Friday, April 19, 2013

Un-race report: Cactus Hugger geology-ecology extravaganza

We had so much fun racing in Green Valley for the True Grit Epic that we decided to go back for the Cactus Hugger I-cup two weekends ago.

During a quick pre-ride on Friday afternoon I made a small adjustment to my saddle, which had slid back against the seat post clamp.  I was good to go.

Saturday dawned clear and promised great racing weather.  One of the things I like about this particular race is that it starts late.  I was not going off until noon:08. 

12:08 and Bang! I was off racing a short cross country race against a decent sized field of 5 other Expert Women. Fun!

12:08:30 Crack! I was out! Broke a rail on my saddle clean through. I guess the adjustment Friday allowed a weak spot to succumb to those extra cookies and beers I had over the winter that are still adhered to my backside.  No way to make it through this hour+ race standing up.  Goodbye $43 entry fee, hello expensive new saddle purchase at local bike shop.

Luckily, the nice guys at BikeFix in Saint George had the saddle I wanted so I headed back to the race course.  By this time, Drew was all finished up with a good race.  He came out with me on a little ride on Bear Claw Poppy.

The next day, the team ride was on Hurricane-Jem-Goulds, but I just couldn't do it.  It is one of my favorites, but there are other trails in the area that I have never ridden and I needed to do something different.  So Drew saddled up with me and we rode Guacamole, a first for both of us.  Fun!!!! Moderate technical, slickrock, and eery views of a burned out juniper forest.  There are choice geologic moments on this trail too, like this awesome chunk of petrified wood!

Me showing off a large piece of petrified wood weathering out of Triassic-aged Shinarump Conglomerate.

If you are not impressed by the cute model showing the size of that awesome piece, how about a cinder cone too!
The lava flow that erupted from the Crater Hill cinder cone around 130,000 years ago blocked the ancestral Virgin River, creating a large lake, which reached upstream into the lower part of Zion Canyon.

Geology, sunshine, and riding with my mate - what could be better?  Desert flowers!

Blooming cacti

After Guac, we decided to hit Church Rocks.  There are quite a few more directional signs out there now compared to last time we rode this trail, but that didn't keep us from taking a few wrong turns and winding up on a no-bikes sandpit of a trail.  Luckily we got to see the Washington lava flow juxtaposed against the Navajo Sandstone. 

Black lava of the Washington lava flow near Washington, Utah surrounded by orange Navajo Sandstone on a spur off of Church Rocks trail.
The Washington lava flow erupted from a vent in a cinder cone about 2 miles northwest of where this photo was taken. This particular flow is just under a million years old, certainly not as young as the lava we saw at Guacamole, but still very young compared to the Jurassic Navajo (180 million years old) on which it was sitting.

Drew pointing the way back.  I think at this point we were quite near the contact between Navajo Sandstone, which is the red outcrop to the right, and Kayenta Formation, which would be to our left or east.  He didn't really care about that - he just wanted to get to dinner and share a pitcher.

But thirsty though we were, I just could not quite stopping to take pictures of the many awesome desert blooms.  Sage brush is usually the boring sage-green dry plant everywhere, but it was blooming!
Probable Blackbrush, Coleogyne Ramosissima in bloom. (Thanks to Watcher for correcting my initial incorrect ID. Read all about this widespread shrub here.)

Mormon tea in bloom.

"Alien plant" in bloom. Watcher told me is called Desert Trumpet, Eriogon inflatum, and it's in the buckwheat family. I didn't know the real name - but it is one of my favorites.

Teensy weensy plant in bloom with my finger for scale.

Hundreds of teensy weensy plants showing yellow.

So even though my race was a non-race, at least Drew had a good race, we saw the sun, we got to hang with friends, we did some riding, and we got bonus geology and ecology time.  Yippee!


  1. Geology and flowers- my favorite kind of post! Nice post & pics. We were actually on Guacamole the day before you- I think it might be my new favorite ride.

    BTW, your "alien plant" is Desert Trumpet, Eriogon inflatum. It's in the buckwheat family. And I think your "sagebrush" flowers may be Blackbrush (which are way prettier than sagebrush flowers.)

    1. Watcher! Great to know you still lurk in blog land. Thanks a zillion for the feedback! I thought of taking better pictures and trying to ID the plants for real, but I figured no one would hold geologist me accountable for bad plant IDs, so I focused on the geo instead.

      The flowers were awesome down south that weekend, eh?