Uinta Adventure Ride – June 2014

June 26-28, 2014

For some time I have wanted to try a multi-day motorcycle adventure ride, camping along the way. It took a lot of research and experimentation to find a good way to carry all of my camping gear on my small dirt bike.

I teamed up with seasoned riders Ross Vellinga, Scott Connors, and Danny Lunt. Our plan was to spend three days and two nights out in the Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah. We planned routes that would avoid the crowds of the Rainbow Family Gathering and the Ragnar race. Our route is shown in this image. Each day is indicated with a different color, with yellow representing routes we planned on taking but did not.

Three-day adventure route

Three-day adventure route

My dirt bike does not have a strong metal sub-frame on the back and I don’t have a rear fender rack. I therefore had to find ways to carry my gear without such a structure. The bulk of my gear fit inside a water resistant Giant Loop Coyote bag. I also had a Giant Loop Fandango tank bag, Giant Loop Pannier Pockets, and a blue Sea-To-Summit dry bag for my tent.

My camping gear loaded onto my bike

Ready for my first adventure ride

With so much gear on the back of the bike, I am unable to swing my foot over the rear of the bike, so I have to lift my foot directly over the seat. Being old and stiff, this is challenging – especially with a 39” seat height. This turned out to be a good indicator of how tired I was getting.

The hardest part – getting my foot over the seat

 

Day 1: Sandy to Murdock Basin

It was sunny and hot when we met at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon shortly after 4:00 PM on Thursday. We rode up Big Cottonwood Canyon, over Guardsman’s Pass to Midway, and on to Jordanelle Reservoir where we stopped for a short break. They let me lead the way since I was the rookie and had the smallest bike. I found that my bike handled pavement just fine up to about 60 mph.

Day 1

Day 1

While taking our break it was obvious that we had a storm moving in. We hurried on to Kamas and stopped for gas. It started to rain just as we finished up at the gas station. It gradually began raining harder. When we stopped to pay our entry fee for the Mirror Lake Highway, we discussed our options for finding our camp. We considered camping at a lower elevation camp, but decided to press on with our original plan to Broadhead Meadow. We could feel the temperature drop as we climbed in elevation. We eventually turned onto the wet Murdock Basin dirt road. Luckily, the trails in Murdock Basin are really rocky – not muddy and slippery.

We found an absolutely beautiful place to camp right on the edge of Broadhead Meadow. There were two Moose there to greet us.

Moose in Broadhead Meadow

It stopped raining about the time we got to camp, so we were able to set up our tents and cook our dinner in decent weather with just a few pesky mosquitoes.

Our first campsite

My new Exped Gemini II tent worked great

The view from my tent

Ross quickly got a fire going so we could cook up our steak and potatoes. Dinner was fabulous.

Ross tending the fire

Steak and potatoes for dinner!

We enjoyed sitting around the campfire during the evening until it started to rain once again at about bed time. It rained throughout much of the night. I was pleased that my new tent kept me nice and dry. It got a little chilly during the night since we were at 9500’ elevation.

Day 2: Murdock Basin to Upper Stillwater Reservoir

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. I tried out my small camp stove and some freeze-dried breakfast and hot chocolate. It wasn’t too bad. My compact camp chair worked out pretty well too.

My breakfast kitchen

Our tents were wet from all of the rain, so we decided to explore some of the trails in Murdock Basin while we let our tents dry out.

Day 2

Day 2

We first rode down to the east end of the Duchesne portal that takes water from the Duchesne River and diverts it over to the Provo River. I brought my family here many years ago so I knew it was a rocky road. I was surprised with how well my bike handled with all of my camping gear except my tent. I could hardly tell it was there. Of course, if I got into a sticky situation I am sure the extra weight and bulk would become very obvious.

The Duchesne tunnel

On my last visit I did not realize that there is a beautiful waterfall about 100 yards down river from the tunnel in-take. Little Deer Creek Falls is really spectacular.

Little Deer Creek Falls

Just downstream from the falls is Cataract Gorge, which is also very scenic, but we did not have time to explore the gorge.

We then took the fun ride out to Echo Lake, and then returned to camp to fetch our tents and eat lunch.

Echo Lake

On the first day I found that my tent interfered with my backpack, so I decided to move it behind the Coyote bag. I was worried that it might slip and get damaged on the exhaust pipe, but this new arrangement worked very well.

Trying a different packing scheme

Just as we left camp it started to rain again and the temperature fell rapidly. A cold front had obviously moved through, and it looked like we were in for a long and wet day. I was sure glad I bought a waterproof set of riding pants and jacket – they worked great!

We sought shelter near the outhouse at the parking lot for the Provo River Falls. We stayed there for about an hour hoping the storm would pass.

The storm finally let up a little, so we rode down the canyon to the Soapstone Basin turnoff. When we got there, the sun was out and it was much warmer at this lower elevation.

Our original plan was to explore Soapstone Basin and ride out to Lightning Ridge. With a massive storm system in the area, we decided that wouldn’t be a very wise thing to do. So we quickly rode over Soapstone Pass to the Wolfcreek Pass highway. Luckily we never encountered any more rain.

As we approached Hanna, we turned onto a dirt road that climbed over a mountain pass at about 10,000’ elevation. The view going down the other side was incredible. Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to take pictures, but you can see it in my video.

This brought us to Upper Stillwater Reservoir. We were hoping that the water was still flowing over the spillway, but it was about 2’ too low.

Upper Stillwater Reservoir

We found a decent campsite a few miles down the highway from the reservoir (~7800’ elevation). It wasn’t as nice as our first camp, but it had a nice stream where Ross was able to catch a few Brook Trout.

Camp #2

Day 3: Upper Stillwater to Daniel’s Summit, American Fork Canyon, and home

We were quite a ways behind schedule due to the rain, so on the morning of our final day we considered all of our options. My bike has a smaller gas tank than the rest of the group, so that had to be carefully considered. Luckily, Danny was carrying an extra 1 gallon of fuel.

Day 3, part 1

Day 3, part 1

Our original plan was to ride down Farm Creek Road, but we learned that we would likely have our bikes confiscated if we rode through the Indian Reservation. We considered taking the pavement to Duchesne where I could get gas, but I didn’t want to ride too many miles on Hwy 40 on my small bike.

We also considered returning to Kamas, but knew we would run into the Ragnar race. And the shortest route back to Heber would have taken us right through the middle of the Rainbow Family Gathering.

So, we decided to stick with our original plan and ride to Daniel’s Summit via the Red Creek road. To do so, we had to return to Hanna the way we came.

Taking a break in Hanna

The Red Creek road is in a very remote area that is seldom visited, so we were not sure if we could even get all the way through. We feared we would encounter private property or banks of snow since the trail went over 10,000’ in elevation. If we did, I was in serious jeopardy of running out of gas. This is an adventure after all.

Red Creek was a fairly rugged road, but it was really fun and incredibly scenic. It offered spectacular views in every direction.

The view from Red Creek trail

After following the ridge lines for many miles, we dropped down towards Currant Creek Reservoir. We stopped for lunch at a nice spot that was sheltered from the cold wind.

Day 3, part 2

Day 3, part 2

 

Currant Creek Reservoir

The roads from Currant Creek to Daniel’s Summit were not as fun as most of the trails because they had recently been graded. There were lots of loose, jagged rocks all over the road. We also encountered hundreds of motor-homes and campers in the area. I have never seen so many campers in such a small area before.

We were still running behind schedule, so once we reached Hwy 40 near Daniel’s Summit, Ross decided to head for home. Danny and I rode up to Daniel’s Summit Lodge to buy gas (expensive).

We originally planned on taking the dirt road to Wallsburg, but to save time we decided to ride down Daniel’s Canyon. For me, that was not fun. My bike can go comfortably on pavement at 55 mph, and it isn’t too bad at 60 mph, but 65 mph is really pushing the bike and the knobbie tires. Luckily we got behind a large tanker truck that could only do 65 in the long straight stretches.

After reaching Heber, we turned south towards Deer Creek Reservoir, and then west through Charleston where we encountered the Ragnar race. We didn’t realize the race went that far south. Luckily the traffic was light and it didn’t take long to reach the road to Cascade Springs.

The Cascade Springs road is pretty rough and wash-boarded, so it wasn’t too fun.

Day 3, part 3

Day 3, part 3

 

After reaching Cascade Springs, we rode up over the Alpine Loop, down American Fork Canyon to Alpine. Scott separated at this point while Danny and I rode over Traverse Mountain to Draper, and on to home.

My odometer showed 297.5 miles for the three days, almost half of which was on the final day.

This turned out to be a great test for adventure riding. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though we encountered some bad weather. I was able to validate my water proof riding gear, luggage, and tent. I was also able to evaluate the bikes handling and stability on pavement, dirt roads, and rocky trails. I learned that I need to make a few minor adjustments on how I mount the Coyote bag, but otherwise my gear worked perfectly. It was a very enjoyable experience.

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Payette River Trip – June 2014

June 18-21, 2014

It has been several years since we did a trip to the Payette River system in southwestern Idaho. We decided this would be a good year to go again so that our family and friends with young children could once again get on the river. We had 22 adults and 7 children, including the Gardiner’s, Isaac Lloyd’s family, Barry Lloyd’s family, the Luikart family, the Wolfe family, Wade and Hannah Robins, and a few friends.

It rained almost the entire time as we drove up there, so we were a little nervous about camping conditions with young children. Luckily it stopped before we arrived at the Hot Springs campground just east of Garden Valley. It was hot and sunny for the remainder of our trip.

 

Hot Springs campground, group site #3

The hot spring near camp

We set up camp and then did our first run on the Main Payette from Banks to Beehive Bend. We did several other runs on the main throughout the week, and one run on “Old Swirly” on the South Fork, and one run on “Cabarton” on the North Fork.

We had three rafts (Gardiner’s 14’ paddle boat, Barry Lloyd’s 16’ paddle boat, and Layne Lloyd’s 16’ with a rowing frame for hauling the children), two 2-man inflatable kayaks, and one hard-shelled kayak for Isaac.

Dee’s boat

Layne at the oars

 

Barry’s boat

Isaac skirting the hole in Surf City

One of the inflatable kayaks

The water levels where lower than previous trips, but we still had some really fun waves.

 

Main Payette: 5300-5700 cfs

The Main Payette

The best rapids were Surf City (now renamed “GLOYF” (go left or you’re fired)), Mixmaster, and AMF. We had a few people fall out of the rafts and the inflatable kayaks flipped over a number of times, but everyone had a nice safe swim.

Surf City

 

Barry’s boat in Surf City

Flipping in Mixmaster

AMF

 

Old Swirly: 2400 cfs

Old Swirly was a very relaxing and scenic float. It has a very steep ramp at the put-in, but there is a nice current that keeps you moving along, so you can chat and enjoy the sights while you float along.

The put-in for Old Swirly

Steady current

The “swirly” section is similar to “Coffee Pot” on the Rogue, but not quite as powerful. This section did prove a little challenging for the inflatable kayaks, but not as bad as prior years when Kevin took a long and scary swim.

Entering the “swirly” section

We were able to briefly stop near camp and pick up the younger children to take them the remaining easy three miles to the take-out. As we loaded Sophie onto the boat, she said; “but I am still two”. Her parents told her she needed to be eight to go on the river. She was not content to just sit and play in the raft – she had to paddle just like everyone else. She did a great job holding onto her paddle for almost the full three miles – even when the current would try to pull it away from her.

Sophie paddling

 

Cabarton: 2480 cfs

It is a long drive to run the Carbaton section, but it has the largest and wildest rapids of any section we are willing to run. It was a beautiful day and there were quite a few people on the river. Nevertheless, we were able to launch quite quickly and be on our way. There are a few long and boring flat-water sections, but the reward is the fun waves in the three largest rapids; Trestle, Francois, and Howard’s Plunge.

Flat water on the Cabarton section

Beautiful scenery

 

Approaching Trestle Rapid

Jamie takes a face full of water

The tongue of Howard’s Plunge looks much larger in person

 

Riding the waves in Howard’s Plunge

The Luikart crew in Howard’s Plunge

 

We did one final run on the Main section Saturday morning, followed by lunch, and departing the campground by 2:00 PM.

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American Fork Canyon Single Track – June 2014

June 13, 2014

The Uinta Trail Council, Forest Service workers, and volunteers have been out early this year clearing the single track trails in American Fork Canyon. Bob and I decided to go check out some of their great work.

GPS track, part 1

GPS track, part 1

I have not ridden some of these trails much in recent years because they used to be quite rocky, rutted, and difficult. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the trails are now in very good condition and they are really fun to ride.

Several years ago Jamie and I rode up the Mud Springs trail (#173) thinking it would be easier than the Tibble Fork trail (#041). Were we ever in for a surprise. It was a chilly morning when we started our ride from Tibble Fork Reservoir, but within about 10 minutes we were both drenched in sweat. We had to lift our bikes up numerous 1’ steps caused by exposed roots.

Last year Bob and I rode down #173, and it seemed to be in much better condition than when Jamie and I rode it. So, this year we decided to ride up and see how hard it would be. It is a steep trail, but it wasn’t overly difficult. It is certainly not a beginner trail, but it is by no means the most difficult trail in the area.

We stopped in the meadow for the traditional photo of Mount Timpanogos.

Traditional photo spot

After reaching the Ridge Trail (#157), we turned left and rode out to the top of #041. I hadn’t ridden this section of the Ridge Trail for many years, and once again I was surprised at how nice the trail was.

We then turned right and rode down my all-time favorite trail, South Fork Little Deer Creek (#252). This trail loops around to the east, crosses the paved rode to Cascade Springs, and circles back to the Alpine Summit.

After a brief break, we rode the Ridge trail north to the top of the Pine Hollow trail (#047). This portion of the Ridge trail was fairly rocky and gets heavy use from mountain bikers.

The top part of Pine Hollow is a fun ride (but I think the bottom part is quite difficult). We turned onto the Timpanooke trail (#150) and then rode up Willow Hollow (#159). The portion of Willow Hollow between the camp and the highway is pretty rocky, but above the road the trail is nice.

After reaching the summit, we rode South Fork Little Deer Creek the opposite direction. It is fun riding either way.

Upon reaching the top of the Tibble Fork trail, we stopped and chatted with some other bikers, and then continued north on the Ridge Trail. This portion of the Ridge Trail is fairly rocky, but not overly difficult. The trail opens up at the end with dispersed camp spots near the top of road #180 and Mill Canyon (#040).

GPS track, part 2

GPS track, part 2

I have never ventured further north along this trail because I knew there was a very dangerous cliff crossing somewhere near Forest Lake. The work crews had just opened up a new trail re-route to avoid some steep and rocky climbs on the old trail. We decided to see what the new trail was like.

The old trail basically followed the ridge line up and down over a few small peaks. The new trail traverses back and forth across the old trail offering a much gentler climb.

Some portions of the new trail were very nice, while others were quite rocky. If everyone that rides this trail takes a little time to clear a few rocks, this will eventually be a great trail.

View from the new re-route

We continued north, past the junctions with trails #039 and #181. By this time I was getting pretty tired and hungry. We were stopped by snow at a saddle just south of Forest Lake, so we had a nice scenic spot for our lunch break.

Forest Lake

After lunch we hiked past the snow to try and get a look at the dangerous cliff section of the trail. We got tire of hiking with our motorcycle gear on, so we never got a good look at it.

We rested a little longer after our hike, and then started the return trip on the Ridge Trail. My arms were really starting to feel sore and fatigued from all of the rocks, so we stopped periodically for a short rest.

We returned to Bob’s truck by riding down Mill Canyon (#040). Years ago I rode this with Paul. There were a lot of water bars that we dropped off, which would have made this a difficult ride up the mountain. But again, the trail has been significantly improved.

There were a lot of switchbacks, which you can see in the first GPS track, but they were not super-tight turns so I was able to ride every one of them. I am not very good at switchbacks, so this was a great chance to practice and work on my tight turning skills.

We covered just less than 35 miles by the time we returned to the car. It was a very enjoyable day of riding.

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Grand Staircase Adventure – May 2014

May 27-30, 2014

Kim and I spent four days exploring some of the most scenic dirt roads in southern Utah. We also did a few hikes near our camps in Capitol Reef and Kodachrome Basin.

Tues. May 27: Capitol Reef

We left home at about 8:45 AM with the hope of finding a campsite in Capitol Reef National Park. We arrived at about noon, ate lunch, and set up our camp. By mid-afternoon the campground was full.

Three deer were there to welcome us to camp

The Capitol Reef campground is very nice, with grassy areas for your tent, running water, and flush toilets. Most sites have a fair amount of shade, but we noted that loop C had the most shade. We also noticed that most people had a camper or a camp trailer rather than a tent. Being mid-week during the school year, there were a few families with very young children, but most were retired couples.

Our campsite in Capitol Reef

An old Ford pickup truck at the Gifford ranch house

The Chinese wisteria is fenced off so it can heal

The vine in 2007

The temperature was in the upper 80s, but it was slightly overcast, so we decided to hike to Hickman Bridge. The hike was more difficult than we expected because it had a lot of uneven steps that were hard on Kim’s knee. But by taking our time, we made it to the bridge and back.

Kim on the Hickman Bridge trail

Hickman Bridge

After dinner we had a brief rain storm that dropped the temperature a little bit. The dark rain clouds offered some spectacular scenery.

Storm clouds and red rock

 

Wed. May 28: The Burr Trail

After a nice breakfast of French Toast, we packed up camp and headed out for our first dirt road adventure. We drove through the park then turned south on the Notom-Bullfrog road, which parallels the Waterpocket fold that comprises Capitol Reef.

Notom, Burr, and Wolverine roads

Notom, Burr, and Wolverine roads

The road started out being just another ride through the desert, but as we progressed southward, the scenery really improved. We stopped and checked out the remote Cedar Mesa campground along the way – a small campground with table and an outhouse, but no water.

Capitol Reef as seen from the Notom-Bullfrog road

Panorama of the Waterpocket Fold

The Notom road meets the Burr Trail about half way between Bullfrog and Boulder. We turned west and immediately climbed up the switchbacks that climb the Waterpocket Fold. These switchbacks reminded me of the Shafer switchbacks in Canyonlands. The road is in good repair, so the switchbacks did not present a problem.

Looking down on the switchbacks

Shortly after the switchbacks the road becomes paved. We passed a couple of adventure motorcycle riders that looked like they were really enjoying their ride. Both the Notom road and the Burr Trail are excellent roads for those with larger adventure bikes.

Since we were making good time, we decided to take a detour and explore the Wolverine Loop. This road would be really fun on my dirt bike. It was slightly rougher than the Notom road, but nothing too serious. It had lots of twists and turns, which are really fun on a dirt bike.

We stopped to look at some petrified trees along the way.

Petrified wood along the Wolverine loop

After rejoining the Burr Trail, we started the long and beautiful drive down Long Canyon. The scenery was absolutely amazing. We then stopped for lunch at the small Deer Creek campground and listened to the swift moving water while we ate.

Long Canyon

Long Canyon

After reaching Boulder, we enjoyed the scenic drive along Hwy 12 to Escalante and on to Cannonville. We passed several groups of motorcycles – both adventure bikes and street bikes.

Panorama of Hwy 12

We checked into our reserved campsite at Kodachrome Basin State Park in time for dinner. This was our first visit to Kodachrome Basin. Even though it is a small park, we were immediately impressed with beauty and the splendid campground – which even has free hot showers and a sink to wash your dishes.

Camp in Kodachrome Basin

We enjoyed two short hikes; one on the 0.5 mile Nature Trail, and a 1.5 mile hike called Angel’s Palace that offered some spectacular views of the park and surrounding areas.

Panorama from Angel’s Palace

View from Angel’s Palace

 

Thur. May 29: Cottonwood Wash

Today we celebrated Kim’s 8-year anniversary of her liver transplant. To celebrate, we decided to hike Willis Creek, which Kim has wanted to do for many years. Willis Creek is a little known slot canyon about 10 miles from camp. The Skutumpah road was somewhat rutted and had some very steep climbs, making it challenging to get to the trailhead without a good SUV. But the hike is very easy and family friendly.

Kim at the trailhead

Willis Creek slot canyon hike

Willis Creek slot canyon hike

We hiked about 1.5 miles downstream until we hit the confluence with Averette Canyon. We counted eight different sections of slots, each one getting deeper as we moved downstream. There was a small, clear stream following down the creek bottom, which made it interesting to hike without getting our socks wet.

Kim in the first slot

As we dropped into the first slot we couldn’t help but wish our children and grandchildren were here to enjoy it.

Dee trying to keep his feet dry

Deeper slots near the end

 

After completing the hike, we continued on the Skutumpah road. This was our least favorite dirt road of our trip. It was the roughest of the bunch, and it didn’t offer scenery nearly as spectacular as the other roads we traveled.

Skutumpah, Paria, and Cottonwood Canyon

Skutumpah, Paria, and Cottonwood Canyon

We eventually hit the Johnson Canyon road, which was paved. Johnson Canyon was a lovely drive, and we stopped to take a few pictures of the old movie set where Gunsmoke was filmed many years ago.

Gunsmoke movie set

We then turned east on Hwy 89, then took the spur out to Paria. There used to be western movie sets at Paria, but vandals burned them all down several years ago. The colors on the surrounding hills were very peculiar. We intended to eat lunch here, but the No-See-Ums were way too thick. Their bites really started to itch the next day.

Site of the old Paria movie sets

After finding a bug free place to eat, we continued along Hwy 89 to the turnoff for the Cottonwood Canyon road. The southern end of this road was semi-interesting, but the northern half was quite spectacular.

Cottonwood Canyon near Butler Valley

We had planned on hiking part of the Butler Valley Draw Narrows, but we decided to save that for another time. We did stop and enjoy the beautiful Grosvenor Arch and talked to a group of Jeeper’s that had just come from the Smokey Mountain Road, which is on my adventure bike ride ‘to do’ list. They indicated that the southern half was well graded, but the northern half was fairly rough – although they thought our Sequoia could make it just fine.

Grosvenor Arch

The Cottonwood Canyon road conveniently returned us to Kodachrome Basin and another enjoyable evening. We decided to take the 0.5 mile hike out to Shakespeare Arch rather than the 3 mile Panorama loop that we had planned on taking.

Shakespeare Arch

 

Fri. May 30: Hell’s Backbone

Hell’s Backbone was another key element of our trip. Rather than take Hwy 89 back to Escalante, we decided to take a dirt road from Widstoe called Escalante Summit. This was a very easy drive with some nice views from the wooded mountains. This was a refreshing change of pace from the desert roads we had been traveling.

Looking west from the Escalante Summit road

While in Escalante, we stopped at the Hole-In-Rock Heritage Center to learn more about that pioneer expedition. A few years ago Kim and I read some books about their adventures. It was a truly amazing feat. But from Escalante, the route they took looks like the obvious way to go – just following the long valley.

Kim at the Hole-In-The-Rock exhibit

Looking south from Escalante

The Hells Backbone road is covered in gravel almost the entire length, and it has a lot of wash-boarded sections and sharp corners. This would not be too difficult to ride on my dirt bike, but you would have to be careful to not miss a corner – it is on a very steep mountain and going off road could easily be fatal.

View of Box-Death Hollow

Escalante Summit and Hells Backbone

Escalante Summit and Hells Backbone

The mountain was beautiful with fresh green leaves on the Aspen trees and tall lodge pole pines. But the climax of the road is the narrow one lane bridge over the deep gorge between Box-Death Hollow and Sand Creek.

The Hells Backbone bridge

Kim near the bridge

The Hells Backbone trail comes out just south of Boulder. We stopped for lunch at the Anasazi State Park, and then enjoyed the scenic drive over Boulder Mountain on Hwy 12. After returning to Torrey, we started our drive back home, arriving at home just in time to meet our children at Hires Big H for dinner.

Capitol Reef as seen from Hwy 12 in the Boulder Mountains

Kim and I really enjoyed this trip. The scenery was absolutely spectacular, the camping was great, and the dirt roads were really fun to drive in the Sequoia. We took a lot of pictures along the way, so I hope you enjoy some of them.

More photos are available in my photo album.

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Woodland & Cedar Hollow – May 2014

May 17, 2014

Bob and I wanted to go riding, but we didn’t know where. The mountain single track trails are still snowed in, and the fun desert trails are getting too hot. I suggested we go ride the Cedar Hollow/Taylor Fork ATV trails near Kamas and Woodland, since it ranges in elevation from about 7000’ to 8500’. I hadn’t been there in over ten years, and Bob had never been.

It was still pretty chilly when we got there (about 47º), so we decided to go try and find the trailhead for the Woodland single track that we recently heard about. Bob did some Internet research and thought he knew where it was. He was right. We drove right to it.

The beginning of the trail looked fun and dry, so we decided to ride it as far as we could, and then head over to Cedar Hollow.

Woodland Single Track

Shortly after starting on the single track (at about 9:00 AM), we came to a junction in the trail. We took the left fork, trail #066. We made it a grand total of 1.2 miles before encountering deep snow. We hit snow at 7700’ elevation, which was much lower than expected.

Fabulous single track

The GPS track of our attempt at single track

The GPS track of our attempt at single track

So, we turned back and took the right fork, trail #067. After almost 2.5 hours of hard manual labor, we were once again blocked by snow, after going only 2 miles.

The trail was really fun, but we came across a lot of downed trees. I had my little folding saw with me, so we began taking turns clearing the trail. My saw works well on trees up to about 6” in diameter, and by working your way around the tree, you can cut branches up to about 10”.

Bob’s turn with the saw

We managed to cut about 10-12 trees, and move at least a dozen others. We eventually came across a tree that was about 18”-20” in diameter lying diagonally across the trail. When I first saw it, I thought our ride was over.

The big tree (and friends)

After studying the layout for a while, we figured that by clearing off the side branches and other dead-fall, we could sneak around the root ball and be back on the trail within about 5’.

Once we cleared the area I noticed that if we could pick up the top end of the tree we might be able to swing it completely off the trail – which we did.

The cleared trail after moving the big tree

So, we were back on the trail – for about 100 feet until we came to the next downed tree.

Our next major obstacle was a very rocky section covered in snow, with ice underneath the snow. He had exactly zero traction. After pushing and pulling to get Bob’s bike through, I was anxious to see if my TUbliss inserts with lower tire pressure would fare any better. Nope. Not a bit better.

Rocks, ice, and snow

The next ¼ mile or so was rockier than the earlier portions of the trail, and then we were stopped by very large banks of snow.

Typical rocky section

We were able to enjoy the ride back to the truck since this lower portion of the trail is now mostly clear of trees. At least it is clear of trees lying across the trail that you cannot ride over. But it is not clear of trees along the side of the trail.

You have to be careful when riding through tight trees so you don’t clip one with your handlebar. This can cause an immediate and potentially violent crash. Well, it turns out that a loan tree is just as dangerous.

There was a small (about 1.5” diameter) tree branch lying out into the trail. As I rode over it, it must have bounced up and hit my foot peg or something. This pulled me just slightly to the right, where the loan Aspen tree was waiting for me. I clipped my right handlebar on the tree, which slammed me back to the left, crashing in a small pile of rocks just off the trail. Once again, I was very glad to be wearing good knee guards and body armor. Even with the knee guards, I bruised my knee somewhat. But at least I got some more footage for my annual “blooper” video.

The tree and branch(barely visible on the ground between to two thin shadows) that got me on the return trip

The crash site

We covered a total of about 6.3 miles in about 3 hours. We were both extremely tired, and Bob was just about out of water (50 oz was not enough – even though it was a chilly morning).

We can’t wait for the snow to melt so we can try this trail again. The short section we were able to ride was extremely enjoyable.

After returning to the truck we loaded Bob’s bike in his truck and he followed me down the highway to the Cedar Hollow trailhead.

 

It doesn’t get much better than this

 

 

Cedar Hollow/Taylor Fork

Once Bob unloaded his bike, we headed up trail #301. This trail is really rocky. While riding it I couldn’t help but think that my family must have been really mad at me for taking them on this trail when they were young.

Our Cedar Hollow GPS track

Our Cedar Hollow GPS track

We then explored spurs #203 and #203A and found a nice scenic spot for lunch.

Lunch with a view

After a good lunch break we started down trail #332 towards Taylor Fork. This trail is quite steep and rocky – and guess what – covered in snow. I told Bob not to go down anything we couldn’t ride back up. After forging our way through several patches of snow, we came to a large patch that was more than we could handle. So, we had to turn around and ride back up through the patches of snow. Or to be more precise, we had to push and pull our bikes back up. Once again the snow had a nice slippery layer of ice underneath. We were totally spent by the time we got back to the top.

Snow banks on the trail

Having come this far, I wanted to go ride the loop at the end of trail #178. #178 was rockier and longer than I remembered, but the loop was really fun and helped rejuvenate us. Unfortunately, my helmet camera battery died just as we got to the fun loop.

It was getting late, so we headed back to the truck, taking the easier way down #202. We loaded up the truck and headed for home at about 4:30 PM.

This was perhaps the most strenuous day of riding I have ever experienced. We only covered 37 miles, but we moved and cut a lot of trees and manhandled our bikes multiple times throughout the day. But we both agreed it was a good day and we are anxious to explore more of that single track loop.

 

Posted in Dirt biking, Utah - Northern | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Getting My KTM 350 Ready For An Adventure Ride – May 2014

I previously reported on how to choose a dual-sport bike, and how I converted my KTM 350 xcf-w to a street legal dual-sport.  My next project was to enable my bike to carry camping gear so I can go on a multi-day adventure ride with friends and family.  At the time of this writing, I had not done an over-night trip, so the data presented here is based on research and talking with my friends that do have experience.  Most of my analysis is based on their input and minor testing I have done in the garage.  (See the update at the end for my impressions after my first 3-day adventure ride).

Camping Gear

My friend Bob has mastered minimalist adventure riding.  He can camp in comfort on his KTM 640 Adventure bike, but he also enjoys going super light on his KTM 300 two stroke.  When camping on his two stroke, he uses a tank bag and a backpack.

My friend Ross is at the other end of the spectrum.  He rides a KLR650 which we have dubbed the “super tanker”.  He is able to carry a lot of gear.

I intend to be somewhere in between.  I don’t want to be a minimalist.  At my age, with sleep apnea and recurring back problems, I want to camp in some degree of comfortable.  If I am miserable, I won’t want to go again.  But I also want my bike to be reasonably light and handle okay.

Most of my camping is done on multi-day river trips.  I often tell people that river running is a wilderness experience like backpacking – only we eat good.  Camping gear bulk and weight isn’t a big factor.  Therefore, most of my camping gear is too bulky and heavy to be used on an adventure ride.  I have gradually been trying to overcome that problem.

I started by buying a smaller tent.  Not super small, but small enough to fit nicely on my bike.  I really like the design of the Exped Gemini series tents.  I originally considered the 3-man tent, but decided to down size and bought the 2-man version once I found it on sale.

Exped Gemini II

I already had a nice Big Agnes down sleeping bag, but the stuff sack is 8″ x 20″, which is way too big.  I bought a standard compression dry bag, but that made it about the size of a soccer ball, which didn’t fit in any of my pieces of luggage.  I then found an Exped compression sack that squishes the diameter of the bag rather than the length.  It now fits nicely in my Giant Loop Coyote bag or along side my tent in a dry bag.

I also picked up a Big Agnes Q-Core air mattress.  It is a little bulkier than I would like, but it is a lot smaller than my 3″ foam pad that I use on river trips.

Because of my back problems, I wanted a compact camp chair.  So last year I used my REI dividend to pick up an REI Flex Light chair.  I just hope I have room to take it with me.

I also needed compact cooking gear.  I ‘borrowed’ my son’s backpacking stove he got when in the Boy Scouts, and picked up a Soloist GSI cookset.  I think I now have enough gear to make this adventure dream become a reality.

Bike Modifications

I previously purchased three tank bags (see my blog report for details); a Wolfman Explorer Lite, a Wolfman Enduro, and a Giant Loop Fandango bag.  The Explorer Lite was too big for my KTM, so I sold it along with my DR-Z400E.  The Enduro fit nicely, but it is rather small, only holding 6 liters.  My favorite is the Fandango bag.  It is about as big as it can be without interfering with riding while either standing or sitting.  But it only holds 8 liters.  I will likely buy the Giant Loop Pannier Pockets to give me another 4 liters of easily accessible space.

There is also the question of fuel range.  The stock 2.25 gallon tank would probably give me a range of close to 100 miles on a dual-sport type ride, but that probably isn’t enough.  I didn’t want a really big tank (especially when I can siphon gas off Ross with his super tanker), so I opted for a 3 gallon tank, giving me roughly a 150 mile range.

I first installed an Acerbis tank, but it has an offset fuel cap which made it really difficult to mount any of my tank bags.  The Enduro bag is small enough that it can work when mounted on an angle, the other bags just didn’t work at all.

Acerbis offset fuel cap

So, I sold the Acerbis tank and bought a 3.1 gallon Clockworks tank.

Clockworks centered fuel cap

 

Clockworks 3.1 gallon gas tank

Tank bag fit still isn’t ideal because of the volcano-like top – but it works.  In fact, the curved seat-to-tank allows the bottom of the Fandango bag to sag a little, giving me just a little more interior space.

Giant Loop Fandango tank bag

I also bought a Wolfman E-12 saddle bag.  This can be used for an overnight trip as well as a day trip.  I was able to test it out on our recent ride of the White Rim trail in Canyonlands.  It was nice to get some weight out of our hydration packs for such a long ride, but the saddle bags filled up much quicker than I expected.  I was able to carry lunch for Jamie and I, as well as some tools.  The only time I even noticed it was there was when mounting or dismounting the bike.

Wolfman E-12 saddle bags

But I encountered a problem throughout the day.  The lower mounting strap would slide up the frame, working its way in between two separate pieces of plastic.  This made it really difficult to get the bag mounted tight enough to not slide around.

I solved this problem by mounting a last tab on each side of the bike.  This required me to drill a small hole in each sub-frame member.  Hopefully that won’t cause a serious strength problem.

Lash tabs

The last tab allows me to really cinch down on the straps and get them super tight.

Luggage strap

Update: On my first adventure ride I found that the right side Coyote bag rubbed on my leg but the left side did not.  This is because the right D-ring is further forward than the left.  To remedy this, I used a scrap of aluminum and built an offset bracket for the right D-ring.  My only concern is that my boot may snag on it.

Offset D-ring bracket

I also mounted some Footman Loops on the rear fender so the fender hooks would be more secure.  The molded edge of the KTM fender makes it difficult to get a secure fit with fender hooks.  This solved the problem very nicely.

Footman loops

Fender hook

The final bike upgrade is a more comfortable seat.  I don’t mind the stock seat for trail riding, since I stand much of the time.  But for a dual-sport ride, the stock seat gets old really fast.

The thing that made me hesitate about selling the DRZ was the comfy Seat Concepts seat.  Ross suggested I just get a Seat Concepts seat for the KTM.  That was a great suggestion!

Seat Concepts

I tested out the new seat on a single track ride last weekend.  I was surprised at how much I loved it even on a technical ride.  It is so much more comfortable than the stock seat.  I am sure that my rear end will still get tired on a long dual-sport ride, but this should be a lot better than stock.

I also intend to change the gearing for dual-sport rides.  The XCF-W comes with 13/52 stock final gearing, while the street legal EXC comes with 14/45.  My intent is to split the difference and change the front sprocket to a 14T, giving me 14/52 gearing (which is standard on the EU/AU models).  I think I can do this without modifying the chain length.  The question is will it be too tall for trail riding.  If so, then I will have to swap sprockets based on the type of ride.

With the 13/52 gearing, I find that at about 45 mph I want to shift up to a higher gear.  I can ride comfortably at about 55 mph, and for a short time I can push it to 65 mpg.  The bike will go much faster, but the motor is really wrapped up.  The 14/52 gearing ought to bump each of those numbers up by almost 5 mph.

KTM 350 Gearing

KTM 350 Gearing

Luggage Options

Now let’s talk about luggage options.  I have a Wolfman Enduro fender bag on all of my bikes to carry my registration and some tools.  I try to keep the bulk down so I can swing my leg over the back of the bike.  One thing I like about these bags is that they can easily be removed.

For an adventure ride, my intent is to move my tools to a front fender bag, giving me a little more weight up front and making room for my main luggage in the back.

I have two sets of luggage (so my children can come with me); a Wolfman set, and a Giant Loop set.

I will likely let my daughter use the Wolfman setup.  She can travel much lighter than I can.  She can use the 6L Enduro tank bag with her offset fuel cap and she can probably get all of her gear except her tent and sleeping bag in the E-12 saddle bags.

Wolfman luggage

I first tried to put the sleeping bag and tent in regular dry bags, but they tended to roll back and forth on the flat surface made by the seat/fender and the E-12 bags.  So I picked up the small Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel that has a flat bottom and D-rings so it can be secured well.

I can put a lot of stuff in that bag, but if it gets too full, it will likely interfere with her hydration pack – especially when going down a steep hill.  My hope is to keep this bag lightly packed and move it back as far as possible.

This setup provides a lot of storage space, but the bulk of it is really high on the bike.

  • Enduro tank bag: 6L
  • E-12 saddle bags: 22L
  • Dry duffel: 33L
  • Total: 61L

Note: I also have two Giant Loop exhaust shields (one for each bike) so that we wont’ melt our bags.

I also have a Giant Loop setup, with a Fandango tank bag and a Coyote bag.  The Coyote bag carries more weight down low, and is large enough to carry my stove, some food, clothing, and my sleeping bag.

Giant Loop luggage

I use a 20L Sea-to-Summit dry bag with side loops to carry my tent and air mattress.  I can also tuck my REI chair underneath on the back.

The zippers on the Coyote bag are difficult to operate since the bag is curved and it tends to get wrinkles in it.  But it offers some water resistance (not water proof) and pretty good abrasion resistance.  When I bought the Coyote bag, I think Giant Loop claimed it to be 30L in volume, but it seems much, much bigger than the E-12 at 22L.  I noticed that their new spec is 39L, but I don’t know if they made the bag larger or just updated their spec.

My only concern is that the sleeping bag may be in my way on steep descents.  I may have to move it to the back fender and find a way to keep it off the exhaust.

  • Fandango tank bag: 8L
  • Coyote saddle bag: 30L (or 39L)
  • Dry bag: 20:
  • Total: 58L (or 67L)

I also picked up two Wolfman water bottle holsters so I can carry an extra 2L of water of fuel.  The holsters mount nicely on the back underside of the E-12 bags.  I am hoping I can also strap them to the Coyote bag somehow.

Now I just need to get out test the two systems.  Hopefully once the snow melts my daughter and I can go on an overnight outing close to home and see if we survive the night!

Update – June 2014

I finally got to actually test my adventure setup.  We spent 3 days, 2 nights out in the Uinta mountains.  It turned out to be a pretty thorough test because we got rained on (while riding and camping), had cold temperatures, and hot temperatures.  We covered approximately 300 miles.  Here are some of my observations:

  • The 14/52 gearing worked quite well.  I could comfortably cruise at 55 mph and could hold 60 by pushing the bike a little.  I could do 65, but the bike was really tapped out and I wasn’t comfortable at that speed with knobby tires.  Now the question is whether this gearing will work for tight single track, or if I need to swap sprockets based on the type of ride.
  • For trail riding I like the extra power and lighter weight of the FMF 4.1 exhaust, but it is noticeably louder than the stock muffler.  So for dual-sport riding I decided to switch back to the stock can.  I mounted a Giant Loop exhaust shield on that can, so it will hopefully prevent my bags from melting.  The quieter sound was much appreciated on those long stretches of pavement, while driving through camp sites, or when approaching wildlife or horses.
  • I bought an A.R.C. Back Country Foul Weather jacket and pants so I wouldn’t have to carry rain gear.  The zipper vents worked quite well as long as you were moving.  When stopped, you can get pretty hot.  They also seemed to be 100% waterproof.  We rode through some pretty heavy rain and the water just beaded up on the surface.  I stayed perfectly dry.  For the price, they are a very good set.

    A.R.C. Back Country Foul Weather Gear

  • I decided to add 4L of storage space by buying the Giant Loop Pannier Pockets.  I was able to move my tools from the rear fender to the right pocket, along with my folding saw and an empty Platypus bottle in case I needed to get fuel from one of the “super tankers”.  It turns out that my Wolfman 1L water holsters fit nicely on top of the pockets, helping put more weight up front.

    Giant Loop Pannier Pocket with Wolfman water holster on the radiator shroud

  • The Giant Loop Coyote bag mounted up nice and secure with my lash points, but the D-ring on the right side is too far forward, so it rubbed on my leg.  It wasn’t a serious problem, but it was annoying.  I need to build some kind of bracket to get the D-ring in the same position as the left side.
  • I first mounted my tent dry bag on top of the Coyote bag.  This would work fine if you don’t wear a backpack, but it was quite annoying with my OGIO Flight Vest on.  It would really be a problem on a steep descent.

    Tent mounted on top of the Coyote bag

  • On the second day I moved the tent dry bag back where I had my chair mounted.  I was worried that it would slip and melt my tent on the exhaust.  I was able to put the chair inside the dry bag and put it on the bottom so it would take the abuse instead of my expensive tent.  It turned out to not be a problem.  The bag stayed put.  On day three I moved the Coyote bag forward about 1.5″ so the tent bag would sit further forward on the fender.  It worked great.

    With the tent moved to the back

  • I had my down jacket packed in a stuff sack inside the Coyote bag, making it too difficult to get to.  When the cold front came through it got pretty cold and it would have been nice to have that jacket handy.  Next time perhaps I will carry the jacket in my backpack.
  • It would have been nice to have a 4 gallon fuel tank.  I estimated about a 150 mile range with the Clockworks 3.1 gallon tank.  On the first leg of our adventure, I actually got 58 mpg, which would extend that to about 180 miles, assuming you can actually use all of the fuel in the tank.  Because we did some extra exploring near our first camp, it was unclear if I had enough fuel to get us to the next fuel stop.  Luckily, one of the other riders had a one gallon Rotopax and he gave me about 3/4 of a gallon.  Since it was a lower grade fuel than the premium I normally use, we added it before my tank got too low.  I think I would have made it, but it would have been close.  Nevertheless, we had to consider my limited fuel range in all of our route decisions.
  • The Seat Concepts seat exceeded my expectations.  It was very comfortable both on and off pavement.  It is much more comfortable than the stock KTM seat.

All in all it was a very fun experience and I was extremely pleased with the performance of my gear.  My tent, air pad, sleeping bag worked perfectly, as did my camp chair and kitchen setup.  I will make a few minor adjustments to the Coyote bag mounting hardware, but for the most part things worked great.

My kitchen

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Buckhorn Wash & Gordon Creek – May 2014

May 9-10, 2014

A few months ago we tried to plan a spring break ride with the Bradley family since we both have kids attending the University of Utah. We were not able to arrange a time that worked, so we decided to do a trip as soon as the semester ended, in early May. In the end, it turned out that Kevin and Jamie could not come, but Sarah and Lauren wanted to ride badly enough that they would put up with us old folks.

We decided to stay fairly close to home, and decided to ride some trails near Price, Utah. The weather the week before the trip was quite rainy, so some of our higher elevation plans didn’t pan out.

Friday, May 9: Buckhorn Wash

It was raining most of the way to Price, so we decide to keep moving south, and ended up near the Wedge Overlook in the San Rafael Swell. Both families rode out to the Wedge Overlook a few years earlier (and got caught in a hail storm), so we decided to ride places we hadn’t been before.

We parked at the new staging area near Red Knoll, ate lunch, and rode down Buckhorn Wash.

Buckhorn Wash and Mexican Mountain

Buckhorn Wash and Mexican Mountain

Paul tried to find a dinosaur footprint along the way, but we were unsuccessful. We did, however, stop and view the pictographs.

Somewhere along Buckhorn Wash

Buckhorn Wash pictographs

When we reached the old bridge across the San Rafael River, we decided to ride the 14 mile spur out to Mexican Mountain.

The San Rafael Bridge

This was a scenic ride, but I was surprised that we really didn’t get any good views of the river. There are some hiking trailheads along the road giving you access to the narrow gorge that the river flows through.

Heading towards Mexican Mountain

Riding through gorgeous scenery

On the return trip, Paul found a great photo location and took some great photographs of everyone.

Photo courtesy of Paul Bradley

This was an easy and scenic ride, and our wives really enjoyed it on their ATVs.

 

Saturday, May 10: Gordon Creek

I previously stumbled upon a trip report posted by Desert Woodrat talking about some waterfalls along Gordon Creek, just west of Price. It looked like an interesting destination, so we thought we would give it a try.

Gordon Creek GPS track

Gordon Creek GPS track

We parked near a gun range and made our way up to Trestle Road. We followed Trestle Road north until the trail dropped and went under a huge train trestle. I am pretty sure this rail line is no longer in service, but it looked like a very scary bridge to cross.

Old train trestle

There was a small stream under the trestle, which turned out to be deeper than expected. Lauren and Sarah got soaked.

Kim crossing the stream

Shortly after the trestle, the Gordon Creek spur forks off on the left. This trail had some fun sections, but it also had some really rocky hill climbs.

We arrived at the lower falls and took a lot of pictures.

Lower Gordon Creek Falls

From here, the road turns to an ATV trail, but it quickly became more technical than our families wanted to tackle. So we never made it to the upper falls or the historic cabin.

Kim starting down the rocky section

My planned loop was to continue north to Consumer Road, and then ride along the foothills on Bench Road. But to our surprise, Consumer Road was paved, so we had to turn back.

Lauren getting wet again

We had a little extra time, so we explored a few of the many dirt roads in the area. There are numerous dirt roads leading to oil or gas pumps scattered all over.

We finished up mid-afternoon, packed up, and returned home in time for dinner.

 

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