Posted by: Jack | April 4, 2007

Epic Journey: Day 11 – Moab

Over the past 10 days I had altered my original trip route a number of times and as a result, had arrived in Moab a day ahead of schedule. It was now Thursday and the Moab Mountain Unicycling Festival did not start until Friday morning. This was just fine with me because I felt I could really use a day to rest and recover before all the unicycling chaos began. As I mentioned in the Day 10 post, one other group of riders had arrived early from North Carolina. When I asked what they were going to do with their extra day, they said they would be going up to ride the Porcupine Rim Trail (the blue line is my best approximation of the trail) which was the big group ride from last year’s festival. They invited me to join but thinking back to the dehydration I suffered after that ride last year as well as not wanting to ride the following day, I declined the offer.

But while I was eating breakfast and listening to the group talk about how excited they were, I once again changed my mind relying on the local catch phrase, “While in Moab…” for motivation.

About an hour later we were packing up a car and working out shuttles. Just as everything was all set, one of the two dogs waiting impatiently in the car just happened to step on a button, locking all of the doors. Luckily a call to AAA took care of the situation in about 30 minutes and we all piled into the cars.

Just as we were leaving, a group from Indiana arrived at the campground and after brief introductions we found they were planning to bike the Porcupine Rim Trail today. One of their crew was also a unicyclist and he decided to ride with us as well.

Below is our group just before hitting the trail. From left to right: Adam, Josh (from Indiana), Nathan (brother of Adam), me, Ben, Kyle, D.O.G. and Spirit.

This trail begins with about a two mile ascent which we all knew we should have walked in order to save our strength for the remaining 12 miles of descent but we were all just too eager and rode whatever we could.

Reaching the high point of this trail we came upon the breathtaking drop off into Castle Valley. The second picture below is another entry in what may soon be a series of photos of me doing handstands in high places. It could technically also now be considered an annual tradition for me to have my picture taken doing something rather daring on this protruding rock (last year’s photo).

Just before leaving camp that morning, Josh introduced us all to his unicycle which he had custom built himself. With its components retailing at a total of probably $2000, his unicycle only weighed about as much as mine despite having a 4″ larger wheel diameter, ½” wider tire and a brake. Since he works at a bike shop I assume he only paid a bit more than half of the retail which is still a pricey unicycle. But I have to admit, it would certainly be worth it.

After refueling a bit we began the descent and the real fun of the trail. It was great to ride with a group of people who were all at a level where they could try some really advanced stuff. Kyle probably stole the show with his willingness to try just about anything we could suggest. Having become fairly comfortable throwing backflips off 50 foot cliffs on skis, a 6 foot drop on a unicycle was understandably less intimidating for him.

We were enjoying ourselves so much and cruising along at a good pace so I rarely got around to taking pictures. Occasionally I would try to speed ahead of the group and get my camera out but by the time I was set up I was usually too late. So rather than capturing much of the action, I instead ended up with a lot of pictures like the one below.

Traveled by unicycle, this trail is a true test of endurance. While it obviously takes a significant level of skill to traverse such terrain, it is also a huge mental challenge. A biker has to concern themselves with all of the major obstacles and drops but a unicyclist has to be aware of pretty much every rock more than an inch in height. This means that through the rough sections the rider is focusing and calculating his line through only the next three or four feet. By the time we reached the last three miles where the trail becomes very technical single track, I think everyone was a little fatigued both physically and mentally. We kept finding lines with great potential but not having the motivation to attempt them–except for Kyle of course who just kept throwing himself over ledges, often successfully.

About six hours after starting out, we reached the end of the trail. Although I was exhausted, I certainly felt better than I had after the same ride last year which confirmed my suspicions of being in better shape.

We returned to camp to find that many more unicyclists had arrived. I took some time to meet a few people but spent most of the evening resting and relaxing.

Continue to Day 12



  1. Jackson,
    Catching up on your adventures was the highlight of returning home after enjoying a week of fun and sun away from the freezing weather in Wisconsin. Your number one non-fam fan (Julie H.) also remarked about your great narratives and photos. We’d both like to encourage you to write a book someday before we get too old to witness your assured success as an author. However, please refrain from dangerous traditional poses on the edge of cliffs to spare some of your faithful readers who suffer near-heart attacks when viewing them!


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