- The Whole Enchilada
- Beginnings & Rumors
- What to Bring
The Whole Enchilada sees a lot of action and may very well be the epic ride in Utah, if not the Epic ride in the lower 48, that everyone wants to do. It runs roughly 27 miles decenting from a max elevation of about 11,200 feet in the La Sal mountains east by southeast of Moab. It is a big deal.
Strong Recommendations: this is not a walk in the park. If you've never ridden a bike or you only ride on pavement, you are about to enter a technically demanding and emotionally consuming, calorie burning, length of trail which will dehydrate you if you aren't prepared or don't move fast enough. Big groups are fun but you have to keep moving or you'll run out of water. You need ample food. You need to plan on walking some if you're a novice rider. This is a beautiful ride and epic in every way but be aware. Find out what you need so that you don't get caught off guard.
Hire a shuttle in town, my favorite is the Porcupine Shuttle. Good people and newer vans, they also have better racks. Their phone number is 435-260-0896. If Burro Pass is open they'll drop you off up there for $25 a head. I think the drop elevation is at about 10,000 feet in the La Sal mountains. If you come from low elevation you'll notice this as soon as you step off the bus. They will give you directions to the trailhead and for the next hour you'll be either burning your legs pedaling or pushing your bike up to Burro Pass and a capping elevation of 11,200 feet. At this point, even if you were on the earliest shuttle, you've used a good amount of water and perspired just as much. Despite the elevation, the cool breeze, the sun is quite hot. The peaks around you are above 13,000 feet.
of Mice and Men
The ride begins at the pass. And nothing prepares you for the next section, my favorite part. As you round the saddle headed down into the shadowy, tall pines, the trail becomes steeper and loose. It is all rideable. The corners require some skill and focus beyond your fear of falling. It can be wild and loose and remind you of the good 'ole days of cattle rustling.
After descending 1,000 vertical feet the trail mellows and becomes the freeflowing trail that takes you through another age. The pines give way to aspens and quakies, the stream is captured in a canal built by the hands of yesteryear. As you speed through the aspens there's a gate, if you will. You'll have to stand your bike on the rear wheel and walk through.
Entering the campground follow the road out and down the hill. The trees start to peel away and there will be a parking lot with restroom to the right. The trail recommences there. This is the beginning of Hazard County. This is the kind of trail that keeps you on your toes and is absolutely worth it. As you descend here you can see all of canyon country, its immensity and beauty, and know that you descend into it as the Hazard County trail becomes high desert.
Navigating the trail is easy from there. You'll cross the La Sal loop road and be on Kokopelli which runs into UPS (Upper Porcupine Singletrack) and then splits onto LPS as you're presented with two "Notch" options. And finally you'll be dropped onto the Porcupine road. At that point you're still forever away from the end.
Usually at this point I am down to about 1/3 water reserves and I'm gone. I eat some food and get some caffeine on. The next section of trail is brutal and requires not only speed, but a degree of awareness that most mountain bikers haven't yet acquired. So be careful and go your speed. This section I where I open up and let it all out. I've memorized the lines and generally the rocks I reference don't move.
Down the road you'll finally arrive at the singletrack exit. You've still got about 2-3 miles left on some very challenging singletrack. Being the end of the ride and also very hard trail, you should stay within your skill level and alertness. You can get hurt here. But once at trails end, if you've left your car there and planned correctly, there is a cooler full of ice, water, and other refreshments.
I was in Moab at a race with my nephew, Mitch, back in 2001. Maybe it was earlier, I don't remember. But we were out riding about and we saw this kid on a black Specialized P3(the original) and he was boosting super high off curbs. Then he'd do a 180 and land switch, and stomp it out with another 180 to get rolling forward again. Obviously he was a skilled rider. We were both amazed watching him and so we caught up with him.
He told us where he worked, a cool local shop, and what he'd been up to with his friends in the mountains that overshadowed the small desert town. It sounded amazing. It sounded like a super long trail with a lot of incredible terrain, including skids, ladder, and gaps. He also mentionned that it was something that they had to keep quiet because of the Forest Service.
We wanted to ride it so we said we'd keep in touch. Subsequent trips to Moab we'd go by to find him but we wouldn't. He was always out riding. Or something. At those times we'd hear that the trail had been closed up by Forest Service officials because it was an illegally built trail, not having permission... etc.
So as far as we knew the trail wasn't something we could do. So we'd enjoy our Moab trips like normal and just plain ride. But noise in the Utah cycling community would drift on the wind and you'd hear of a nameless trail to the east of Moab that was "Epic" in proportion. But they were just stories coming from the privileged few.. like ghosts..
Update: 11:44 PM 9/25/2011: I recently returned from doing this ride mostly by myself. The ride from Burro Pass to the river took me a near full 100 ounces of water, electrolyte drink, 600 calories of food, and 2.5 hours of ride time with about 45 minutes of down time for chatting and stuff, not to mention the 1200 foot vertical that you climb in the beginning. That climb took about 45 minutes.
Bike: All Mountain 6-7" travel Ride Time: 4hours Elapsed Time: 5h30m (For pictures, snacks, etc..) Mileage: 27.0 Fuel: 100 oz of Gu Brew, 1 Chocolate GU, 2 Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, 2 cups red grapes, PB&Chocolate Larabar, & 20 oz Borrowed Water
These are my personal notes. I'd imagine that it's still a lot deal with for most riders. My recommendations include 140 oz of water, part of that being hydration drink consumed on the 1 hour shuttle ride up the mountain in a 20 oz bottle. Have another 20 oz bottle of hydration mix drink ready for the bag that you'll drink as you ride the trail. If you're out there for 5 hours, working hard, and sitting too, you're still out there with very little water in the sun. Averaging 30 oz of water per hour isn't nearly enough. So hydrate the night before. Don't drink energy drinks that morning, they'll just dehydrate you. You'll be awake enough after you start descending Burro Pass.
Food: bring high calorie food items, some fats and proteins help too. Make you feel like you ate something. I'd include a gel with caffeine somewhere in the bag for later in the day as the fatigue starts. It will help you control your motions and keep you alert. Too much will dehydrate you, however.
Bring your tools, and spare tube and all that. Include some items unique to your bike: a spare chain link and pin or masterlink depending on your chain.. sometimes a crankbolt is handy. Don't bring the kitchen sink but bring small parts that you envision being a concern for your machine. This is a rough and tumble trail. If your bike is going to fall apart, it will he here.
Looking back on the first time I rode this trail and having taken the above I have learned that I didn't have enough water or food, and that tires should be lighter because there is so much work done on this trail. The climbs are mellow but maneuvering can be challenging with a heavier set, not to mention keeping momentum.
The trail is demanding and dropping down Burro Pass is the best test of your brakes you'll probably ever experience. I feel like it's a solid 10 minutes of brake manipulation through loose dirt and rock. Having a strong brake is prefered. Having a brake that works is even better. So make sure you bring a bike that doesn't offer problems.
My most recent trip down this long trail was on a new bike, in every way. I had just purchased it from Rocky Mountain as the only 2013 Slayer 70 in the lower 48 that anyone had ever seen! I was still getting used to it. And I took for granted a lot of things when my friend's bike started to break down.
Things I Would Do Differently
My spare parts list was limited to canned air and tubes, chain pins, and patches. After my friend's crank arm fell off and there was no finding the crank bolt, I've added things like brake pads, crank bolts, and other key ride-ender-fixers that should be part of everyone's bag on rigorous routes like the Whole Enchilada.
Food is key to staying alert and alive; you'll find yourself so far out there that the loss of energy leads to the loss of drive and thus, to the inability to make it back to town for support. This is also true about hydration. If you don't have enough water, and you should know how much you sweat and the amount of water you normally consume, you will cramp up. You'll also get a terrible headache. Later in the season when it's cooler, there isn't so much of a need.
My last trip I had a 100 oz bladder with 2 20 ounce bottles with electrolyte supplements. This made my day much better as I struggle with hydration and cooling. It's really a science for me to balance things right. I spend an average of about 10 hours a week in the saddle so I know what my body needs in a variety of conditions. This allows me to also hone my skill on the bike, something I recommend before riding a trail like this.
Starting out with things Proper
The largest factor to having a ride without troubles is preparing your shredsled for the abuse of the trail.