Great Memories on Moscow Mountain
John Byers, March 9, 2018
Moscow Mountain is my favorite place in the world to mountain bike. Some of the best memories of my college years are from the mountain. For an actual review of Moscow Mountain, see my review. This page just describes the great time I had exploring the mountain with my friends.
My friends introduced me to mountain biking in Pocatello, Idaho, the summer after I graduated high school. I had already chosen to go to college in Moscow- mountain biking was the least of my concerns when choosing a college. As the summer went on, I quickly became obsessed with mountain biking, and was sad to leave the great trails of southern Idaho when it was time to move to Moscow. I brought my bike to college with me, and immediately went to U of I's awesome campus rec center to see if Idaho's outdoor program did anything relating to mountain biking. Sure enough, they had "Mountain Bike Mondays" in the Fall. I was psyched, and counted down the days until the first "Mountain Bike Monday". When it finally came, I showed up and found that they took us and our bikes up in a big van. There were just four of us on that first "Mountain Bike Monday" in 2009. The van took off, out of town, driving through the wheatfields. I was very interested to see where we would be riding. After all, Moscow is surrounded by wheatfields. I didn't remember any mountains nearby when my parents dropped me off. But after a few minutes, the wheatfields gave way to tress, we had reached Moscow Moutain.
Our driver parked the van, and we got our bikes out. I was confused. The previous summer, I had done downhill riding only, being shuttled back to the top. I wasn't aware that people rode uphill. The van driver and leader of the "Mountain Bike Monday" probably thought I was insane, but told me to raise my seat, and we headed up the mountain. Moscow Mountain was so different than any riding in southern Idaho. The trees are massive in comparison, and the terrain very lush. There are ferns and other green plants growing on the mountain. The heat was incredible, but I was too excited to be mountain biking to complain. There were so many trails, and we ended up riding Jump Trail, North Contour, and Cabin Trail that day. By the end of the day I didn't know what to think. I was still trying to process that people rode uphill, the amazing trails we just rode, and how cool Moscow Mountain was...plus everything else going on the first week of college. I couldn't wait for the next Mountain Bike Monday.
After the first ride, I made some new friends, including Rhys, another freshman mountain biker from Idaho Falls. He was eager to ride too, and I invited him to come to the next "Mountain Bike Monday". Again, it was an amazing uphill ride followed by an epic downhill on Cabin Trail. It was awesome, especially having a new friend who liked to ride too. We did all the "Mountain Bike Mondays" that fall. UofI's "Dad's Weekend" happens late fall each year, where dads are invited to come hang out at the university for the weekend. I think most dads come to see their children in fraternities and sororities, drinking and playing golf. Rhys's dad came, and was psyched to do some mountain biking with us. He had a super cool bike, and took us up to the mountain. We rode around, and he got some cool footage of us attempting some jumps. He must have had a good time, as he brought his bike and we rode Moscow Mountain on future dads weekends too. Sadly, I brought my bike home to Pocatello for Winter Break, and didn't ride the mountain again until the following year.
After my freshman year, I was aware of Moscow Mountain, but it was still a mystery, a maze of fun, forested trails looming over the wheatfields. It wasn't until my sophomore year that I really got to know the mountain. Rhys brought a car with him our sophomore year, with a bike rack. Trail maps were available online through MAMBA, the Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association, but required a paid membership to view them. Rhys and I were too cheap for this, and decided to explore the mountain for ourselves. We spent the first few months driving up after class in his car and riding, exploring new trails until dark, usually cold by the time we got back to his car. Another friend, Luke, also liked riding, and we would explore the mountain on Saturday mornings, getting lost a few times too. Some of my best memories are cold rides in late Fall. The leaves change and fall, and the trails get covered in soft pine-needle things. The trails are perfect in late fall. We rode and explored like crazy until early November, when the gate to the mountain is shut. Sophomore year, I made sure my bike was back for spring riding. This turned out to be great. By March, some trails start to dry out. However, these weren't the same great trails from the Fall, these were on the "Headwaters" side of the mountain. We learned about them from the outdoor program, and they were a lot of fun that Spring. The Headwaters side of the mountain has a different vibe than the other side. It seems busier, I think more hikers come here. The trails are also wider in spots, but with fewer jumps and features. UofI's "Mom's Weekend" happens in the Spring, and Rhys's mom came. Surprisingly, she brought her mountain bike, and rode with us, which was awesome. I was excited to ride around Pocatello when school ended, but ended up missing Moscow Mountain the whole time.
My junior year was great. My brother Ryan started at U of I that year, and I got to show him around the mountain. Me and Rhys rode like crazy that fall too, confident that we really knew the mountain. I knew a lot of riders on campus, and it was so fun going up on a weekend, riding around, stumbling across another group of friends riding, and doing an impromptu group ride. One time we decided to all go off a jump together and film it. Rhys and I went first, cleared the jump no problem, only to turn around and see everyone behind us crash! No one was hurt, and days like that are great memories on the mountain. Late fall, Rhys and I learned about the downhill trails on the mountain. Sentinel and Somalia. Sentinel is utterly terrifying, huge gap jumps, ten-foot ladder drops out of the trees, and just an overall gnarly trail. We walked it many times, amazed that it existed. Somalia, is also scary, but doable. It is a steep, legit downhill trail. It was fun finding the trail, and learning each section. We never raced it, but I think we would both put up respectable times. That spring was great too, riding Headwaters again. Headwaters is a fun trail, but it is also sad. Riding Headwaters means the school year is almost over, including riding on Moscow Mountain. It also reminds me of an old, Playstation 1 demo disc. Those had great games on them...but never the full game. Headwaters is the same way. You are technically on Moscow Mountain, but all the rest of the trails are still snowy and muddy.
Senior year on Moscow Mountain was amazing. I knew it was my last fall on the mountain, and I definitely made the most of it. I made some new riding buddies, and we did a night ride with flashlights, which was totally cool. It was also scary, since we had been playing a lot of Slenderman games that fall too. Of course, Rhys and I spent a ton of time on the mountain too, even finding some great new trails. His sister Kat was a freshman that year, and she rode with us sometimes too. One day sticks out in particular. Rhys and I got to the mountain after class one afternoon. We always ate delicious apples from a tree near one of the trails, and were acting crazy, pretending to joust with sticks on our bikes. It sounds crazy, but we were both crazy. We went on a brand new trail that day, "Private Lands Trail". It was absolutely amazing. A long flowing trail, with great uphill and downhill. When we finished the ride, we ran into Ryan, Kat, and our friend Eric, they were finishing up a ride too. We decided to do some jumps over a stump. Rhys is normally a good jumper, but he was off that night, and crashed. He went over the bars, but seemed fine. We continued to jump, thinking nothing of it. But Kat said that something was off with Rhys. He was acting a little weird, but he always did that. She said, no, something is really off. Sure enough, Rhys couldn't remember anything! He didn't remember riding Private Lands Trail, eating apples, jousting, anything! He didn't even know what month it was. We took him to the hospital, and sure enough, he had a concussion. It was a fun memory of a great day on the mountain...even if Rhys can't remember it.
I moved to Salt Lake City after graduating college, a city known for great mountain biking. I rode Moab a few times, and had gone to Whistler a few times, both world-class mountain bike destinations. But nothing compares to Moscow Mountain. I missed it so much, and decided to take a trip back up to Moscow to visit Rhys, Ryan, and the others still there. It was so weird being back. I obviously didn't bring my bike on a plane for a weekend trip, but rented one from Paradise Creek Bicycles, a great bike shop in Moscow. It was a 29er, and very nice, but definitely felt totally different from my own. But as soon as I got back on the mountain, I felt right at home! It was a great weekend of riding with Rhys, Ryan, Eric, and everyone. The weekend was too short, but great. I can't wait to go back and ride again someday.