Diamond Fork – Oct 2014

Oct. 11, 2014

Kevin and Jamie wanted to do an easy ride before winter sets in. We decided to go to Diamond Fork and Strawberry Ridge since the weather has been pretty good. We were surprised that the leaves were still beautiful, as illustrated by Jamie’s panoramic photo above.

We did a similar ride two years ago with a larger group. We decided to do a shorter and easier variant of that ride. Our GPS track is shown below.

Our Diamond Fork GPS track – riding counter-clockwise

We parked at the Unicorn Campground, part way up Ray’s Valley Road. This small campground is right by the dirt road turnoff that goes over to Strawberry Reservoir. After unloading our bikes we rode down this gravel and wash-board road for about 5 miles. From there we turned north on the southernmost part of Center Trail (#09).

This is probably the easiest section of Center Trail, but it was a little trickier this time because of numerous ruts caused by the heavy rains we have received this year. In fact, most of the trails were more difficult than usual.

Avoiding the ruts on Center Trail (#09)

After completing the single track, we rode the Strawberry Ridge Jeep road north to the top of Horse Creek. This ride is really easy, and it has some spectacular views above Diamond Fork to the west and Strawberry Reservoir to the east.

Autumn leaves in Diamond Fork

From Horse Creek we took the ATV trail up to a small peak with a nice view. This trail was in pretty bad shape, but it had some nice sections that wove through the Aspen trees.

Jamie riding through the Aspens

It was really windy on top, so we didn’t stay too long.

Two KTMs adding a little color to the autumn view

We returned to Horse Creek and rode a short way down the Sixth Water road before turning on to trail #14. This is one of my favorite trails in the area because it isn’t too difficult. I have previously ridden up this trail many times, but this was my first time riding down. This trail is fun going either direction.

Trail #14

We ate lunch at the junction where #14 meets Center Trail (#09). After lunch we rode south on Center Trail to the junction with the Fifth Water Trail (#15). This is probably the second easiest section of Center Trail. Most of it is pretty nice, but it does have a few steep and rocky sections. I think this trail is actually easier going the other way. But it did have some spectacular clumps of colorful trees.

Kevin and Jamie weaving through the Aspen tress

We decided to take the easy way back to the car, so we turned west on Fifth Water and rode it down to Ray’s Valley Road. This trail is very nice and included some fun groves of trees and several beaver dams alongside the trail.

Kevin on Fifth Water (#15)

Beaver dams along Fifth Water (#15)

We rode about 7 miles of pavement to get back to car, loaded up our bikes, and headed for home. This was a nice and relaxing ride with spectacular scenery.

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San Juan Mountain Adventure Ride – Sept 2014

Sept. 1-6, 2014

For several years, some of my work colleagues have planned a multi-day adventure motorcycle ride each summer. Now that I have a means to carry my camping gear on my dirt bike, I decided to join them this year. This year’s trip included:

  • Ross Vellinga (trip lead) (KLR650)
  • Scott Connors (KLR650)
  • Bob Dawson (KTM 525)
  • Dee Gardiner (KTM 350)

This year’s destination was the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Our objective was to ride over as many high mountain passes as we could in six days. We considered many alternate routes, but finally settled on a plan that gave us 1.5 days of easy warmup, the hardest stuff in the middle of the week without our luggage, and an easy last day before our 7 hour drive back home.

We lucked out with weather, as there was a massive rain storm in the area the week prior to our trip, and again the week following our trip. We only had one day with rain, which is unusual this time of year. We managed to ride over all of the mountain passes in our plan, and all but one of our side spur routes. The mountain passes included:

  1. Owl Creek Pass (10,114’)
  2. Last Dollar Road (~10,600’)
  3. Ophir Pass (11,789’)
  4. Black Bear Pass (12, 840’)
  5. Red Mountain Pass (~11,100’)
  6. Imogene Pass (13,114’)
  7. Corkscrew Pass (~12,200’)
  8. Stony Pass (12,650’)
  9. Lost Trail Creek (~12,300’)
  10. Cinnamon Pass (12,640’)
  11. Engineer Pass (12,800’)
  12. Blue Creek Pass (~11,400’)

Our side spurs included:

  1. Clear Lake (~11,900’)
  2. Kendall Mountain (~12,300’)

We left home early on Labor Day and made the drive to our starting point near Montrose Reservoir.

Packed and ready to go

Our planned route circled around the San Juan Mountains in a counter-clockwise direction, as shown in the following GPS map. Each day’s journey is shown with a different color. Our camps, fuel stops, and passes are also shown.

Our GPS track

Day 1 – Monday, September 1: Cimarron Road & Silver Jack Lake

Ross found a nice staging area near Montrose Reservoir. We quickly unloaded our bikes and got ready to start our adventure. We left the staging area and headed south on a very nice dirt road (P77 Rd), which eventually tied into the Cimarron Road, which leads to Silver Jack Lake.

We made good time, stopping occasionally to take in the scenery and take a few photographs.

Our first glimpse of the San Juan Mountains

Our plan was to camp somewhere near Silver Jack Lake so Ross and Bob could do a little fishing.

Silver Jack Lake

There are three campgrounds near the lake, but we wanted to do primitive camping rather than use a full featured campground. We found a secluded spot in the trees near the inlet to the lake.

Before setting up camp we decided to ride part of the ATV trail on the west side of the lake. This was a good test to see how our bikes handled while loaded down with gear. Those on the larger KLRs found it pretty challenging, but Bob and I enjoyed the ride out to the end of the trail and back.

Our lowest camp – at 9000′

Upon returning we quickly set up camp and enjoyed a nice dinner of steak and potatoes.

Day 2 – Tuesday, September 2: Owl Creek Pass, Last Dollar Road & Ophir Pass

After breakfast we packed up camp and headed up the road to Owl Creek Pass. This road was very easy and is well suited for larger adventure bikes. It was a relaxing and scenic ride.

Chimney Rock

Owl Creek Pass

The road turns west and comes out on Hwy 550 just north of Ridgway. When we arrived back within cell phone coverage, we learned that our friend and colleague Michael Makarczyk passed away the day before. This was sad news and impacted us throughout the trip. Mike had ridden some of these same trails earlier this year and gave us suggestions that helped us finalize our plan.

After checking in with our spouses, we continued west and then turned south on Last Dollar Road – another easy but scenic ride.

Along Last Dollar Road

Nearing the end of this trail I noticed that my rear tire had gone flat. I was the one that wasn’t going to have to change a flat because I use TUbliss tire inserts and carry tire plugs. But it turns out that my TUbliss high pressure insert was faulty (which Nuetech replaced under warrantee). I had to remove the TUbliss system and borrow a tube from Scott. His tubes were a different size than I needed, but we were able to eventually make it work. We pinched the tube on our first attempt, but Ross had a repair kit with glue that had not gone dry. It took us about 2 hours to make the repair, but we finally got underway again. I had to run higher air pressure than I like since my tire did not have a rim lock in place. Thus, my rear tire was fairly squirrely for the remainder of the trip.

My first flat tire

After fixing the tire we dropped down to the highway just west of Telluride. Because we were now running behind schedule, we did not ride in to town. We gassed up and road along the South Fork of the San Miguel River (63L Rd). This brought us back to the highway right across the street from the turnoff to Ophir.

Approaching Ophir

We rode up to the small community of Ophir, and on to the pass at 11,789’. This road was much steeper and rockier than we expected. We thought it would be one of the easier passes, but it turned out to be one of the most challenging – especially with fully loaded bikes. It wasn’t too bad, but with the steep side hill and extreme exposure, it made you pay full attention.

Looking back towards Ophir from the pass

Going down the eastern side was much easier and faster. Upon reaching the bottom we buzzed down Hwy 550 to the South Fork of Mineral Creek and found a nice place to camp at Golden Horn. This would be our base camp for the next two nights.

Our camp for nights 2 and 3 (elevation 9700′)

Day 3 – Wednesday, September 3: Engineer Pass, Imogene Pass, & Corkscrew Gulch

Our base camp was at 9700’ elevation, so it got rather chilly at night. We awoke to a layer of frost on everything.

We awoke to a coating of frost

We decided to stay at this camp for two nights so we could travel light over Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass. The following map shows our day’s travel.

A close-up of day 3

We left camp after breakfast and rode Hwy 550 north to the trailhead for Black Bear Pass. When we arrived at the trailhead we noticed a sign indicating that the one-way section of the trail going down to Telluride was closed for repairs. This threw a wrench into our planned route.

We decided to at least ride up to the pass and back. I was disappointed that we were not able to see the “steps”, the switchbacks, or Bridal Veil Falls.

Heading up to Black Bear Pass

The road up was rocky in spots, but not overly technical. It did offer some spectacular views up and down the canyon through which Hwy 550 travels.

Looking towards Ouray

Scott, Ross, Bob, and Dee at Black Bear Pass

We rode down the western side until we came to the closed portion of the trail, but then had to retrace our route back to the highway.

Above Telluride

The road down to Telluride was closed for repairs

At the base of the trail we met another group of dirt bikers and exchanged trail information. They suggested that we take a few minutes to see Yankee Girl Mine.

We rode further up the highway, over Red Mountain Pass (~11,100’), and then took the dirt road to Yankee Girl Mine.

Yankee Girl Mine

We continued up the dirt road until it rejoined Hwy 550. This enabled us to ride the fun twisty portion of Hwy 550 again.

We continued on to the town of Ouray, where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we started up towards Imogene Pass – the highest pass on our route at 13,114’.

The road up to Camp Bird is heavily traveled and is a bit wash boarded in some sections. We made good time and turned off towards the pass. We had hoped to also explore Yankee Boy Basin, but we didn’t have enough time.

The road to the pass is fairly technical with a few steep climbs. It was fun on our unloaded bikes, but it probably would have been a challenge on the KLRs if they were fully loaded. I think it could be done, but it would have been a challenge. Even unloaded the KLRs struggled in some of the loose sections due to their dual-sport tires. The KTMs did much better, being lighter and having more dirt-worthy tires.

Heading up to Imogene Pass

My fuel injected bike ran perfectly all the way to the pass, while the other bikes started to struggle above about 12,500’. They all made it okay, but they were running poorly and lacking in power. Other parties were having the same issues.

The highest pass on our trip at 13,114′

Red Mountain

On our way back down we stopped by a stream to do a few minor bike repairs, and then continued on our way.

Taking a break and doing some minor repairs

On the way back to camp we decided to ride up Corkscrew Gulch, which was highly recommended by our friend Mike. When we arrived at the trailhead we found a local school foot race was under way. The race was almost over, so we stayed and cheered on the racers as they crossed the finish line.

The finish line at the Corkscrew Gulch race

Corkscrew Gulch was really fun. It was probably my second favorite trail of the entire trip. It got steep in a few places, but it was mostly a fast paced cruise with lots of twists and turns as it climbed to the pass at about 12,200’.

The pass at the top of Corkscrew Gulch

From the pass we rode down Cement Creek to Silverton, where we bought more food, and then returned to camp.

Our ride didn’t go entirely on plan, but it was still and enjoyable day.

Day 4 – Thursday, September 4: Clear Lake, Kendall Mountain & Stony Pass

It was a cloudy morning and it looked like it would rain later in the day. Our gear was once again coated with frost. We decided to let our tents dry out while we rode up to Clear Lake. The trail to Clear Lake is a constant climb to about 11,900’ and is fairly rocky. Bob and Ross tried, without luck, to catch a few fish.

Fishing at Clear Lake

We returned to camp and packed up our gear. We then headed down to Silverton and attempted to ride up Kendall Mountain to enjoy the views above the town. The trail was much steeper and rockier than I expected, so we abandoned our plan. We figured we better move on before the storm hit.

On the way up Kendall Mountain I happened to spot a Bobcat or some form of small cat. If you look very closely in my helmet camera video you can see him scramble up the hill into the brush. I think that is the first cat I have seen in the wild.

Silverton as seen from the road up Kendall Mountain

We ate lunch in Silverton and then gassed up our bikes before heading over Stony Pass. It started to rain lightly as we started up the road, so Ross put on his rain gear. This proved especially useful for the upcoming stream crossings!

The road starts off easy but gets a little rougher as we climbed. We made good time with very few stops since we wanted to get over the pass before any lightning storms moved in. It rained pretty steadily all the way up, but at least it wasn’t a downpour.

Rain on Stony Pass

Stony Pass is on the Continental Divide. As we started down the other side we were following the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. The river steadily grew in size as we moved down the canyon. Luckily the rain let up while going down the south side.

Looking back towards the headwaters of the Rio Grande River

Most of the road was pretty easy, but there were several long, rocky downhill sections. We were hoping to not have to turn around and go back up these stretches. Other sections were very fun ATV-type trails that twisted and turned through the trees with numerous small stream crossings and rolling bumps.

While filming Ross, I spun out in one of the stream crossings and suffered my only crash of the trip. I fell fairly slowly, but I was glad to be wearing protective gear and a good helmet. I then learned that I am too weak to pick up my bike when loaded with camping gear. So, I sat down and rested until Bob came back to find me.

We found a place to camp just above Rio Grande Reservoir. It started to rain again while we were setting up our tents, so we timed it almost perfectly. It rained steadily all evening, so we all huddled under Ross’ rain tarp and cooked our dinner and discussed options for the following day. We were worried that the trails would be slippery and muddy with all of the rain. Everyone was wet and cold, so we went to bed early.

Rio Grande camp and Ross’ rain shelter (9500′)

Day 5 – Friday, September 5: Lost Trail Creek, Cinnamon Pass, & Engineer Pass

It stopped raining at about 2:00 AM and the skies cleared, making it a very cold night. But for me it was the warmest night of the trip. I think the layer of ice on my tent offered some insulation from the cold and the wind.

Everything was coated with ice

It was brisk in the morning and everything was coated with ice. We waited for the sun to rise and warm things up.

Waiting for the warmth of the sun

After breakfast we decided to split into two groups; Bob and I wanted to try our original route up Lost Trail Creek, while Ross and Scott wanted to take the easy way around on their KLRs. We agreed to meet at the base of Wager Gulch between noon and 1:00 PM.

Bob and I worried that the trail would be too muddy, but the conditions were perfect! This was a really fun trail as it moved through the trees and up multiple small valleys. There were a few steep and rocky climbs that would have been difficult on the loaded KLRs, so Ross and Scott made the right decision to go around.

Lost Trail Creek was my favorite trail of the trip. We made really good time, riding up to the Continental Divide in about 40 minutes.

Bob at the top of Lost Trail Creek

While going down Wager Gulch we stopped at the Carson ghost town. We then proceeded down to our designated meeting spot, arriving at 12:04 PM. Ross and Scott arrived about 20 minutes later.

Carson Ghost Town

From there we rode up to Cinnamon Pass (12,640’). This road was a little rougher than I expected, but it wasn’t difficult.

Cinnamon Pass – 12,640′

After taking a group photo, we headed down the western side towards Animas Forks, and then up to Engineer Pass.

Animas Forks

We talked with some folks at Cinnamon Pass which told us that Engineer Pass was much more difficult than Cinnamon Pass. That may be true in a Jeep, but it wasn’t very difficult on a dirt bike.

Just prior to reaching the actual pass we came to an overlook that had a spectacular view in almost every direction.

Dee near Engineer Pass

Engineer Pass – 12,800′

After taking a few photos we headed down the east side to our target camp location near Nellie Creek. We set up camp and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. Scott and Dee collected firewood while Bob and Ross did some more fishing.

Enjoying our last camp (at 9200′)

Day 6 – Saturday, September 6: Blue Creek Road

Since we had a long drive ahead of us, we decided to break camp early and head in to Lake City and buy breakfast. We had a wonderful breakfast at the Tic Toc Diner.

After breakfast we had a pleasant ride north on Hwy 149 to the turnoff for the Blue Creek Road. The Blue Creek Road was a very pleasant dual-sport road. It was easy and scenic – a very relaxing ride. We were surprised that this road climbed to almost 11,400’ in elevation. In fact, it was rather chilly up there.

This brought us out on Hwy 50, which would return us to our truck. The traffic on Hwy 50 was heavier than I expected, and I don’t enjoy riding my small bike in traffic. I had a big scare just a few hundred yards from the truck when I hit a nail and got another flat on my rear tire. I was doing about 50-55 mph when the tire blew. The rear end immediately started sliding out to the side. I counter steered to try and keep the bike upright and staying in my lane since. Luckily I was able to maintain control and safely bring the bike to stop off to the side of the road.

My second flat – ~100 yards from the truck

After regaining my composure, we loaded up the truck and started our journey home.

We were able to ride most of our planned trails and even a few side spurs. We will need to go back another time and try to complete the Black Bear/Imogene loop. We concluded that next time it would be better to have a base camp near the center of this region and do day trips without heavily loaded bikes.

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Manti & Saint George – Sept 2014

Kim and I really enjoyed watching the musical “Wicked” earlier this year, so we thought we would see ‘the rest of the story’ and attend the “Wizard of Oz” production at the outdoor Tuacahn Theater near Saint George.

Rather than merely drive I-15 to and from, we decided to take a less direct route and explore some lesser traveled roads along the way.

Nebo Loop

For many years I have wanted to ride over the Nebo Loop. Since the autumn leaves were starting to come on, we decided that now would be a good time. We were a few weeks early and the lighting was poor, but it was still an enjoyable and scenic ride.

Early Autumn leaves on the Mount Nebo Loop

Yellow Aspens

Mount Nebo

Manti Temple

Several years ago I took my sons Gary and Kevin and we attended the Manti Temple just prior to Kevin entering the missionary training center. Kim had never been, so we decided that now would be a good opportunity to visit that historic temple. We ran into some road construction one half mile from the temple, which almost caused us to miss the 11:30 AM session, but we just barely made it. I think Manti and Salt Lake are the only two temples (at least in Utah) that did perform live sessions rather than the newer movie-based sessions.

Manti Temple

After the session we found some picnic tables and took a break for lunch. We then worked our way south to Salina, took I-70 to I-15, and pressed on to our motel in Saint George. We had just enough time to check into our motel and get a quick dinner before heading up to the theater.

Tuacahn

The Tuacahn Theater is in a narrow red-rock canyon northwest of Saint George. The venue is very nice with small waterfalls and a swift stream running down the middle of the main sidewalk. There is also a gift shop and several shops to buy refreshments. They even have various pre-show activities and entertainment.

Tuacahn Theater

The product of “Wizard of Oz” was nicely done, but I have always thought it was kind of an odd story. It was entertaining and worth seeing, but it was not nearly the caliber of “Wicked”.

Saint George Church Historical Sites

We hoped to attend a session at the Saint George Temple, but it was closed for cleaning. So we spent our morning visiting some of the nearby church historical sites. We started with the new (since I was there last) Visitor’s Center and then took an interesting tour of the Tabernacle. We learned that the wood for the Temple came from Mount Trumble, where we were earlier this year, while the wood for the Tabernacle came from Pine Valley. They painted the pine to make it look like various hard woods.

Saint George Temple

Kim & Dee

The main Temple entrance

The Christus

The Saint George Tabernacle

We also took a tour of Brigham Young’s Winter Home. All of the tours were enjoyable and informative.

Brigham Young’s winter home

Prior to leaving town we stopped at Nielsen’s Frozen Yogurt for a refreshing treat. We then drove up to Red Hills, overlooking the city.

Refreshing

Saint George

Mormon Meadow Massacre

We headed home via Hwy 18 which heads into the mountains north of Saint George. We took a quick side spur out to Pine Valley but did not take the time to tour the Historic Church building.

We did, however, stop and visit some of the memorials commemorating the Mormon Meadow Massacre. I have never understood what could drive people to do such terrible things, but I found the memorial to be very thoughtfully done and offered a good opportunity to reflect on our beliefs and our relations with those with other beliefs.

Mountain Meadow memorial

Overlooking the valley where the party was camped

Kim at one of the burial sites

Our next objective was to get past Provo before the BYU football game ended so we wouldn’t get caught in that heavy traffic. We made it past during the fourth quarter and arrived home at 5:30 PM.

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San Rafael Swell – Aug 2014

Aug. 21-23, 2014

I have wanted to explore the new SITLA single track trails that were opened up last year in the La Sal Mountains east of Moab. I figured August would be a good time since the elevation is up around 9000’. Bob and Ross decided to join me, so we put together a plan to explore the area for three days. But as luck would have it, a huge monsoon rain storm moved into Utah. Southern Utah got hit the hardest, with flooding around St George. The entire state was impacted by this storm for about a week.

So, that put a damper on our La Sal plans. Since the temperatures also dropped, we decided we would go to the San Rafael Swell instead.

Thursday: Fix-It-Pass and Devil’s Racetrack

Our original plan was to drive down Wednesday evening and camp, but since it was only a 3.5 hour drive to the San Rafael, we decided to leave early Thursday morning. That turned out to be a good decision since the Swell got hit with some pretty heavy rain Wednesday afternoon and evening.

When we arrived at the Swell we could see signs of the heavy rain, but the trails looked to be reasonably dry. We quickly found a place for our base camp and headed off to the Wickiup trail – a good warmup ride for Ross on my Husaberg FE450. We then proceeded over Fix-It-Pass and dropped into North Coal Wash. The sand in the wash was very firm from all of the rain. This made it really easy to ride the wash.

Base Camp

Wickiup, Fix-It-Pass, & Devil’s Racetrack

Our main objective was to ride Devil’s Racetrack, which is a really fun, but semi-technical trail. Afterwards we visited some of the nearby petroglyphs and Swasey’s Cabin. Ross did really well and we finished our 58 mile ride with no major mishaps. We then returned to camp for some BBQ hamburgers.

Ross and Bob coming down Fix-It-Pass

The “steps” section of Devil’s Racetrack

Friday: Waterfall Trail and Behind The Reef

We got a brief rain shower during the night and woke up to a beautiful day, but it was sort of chilly. We started out on our ride after Bob’s great breakfast and quickly made our way to the Waterfall single track trailhead.

The Waterfall Trail & Behind The Reef

The Waterfall Trail seemed to have more whoops and loose rocks than I remembered. This is probably because the trail is getting heavy usage since there are not many good single track trails in the San Rafael, so those that exist get very heavy use.

A narrow and technical section of the Waterfall Trail

We made good time and finally came to the steep hill climb with the ledge at the top. This was the only section that had me worried. Last time I was here (going the other direction), someone had removed the ramp made of rocks at the top. This time, someone has constructed a much better ramp. Bob noticed that by making a slight left turn just before the top you had a very clean line. Bob made it look easy. I almost made it – I was a little off my preferred line and chickened out at the last second. I got my front wheel up on top, but not the back. I know it was all mental. If I were just a little more aggressive I would have easily made it.

Bob making it look easy

After finishing the Waterfall trail we rode the scenic Behind The Reef trail. Sections of this trail have suffered serious erosion, which would make it a very challenging ride on an ATV. There were also a lot more rocky sections than I remembered. But we enjoyed the ride and again had no mishaps.

Ross coming down the ATV ramp on Behind The Reef

Somewhere along the Behind The Reef trail

We rode down to the Muddy Creek near Hidden Spendor Mine to see how much water was flowing. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the road is now open down to the river. When we floated the Muddy a few years ago it was a real pain carrying our inflatable kayaks all the way up to the cars on the bluff.

Muddy Creek access point

On our way back to camp we explored a few less traveled roads and ended up going down South Fork of Eagle Canyon to Eagle Arch. We then returned to camp and Ross treated us to a fantastic steak dinner. We put in about 88 miles and the Husaberg low fuel warning light came on at 81 miles.

Ross enjoying the view on the way back to camp

Saturday: Breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River

Just before bed we noticed a lot of lightning flashes off to the west. It then got really windy and I had to get up and re-stake my tent and tighten everything so it wasn’t flapping in the wind. It was a good thing I did, because shortly thereafter it started to rain. It rained all night long and there was no sign of it letting up in the morning.

We decided to just pack up our gear and head to Green River for a nice cooked breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant. I have had dinner there many times, but this was my first time eating there for breakfast. Once again I was not disappointed.

As we drove home it was clear that this was another very large storm. All of the side streams were extremely muddy and flowing higher than normal for this time of year. There was evidence of recent rain all the way back to Salt Lake City.

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Adventure Bike Luggage for Small Bikes – Sept 2014

Sept 9, 2014

To do a multi-day adventure bike ride you need to be able to carry some luggage.  If you plan on staying in motels, you don’t need as much space as you do if you plan on camping out.  In an attempt to get three of my family bikes ready for camping adventures, I took the opportunity to compare three different rack-less luggage options; Wolfman Luggage, Giant Loop, and AltRider Hemisphere.  Here is what I found:

Wolfman Luggage:

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, I will remove this bag and use something larger.  The heart of my Wolfman setup is the E-12 Saddle bags.  The saddle bag has two straps that hang over the fender or seat as well as three attachment points; one on each side and one on the rear fender.  Each saddle bag holds about 11 liters.  There is a compression strap so you can keep your gear from rattling around inside the bag.  The bag also has numerous D-rings so you can attach other items like the Wolfman water bottle holster.  The E-12 works well as a base for a complete adventure ride or as a stand alone system for a day trip.  I used the bag stand alone for our trip on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands earlier this year.

E-12 saddle bags for a day trip

The E-12 bags are not large enough to hold my sleeping bag or tent, so I bought a small Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel.  I can fit my tent and sleeping bag in this bag without problem and have a fairly low rear bag on the bike.  I can also stuff it full with other gear, but then it sticks up pretty high, interfering with my backpack, and it puts a lot of weight on the back of the bike.

I finish off my Wolfman setup with the 6L Enduro tank bag.  This bag is fairly small so it doesn’t get in you way at all.  But it also doesn’t hold a lot.

Wolfman luggage

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.

Giant Loop:

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 camp chair.

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.

On my first adventure ride I quickly learned that the Sea-To-Summit bag was in my way.  It interfered with my backpack – especially on a steep descent.  I therefore moved the dry bag behind the Coyote bag, which worked much better.

Tent mounted on the rear

The Fandango tank bag is about the largest tank bag that will fit my dirt bikes without being in my way while either standing or sitting.  I have three minor complaints about the tank bag; 1) my maps got wet inside the pocket during a rain storm, 2) the zippers are hard to open when they get dirty, and 3) the front of the bag is really shallow, limiting what objects fit in the bag.  I am pretty sure this tank bag was listed as 10L when I bought it, but now the spec says 8L.  I think the 8L number is more accurate.

I also picked up a set of Giant Loop Pannier Pockets, giving me 2 more liters on each side of my tank.  I put heavy items like my tools and air mattress pump up here to help keep more weight on the front of the bike.  I found that I could also mount a 1 liter water bottle with the Wolfman holster to each pannier.  The panniers are slightly in my way when seated because I have fairly long legs, but having that extra space is really nice.

Overall the Giant Loop system works quite well.  You need to put your gear in dry bags since the system is water resistant, but not water proof.  The biggest drawback is the difficulty in opening and closing the zippers.

  • Fandango tank bag: 8L
  • Coyote saddle bag: 30L (or 39L)
  • Dry bag: 20L
  • Total: 58L (or 67L)
  • Note: I did not include the Pannier Pockets in the total since they can be used with any of these systems

AltRider:

My favorite system is the AltRider Hemisphere system.  It was designed by the same person that designed the Coyote bag, but it has some really nice improvements.

AltRider Hemisphere luggage

The tank bag is just slightly larger than the Fandango bag (11L).  It appears to be the same length and width, but the front end of the bag is a little taller.  It has a nice map pocket that seems to be waterproof, but it is a little difficult to get your map inside the small zipper on the bottom of the cover.

AltRider luggage covered in ice

The tank bag has an integrated dry bag to keep all of your items free from dust and water.  You don’t have to seal up the dry bag, but I usually do for added security.  If you fully stuff the dry bag it is difficult to rummage through the bag and find what you are looking for, but if you don’t completely fill it, the dry bag works out great.  I found that I could also put items like gloves or guide books on top of the dry bag, making them easier to access.

The best feature of the tank bag is the metal snap.  It makes it really easy to open and close the bag.  At first I was a little skeptical, but it worked great.

The saddle bag has some really nice innovations.  The main compartment is fully waterproof and closes like a dry bag by rolling down the seal at least three times.  It mounts to the bike with a novel holster.  You can even use the holster stand alone for day trips, so you can carry your jacket, tools, food, etc.  The back of the holster also has an easily accessible pocket on each side.  These pockets worked great for my Keen river shoes.  They will also hold tools, a 1.5L fuel bottle or water bottle, etc.

AltRider holster

Using just the holster for day trips

The saddle bag is rated at 40L, but it is easy to overfill if you don’t need it to be fully waterproof.  It does get difficult to roll down the opening if you put too much gear in there, but it is much easier to work with than the Coyote zipper.

 

  • Hemisphere tank bag: 11L
  • Hemisphere saddle bag: 40L
  • Dry bag: 20L
  • Total: 71L

Summary:

There are pros and cons to each of these systems, so figure out what best meets your needs.  The E-12 bags are really nice for day trips, but they are kind of small for over-night trips.  But if you have really small camping gear, they may work great.

The Coyote bag has been around for a long time and is quite popular.  But the improvements of the newer AltRider Hemisphere bags make them my overall favorite.

A great ride over the Continental Divide in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado

 

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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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