There is a trail called Rojo in eastern Utah that makes it way up Red Mountain. It’s somewhat of a favorite among the locals, what few locals there are out there. The rest of you have probably never heard of it, and the locals prefer it that way. They ride up an ATV trail to the top of Red Mountain and then ride down Rojo to make a loop out of it. But the locals are doing it wrong. The only way to enjoy Rojo is to ride up.Rojo is a short little trail, just three or four miles long, but what it lacks in length it makes up in technical difficulty, chest pounding climbs and aesthetic beauty. It starts in a wash next to the ATV trail, deliberately difficult to find to keep the throttle twisters off. Then it immediately begins making its convoluted way to the top. It doubles back on itself twice, flirts with the edge of a cliff three times and crosses a normally dry wash four or five times. All along the way the trail steps up, down and across sandstone ledges, cobbles and potholes. Rojo is every bit as good as the Zen Trail in southern Utah, if only a little shorter, and Rojo is way better than Gooseberry Mesa in that there is no eight mile drive down a washboard road to get to it. The road to Rojo is paved all the way to the trailhead, but I have never, ever, seen another car parked there.
I said going uphill is the way to enjoy Rojo, but I might be wrong. I really don’t know. The truth is I’ve never gotten to ride down it. Well, at least not in an enjoyable way. Aaron, Ryan, Mark and I have attempted three times to ride all of Rojo—it’s become an annual event—and we have failed three times. There is a devil living on Red Mountain and she does not want us to ride Rojo.In 2007 we underestimated the difficulty of the trail and started too late in the evening. Then Aaron hurt his knee and we had to turn around and pick our way down in the near-darkness. Aaron’s knee was better as soon as we got off Red Mountain. The devil, la Diabla, has power over our sinews.
In 2008 we arrived at the trailhead under cloudy skies. La Diabla turned on the rain and immediately turned the wash into a small river, the sand into quicksand and the slickrock into, well, slickrock. Dejected and cold, we turned around again.
2009 was supposed to be our year. We attempted Rojo in August instead of October. We started early in the evening so we’d have enough light to get to the top. It was 90 degrees in the shade but the trail was dry—like a desert trail should be. Everything was in order to finally ride to the top of Rojo. We made it 90%, 95%, then 97% to the top. We were within 200 yards of finishing, easily within shouting distance so la Diabla would hear us celebrating our triumph over her evil.La Diabla does not give up easily. Right as we started the final push to the summit she reached out her fiery talon from under a bush and snatched my rear derailleur. It disintegrated upon her touch, and it happened so fast that Aaron, who was immediately behind me, saw nothing but the aftermath. We walked to the top and I coasted, sans chain and with a little help from my friends, down the ATV trail. We were doing the locals' ride in reverse.
We don’t give up easily either. We’re going to try again in 2010. But please tell us, la Diabla what do we have to do to get to the top? Should we pour tequila on the trail and put habanero sauce in our water bottles? Is this a punishment because on the night before the ride I put Ryan’s chamois in the freezer? Oh please, how could you even know about that? Just tell us what we need to do and we’ll do it. We’ll give you whatever you want, your evilness, because Rojo is worth it.