The Maze 2023 – Day 3 – Maze Overlook to Teapot Campsite

I’ve made a couple of these trips before (White Rim in 2016, Kokopelli in 2022), and I prefer this format – camping at two sites for two nights each vs. a new campsite every night – camping and decamping is a lot of work – especially when you’re already exhausted after a long ride. At this point – it’s worth pointing out that these back-country campsites are nothing more than an area marked for camping. There are no facilities – no water, bathrooms, seating, shade, fire-pits, nothing but boundary markers. But what they lack in amenities, they more than makeup for in location and stunning views. The Maze Overlook is one of the most incredible places I’ve camped at, and even the privy (aka Groover) spot has breathtaking vires while you contemplate the day ahead.

We hit the trails after packing our gear, de-gunging the bikes, doing a little bit of recovery yoga, and helping load the truck.

The morning entertainment was reversing our ride from day 1 – climbing back up the Golden Stairs, and regaining 800 feet in the process. After a quick photo op overlooking Canyonlands and Bagpipe Butte while we waited for the support truck to pick its way through the fairly technical uphill we bombed down and had lunch stop in a dry creek bed with little shade. Hot, hot, hot !

Post lunch was a leisurely cruise down to Teapot Campsite – our home for the next few nights. We had a big day of riding tomorrow on very technical trails. so we walked over to check it out and pick out some lines through the rock gardens.

My Strava ride is here.

The Maze 2023 – Day 2 – Hike to the Harvest Scene Pictographs

Today was a “rest” day – meaning a rest from riding. Instead, the plan was to hike/scramble/climb down into the canyon below our camp to view some of the world-famous Barrier Canyon pictographs and petroglyphs. The pictographs are believed to date from 2000 BCE to 500 CE (Common Era), but not much is known about who created them or their exact meaning.

After drinking plenty of the best coffee for 50 miles in any direction and a cooked breakfast, we set off. It took us about 90 minutes to scramble down into the canyon, and unless you know exactly where you are going, I will not attempt this – there are plenty of places you could go off course and get into trouble. It’s a very exposed descent, the trial is not well marked, and a slip or fall would likely end in severe injury. There are some primitive Moki steps at a couple of points if you can find them. Getting out of the canyon with any kind of injury would be impossible without assistance and the right equipment.

It was a toasty hike to the main Pictograph canyon with full sun, no shade, and no breeze. Once we got to the canyon floor, we were treated to an explosion of desert plants. There’s been a lot of rain in the area, and this was apparently one of the best spring blooms in living memory.

There’s not much online about these pictographs other than people’s accounts of hiking into the canyon to visit them. They are the same Barrier Canyon style as other sites in the area – nearby Horshoe Canyon being one of the most extensive sites.

The hike back up to camp was much quicker and easier but still pretty strenuous, and we even found a little shade. Fortunately, there were no injuries aside from a few scrapes, and it was great to spend time in an area that very few people will ever have the opportunity to visit, given its remoteness.

Returning to camp for a few beers, another excellent dinner, and a spectacular lighting and rainbow show was a good end to the day.

The Maze 2023 – Day 1

We had an early start, but as we’re all East Coasters – we were all wide awake before the 5.30am alarm. The Sunrise in Moab is always special – the red sandstone cliffs glow red, and you can start to feel the sun’s heat. We packed up the rental car – literally packed it to the gills, and headed off to Green River to meet our Rimtours guides and fellow explorers. We caffeinated on the edge of town at Horsethief Coffee and arrived at Green River in time for breakfast at Tamarisk, where we watched the very swollen Green River rush by.

The start of our ride was at the Hans Flat Ranger Station on the western boundary of the Canyonlands. Getting there was an adventure – 46 miles of washed-out Jeep trails through barren BLM-owned high desert. Once there, we met our guides and fellow travelers (Donna and Sue), got our gear and bikes ready, transferred our packs and camping gear, and reviewed the route for the rest of the day.  

Saying goodbye to civilization and the extensive facilities at Hans Flat – a shaded picnic table, a vault toilet, and a map. From here on – there’s no potable water, bathrooms, or electricity, and the only shade is provided by stubby Juniper trees and your own headwear.

The morning ride was a pretty easy, flat ride along the top of the Orange Cliffs, stopping for pictures at the Bagpipe Bute overlook; we then dropped down the Flint Trail switchbacks and had a quick lunch break at the bottom.

After lunch, we dropped a few more hundred feet and entered the Canyonlands NP, where we encountered our first Canyon. As impressive as it was – we’d discover in the next hour or so that it was barely a ditch at the side of the trail compared to The Maze.

Day 1 – mission accomplished – 28 fairly easy miles. The final destination for day 1 is Maze Overlook, Camp 1, and our base for the next few days.

Follow the Strava link for more details.

Sleep. Part 1.

An aggressive cancer diagnosis in May 2018 got me thinking about my health more generally and specifically the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy mind and body. I’m on my 3rd re-read (listen actually) of Matthew Walker’s, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams in which the author makes a pretty convincing case that sleep is everything and that with good sleep habits you will live longer, smarter and happier. If you haven’t read it and are interested in health you should check it out.

My cancer was deemed aggressive and so in consultation with a surgeon, two oncologists, a radiation oncologist and my wife – we decided to treat it aggressively. Over the last six months I’ve had surgery (prostate and lymph nodes removed), a two month course of radiotherapy and currently 4 months into 24 months of hormone therapy. Cut, burn, poison – they’re the current options when it comes to cancer treatment. That said, I believe a healthy diet, exercise and good sleep will have a big impact on my recovery and longevity. Hence the current interest in sleep.

Like most people – I’ve never really thought too much about sleep. You just sort of get on with it and battle on with what sleep you manage to get – your body lets you know when you don’t get enough and compensates to make it up . But travel, stress, illness, environment, diet can all have a short or long-term impact on your sleep and it’s more likely you just fall further into sleep debt.

After trying a few apps. on the Apple Watch (more on this in another post) I came to the conclusion that the poor battery life and form factor just weren’t working. While I love the Apple Watch for many reasons- the battery life sucks and I just can’t get used to sleeping with it on.

So prompted by a friend I took a look at the Oura Ring sleep / health / wellness tracker. The Oura ring is on it’s second generation and the first thing you notice is what a remarkable job they’ve done jamming a lot of technology into a small space – 3d accelerometer and gyroscope, body temperature sensor, infrared LEDs, battery and BLE radio.

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As you can see in the picture – It’s only slightly thicker than my platinum wedding band and a little bit lighter (titanium and plastic). I ordered size 10 but I’m probably a 9.5 so it’s a little loose but I erred on the bigger size assuming my fingers will swell in the summer. Oura have done a good job with the design – quite a few different finishes and styles – I chose the Heritage Stealth (matt-black). It’s waterproof and fairly scratch resistant so you can put it on a forget about it. The battery lasts about a week and only takes 20 mins to charge and uses a wireless charger (included). There is an airplane mode which turns off the BTE radio and that pushes battery life to about 11 days – but you have to remember to put it on the charger to re-enable it and upload data – so sorta defeats the purpose IMO.

The ring tracks a number of sleep metrics :

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
  • Body Temperature
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Activity

The first four of these are used to determine how much time you spend in different parts of the sleep cycle and gives you an overall  Readiness Score. Activity track, as you might expect – activity – it’s not really a dedicated activity tracker and from my experience the step and calorie tracking is pretty inaccurate compared to my Apple Watch.

Right now I’m really just interested in the overall score and duration of my sleep but will likely at some point dig a bit deeper into things like HRV and body temperature – especially when I get back to cycling.

The ring comes with a pretty decent app (I’ve only tried the iOS version) that basically derives the readiness score and presents last nights sleep as well as overall trends.

The key part for me is the duration of each element of the sleep cycle. REM and Deep sleep are the most important to overall health and recovery. Resting Heart Rate is a good indicator of general aerobic health. Everyone is different and it’s key to focus on the trends and not the absolutes.

At this point (now you can see the charts) – it’s worth pointing out that my sleep right now is really poor  – these are the effects of my aforementioned cancer treatment – I wake up 2-3 times a night for a bio break. But already I can see some improvements and I’m able to experiment with different sleep aids, bedtime routines and eventually impact of exercise (when I’m recovered enough).

So far – after about a month – I’m pretty impressed with Oura – I certainly have some suggestions for improvements in the app – more on that when I get time to write about my comparisons with other Apple Watch sleep trackers. Until then :

 

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

– Peter Drucker