Loop backwards. I don’t mean backwards, like Cirque du Soleil, but clockwise. Riding it in reverse makes the trail completely different. You’ll wonder how you totally didn’t notice the La Sal mountains on the way out. It seems to me that the ride clockwise is easier, giving you steeper downs, but more gradual climbs. Plus you’ll meet interesting people like Alia.

Even when just dating the Slick Rock Trail, use your head. Test your skills, but don’t get seduced into trying something out of your league. Kissing the Slick Rock Trail on the first date might get you slapped harder than you expected. The Practice Loop is a veritable roller coaster, full of ups and downs, curves, bumps, climbs and fun. It’s fast. It’s beautiful. It’s sexy. So be careful and wear proper protection.


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