by Dan Jones
Kokopelli Day 1: Meet the Cast
“The Sheriff” (aka Heath Brown) is as steady with his bike handling skills as is Sheriff John Brown with a six-shooter. Whether it was his precise route finding tactics or his knack for cooking up tasty fire-side cuisine, The Sheriff made sure we were setting off on the right foot for a glorious 3 days in the desert.
“Mr. Sendy” (aka Haris Zlatarevic) is a man who doesn’t think about what he does. Instead, 11 times out of 10 he sends it. While folks like me sometimes need to roll on more gentle jeep roads and two-track, the handsome Mr. Sendy lives for the single track and for dropping sick lines through the gnarliest gnar-gnar a mountain biker could dream of. He rides his bike in board shorts and cutoff flannel shirts. He wrestles alligators.
“Me” (aka Daniel Jones). I like to ride bikes and point at pretty things. I don’t like saddle sores (similar to the ones that I had bugging me for over a week after we were finished with the Kokopelli Trail).
After 42 miles of rolling hills, some ‘moderately’ enjoyable hike-a-bike, and a beautiful ride into the sun, we set up camp. The Sherriff cooked up some spaghetti and then we got a bit rowdy with cinnamon whiskey and other libations under what proved to be one of the most spectacular Milky Way experiences I’ve ever had. Little did we know the following day was going to kick our ass so much.
Kokopelli Day 2: Where does your path take you?
Starting the day’s ride with 15 miles of modest descending on gravel and pavement felt good — REALLY good. Although the roads we rolled on were unknown to the three of us, high-fives and fist-bumps during riding were abundant. Excitement was building as it was certain the path we were on was leading us to wonderful places.
And a wonderful place was indeed found along the strong currents of the Colorado River.
At 32 miles in, a Lunch-Beer-Shenanigan break at Dewey Bridge along the murky waters of the Colorado awaited us. Mr. Sendy sipped on a brew, The Sherriff meticulously studied our trail map, and I ate a single-serve bag of lemon-peppered tuna fish. As Mr. Sendy put it, “chillaxing right now is 110% necessary.” And I agreed! We only had 3,000 feet of vertical to go so why not marinate for a while right there in the canyon sun?!
25 easy miles were left on the day and we were feeling (what turned out to be) inappropriately confident about finishing the ride well before the sun went down.
Shade was a scarce commodity for nearly all of those 25 miles. After frolicking in the brisk waters of the Colorado and slamming lunch beers, we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. For nearly 3 hours we climbed exposed gravel roads while consequently having trouble hiding from the 85 degree temps and the sun’s reflection off the dry desert floor. To prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, we would break every mile or whenever we found a shady place to spread out and cool off.
We did an excellent job taking cool-down breaks whenever possible but we sucked at rationing our water. At two hours out from camp, I depleted all the water in my backpack. One after another, The Sherriff and Mr. Sendy ran out as well.
No one told us there weren’t any streams in the desert mountains! But at least we were all in it together and we were approaching camp soon… right?
Kokopelli Day 3: Smiles for Miles and Sand in my Butt
Arriving at camp in the dark two hours later than expected on day 2 was not ideal. Running out of water and becoming dehydrated before finishing the ride wore us down. Learning at 8:30 PM that our support vehicle didn’t make it to camp was demoralizing.
As we were finishing up our mileage that day, we were fortunate enough to meet the camera crew, Alex Witkowicz and Ashley Picillo, as they were en route to find Tad in the support vehicle. Alex and Ashley were kind enough to lend us two sleeping bags, a bit of food and water, a lighter to start a fire, and three beers to help hydrate our tired bones. We were far from being in dire straights, but two sleeping bags between three grown men wasn’t exactly my idea of a fun night in the cold desert.
Luckily at 11:00 PM, just as I was preparing to zip two sleeping bags together for The Sherriff and I, Tad rolled into camp. He had become lost during the day and just then found the campsite. Thus we celebrated (and slept well in our own sleeping bags)! We awoke on day 3 and prepared our bikes and packs for the next 50 miles.
The third day of riding was low-key, challenging, spiritual and exhausting all at once. We climbed some beautiful jeep roads. We descended on beautiful new pavement through the valleys of the snow crested La Sal Mountains. We bombed down some of the most incredible single track I’ve ever ridden at Porcupine Rim outside of Moab, Utah. It was a day that provided us with a little of everything. Smiles for miles, my friends.
None of us were, nor will ever be professional-grade athletes. Besides Mr. Sendy’s few stunts on the narrows of the trail section called “The Rose Garden”, we were just three normal guys out for a long bike ride. We bled a little, laughed and sang songs a lot, and left a small piece of our hearts on the Kokopelli.
While indeed a small chunk of my heart was left on the trail, I took away an experience for which I will not soon forget. I also took away lots of desert sand stuck in my bike chamois and other odd places on my body. #SandInYourButtIsForReal
Cheers to riding bikes and finding yourself outside.