50 Years of Slickrock ~ Slickrock Bike Trail documentary in 4K


So the first time I rode Sickrock Trail
was on a motorcycle, that was in ’69. I rode it with a friend of mine and it
was… terrifying. Coming up to try out the Slickrock Bike
Trail for the first time, it was pretty scary to be a truthful. My first
time to Slickrock itself was 1985 on our way back from Crested Butte. It was
kind of a moonscape. Well we first went to Moab in the first, to the middle part
of 1960s. The town of Moab was probably like two streets long. First time I
visited Slickrock Trail was about 1951. My grandparents had an Army jeep and I
wanted to ride in that Army jeep so that’s where we went was Slickrock. My dad
would actually bring me up here to the Slickrock Bike Trail and drop me off
when I was 11 and I would just ride around until I was kind of done
riding around and ride back to town. It’s petrified sand dunes and so it’s up and
down up and down and up and down. I really enjoy that. It’s really on almost
every mountain bikers bucket list. There are so many locals that come up here
every single day to go hike, bike, walk their dogs, just to go up and see the
sunset up here at the Slickrock Trail. It’s an opportunity to get out and
challenge yourself. It’s just you and the bike and the wind on your face and what
more would you want. Back in 1963, this old guy named Andy
Anderson was a local mechanic and he had two of these scooters at his shop. And
after working in his shop for a little bit he says you know we got to go
out on Slickrock to ride these scooters but I looked at the darn thing and it
has this has this Maytag washing machine drive to drive this front wheel and it
has another Maytag washing machine drive to drive the rear wheel and he said this
thing goes anywhere, anywhere you think you can go on the Slickrock. I says well
let’s go! This was a very unique vehicle. Andy passed away sometime in the early 90s and his his vehicles and stuff kind of
disappeared, and a friend of mine in his shop – here’s one Andy’s old scooters and
I says my god I rode that sucker 30 years ago and he said really and he says
well what why don’t you just take it home with you and see if you can clean
it up. So I brought it home. Well, I started putting an hour in an hour there.
Yesterday I actually fired it up. It’s it’s been a pleasure and a real
honor to be able to put this vehicle back back together. When I was working
for the Times Independent, my friends, I rode with me on Honda Trail ’90s to various points of interest on the Red Rock. They found out the joy of traveling on two wheels. It was a very quiet town because it was not tourist-oriented when we first started going. We towed an EMPI roadster. Towed it behind
our 1964 Pontiac. It had the metal body and it would take all of the rough and
tumble that we knew that we were going to be giving it in the backcountry and
it was very comfortable. Well Dick Wilson we met because Dick
Wilson was basically involved in the same type of thing. We got on real well. Dick had a dune buggy. He liked to go into the backcountry and take pictures
just like we did. He wrote articles for the local newspaper and invited us up to his
house so we got to know Brevin and the children and we just stayed friends over
the years because we went back every year. We always connected and say oh now you got to go see this place and can we go see here can we go there and he would
go with us. The articles that Dick was writing was
exploring trails. He blazed a lot of trails and made a lot of them accessible
to two-wheeled vehicles. Just opening up all around Moab so that everybody could
see what there was and how to get there and I know that that was his passion.
The beauty of the place, for one, was a pulling attraction. He enjoyed the
outdoors. He was always an outdoor person but he really decided that Moab was a
place where a lot of tourists could come and have fun so he kind of took it upon
himself to figure out what can I do to attract people to Moab. And one of the
things that he did is he started writing books so that people when they came to
town, he had several little books that had written, could buy the books and can
go out and explore themselves and that’s basically what he did for many years –
just trying to get people to see the beauty of Moab, Utah and that’s
what’s so cool about it. It was about in 1969, a fella by the name
of Dick Wilson came into my office. I was the area manager at that time, and he
said I have an idea for a bike trail up out of Moab near the sandflats that I’d
like to have you consider and I said Dick let’s take a look at it. There were
no trails on the slick rock. The only thin trails that they had were
some trails made by horses and cows but there were some areas that were not
traveled very much at all. We got in his dune buggy and traveled up to the sand
flats toward Arches National Monument. We came close to the river, Colorado River
Gorge and after we got through with it, I told Dick let’s move ahead with this
bike trail. so Dick, he outlined the the bike trail. I
chose which ridges they would go down and which mountains they would ascend
and they asked me to go ahead and mark them with white, which I did with chalk
to start with, and then a few days later with paint. You started to a situation
like that and wonder you know what what’s gonna happen in the next 5 or 10
years? Is it really gonna catch on? Hey it caught on with fire. The word got
around. For the Bureau of Land Management to work with local folks to create this
trail, little did they know what would become of it. This world-famous trail
that you know you’ve seen magazines and new zealand’s that have the Slickrock
BikeTrail on it. People from all over the world are familiar with it. There’s lots of people that dedicate themselves to
getting something to happen and Dick Wilson was able to get the BLM to let
him put lines on the trail. He’s the man that got it legal and God bless him for
it because we wouldn’t have it it wasn’t for Dick Wilson and I really appreciate
that. But I want to emphasize that it was the friends that went with me that
helped me to propose which parts of Slickrock we should go. When the trail
was established, it captured the imagination of thousands of people who
had to come and see what it was that I had been describing in my weekly
articles. I sent a copy of the map to the district
manager in Monticello who in turn sent to the map to the State Director in Salt
Lake City, Utah. The State Director came back says excellent idea –
pursue it with vigor and he said and we’ll have a dedication ceremony
commemorating this important step. So we went ahead and when we when we had the dedication, we actually selected a Queen to be there to add a little beauty
to it and the State Director was there and he he presided and and kind of took
charge and from then on it was just pretty much history. Dick just deserves a
lot of credit on that bike trail. He’d go exploring around Moab and then
he would write an article for the newspaper the next week and explain the
unique situations that he run into so he was really really involved all the way
through. I rode my Honda Trail 90 to explore the trails. You don’t have to
worry about a trail 90 getting up a hill. They go so slow. They had such a low gear
so there was no worries about a trail 90 get me anywhere at any time.
They were great. It has a high-low range gearbox that allows you to have four
high gears and four low gears which makes it extremely capable off-road as
well as capable on-road as well. We like to come out to Slickrock because of the
legacy here and to reconnect with the people who have come here before to us
on the same exact equipment. It’s like coming to a religious holy land. Coming
back at least twice a year. In the 70s, early 70s, we were all
involved with the mining industry and in the ’82, the uranium industry fell apart,
so we all lost our jobs at the same time. How I ever talked my brother and my dad
into starting a bicycle shop which was you know unheard of in the 80s in rural
towns. My parents, Hank Barlow and Kim Schappert started Mountain Bike Magazine in Crested Butte. In the very first issue we came to Moab, Utah to shoot it
on the Slickrock Trail. It wasn’t that we didn’t have any good riding in
Crested Butte, Colorado, which you know we all thought was the center of the
universe, but to get out to Moab and be able to ride where no one had ever even
known it existed. It immediately blew the lid off of mountain biking in Moab, Utah. This was the first color publication about a sport of mountain biking and it
was a sport that barely anyone was doing. It was super niche. It was just kind of, the
bikes were just being kind of invented and evolving a super fast rate of speed
and Mountain Bike Magazine became the first outlet for people all around the country
to read about what was going on. Trying to put this magazine together about this
new sport that we were convinced was gonna be a lifestyle and not just a fad. All of a sudden, there was an article, a little blurb in Time Magazine about Moab
and the Slickrock Trail and then Outside Magazine about Moab and the Slickrock
trail so there we were – on the world stage and people started to come. And it
just took people’s breath away. It was so different than anything anyone had seen
before and I think it was part of what really kicked off the success of that
magazine was the first issue is just it’s such an impact and it was because
of what makes Moab so special and what makes the Slickrock Trail so
special. At the end of ’85, we decided to have a Halloween party and invite all of our reps. Well, Hank Barlow, who’s started Mountain Bike Magazine got word of it and said next year we were gonna have a Fat Tire
Festival. Put us under the gun. Well, we had one. We got sponsorships. We we did a poker run around Slickrock Trail. We give away bikes doing that. This was a big
event that attracted people from all over the country. It was always in the
end of October, kind of ending around Halloween, and there’d be a big Halloween
costume party as part of it. It was just a lot of fun. That would attract almost
all of the major custom mountain bike builders that we had in the United
States. The fabricators from California like Mark Slate at Wilderness Trail
Bikes and Joe Breeze and Scot Nicol from Ibis. They would gather here year
after year, showing off their latest product and it just evolved from there
as a testing ground for these companies and if it didn’t break here it was good. Because the Slickrock Trail is that demanding and these engineers know that
if their brakes fail at Slickrock Trail they need to go back and rebuild them,
and if they work here, they know they can go anywhere in the world. In 1985, it was
really at the bottom. There was very little economic activity at all. Moab was
in, in dire straits. In the early 80s, you could buy a house here for ten thousand
dollars. Things are sort of turned around since then. And the powers that be were
still you know really oriented to mining for for developing the public lands
rather than recreating on them but all of a sudden, this hoard of mountain
bikers starting to come in. Other bike shops started up and restaurants and motels started doing more business and the
biking community really turned Moab around way before other users started
coming here a lot. The Slickrock Trail, being the initial
focal point for mountain biking, brought in enough people as mountain bikers to
create a significant shoulder season both in the spring and in the fall. They
just made it possible for many businesses to stay open longer, new
businesses to start and that just led to a whole chain of events that’s largely
contributed to what Moab is as a recreation destination today. It’s
impossible to overestimate how much of an impact the Slickrock Trail has had on
the economy of Moab. It really just has drawn so much attention to the really
unique landscape that we have and all the different ways that you can enjoy it
so it’s really, you know, fueled you know what Moab has become which is you know a very developed recreation economy. For what we have we owe a lot to that one
trip. I started coming out here about 20 years ago with groups of friends from
Colorado and we’d ride all the trails, different trails every time we came but
we always rode Slickock because it’s special. It’s unique. Moab is one of the most amazing places for mountain biking
because we have just such incredible terrain and scenery to go with it. It was
way more fun on a bicycle than it was on a motorcycle. It’s just spectacular
riding it. Technology is constantly improving and changing and so the the
Trail 90 bikes are nothing compared to what we have nowadays with suspension
and and the ability to navigate just gnarly terrain.
When we first started doing tours out here, we were just riding rigid fat tire
mountain bikes. No suspension whatsoever and since then, of course, shocks have
been invented and it’s made things a lot more comfortable. You can see things
better when you have suspension. And then they made the suspension bikes better
and better and better and by the year 2000 suspension bikes were it and the
hardtail and the rides that would have beat you up and take hours, we’re over
with. You could ride the whole Slickrock Trail and ride and ride it again and
again or other trails. It’s really more challenging than you might expect just
steep ups and down. I describe it as a roller coaster so you’re kind of up and
down. You know it’s not a lot of extended downhill, not a lot of extended uphill, so
and you know you can’t be afraid to use your granny gear out here. For one thing,
you, you almost can’t lose traction. You can practically go up a vertical wall
and not lose traction and that’s amazing. I love the silence of the mountain bike
and I think this is one of the best spots in the Moab area to see the
sunsets. Moab has been identified as the mountain
bike capital the world. Slickrock is one of the premier rides of Moab so it is
definitely very important to Moab. Just be respectful, mainly to the environment
and don’t go off into these beautiful gardens. Mountain biking is what you make
it right, you can come out here and try to do the whole loop in an hour, or you
know or you can come out and spend six hours on the first two miles of trail. Just hitting little jumps on the trail and just enjoying every piece of it and
that’s that’s what’s amazing about Slickrock. It it’s so different for each
user. You know whether you’re just figuring out how your tires grip on it
or whether you’re you know jumping these bowls and these these cool berms and
stuff that are just naturally here, the trail is really what you make it. The word of mouth is the best kind of
advertising yet so everybody who went up there was just overwhelmed and loved it
and would go back and tell their friends and it’s still that way. I mean there’s
still people who come out just because they’ve heard that Slickrock is the
place to ride you know and it is it’s it’ll make you a good rider or it’ll
hurt you. It happened back in 1993 when teenagers started having their big
parties on the Sandflats. It got to be really ugly. This place was getting
overrun. There wasn’t enough toilets. There weren’t any designated campsites
so we had health violations happening up here, resource violations. I can remember
coming up here in the spring of 1993 and being shocked. Without any developed
facilities, toilets, campgrounds, there was serious resource damage taking place. People were camping everywhere. I saw some folks fit down around a tree and
set it on fire. That was their campfire. There was one
place that the kids called the glass factory. That’s where the teenagers went
for their parties and it was so much broken glass that we couldn’t even begin
to clean it up. Just glass everywhere. The sheriff went up to try to disrupt
what was happening. It was just some riot up there and he had he had to retreat. He
pulled his deputies out because he could see that if he stayed there it was gonna
be real trouble. Back in ’93 is when it really hit a critical mass and the local
community decided that something had to be done. The Bureau of Land Management
had limited staffing and was willing to help but didn’t really know exactly how
to take charge of it and that’s when a group of local folks,
Craig Bigler, Kim Schappert and Bill Hedden, got together with the support of
Grand County Council and submitted an AmeriCorps grant. That was the beginning
of what is now the Sand Flats Recreation Area and the partnership between the
Grand County and the Bureau of Land Management here in Moab. So this is an
incredibly unique situation. It’s a collaborative Land Management. Because
the county, we could collect entrance fees At that time, it was before the fee
demonstration program, and so monies, if they were collected by the federal
government, they would go to Washington DC and it would be hard to get those
funds back. So by forming this partnership with the county starting in
1994, they were able to keep the funds here. There wasn’t a designated campsite
up here. There wasn’t a single toilet up here. The parking lot was very
rudimentary and dirt, not paved, not striped. There were no shade shelters. There was no trash collection but through that partnership, the
collaborative Land Management Partnership, Grand County was able to
benefit as was the Bureau of Land Management, and then most importantly, the resources up here and the participants, the recreationists, were the ones that
benefitted and it’s still that way now. The first manager. Craig Bigler, he was
able to get a three year AmeriCorps grant and he hired a great group of
people, very energetic. So we started up and babes in the woods. We didn’t you
know. It was a new problem. We didn’t know how to solve it so we just started doing
things. And the kids have been driving all over the sand flats and we tried to
delineate where they could, where it was okay to drive and to camp by putting big
rocks and oh boy, the next spring when they came, they didn’t care about those
rocks, they just drove right, drove right over them, all over the place. They were
able to use the fee money all for the development of facilities, because the
AmeriCorps grant covered the staff costs so that quickly produced fire rings and
toilets and that basic management infrastructure that was needed to
administer the area and start protecting our beautiful desert resource. We started
going working with the community with Chamber of Commerce and other
organizations to build community support for management because at that time the
community wasn’t really enthused about managing public land. It wasn’t too easy. There was some pretty serious opposition. It used to be free camping up there and
I, I was pretty much against it when they started charging for it.
I was proven wrong. It’s been a really good deal. They make enough money that
they can they can keep the campgrounds up. They can keep the you know the trash
pulled up. It’s it’s it’s a good deal so you know, I’m willing to say that I was
wrong on that. First thing we did, after we got the
grant, was we set up the stewardship committee. This committee is made up of
local community members that represent motorized and non-motorized users. We
hired high school kids. We hired older folks and those people work tirelessly
every day to protect the resource that people came from all over the world by
that point to enjoy. Stewardship is important especially in the sense that
if if just left to its own devices, if this were not taken care of, if there
weren’t stewards of this area, it would get torn up. Our desert environment is
actually very fragile and if we don’t take care of it, it will literally turn
to dust and blow away. The plants won’t be able to grow, you know the landscape
would change dramatically if we don’t take care of it. The stewardship
committee was really took it seriously as the first time a community had a
chance to sort of help mold a public use of the public land in a way that would
suit the community and that’s important. Over the years, the Bureau of Land
Management office in Moab and local government have worked cooperatively
very well to develop local solutions to local issues. Grand County takes care of
the day-to-day management and operations of the Recreation Area. So what that
means is we can take care of the fee collection at the entrance station where
we’re orienting people to the area talking about safety, handing out maps. We also do the maintenance of the campgrounds and the trails and all of
this happens with the fee money collected through the entrance station. So we are completely self-sustaining entity. It’s an enterprise fund under the
county and all the money collected stays right here for operations. So when the
partnership was set up, I don’t think anyone envisioned that the Sand Flats
Recreation Area would not only be able to fund its day-to-day operations but
also improvements. And over the last decade we’ve done some
pretty major improvements. And these improvements were needed because of the
increase in visitation. The Slickrock Bike Trail popularity just has continued
through the years and with this increase in visitation, we have continued
challenges. So in the last decade we’ve built the Hell’s Revenge parking lot and
put in a toilet. We’ve made improvements to the Slickrock Bike Trail with new
updated kiosks and interpretive information and built some shade
structures. There’s just wonderful collaboration and communication
regularly on projects. Whether it’s adding new campgrounds which is coming
up again, there’s just always such good communication and collaboration is why
it works well. “Don’t Bust the Crust”, now that was our main approach and the
kids on the stewardship team really took that to heart.
That crust was just something we was practically worshipped. That was the
rallying point and made it feasible for the visitors to understand why they had
to behave. Why they should stay on on designated trails. The purpose that the
biological soil crust serves, it retains water so when it rains it’s like a
sponge so the dry desert has a chance to just have a little bit more water for a
while. It prevents erosion because everything is bound together and it
fixes nitrogen for the plants so they get their their nutrients. The biological
soil crust is also super fragile. One tire track or footprint is just a slice
that can scar the land for a long time. So it’s really important to stay on the
trail and stay out of the little pockets of vegetation and soils. It is a gorgeous
place in the spring, in the fall, is just just pure delight. The Slickrock Bike Trail,
just the landscape. It’s so unique. The views are spectacular especially if you
come up here during the end of the day and the Sun is setting and just the
light is just awe-inspiring. You do smile more in the uphill on the
motorcycle. I think a lot of people get a little bit scared about trying to ride
up certain things or down certain things but that your tires stick to the terrain
so well. With Slickrock Trail being on Navajo Sandstone, having been sand dunes, gives the sinuosity and then the petrification of the sand dunes makes
them roll a lot easier than actually riding modern-day sand dunes. Not
everyone believes it but it’s the smoothest trial in Moab is the Slickrock Trail. Some of the steepest ups and downs to be found but as far as on your
body and your bike, it’s got great flow and if you trust it, it’s super smooth
and incredible experience on earth. People hike the Slickrock Trail and I,
and a lot of other individuals love to trail run on it. It’s a fun one to just
run and go see the big vistas and make these loops and everything. The dominant rock that you see here at
the Slickrock Trail is the Navajo Sandstone and it was laid down in an
environment that was like the Sahara Desert. Just miles upon miles of sand
dunes. Right around us here is just the compressed sand dunes and if you look
around you can see diagonal lines that represent the way that the wind was
depositing the sediments. It’s just wonderful being on the Sand Flats
committee in part because I’m giving back to some place that I feel has given
me a lot in my life. I’ve been diabetic for coming up on 44 years. I’m not the
kind of person who gets up and does my due diligence and exercise and keeping
healthy and all this sort of stuff and I don’t have to have that kind of
discipline because Slickrock is here. Slickrock draws me to it in such a way
to where I can’t help but get out and ride it. It’s almost like if you found
out that bacon and cake and pie were the healthiest foods possible. You wouldn’t
have to be forced into eating that and that’s what Slickrock does for my
physicality, you know it for my health. There’s no other place on planet Earth
like it and that’s why so many people come here to enjoy this trail. It was a
gathering place for all the mountain bikers that would come to Moab. You had
to go to the Slickrock Trail. Mountain biking now is an Olympic sport and it
has been for 20 years. People are riding all over the world and they still
haven’t found anything more spectacular than the Slickrock Trail. It’s just as
impactful as it was 35 years ago when it was on the cover of Mountain Bike
Magazine. Slickrock Trail for the community is
it’s something that’s used and loved by all locals ‘cuz we can come up here at
sunset after we’ve worked ten hour a day and just ride around the practice loop,
right out the main loop a ways and it’s just such a unique terrain, unique
surface, that you know it’s like nothing else on Earth. It’s been known as the
world-famous Slickrock Trail. It’s still that way today and even though there’s
there’s all these other options that it never gets old. We have easy, over a
hundred thousand people, globally come here to just ride that trail. It’s that
unique and that special of a type of a trail to go ride. I think the reason that
it’s been so successful, this partnership is because of the love of this trail. The
Slickrock Bike Trail has so much meaning. It’s been here for 50 years, has
so much meaning to the community, has so much meaning to our visitors. This trail
means so much just so many people over the last 50 years and I think it will
continue to mean just as much in the future. you

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