Riding the 'Goose': A religious experience on two wheels

By Lukas Brinkerhoff

Note: This story was produced for JCOM 2160, Introduction to Online Journalism, which emphasizes hand-coding HTLM.

May 8, 2008 | The Goose. If you haven't ridden the Goose then you won't understand. The Goose is a legend. It is a place that is reverenced by riders of all abilities and of all ages. Many consider it their open air temple and religiously attend to its ceremonies on a weekly basis. Riding the Goose is a religious experience.

I first rode the Goose back in '98. A friend had mentioned something about a trail that rivaled all the trails he had ever ridden. Then the tourists starting rolling through the shop, grinning and bestowing such terms as "epic" and "best" to this trail. I finally was able to find out where exactly it was and I headed out with my girlfriend, sister and brother-in-law. It only took that one trip and I was hooked. We only managed to finish about half of the South Rim, but, nonetheless I was out again in a few weeks to finish the job. This second time I made it all the way to the point and my life hasn't been the same since.

Riding the Goose can seem to some to be an addiction. Especially to spouses of those who ride it on a regular basis. I tend to see it the way the Mighty Mighty Bosstones see alcohol, in their words, "What you call the disease, I call the remedy, and what you're callin' the cause I call the cure." I can't remember how many frustrations and worries I hammered out on the Goose, but over the past 10 years I guarantee you they have been many. I've never felt that riding the Goose was a problem. Nah, the problem is when I don't get to ride.

Gooseberry Mesa sits outside of Hurricane, Utah, but if you didn't already know that you probably shouldn't be riding. It was designed by two brothers, Mike and Morgan Harris, who found the sand stone slabs some years ago. The Goose was born when these two brothers linked everything together with dots on the rocks and began riding it. Both brothers can still be found riding the trail on a regular basis, but now they are joined by hundreds of other riders who wouldn't recognize them and know to say thanks when they are spotted on the mesa.

The dots now link together both sides of the mesa and include several subloops. The trail winds up, down, over and between sandstone rock of differing sizes. Inexperienced riders may found the trail a bit intimidating at first. The lines link the trail together, but don't necessarily make it easy to ride. I've witnessed many newbies walking their steeds up, over and around the many obstacles that dot the trail. The good side to this is those who stick it out and learn to ride the Goose are soon found seeking out new obstacles to make the trail more difficult. With areas known as God's Skatepark, it is easy to imagine the hijinxs that go one.

The dots take riders up near vertical faces of sandstone. To the uninitiated, the rocks may seem nigh unrideable, but to the experienced they simply require a different technique. The most common mistake when riding the Goose is to ride in the granny gear (the lowest gear) and try to slowly pedal up the steep inclines. It is much easier to maneauver when the rider uses a middle gear.

This allows the rider to gain speed before the climb and then power through in only two or three strokes, using momentum to flow up and over the stones. Once a rider masters this skill, the Goose is open to long days of rocking it.

The Goose is technically open year round. You will find locals on the trail during every weekend regardless of temperature or weather. If you are planning a trip down south there are times that are better suited for riding. Early spring, when the snow still hasn't melted in Northern Utah, the Goose is perfect. Temperatures range from 50 to 75 degrees, just enough to get a sunburn. The fall is also conducive to riding the mesa, but it is recommended to roll after September. Any time between those months, during what is known as summer, can be rediculously hot and requires night riding or awaking before the sun does. Summer temperatures for the mesa can easily break 100 degrees.

Once you've decided when to ride, the next most important thing to do is make sure you are prepared. The desert is a dry place. Always pack water, even if you are riding during the middle of winter. It is crucial to stay hydrated while riding, even in cooler temperatures. The dry air can sap your body's water reserves quickly leaving you thirsty when you feel as if you haven't shed a drop of sweat. During the winter months all riders should carry at least two liters of water. If you choose to challenge the summer heat, three liters will hardly suffice. Some riders carry up to six liters and still feel dry at the end of the ride. Also make sure you have sunscreen, a patch kit and a pump. This is the desert and there are plenty of cacti. For more local knowledge, contact Red Rock Bicycle.

As I mentioned, the problem with riding the Goose is that once you rock it, you can't go back. It offers such a spectacular smorgasbord of riding possibilities that other trails just won't cut it any more. Riders that have done the Goose will rave about it until they get the chance to ride again. It is not uncommon to see cyclists relaxing at the trailhead after a hard ride, revelling in the fact that they survived. War stories are constantly shared among riding partners and vacations are planned around the mystic destination.

The only hope for a Gooseberry Mesa addict is constant therapy. It is suggested that the afflicted cyclist ride the Goose at least once a month, and more often if possible. In the case that getting to the mesa is not possible, the addict should ride other trails and just pretend to be on the mesa. Research has shown that visualizing the Goose while riding other trails can be a very effective treatment, but nothing can substitute for the real thing.