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Easter Weekend in the Swell

When Tim posed about doing a bid dumb ride in the Swell Easter weekend, we couldn’t say no. I’ve ridden in the Swell once before during the Utah Mixed Epic and have been wanting to go back since. The weird rock formations, interesting canyons, and engaging riding had me excited about this area. Since I signed up for Grand Loop at the end of May, I was eager to get some big days on the bike. With the route loaded on my GPS, and approximate locations for planned camp spots, we set out on a three-day trip into the desert. 

It was my first time riding with gears (rather than singlespeed) in years, aside from the fat bike! I was able to hang with the group for the first 50 miles or so before they really ramped up the pace. After that, it was just me, the wind, and the cows until I made it to Muddy Creek where Andrew was waiting for me. We scooped up some silty water, then headed to camp not much further down the road with the rest of the group. 

The next morning, Tim left at some ungodly hour in the dark. I didn’t even hear him get up and roll away. I, on the other hand, woke up with the sun, drank coffee, ate oatmeal, and packed up my stuff quickly getting a small headstart on the rest of the crew. Andrew and Stephen caught me quickly mashing uphill on their singlespeeds, and Bill and Zach eventually caught me too. It was a cool morning and I stopped to put the rest of my layers on before staying on the gas with the goal to arrive in Castle Dale while the guys were still at the Maverick. Mission accomplished. They rolled out shortly after I arrived in a daze from the hard effort. 

Andrew decided to wait and roll out with me. The flat terrain ahead was unforgiving for his singlespeed gear and he opted to ride at Katie pace for the rest of the day. We pedaled through Buckskin Canyon with lots of recreational traffic which slowly died off until we crossed the San Rafael River, our last water stop before camp. I was not impressed by the taste of that water- tasted like old pizza. 

We pedaled a little into the dark and decided to camp before we met the rest of the group, knowing if we kept going, we’d miss the epic views of Black Dragon Canyon. Plus, without the chorus of snoring, we figured we’d sleep a little better. We fixed our potatoes and packet of chicken for dinner. We took a look at the forecast for Green River, the next resupply stop on the route about 30 miles from where we camped. “40% chance of rain and snow, 35 mile per hour sustained winds from the South.” Hmm. After two 100-mile days and another 100 miles to go on the route, I was not feeling stoked about that. We did an inventory of our food and water and mapped out a more direct route back to our vehicle that hugged the Swell more tightly and ended up giving us 50 miles rather than 100 with the stop in Green River. This new plan gave us a little more time to have breakfast in the morning. We still dealt with the sustained strong headwind for our 50 miles back, but were happy with our decision to cut back on the more direct route with a fantastic view of the San Rafael Reef. That headwind certainly wasn’t the training I wanted, but it was the training I needed! 

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