Murdock Basin – Aug 2014

Aug. 9, 2014

I enjoyed the scenery in Murdock Basin during my adventure ride back in June. I wanted my family to see some of the spectacular scenery – especially Little Deer Creek Falls. So, we planned an ATV outing to explore more of the area.

Since my last visit, I picked up a map that shows the ATV trails in Murdock Basin (shown in red). My hope was to explore some of the ATV specific trails, but since the Jeep roads are so rocky, we decided we didn’t want to risk trails that may be even more technical.

Murdock Basin

We met the Bradley’s at the staging area and took road #0027 down to Little Deer Creek Falls and the Duchesne tunnel east portal. This trail, like many of the roads in the area, is really quite rocky. It isn’t overly difficult since most of the rocks are embedded in the soil, but it is a rough ride.

We made a few stops along the way; first to see the remnants of the old earthen dam that broke many years ago, and then at a spot to enjoy the cascading falls of the stream.

Little Deer Creek cascades

As we approached the bottom of the road I was surprised to see a fairly large lake in the gorge. I didn’t recall seeing it in June, and I wondered how I could have missed it. I missed it, because it wasn’t there in June.

Back in June the lake was mostly empty

Just over a month later, the lake was completely full.

Duchesne Tunnel intake portal

The lake is full

We enjoyed a nice break near the lake, and the girls had fun skipping rocks across the water. We then headed down river to visit the waterfall, which was just as spectacular as before.

Dee & Kim at Little Deer Creek Falls

Since no one was in a hurry to ride more rocky roads, we took our time and enjoyed our lunch at the base of the falls.

After lunch we took a short walk to the head of Cataract Gorge. It would be fun someday to hike down the gorge and enjoy the cascades and pools.

Falls at the top of Cataract Gorge

We eventually got moving again and decided to ride out to Pyramid Lake on trail #0137A. The first part of this trail was quite enjoyable, but it gets pretty rocky as you go further east. The spur out to Pyramid Lake is also very rocky.

Paul, Sarah, Jamie, and Lauren at Pyramid Lake

After a brief visit at the lake, we returned to our cars and drove down to Kamas for a nice refreshing milk shake. We covered a grand total of 15.8 miles on our ATVs and dirt bikes, but everyone had had enough. The Uinta trails are very scenic, but they are also very rocky.

 

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Willow Creek Single Track – July 2014

July 19, 2014

Back in 2011, I took Jamie and Jason on a ride to explore the single track trails up in Spanish Fork Canyon. The trails were very narrow with lots of steep side hill exposure. The kids did not like it.

Ever since that time I have wanted to go back and finish the trail. In the meantime, the Forest Service, along with numerous dirt biker volunteers, has greatly improved the trail. Most of the side hill portions have been widened from about 6” to almost 2’.

Ed Lamborn, Scott Barton, and Bob Dawson joined me on my quest. Our intent was to park at the Tie Fork rest stop in Spanish Fork Canyon, but it was closed due to road construction. So we ended up driving to Soldier Summit and starting our ride from there.

We rode approximately 75 miles in about 8.5 hours – almost half of that being single track (shown as dashed lines in the GPS track).

Our GPS track

We rode up #131 which is an easy dirt road that actually leads to the beginning of the Willow Creek single track (#083), but we wanted to include the Tie Fork single track (#023) in our adventure.

We went down #311 which still has a nice rut down the middle of the road. This rut caused Jason some grief last time because he got stuck in the mud. The trail was mostly dry this time, and it wasn’t too difficult other than dodging numerous small tree branches scattered all over the trail. This was a good warmup for what was to come.

Following Bob down #311

#725 is a dirt road that heads up Tie Fork. It has several stream crossings which could be a challenge in the spring. The road eventually turns to a single track (#023) which climbs the mountain side until it joins gravel road #042. This single track was fun and had a few semi-challenging climbs and switchbacks.

Bob on Tie Fork

Ed on Tie Fork, with Scott in the background

Once reaching the top, we decided to ride the southern end of the Center Trail (#09) and then back track on the dirt roads to the top of Willow Creek. Many of the dirt roads in the area have recently been graded, so portions of #131 had several inches of fine powder that was a little tricky to ride through.

Taking a break before starting down Willow Creek

We took a short break at the top of the Willow Creek single track trail (#083). #083 is fairly narrow and I noticed several rocks that have been kicked up since I was here last. It still has a few exposed side hill crossings, but they aren’t too bad. There are also numerous stream crossings as we ride down this valley.

Scott on Willow Creek

Willow Creek single track

The lower part of #083 and all of #025 has now been greatly improved. The side hills are not nearly as intimidating as they used to be. There was, however, one new section of trail that bypasses some beaver dams that had really loose and soft dirt. Our bikes tended to wash out on that section of trail.

Because we were making good time, we decided to ride up Buffalo Canyon (#026) and back down Racetrack Hollow (#025a). We stopped for lunch at the top of #025a since there was some shade.

Lunch stop

Racetrack Hollow

Once we reached the intersection with French Hollow (#027) we decided to ride up and back on the northern spur. This was by far the hardest section. The first part was fun as it rode up through the pine trees, but there was one really exposed cliff crossing that was pretty sketchy. We all made it up okay, but coming down was a different matter.

Some trees that caused a reroute

The sketchy cliff crossing

Beyond the cliff section the trail gets pretty steep and rocky, but eventually pops out on road #90. I don’t know why, but you can’t go west on #90 with ATVs or un-plated bikes. That is a really scenic road with great views overlooking Strawberry Reservoir.

On our return trip Bob suggested that we have two spotters on the cliff crossing. Bob and Ed got in position as I started across. The trail is slopped towards the gully with loose dirt and a diagonal ledge. It is further complicated by jagged rocks on the uphill side that could easily bump your handlebar and throw you off course.

Spotters ready

I carefully worked my bike across the slippery slope and got my front tire up the small ledge. I thought I was home free, so I gave it a little gas. Unfortunately, my rear end washed out and down I went – right on top of Bob.

The view from the bottom

Luckily the hill was very steep but not too dangerous. We just slid and tumbled down the hill together. Bob did break my fall and slow down my bike, which luckily stayed up top. Neither of us was hurt, so the four of us picked up my bike and worked it back onto the trail.

We decided that riding down this section was not a good idea, so Bob rode his bike down into the gully and worked his way through the rocks until he could rejoin the trail.

Ed was next, and he decided to walk his bike across. Scott and I helped, and we managed to get him across without incident.

Scott found the best route of all. Back up the trail about 50’ he found an easy entrance into the gully, and then followed Bob’s route. This section of trail needs some serious work before someone gets injured.

Looking down Willow Creek from the intersection with French Hollow

Once we got back to the junction with #025 we took a break to settle our nerves. We then proceeded up the southern spur of French Hollow. This trail also climbs up through the trees. There is one tricky turn that is easily missed. It looks like you make a 90º left turn, but you actually need to make a 180º turn and then cross a small stream. Bob missed this turn and ended up lost in the bushes for a while. I knew the correct way because I remembered this section from someone’s YouTube video.

#027s had some good climbs and some steep side hill exposure, but it was still pretty fun.

Single track through the trees

We eventually popped out on #147 and rode over to enjoy the views from Strawberry Peak. Unfortunately it was a very hazy day due to all of the wildfires.

Group shot on Strawberry Peak

I happened to have cell phone coverage up on the peak, so I sent my wife a text letting her know we were still safe, but running late. We left the peak at about 4:30 PM and decided to continue on our original plan and ride down Trail Canyon (#104). It turns out that Trail Canyon had not yet been cleared of downed trees. The top part is very steep with a few switchbacks.

The first switchback

When we reached the first downed tree we didn’t want to ride back up the steep part, so we rode over the tree. We did this for several other trees until we came to one that we could not easily get over.

The first downed tree

We decided to test out our hand chain saws. Luckily, Bob’s worked great as mine was a total piece of junk. By taking turns we were able to cut the tree and move it out of the way.

Lumberjacks at work

After tree removal

After finishing Trail Canyon, we enjoyed the easy and scenic ride #81 back to the car. We arrived at the car at about 6:00 PM, packed up, and headed for home.

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Main Salmon River – July 2014

July 11-15, 2014

The Main Salmon River has always been one of my favorite rivers. It has fun rapids that aren’t overly technical or scary, beautiful sandy beach camps, wildlife, and great scenery. Karla Lloyd was lucky enough to pick up a permit for this year.

Who:

We had 15 people with 4 rafts and 2 two-man inflatable kayaks.

  • Lloyd raft: Barry, Karla, & Jarem
  • Gardiner raft: Dee & Kim
  • Robins raft: Clyde, Karla, & Scott Johnson
  • Redd raft: Lee, Kit, and Bob
  • IK1: Jamie Gardiner & Nicole Zitting
  • IK2: Wade & Hannah Robins

Group shot at Buckskin Bill’s

Weather:

The weather was hotter than expected for mid-July. It felt more like August weather, with temperatures in the upper 90s most of the time. We did get a 20 minute light rain shower one morning, which cooled things off a little. The warm temperatures were great while on the water, but energy zapping while at camp.

The Main Salmon River

Transportation:

We made good time traveling to the put-in at Corn Creek. We left Sandy, Utah at about 7:00 AM, stopped at Barry’s house to meet up with the group and load his gear in the trailer, and arrived at Corn Creek at 4:20 PM. Our goal was to be there in time to sign up for our desired campsites at 5:00 PM.

We hired All River Shuttles out of Whitebird to drive our vehicles around for us. They did an excellent job. Their price was lower than the competition, and they even power-washed our vehicles to get the mud and tar off. The road to Corn Creek was under construction, so it made a mess of our vehicles.

Lee’s crew left for home as soon as we de-rigged our boats, while the rest of us took an evening run on the Lower Salmon from Riggins to Lucile, and then drove home the next morning. I have done the “all-nighter” drive home too many times. I much prefer driving home after a good night’s sleep in a motel and a hot shower. We made it home by about 7:00 PM, with just enough daylight (and energy) left to put away most of the gear.

Water:

The water level on the Corn Creek ramp was at 2.0’ when we arrived on the afternoon of July 10. It dropped to about 1.75’ by the time we launched the next morning, and continued to drop throughout the week. This is roughly 6500 cfs.

The flow at Whitebird (below the take-out) was about 12,000 cfs when we launched, and about 9500 cfs when we finished our trip.

Rapids:

Even at this relatively low water level the Main Salmon offers some exhilarating rapids and large waves.

  • Killum Rapid is often overlooked, but it can be a fun rapid at some water levels. At 5.5’ on the ramp, Killum had huge waves. At 1.75’ there is a nasty hole on river left, but it is easy to miss and run the main wave train.
  • Ranier Rapid is one I can never remember. It has some nice waves, but we ran it without knowing it was Ranier.
  • Alder Creek rapid was newly formed in 2011 by a debris flow from Alder Creek. It has some nice waves, with an easy run down the left side.
  • Devil’s Teeth Rapid has several very large rocks. The normal run is on the left side, but you need to be careful not to wash up on any of the rocks. I ran it down the right side since we camped right above the rapid.       This run was less exciting, but it was the safest run from our launch point.

The right channel of Devil’s Teeth Rapid

  • Salmon Falls is nothing more than a small ripple. It has been flooded out by Black Creek Rapid.
  • Black Creek Rapid was also formed in 2011. It is easily the largest rapid on the Main. You can scout the rapid from the left shore, but it is a treacherous endeavor on slanted rocks covered in sand. The scout is harder than the rapid. The main run is down the left side, but at some water levels an easier run is possible on the right side. The middle is chocked with rocks, so you must go either right or left. We opted to go left. The drop down the tongue is impressive – somewhat like a log flume ride at an amusement park. You really pick up speed, which doesn’t give you much time to maneuver, so be sure to line up properly at the top of the tongue. The waves on the far left are potential boat flippers, so most people run just right of the center of the tongue. Our rafts all made it fine, but both IKs flipped in the third hole.

Scouting Black Creek Rapid

Lee entering Black Creek Rapid

Heading down the tongue

  • Bailey Rapid is another fun rapid with the potential to flip boats. The hidden hole just left of center was runnable, but only Barry had the courage to hit it head on. The rest of us took the safer right sneak.

Barry punching through the hole in Bailey

Wade and Hannah getting a good ride

  • Fivemile Rapid is not very well known, but it has a rock or hole hidden behind the large waves at the top of the rapid. The safest run is to sneak down the left side and take a look at the monster hole waiting there to consume unsuspecting boaters. I warned everyone about this, but coming into the rapid it looked so harmless. Barry and Lee both hit the hole head on. Luckily both rafts made it through without flipping.
  • Split Rock Rapid has a huge rock in the middle of the river, splitting the river into two channels. We chose to run the right channel, which offered a fun ride through a long set of waves.
  • Big Mallard Rapid is deceiving. It looks like you should go right of the monster hole or rock near the left bank, but the current is very strong and pulls you toward the hole (been there, done that). The easiest and safest run is to sneak down the left side about 10’ off the bank.       There is a gap between the big rock and a rock on the shore just wide enough to sneak through.

A view of Big Mallard Rapid from the trail near camp

  • Elkhorn Rapid is actually a series of rapids back to back.       One of them contains “elephant rock”, which in high water makes a hole large enough to swallow a school bus.       At lower flows, just pick your way through, avoiding the smaller rocks and holes.
  • Growler Rapid is similar to Elkhorn, but smaller and shorter.
  • Whiplash Rapid is pretty easy in low water – you just need to avoid slamming into the cliff. In higher water, Whiplash and Elkhorn are the two most dangerous rapids.
  • Boise Bar Rapid has a hole that is also capable of flipping a raft, but it is easily avoided if you pay attention.
  • Ludwig Rapid is pretty long, but for me it has always been uneventful.
  • Dried Meat Rapid has perhaps the largest wave on the river.       There is a good drop down the tongue and a huge wave waiting at the bottom. But it is very smooth and easy to run. We didn’t even get any water over the bow.
  • Chittam Rapid is a potentially dangerous rapid. If you flip in one of the holes, you could get pushed into the cliff on the left side. If the water is low enough for the island to be visible above the rapid, some guide books suggest running the left side of the island and then ferry to the right to avoid the largest holes. Next time I will do that. We stopped on river right to scout the rapid, but it is a pain to work your way through the bushes and boulders. If you take the right sneak it doesn’t even create good video.

Clyde makes a perfect run through Chittam Rapid

  • Vinegar Rapid is big and fun. There are some holes that could flip boats, but there is a good Eddy below, so the danger level is not nearly as high as with Chittam.       We ran just right of center to avoid the largest hole. One of our IKs dumped one person and then flipped the boat while trying to rescue her.
  • Carey Falls is the last rapid before the Carey Creek boat ramp.       It has a large wave at the top right, which provided good surfing for a group of kayakers. This would not be a good place to flip since you would likely miss the take-out.

Campsites:

The Main Salmon has a set of campsites that you can reserve, and others that are first-come, first-serve. We prefer to use the reservation system so we have a destination in mind and don’t have to race other parties to get the good campsites. We were able to reserve three of the four we requested.

  • Corn Creek. We had heard that the Corn Creek campground near the put-in sometimes fills up, but we had no trouble getting two campsites for our group.
Corn Creek campground

Corn Creek campground

  • Upper Devil’s Teeth. We tried to get Lower Devil’s Teeth camp, but lost out to another group.       Upper Devil’s Teeth wasn’t too bad, but Lower Devil’s Teeth is much nicer.

Cooling off at camp

  • Lower Yellow Pine. This is a very nice campsite with plenty of trees for hanging hammocks and providing shade. There is also a trail so you can scout Big Mallard Rapid (although a set of binoculars would be helpful).

Relaxing at Lower Yellow Pine

Lower Yellow Pine

  • Paine Creek. We had Paine Creek reserved, but another group had already set up camp. They said they thought it was a first-come, first-serve campsite. We didn’t feel too bad losing out because this campsite had no shade and the heat radiated out from the rock wall lining the camp.
  • Boise Bar. About one mile below Paine Creek we found Boise Bar campsite to be available.       This turned out to be a fairly nice camp. There was one large pine tree that provided some shade, although we had to keep moving our chairs as the sun moved west. It had a nice beach for swimming.

Boise Bar

  • Rabbit Creek. Rabbit Creek camp was a very pleasant surprise. We expected it to be rather poor, but it had a huge beach – and I mean huge. It also had good mid-day shade from some pine trees and early evening shade from the mountainside.

Rabbit Creek

Jarem enjoying some shade

Here are some miscellaneous photos from our trip.

Kim enjoying the ride

A hot soak on a hot day

Photo time on the pack bridge near Jim Moore’s cabin

Cooling off – again

Seeing if I still remember how to paddle a kayak

Lee’s crew on dinner duty

Videos:

Here is a highlights video of our entire trip:

Here are more detailed videos of our entire Salmon River experience.  Watch these videos if you want to learn more about life on the river, campsites, and rapids.

Lower Salmon:

At the take-out we de-rigged our boats but left my raft and the two IKs inflated. Lee headed for home as soon as everything was loaded, while the rest of us enjoyed left-overs for lunch at the picnic area near the take-out.

Following lunch we drove down towards Riggins and stopped at Shorts Bar and launched for a paddle boat run down to Lucile. We did this back in 2006 and it was well worth doing.

This year the water was more than double that of 2006, so we were pleasantly surprised at how many huge roller waves we hit.

  • Time Zone Rapid has two sections. Back in 2006 Marcy and Isaac flipped their IK in the first section, climbed back in before the second section, and flipped again.       This year Jamie and Hannah flipped.       They found it very difficult to climb back in since everyone was very tired after five days on the Main.

Jamie and Hannah in Time Zone

  • Tight Squeeze was actually smaller at this higher flow. It was a pretty straightforward run down the right side.
  • Cherry Creek had some large waves, but was fairly easy.
  • Chair Creek probably had the largest waves of the river. We missed the first big wave in the raft, but managed to ride out the rest of the wave train. It was really fun.
  • Trap Creek had big waves but I didn’t notice any rocks or holes like we experienced in 2006.
  • Fiddle Creek also had huge waves, as well as some monster holes that you would do well to avoid.
  • Black Rock Rapid was pretty tame at this level.

Big waves

The run down this lower portion of the Main Salmon was a great way to end our week on the river. We were all tired, but it was really fun to ride those large waves.

 

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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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