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Crest Trail Diary

The last time I descended from Guardsman Pass to the Valley floor, night lights were used to escape a relentless orb burning SLC into the record books. Along with cool air and active mule deer, the sundown shuttle to the top involved a rare sighting — out of the brush, next to Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, waved a long, bushy tail. And as I passed what was first thought to be a fox, I soon saw a build and face that’d happily make a standard poodle its hors d’oeuvre.

This video is not only a fantastic representation of what I saw, but an article-complementing soundtrack, too. Win-win. To say what I witnessed reinforced a primal adrenal rush every time startled wildlife snapped a twig during the 27-mile, 700-lumen tunnel (yes, I know it’s time for a new headlamp) would be an understatement. So when the Competitive Cyclist editorial team requested a Crest Trail Ride Diary, I jumped at the chance to ride during the day and enjoy a welcome change of seasons.

This time around, instead paying a friend to be dropped off at the pass, I opted to give Big Rack Shuttles a jingle. After sliding KOM-junkie, pitbull lover, and bike hustla’, Slyfox Moonwillow a ten spot, I was on my way up in a luxurious van running on CNG. In a valley that retains pollution like a cupped fart, I think we can all appreciate BRS’s “Clean Air Mountain Bike Shuttle.”

During the night ride, I chose my well-ridden, much-loved Lucid 29er for its XC efficiency and excellent Utah trail manners, but I thought my long-legged Santa Cruz Bullit 2.0 might be the ticket today. Like a cat and dog share four legs, sharp teeth, and a tail, these bikes share two wheels, handlebars, and a saddle. But that’s where the similarities end.

Bringing us back to the Crest Trail, if you’re unaware, the majority of it is traditional mountain biking that caters nicely to both XC 29ers and all-mountain bikes alike. This meant I was pushing more bike then necessary. But that was for a reason. After the Red Dragon, a three-tier stepped climb, (which takes between 4 and 9 minutes to climb — a fact learned from Moonwillow on the way up) and past the resting place of a good friend and ex-Backcountry employee, Master Bates, lies The Spine.

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Dustin Schaad and Eric Porter conquering “The Spine”

Overlooking Desolation Lake, The Spine offers a couple of options. To the left are scattered, negotiable lines that safely bounce you around at will. To the right are 14 seconds (again a Moonwillow fact) along a jagged red sandstone spine that can mean a Life Flight out or bragging rights among riding partners. This is why I pushed the Bullit up, and while I witnessed an Eighties rigid C-dale pull it off once, I like the security of 2.35in rubber and seven inches of travel. After passing the assorted skin donated to the spine, the rest of the ride was a full-throttle affair back to SLC, complete with yellow Quakies and orange oaks.

The Crest Trail’s window is quickly closing as ski season approaches. Pick your mountain bike poison and give Big Rack Shuttles a call to enjoy the last of the fall air. Learn more about the Crest Trail at Utah Mountain Biking.