Theres about a mile of pavement from the visitors center to the turn off for the Shafer Trail and the start of the White Rim Jeep Road. After the turn, the first mile and a half of the trail is a perfect introduction to Canyon Country. We winded our way along the edge of Shafer Canyon, sandstone walls to our right, an almost 2,000 foot vertical drop off to our left, and literally endless views into the Park at every turn.
At one of the viewpoints where we all stopped for a group photo, I saw Jesse, a first time visitor to Canyonlands, standing alone, gazing into the distance, and looking a bit confused. When I approached him to ask if everything was all right he continued to stare straight ahead and blankly said, "Its all so big. Its just all so big." Welcome to the White Rim.
The trail descended sharply from here, plunging into Shafer Canyon along a series of rocky switchbacks. In less than three miles we dropped about 1,500 feet. I have ridden this section of trail a few times before, and every time I do so its just as fun, fast and frightening. This time, however, I was driving one of the sag wagons, which ended up being just as fun, not nearly as fast, but quite a bit more frightening.
The rest of the ride for Day One rolled up and down slickrock, sandy, and loose rocky terrain. We rode along and around huge canyon drainages formed millions of years ago by the mighty Colorado River, which we could now see from certain viewpoints.
The scenic value of the trail remained unrivaled, as it would for the entire 100 plus miles. The scenic highlights of Day One would probably be the number of enormous rock formations, arches, etc. that we saw, including Musselman Arch, Airport Tower, Monster Tower and Washer Woman Rock. As I rode along (back in the saddle again), I tried to spot these named formations, and also made up my own names for the rock images that presented themselves to me around every corner. My favoriteHappy Elephant Lying Down.
At about mile 30 we arrived at Gooseberry Camp, which would be home for the evening. Happily sun burnt and relaxed, I smiled as I heard the sound of a beer can cracking open and the next thing I knew someone was handing me a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Our bikes were laid down, the gear was unpacked, the "kitchen" was assembled, horseshoes were set up, and Josh had begun playing his guitar. It had been a beautiful sunny day. We enjoyed the changing colors of a desert sunset, and then welcomed the cool autumn air of the evening. "Fire Marshall" Watson organized the tiki torches around camp and Team One cooked up some of the best chicken fajitas I have ever eaten (three "teams" of five took turns cooking each night).
We sat around talking and laughing and drinking 10-High Whiskey (the best plastic bottled whiskey money can buy). Later that night, two sleeping bags away, I heard Gary, a.k.a. Bukowski, say, "Look at thatthe brightest stars one can imagine. Complete serenity." Then I fell asleep.Search for a cycling event.