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Mountain Bike Bill, Get the Dirt on the Dirt

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Bartlett Wash, Moab 

Day Four - Part II - of the 2008 Utah-Colorado Roadtrip

Bartlett WashBartlett Wash is slickrock playground that is just a bunch of fun. It is all freeform here, no little white dots to follow. You just snoop and go most your time out there. There are plenty of drops, bowls and swooping sections where you feel like you surfing on rock. You can go from just mild contouring in cross-country mode to super extreme boom-boom huck jam stuff you are so inclined. I use the term "mild contouring" cautiously as there are technically easy ways to get around on the Bartlett Wash slickrock. It is very easy for someone to get into something well over their current skill level here. This is a really special place where you can let your imagination run amuck amongst the gorgeous slickrock until your legs hurt here.

Note: After I got back from this trip I was talking to one of my buds who had done Bartlett Wash before and much to my surprise he hated it. He called it “Bartlett Waste.” I was bewildered how we could come up with such wildly different assessments of this place. I finally figured it out that he had parked by the Monitor and Merrimac Trailhead and ridden his bike in from there. This is often recommended as there is a sand wash that must be crossed to get to the trailhead. If you have your average higher clearance vehicle like a pickup truck or something with 2WD and some all-terrain tires that will float over sand you should be okay, but a 4WD should nearly guarantee you won't get stuck.

You don't go to Bartlett Wash to do a cross-country ride, you come here to play on some exceptional unique slickrock. Riding the dirt road on your bike from the Monitor and Merrimac Trailhead would be pretty boring in comparison to the slickrock, so if you have the right kind of vehicle, drive to the Bartlett Wash Trailhead/Campground.


Directions: Get the Latitude 40 Map “Classic Moab Trails” to help you get there.

  • Take Hwy 191 north out of Moab for about 13 miles or so depending on where you started. Just after mile marker 141 make a left onto a unmarked dirt road that almost immediately goes over some railroad tracks. You will see the trailhead parking area for the Monitor and Merrimac Trail. Continue on the main dirt road for 0.5 miles where you will come to the Tusher Canyon Trailhead. Stay on the main dirt road that bends off to the right. At 1.6 miles you will pass a spur on your left, ignore it. At 2.6 miles the road drops down into a sandy wash for about 50 yards. (This is the spot where you could get stuck if the your in the wrong kind of vehicle). As you come out of the wash the main road bears hard to the right at uphill. There is a jeep trail going off to the left at this spot but the main road is obvious. At 3.5 miles turn left onto a dirt road. Ignore any spurs and at around 4.0 miles you will arrive at the Bartlett Wash Campground. Park Here and ride your bike down the wash for about 800 yards and look for the singletrack heading off to the right and straight onto slickrock. The motorcycles take the direct approach up the rock, while you will want to take a more contouring route that is off to the right.
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Ride Notes:
Bartlett WashBartlett WashWe were enjoying our well earned refreshments after finished up our Poison Spider Mesa and the Portal trail loop when we realized we still had plenty of usable daylight left and a little something still left in the legs. So we loaded up and headed straight out Bartlett Wash. We drove all the way to the Bartlett Wash Campground (see notes in directions above) and managed to get in a couple of hours of riding there. I thoroughly enjoyed the playground aspect of the place. Being that it was later in the day the light was for the most part fantastic and the various layers of the slickrock where extremely colorful.
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The first thing I noticed about the slickrock here is that was quite different that the other slickrock we had been on. This is Entrada Slickrock which has multitude of different layers that create really trippy mounds with micro-ledgy lines that look exotic. It was often amazing just to look at this stuff and even better to ride on it. The first patch is not too large and it will naturally lead you southwest where you will come off of the rock onto a short but sandy bit of doubletrack onto the next hunk of more expansive slickrock.
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While this time of day was fantastic for taking photos the completely shaded areas can be quite dangerous for first-timers. Without shadows to help show the contours of the rock, drops or hella steep spots can be effectively be hidden. The picture to the lower left is a good example of this. From the riders point of view coming up to this spot the drop off in the lower-left hand corner of the picture looked basically the same as the line he actually rode. It was not until he was on the very edge of it drop, did it become visible. It is very wise to snoop out a brand new line before hitting with speed.
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We did just that. We ferreted out a bunch of lines and went back hit them with some speed. It was just a bunch of freaking fun. When riding along the side slopes it is really interesting the sounds that your tires make while gripping onto the rock. You can hear the traction in additions to feeling it. Not all of the layers that took millions and millions of years to form grip quite the same way. While on one pretty steep side slope, I crossed from one layer to another and all of the sudden the front wheel broke loose. Fight it too much and the bike could have pitched over to the side and sent me on the fast track down the hill. Instead I turned bike slightly more down the hill until I regained control, and leveled back off down the slope a bit. In terms of the layers that I went through, that recovery effort sent me back about 700 million years so in "time". After that I sorta dug the idea of moving forward in time when I was climbing up and going back in time on the downhills.
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Bartlett Wash Bartlett Wash Bartlett Wash Bartlett Wash Bartlett Wash
We know we only touched on a small portion of this place. One thing is for certain, I'll be back here someday to get to know this place better. We played until we had minutes of daylight left. Bill had broken a spoke earlier in the day and the little nub that was left by the hub managed to find its way into his cassette. It took us some effort in the waning light to get thing back in working order. We can certainly say we used the day today.
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It was fairly late when we got back into town, so we opted to eat in town vice cook something in camp. After wolfing down a mongo-sized burger we got back to camp and continued to work on our ice-chest. It was another incredibly great day to be a mountain biker. Tomorrow was going to be last day in Moab and our plan was to use it as somewhat of a rest day. Considering that it was fairly late when we got to camp, it was really late before we crashed into the tents.
Onto to Day Five - Fisher Mesa, Moab