Over a Beer: The Moab Migration

Photo: Aaron Chamberlain
Photo: Aaron Chamberlain

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

Every spring there comes a time when my Instagram and Facebook feeds change dramatically. Some years it’s a slow transition, and others it’s as if a massive switch has been thrown signaling an instantaneous change of the seasons. A slideshow that was once a cascade of shades of white and blue, with skiers and snowboarders deep in the white room sucking down face shots of powder, transitions to tones of red, tan, and brown, with riders on two-wheeled death traps playing on slickrock and sand.

I call it the Moab Migration.

No matter how many storms we’ve seen or how deep the powder has been, by the time March rolls around–and undoubtedly by April–everyone is ready for a break from the cold and snow, looking to feel the sun on their skin again. Shedding thick winter jackets, insulated snow boots, pants that go swish-swish-swish, and wool hats for the bare necessities–shorts, a jersey, and a helmet–sounds tantalizing. And so, seemingly everyone under the sun plans their annual pilgrimage to mountain bike mecca.

Moab’s popularity doesn’t look like it will wane anytime soon. Every time I make the spring migration myself, I am yet again astounded by how many other people are fleeing to Moab for some sun and sand. This year, while visiting for Outerbike, Aaron and I saw new hotels under construction, restaurants expanding, and a sea of people–bumper to bumper traffic through downtown, and long lines at the most popular restaurants.

The crowds aren’t just full of mountain bikers, either. Moab is Mecca for off-roaders, motorcycle riders, rock climbers, hikers, trail runners, sightseers, and people just looking to camp and drink beer–you name it, if that user group likes to get outside (and doesn’t need much water to do so), Moab is the place to be.

Scratch that, there’s some pretty good rafting there too.

While some might be appalled or at the very least, frustrated, at the traffic through the center of this tourist trap, I instead choose to welcome and embrace the masses. Because I know that as soon as I head out on the trails, if I keep pedaling just a few minutes longer than the masses of “I-haven’t-biked-in-6-months” snow cave dwellers, I will soon have blissfully quiet trails, never-ending views, and challenging ledge drops presenting me with the choice: “huck or walk?”

Photo: Aaron Chamberlain
Photo: Aaron Chamberlain

Yet another reason I embrace the Moab crowds is that, without fail, I’ll know at least one (if not a dozen) friends or acquaintances that will randomly have made the Moab Migration at the exact  same time I did. One time, I just posted to Facebook asking if I knew anybody in town, and rendezvoused at the brewery with some old friends who I hadn’t seen in years. This spring, I just watched my Facebook feed, and after seeing a few friends post Moab riding shots, I was able to meet up with folks from as far away as Alberta and California in the same day–because we had all made the Moab Migration.

While I may characterize “everyone” as making the migration, sometimes when I talk to friends and tell them I’m going to Moab (again), I’ll get the comment, “oh, I haven’t been to Moab in 20 years! We rode everything there is to ride in Moab in the early 90s.”

To that, I always respond, “If you haven’t been to Moab in the last five years, you need to go! There are hundreds of miles of new trails that are night-and-day better than the classic Moab routes!”

The full and unabridged truth is that if you haven’t been to Moab since last fall, you still need to make the migration again. The locals in Moab are constantly building new trails, and every spring for the past half a decade there have been new routes filled with flowy singletrack and rolling slickrock to sink your knobbies into or skitter across.

If you haven’t heeded your biological imperative and migrated to Moab yet this year, never fear–there’s still time left to point your tires towards the desert!

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