Maze District of Canyonlands – May 2016

May 9-11, 2016

Back in 2003, Ed and Burt Lamborn invited me to join them on a trip to explore the Maze District of Canyonlands.  The Maze District is the least visited of the three sections of Canyonlands National Park, divided by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  It is very remote – roughly 40 miles of Jeep road to get there, and some sections of the trail require advanced 4WD equipment and skills.

It is possible to explore the park much quicker on a dirt bike than in Jeep.  Street legal dirt bikes are required.

Now that my family has street legal bikes, I have wanted to take my children to visit the beautiful country inside the park.  With Jason finishing up his first year of college, we figured it was the perfect time to go.  Jamie was also able to arrange time off from her research to join us.

We left home Sunday afternoon, after church.  It had rained most of the week, and it rained most of the way down to Hanksville where we stayed in a cheap motel.  We worried that the trails might be too muddy to ride on dirt bikes, but the desert really soaks up the water fast.

Maze GPS May2016

Complete trip GPS track

The Dollhouse

After a long night on uncomfortable beds, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Duke’s Slickrock Grill.  It was good that we had a great breakfast, because lunch (and dinner) would be late that day.

I asked the lady at the motel how much rain they received the prior week, and she said she thought it rained for a few minutes.  That puzzled me since the weather radar showed rain over the Maze District most of the week.

As we drove south towards Hite, we started to see signs of recent rain; the road surface was wet and the stream along the side of the road was flowing.  So again, we started to worry about mud.

We stopped at a scenic overlook above Hite and where Lake Powell used to be.  We could see the Colorado River flowing by, but virtually no sign of a lake.

Hite Marina - high and dry

Hite Marina – high and dry

Colorado River

Colorado River

Once we found the turnoff, we drove about 20 miles up a dirt road towards the Maze District.  The more popular entrance to the Maze is north of Hanksville, but we decided to come in from the south.  The road was a little rough in spots – especially towing our utility trailer loaded with camping gear and three dirt bikes.  My bike tipped partially over and was leaning on the tail gate, which scarred up my hand guard, but otherwise didn’t do any serious damage.

It took us about an hour to get to our selected campsite in Cove Canyon.  We quickly unloaded our bikes, changed into our riding gear, and headed off towards the Maze at about noon (only about 3 hours behind schedule).

Getting ready to ride

Getting ready to ride

While I refer to this trip report as the Maze District, by far the bulk of the area is actually inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  Only the last few miles of each day’s ride is actually inside the Canyonlands boundary.  And our campsite was outside both parks on BLM land.

From our camp, it was approximately 13 miles to a 4-way junction; left goes to Sunset Pass and the Dirty Devil River, straight goes to the Flint Trail and Maze Overlook (tomorrow’s destination), and right goes to the Dollhouse section.  This 13 mile stretch is pretty easy on a dirt bike, but riding it both ways two days in a row did get old.

4-way junction

4-way junction

Maze Overlook Dollhouse GPS May2016

GPS track beyond the 4-way junction

The first part of the Dollhouse trail is easy and fast as it crosses open desert.  I warned the kids via our helmet radios to not ride too fast because there may be a speed limit inside these parks.  Five minutes had not passed when we came across a lone Jeep – and sure enough, it was a park ranger.

Open desert

Open desert

The ranger was really nice.  She did verify that we had street legal bikes and asked about our plans.  She warned us of the clay along the shelf road on the way to the Flint Trail and Maze Overlook and said that it would be impassable if wet.  She had been out patrolling for six days and was on her way back to the Hans Flat Ranger Station.

The Dollhouse trail was really fun on a bike.  It has a lot of variety, with sections of easy dirt road, easy sand covered road, rocky climbs and descents, sandstone ledges, and deep sand in wash bottoms.  The trail reminded me somewhat of Devil’s Racetrack in the San Rafael Swell, minus the more technical “steps” section.

Jason

Jason on one of the easy rocky sections

The most technical section of this trail is in the area near Teapot Rock.  This section contains a lot of sandstone ledges and rocky spots.  A few of the more technical spots caused Jamie a little trouble when she would stall her bike, but everyone made it through the entire trip without a single crash.

Cool trail

Cool trail near Teapot Rock

Jason going up the step

Jason going up the step

The step

A closeup of the step

There were a lot more technical sections on this trail than I remembered, but it was all really fun.

Fun trail

Plenty of variety on the trail

We stopped for a late lunch in the shade of Standing Rock, and enjoyed the views of the canyons of the Maze.

Maze snapshots May2016 (9)

Maze snapshots B May2016 (1)

The view from our lunch stop

After lunch we continued on to the Dollhouse area.  We explored the spurs to the three campsites in the area.  They all looked like nice campsites, but you need a permit to camp there.  We elected to camp outside the park so we could base camp from our car and not worry about obtaining permits.

Approaching the Dollhouse

Approaching the Dollhouse

We planned on hiking to the Granary, so we carried our hiking shoes and my walking poles along on our ride.  It was hot and we were running late, so we never made it to the Granary.  Plus, my memory isn’t so good anymore – I sent the kids on a death march thinking they could see the confluence of the Green and Colorado River from the Spanish Bottom trail.  In my memory, Spanish Bottom was right below the confluence – but in reality it is a few miles downstream.

The Spanish Bottom trail

The Spanish Bottom trail

Even though we never made it to the Granary, we did enjoy the most interesting portion of the hike as it goes through a narrow slot canyon.

Me on the Granary hike

Me entering the slot on the way to the Granary

The old man

Exiting the slot canyon

Narrow slot on Granary hike

Another narrow slot on Granary hike

We finished our hike and started back for camp at about 5:00 PM.  We enjoyed the 35 mile ride out here, but at this time we were pretty tired and hungry and not anxious to ride 35 more miles back to camp.  But the ride went swiftly and without problem.  Jamie set a great pace and we only stopped for two breaks on the way back.

We got back to camp at about 7:00 PM, set up camp, and cooked BBQ hamburgers for dinner – at about 9:00 PM.

Camp

Camp

We were too tired to even build a fire, so after an enjoyable evening watching the stars come out, we went to bed.

The Flint Trail

Not long after going to bed, it began to rain.  In fact, it rained on and off throughout the night.  I worried that the mud would prevent us from getting to the Flint Trail or the Maze Overlook due to the clay shelf.

When I got up in the morning, I was surprised that the ground was bone dry.  I was sure it rained pretty hard during the night, but it sure didn’t look like it.  But then I noticed water on our table and food boxes, so I knew I wasn’t totally crazy.

A few minutes later Jamie got up and said; “I thought it rained last night.”  Five minutes later Jason got up and said the same thing.

We enjoyed a great breakfast of “Dee’s Super Scrambled Eggs” and “Bob’s Hash Browns”, and then started off for the day’s adventure at about 10:00 AM.

We returned to the 4-way junction, and then rode straight through towards the Maze Overlook.  A few miles down the road we came to a long and rocky climb.  It seemed to go up and up.  I had absolutely no memory of that climb from my visit back in 2003.  It wasn’t overly technical, but it was steady.  This led us to the clay shelf, which offered some spectacular views.

Approaching the shelf road climb

Approaching the shelf road climb

and up

Up we go

View from the shelf road

View from the shelf road

Clay

The clay shelf road

The trail soon came to another junction; left to the Flint Trail switchbacks which climbed about 1000’ up the cliff, or right to the Maze Overlook.  Our primary destination was the Maze Overlook, but I really wanted to check out the switchbacks since they were closed due to snow and mud when I was here in 2003.  We decided to try it out now while we were fresh.  We decided to at least ride to the base of the cliff, and then press on only if it didn’t seem too technical.

Flint Trail GPS May2016

Flint Trail GPS track

Heading to the Flint Trail

Heading to the Flint Trail

Jamie and Jason stopped at the base of the cliff, so I assumed they didn’t want to ride up.  I passed them and started up the trail.  Later on I found out they were following me, but I didn’t get too much video of them coming up the trail.

Jason on the Flint Trail

Jason on the Flint Trail

The trail is fairly steep, but most of it is pretty easy on a dirt bike.  There are, however, three or four nasty outcroppings of rock that take good line selection and momentum.

Jason going up a ledge

Jason clearing one of the rock ledges

Rocky and steep

Rocky and steep

Rocky section

It seems much steeper in person

Everyone made it up okay, although Jamie came pretty close to looping out in toughest spot.  I almost got it on film, but my camcorder was in the wrong mode.

Dee

Dee on the Flint Trail

We enjoyed the view from the top and ate a snack, hoping we could make it to Maze Overlook for lunch.  As we were about ready to ride back down, two Jeeps came along, so we had to wait for them to get down the trail.  They went a lot slower than we did.

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The ride back down was pretty easy.  Once we passed the two Jeeps, we were able to quickly return to the junction and ride out to the Maze Overlook.

The Maze Overlook

The road to the Maze Overlook isn’t as technical as the Dollhouse trail, but it does have its share of rocky climbs and descents, deep sandy washes, and short ledges.  One rocky climb has a sharp left turn at the top, so it is best to not ride too fast and risk missing the turn and going off the ledge on the backside of the ridge.

Jamie on the way to the Maze Overlook

Jamie on the way to the Maze Overlook

Cruising

Jamie cruising along a ridgeline

We were surprised to find the Maze Overlook totally deserted.  There was one car in the parking lot, but no people.  All of the campsites appeared to be empty as well.  As I mentioned, this is very remote country – we were 50 miles from the nearest pavement, and another hour to Hanksville, and a few more hours to Richfield which has a hospital.  Being this remote with my children caused me to seriously consider purchasing a personal locator beacon for emergencies.

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Lunch with a view

View from lunch

The Maze

Chocolate Drops

The Chocolate Drops

After eating lunch near the cliff overlooking the “maze”, we started our hike.  Our goal was to hike to the Harvest Scene petroglyphs, but that turned out to be far too ambitious for us.

I remembered the hike down off the cliff being very interesting.  The trail includes the use of some Moki steps cut out by Native American’s many years ago.  On the way down, Jamie spotted a granary high on the cliff across the canyon from us.  We marveled at how they could live in such rugged country.

The hike down turned out to be a lot more technical than I remembered.  On my last visit, I made it to the canyon bottom, but then started back up while others hiked to the petroglyphs.  This year I only made it about ¾ of the way down.  There were some pretty exposed sections of the trail that just seemed too risky at my age.  Jamie and Jason continued on, and said the trail got even worse.  They made it essentially to the bottom before heading back.  Watch my video to get an idea of what this trail is really like.

Jason on Moki steps

Jason on Moki steps

side view

A side view

Jamie on the Moki steps

Jamie on the Moki steps

Jason coming back up the Maze Overlook hike

Jason coming back up the Maze Overlook hike

Jamie and Jason

Jamie and Jason

After completing the hike, we enjoyed another snack, and then began the ride back to camp.

One thing I enjoyed was that the trail seemed totally different coming and going.  The ascents become descents, and visa-versa.  Both the Dollhouse and the Maze Overlook trails were really fun on dirt bikes – both directions.  They are not for beginners though – these trails require at least a strong intermediate skill level and very reliable bikes.

After returning to camp we enjoyed some BBQ hotdogs and sat around talking the evening away.  We took a short hike up a box canyon near camp and found some very heavy, black chunks of petrified wood that probably got washed over the cliff at the end of the canyon.

Poison Spring Canyon

The next morning we awoke to cloudy skies.  I wondered if another storm was moving, which might threaten our day’s ride.

After breakfast, we began packing up camp, when it suddenly began to hail.  It was a strange hail storm – it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t windy.  The hail just lightly fell from the sky.  Luckily, the storm only lasted about five minutes.

We secured the bikes in the trailer better this time, so none of them tipped over on our way back to the highway.  By the time we arrived about the Poison Spring Canyon trailhead there was not a cloud in the sky.  It was a beautiful day.

I always had the impression that Poison Spring Canyon was a fairly technical trail.  I imagine that some days the sand may be fairly deep and soft, but the day we rode it, it was pretty easy.  It was a bumpy ride with lots of baby-head rocks, but they were mostly submerged into the ground so it wasn’t as challenging as some rocky trails.

The canyon was really scenic and interesting to ride through – especially the middle section which had numerous small stream crossings.  Jason was trying to wheelie across the water, without much luck at first.  On the return ride out, he did much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t filming him at that time.

Poison Spring Canyon

Poison Spring Canyon

Jason doing a wheelie over the water crossing

Jason doing a wheelie over the water crossing

The trail is 16 miles long to the Dirty Devil River.  I was glad we didn’t have to cross the river, because it was running fairly deep and swift, and there was about a 5’ steep bank on the other side.  If you do cross the river, you can ride through Hatch Canyon and come out at Sunset Pass and then the 4-way junction discussed earlier, thereby providing an alternate way to enter or exit the Maze District.

First view of the Dirty Devil River

First view of the Dirty Devil River

The Dirty Devil River

The Dirty Devil River

The river crossing

The river crossing

After a short break at the river, we returned to the car and loaded up.  On our way home we stopped at Stan’s Burger Shack in Hanksville for a burger and shake.

We found this trip to be exhausting, but it was really fun.  Camping takes a lot more work than staying in a motel, and we longed for a soak in a hot tub, but the overall experience was wonderful.

The Maze area is truly spectacular and well worth a visit if you have the right equipment and skills to make the journey.

Posted in Dirt biking, Hiking, Uncategorized, Utah - Southern | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park – Apr 2016

Apr. 13-16, 2016

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Zion National Park

Marcy and Isaac invited Kim and I to join them on a family vacation to Zion National Park.  Isaac rented a very nice home in LaVerkin, about 20 miles west of Zion NP.  The home was cheaper than two motel rooms, and had a lot more space.  The accommodations were wonderful, there was plenty of room for the grandchildren to play, and everyone really enjoyed it.

We left home Wednesday afternoon at about 4:00 PM.  We met up with Marcy’s family in Fillmore when we stopped for dinner.  We arrived in LaVerkin at about 9:00 PM, which gave us time to settle in before bedtime.

On Thursday morning we all piled in Marcy’s minivan and drove to Zion National Park.  We took the shuttle bus up the canyon for our first hike at Weeping Rock.  The kids enjoyed riding on the bus.

Weeping Rock

The hike to Weeping Rock is quite short, but it is sort of steep.  The trail is paved, but it is wet at the top, so you need to watch your footing.  The kids did really well on the hike, and they enjoyed using Kim’s walking stick.

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Isaac and the girls at Weeping Rock

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Sophie with grandma’s walking stick

Aspen

Aspen

After arriving at the falls, I took a picture of Sophie and Aspen sucking on their Camelbak hose in commemoration of the photo we took years before of me, Jamie, and Jason at the same spot.

Camelbacs Oct2005 (Medium)

October 2005

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Sophie and Aspen

Riverside Walk

We boarded the bus and rode it to the very last stop to enjoy the Riverside Walk.  This trail is also paved, but it has a fair amount of sand on the trail.  We didn’t make it all the way to the end, but we got pretty close.  We decided to head back down and enjoy lunch near the lodge.  On the return hike we saw a family of mule deer that were very accustomed to being near humans.

After lunch we enjoyed an ice cream cone.  We then took the shuttle back to the car, and drove back to the rental house for naps.  Aspen was not the only one to take a nap.

Ice Cream Cones

Ice Cream Cones

We later returned to Springdale for pizza at Zions Pizza and Noodle.

Emerald Pools

We returned to the park Friday morning and took the shuttle to the Grotto.  From here we took the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools.  I had never done this hike before, but it was really enjoyable – I think it is my favorite hike in the park (of those that I have done).

Bridge to the Kayenta trail

Bridge to the Kayenta trail

The trail is not paved, but has a mixture of rock steps and dirt.  The trail follows a shelf, so there is a pretty steady, but gradual climb to Emerald Pools.  The trail has just enough challenge to make it interesting, but it is not overly difficult.

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The Kayenta trail

The trail offers some spectacular views down the canyon.

On the Kayenta trail

On the Kayenta trail

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Sophie and Aspen

Just prior to reaching the pools, we took the upper fork which led us to the middle pool.

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Emerald Pools in the background

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Proof that Kim and I made it

Kim waited here while the rest of us continued on to the upper pool.  This was my first time hiking to the upper pool.  It is a much steeper and more rugged trail than the lower portion.  To my surprise, the girls absolutely loved it.  Some of the rock ledges were almost up to Aspen’s waist, but she enjoyed climbing up the rocks.  Sophie was so fast I couldn’t keep up with her to take many pictures.

Rock scrambling on the way to the upper pool

Rock scrambling on the way to the upper pool

Just as we arrived at the upper pool we heard thunder.  The weather forecast for Zion called for rain starting at about 1:00 PM, but it was only 11:30 AM.  But within just a few minutes it began to hail.  We left our jackets and Camelbaks with Kim, so we were not well prepared.  The trail quickly became a muddy mess, but the kids were troopers as we returning to find grandma.

On the way down from the upper pool, I happened to meet my friend Steve Seely with his family.  They did the same hike we did, but in the opposite direction.  They ended up going down the Kayenta trail in the mud.  He said it was very slippery in spots, and their shoes were completely covered in mud.

After returning to the middle pool, we found Kim huddled under a large rock trying to keep out of the storm.  We put on our jackets and headed down to the lower pool where we could get a little bit of shelter from the overhanging cliff.

A few mintues later

The hail storm

It was cold

It was cold

The storm had subsided a little bit, so we pressed on, taking the paved trail down to the lodge.

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View from the bridge near the lodge

We found a table in the auditorium in the lodge and ate lunch while we tried to dry off.

After lunch we returned to the house for naps.  We considered returning to the park during the evening so the kids could ride their bikes on the Pa’rus trail, but we decided to just let them ride around near the house and enjoy a quiet evening at home watching a movie and popping popcorn.

Snow Canyon

Rather than dealing with the crowd at Zion NP on Saturday (it was free National Park day, so it got very crowded), we decided to go to Snow Canyon.  We thought the kids would enjoy playing in the sand dunes, but the wind was blowing so hard that we didn’t even try.

Instead, we hiked to the petrified dunes where Isaac found a small sandbox that was somewhat sheltered from the wind.  The kids enjoyed playing in the sand and climbing around on the sandstone.

Petrified Dunes

Petrified Dunes

Sand box

Private sandbox

We decided to hike the Butterfly trail which led to the Lave Tubes trail.  Kim drove the car around to meet us.  This hike was longer than expected, and the jagged lava rocks where challenging for the kids.  They each stumbled a few times along the way.  They were all tired and thirsty when we finally got to the car.

Snow Canyon Apr2016-056

The Butterfly trail

We were glad to get out of the wind and found a picnic table hidden in some bushes that protected us from the wind while we ate lunch.

After lunch we drove back to St George for gas, and then headed for home.  We had a stiff headwind all the way home, so the drive was fairly tense.

We all had a great time and the girls really enjoyed most of the hikes.  Even Luke was a trooper – he hardly made a peep on any of the hikes.

Zion Marcy Apr2016-007

Marcy and Luke

Posted in Family Vacations, Hiking, Utah - Southern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gold Butte – March 2016

March 11, 2016

A few years ago, our friends Clyde and Karla, suggested we go explore an area south of Mesquite, Nevada called “Little Finland”. We decided to go check it out during Jason’s spring break from college.

“Little Finland” seems to be a nickname for a portion of a rock formation called “Devil’s Fire”. There are several other rock formations in the Gold Butte area, about 30 miles south of Mesquite. Other formations that we visited include “Black Butte” and “Whitney Pockets”. There are also numerous rock panels with petroglyphs and pictographs.

Watch the video in HD on YouTube:

After researching the area, I planned a 32-mile loop that would allow us to visit these points of interest. It turned out that about 1/3 of my loop was in an old sandy wash that is now closed to motorized travel. So our loop ride turned into two out-and-back rides. Our route is shown below.

Gold Butte Mar2016

Our GPS track

You can access the trailhead by taking Hwy 170 from Mesquite, and then take the Old Gold Butte road, which is paved, but has a lot of rough sections making it fairly slow travel – especially with a trailer.

There is a nice staging area at “Black Butte” or a little further down the road where the pavement ends at “Whitney Pockets”. Neither trailhead has restrooms, but there are several nearby primitive campsites.

Gold Butte Dee Mar2016 (2)

Black Butte as seen from the parking area

We parked at “Black Butte” and rode southwest to another parking area near the “Falling Man” petroglyph. We spent about 45 minutes looking for “Falling Man”, without success. We did find several other rock panels of Indian art, but not the main one we were looking for. We later learned that you have to crawl through a hole in a rock to get to it. I think we found the hole, but we didn’t realize we had to crawl through – which would have been challenging in our motorcycle boots and gear. If we attempted it, we may have learned why they call the area “Falling Man”.

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The trail to “Falling Man”

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I think the hole in question is in the shadow on the right

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One of several art panels

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This rock had many works of art

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More Indian artwork

After giving up our search, we continued southwest along the road. Some sections of this road were really fun, while other sections were somewhat rocky.

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Jason enjoying the rolling terrain

The turnoff into the dry wash was closed, so we continued on the main road. This turned out to be a dead end. Near the end, the road got fairly steep. We sent Jason on to see if the road continued on the other side, but it did not.

Gold Butte HD Mar2016-019

The road gets steep near the top, and then dead ends

So we turned around and rode back the way we came. Rather than stop at the car, we decided to ride over to “Whitney Pockets” for lunch. We thought they might have restrooms, but they did not. We did happen to find an old dam in a small side canyon that was fun to explore after lunch.

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Lunch stop in “Whitney Pockets”

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Jamie and Jason climbing up the dam

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They made it!

From “Whitney Pockets” we rode south about 7 miles on the Gold Butte road. This road is a fast paced gravel road.

Our next stop was “Devil’s Throat”. This is a large sink hole out in the middle of the desert. There is a safety fence around the hole, and you can see that the fence has been moved outward over the years as the sink continues to expand.

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“Devil’s Throat” sink hole

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I would guess the hole is about 100′ across and 40′ deep

Our next stop was “Devil’s Fire” – another large red rock formation in the middle of the desert. This section of road was not difficult, but it was very rough with lots of embedded rocks and sections of wash board.

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Jamie giving her suspension a workout on the wash board

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“Devil’s Fire”

From here the road follows the wash bottom, which was also very rough with wash board. The following map is a close-up of this section of our ride.

 

Little Finland Mar2016

Close up of the “Little Finland” area

“Devil’s Throat” is off to the lower right of the map. We rode down the wash to “Devil’s Fire” and continued on until we came to a side wash, which led us back to “Little Finland”, which is on the western edge of “Devil’s Fire”.

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Kim approaching “Little Finland”

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Kim, Jason, and Jamie at the base of “Little Finland”

Jamie and Jason climbed up on top while Kim and I took a break under a palm tree. Here are a few of Jamie’s pictures of the area.

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“Little Finland”

St George Jamie Mar2016 (11)

“Little Finland”

After our break at “Little Finland”, we continued west until we came to another junction. Jason and I rode over a fairly technical section of trail to see if we could get to “Mead Narrows”. It turns out that the narrows is now closed to motorized travel, so we continued back to where Kim and Jamie were waiting.

Rather than ride the wash back, we took a dirt road along a ridge line that paralleled the wash. This was a much faster and smoother ride. We considered taking a side spur out to “Kurt’s Grotto”, but it was getting late so we decided to skip that section.

The road eventually dropped back into the wash. Rather than ride all the way back to Devil’s Throat, we took a shortcut by riding up “Mud Wash”. This wash was also covered with wash board bumps, but it still saved us a lot of time. Once back on the main road, it was a quick ride back to the car.

Since the elevation is so low here, we feared it would be really hot, but we really lucked out on weather. The skies were mostly overcast and there was a gentle breeze blowing, keeping the temperatures very mild and pleasant. But a storm-front moved in just as we were loading the trailer to head back to St George. The wind started blowing really hard and sand blasting everything. But we were soon on our way back to town.

This is an interesting area to explore, but it wasn’t the best dirt biking/ATV riding we have done. Most of the roads are really rough. They aren’t difficult, but they are rough. I suspect this area would be more enjoyable in a side-by-side with a longer wheelbase and better suspension.

Posted in Dirt biking, Nevada | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carrying Extra Fuel Or Water On Your Dirt Bike

No matter how large your fuel tank is, there may be times when you need to carry a little extra fuel.  Or perhaps you need to carry water for camping in the desert.  If your dirt bike has metal racks, you may be able to use something like a Rotopax canister.  But if you don’t have a rack, it is a little more challenging.  This report talks about a few approaches that have worked well for me.  Perhaps you can use similar approaches with your bike.

I previously wrote a report about a 2 liter canister holster made by Mike at OBR ADV Gear.  This holster works great for the Tour-A-Tech 2 liter fuel canister or a 2 liter water bottle.

Water bottle

2 liter water bottle and holster

Bottle Hoslter-008

2 liter fuel canister

I asked Mike if he could make me a holster to hang a 1.5 liter Primus fuel bottle on each tank shroud.  This would allow me to carry a little more fuel (or water) and keep the weight up front, rather than on the rear with my luggage.

Mike designed a bottle wrap that can be adjusted to hold any bottle between 3″ and 4.5″ in diameter.  A 1 liter bottle (fuel or water) is about 3″ in diameter, but the larger 1.5 liter bottles are 3.5″ in diameter.  His bottle wrap works perfectly!

Mike Bottle Wrap (4)

Adjustable bottle wrap

Mike also makes an adapter patch that fits under the fuel cap.  I found that I could mount the bottle wrap tightly to my tank shrouds even without the patch, but the patch provides a little more security to keep the bottle from sliding down.

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1.5L bottle mounted to tank shroud and adapter patch

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This setup works well and gives me room for my knees.

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Two 1L bottles attached to the patch

Of course you can also mount the bottle wrap in other locations.  It has a couple of D-rings so it is easy to mount onto your luggage anywhere you wish.

I made the following chart to show what kind of fuel range I can expect from different size bottles or canisters.  With two 1.5L bottles, I should increase my fuel range by about 40 miles.  Combine that with two 2L canisters, and I get about 90 miles of additional range.

Bottle Range

This photo shows a size comparison of some of these options.

Bottle Holder Feb2016

1L water bottles, 1.5L water and fuel bottles, the adapter patch, a 4L and 6L Dromedary

Some people use the MSR Dromedary bags to carry fuel, but I have chosen not to.  They are not legally approved fuel containers in the USA, and they out-gas, causing anything near them to smell of fuel.  But they do work great for carrying water.  I found that the 6L bag fits nicely on top of my luggage.  Once I empty the bag, I can roll it up and store it inside my luggage.

Cedar Mesa May2015-002

6L of water in an MSR Dromedary bag

2 more liters of water

2 more liters of water

Update: I just learned that Giant Loop now offers a USA legal 1 gallon fuel bladder.  It looks pretty nice.  Cost is $99.

Gas-Bag-Fuel-Safe-Bladder-top

 

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KTM 4T Fuel Tanks

When I decided to start doing multi-day adventure rides with my KTM 350 XCF-W, it soon became apparent that I needed to increase my fuel range.  Since we have three bikes in the family, we have been able to try a variety of fuel tank options.  This report is specifically for KTM four-stroke bikes with fuel injection, but the concepts apply to any bike.  In a previous report, I discuss some of the other modifications I have done to my bike to get it ‘adventure’ ready.

Acerbis makes a variety of fuel tank options, including the two KTM Powerparts fuel tank options.  There are also other sizes available from other suppliers, but I will not cover those in this report.

On a dual-sport ride, I usually get about 56 mpg with 14:50T sprockets.  But to be safe, I usually assume that I will only get 50 mpg.  That gives me a little margin in case things go wrong.  Your mileage will probably differ from mine – it is a function of your gearing, the type of terrain, and how much you twist the throttle.

Here is a table that estimates my fuel range for some of the common fuel tank sizes:

Tank Range

 

KTM 2.25 Gallon Tank (stock)

Tanks Feb2016-010

Stock fuel tank

I use the stock tank for trail riding and get roughly 100 miles of range.  For adventure rides, I use a larger tank. One disadvantage of fuel injected bikes is that there is a fuel pump assembly inside the tank.  This means you either need to buy a second fuel pump (at roughly $350), or take the time to swap the assembly to the other tank.  The stock fuel pump assembly fits in any of the tanks listed above.

Tanks Feb2016-011

Top view of stock tank

Acerbis 3.0 Gallon Tank

Both of my children have the Acerbis 3.0 gallon tank, giving them a range of about 150 miles.  The tank uses the stock shrouds, so it maintains the basic look of the stock tank.  The tank is slightly wider, but not much.  It is a really good choice if you need just a little more range than stock.  It is small and light enough that you don’t need to swap it out with the stock tank.

Adventure ready

Acerbis 3.0 gallon tank

KTM 13L Gallon Tank

The next size up is the 13 liter KTM Powerparts tank (made by Acerbis).  This tank uses the stock low-profile fuel cap and only comes in orange.  I have used this tank for about two years for both trail riding and adventure rides.  It gives me a range of roughly 175 miles.  It is a little wider than the stock tank, but at 6’2″ tall, the width hasn’t bothered me.  It also offers better protection for the radiators than the stock shrouds.

Tanks Feb2016-001

KTM Powerparts 13L tank (3.5 gal)

This tank came with some rubber bumpers that mount to the radiators to prevent puncturing a hole in the tank.

Tanks Feb2016-002

Rubber bumper

Acerbis 4.1 & 5.3 Gallon Tanks

Acerbis makes a 4.1 gallon tank, which is quite popular.  I personally have not used this tank, but I suspect it is a great choice if you want a 200 mile range.  I was actually considering buying this tank when I happened to find a good deal on a lightly used 5.0 gallon tank with a fuel pump.  They also make a 5.3 gallon tank.

KTM 5.0 Gallon Tank

When I bought the used KTM Powerparts 5.0 gallon tank I assumed it was the same as the Acerbis 5.3 gallon tank.  I knew it had a KTM logo, but thought it was otherwise the same tank.  It turns out it really is a 5.0 gallon tank.  I suspect the difference is that this tank will fit with the EXC emissions canister whereas the 5.3 gallon tank will not.  This tank is certainly wider than the others, but when you need a 250 mile range, it is a really good option.  It carries the weight up front and low, which is good when you have all of your camping gear loaded on the back of the bike.

Tanks Feb2016-003

KTM Powerparts 5.0 gallon tank

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Top view of 5.0 gal tank

Here is a comparison photo showing the width of each tank.

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Comparison photo

If the tank you have doesn’t give you the range you need, check out my post about carrying extra fuel on your bike.

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GPS Trip Planning

A few years ago I posted an article explaining how I use a GPS and mapping software to plan an adventure.  Those methods worked fairly well for my typical day rides on my dirt bike, but now that I am planning multi-day adventures covering a much larger area, my old methods have proved rather tedious.

New Tools

While planning a six-day adventure ride covering approximately 1000 miles, I found that my old GPS did not have enough memory to hold all of the planned routes.  Furthermore, my mapping software lacked advanced features that would make route planning much easier.  So, I began researching alternatives.  I would like to thank Dave McIntire for helping me evaluate and test alternate strategies and tools.

I haven’t yet selected which GPS I will buy, but I am currently leaning towards the Garmin Montana.  As for mapping software, I have settled on Garmin BaseCamp.  At first I didn’t like BaseCamp – it didn’t seem as nice as Memory-Map – but I found that most of the issues were just a matter of becoming familiar with the tool.  There are three key advantages that convinced me it was time to switch tools:

  1. BaseCamp supports auto-generation of routes.
  2. BaseCamp directly interfaces with Google Earth.
  3. BaseCamp interfaces better with a Garmin GPS than my previous tools.

Note: This article is not intended to be a full tutorial on BaseCamp – there are plenty of tutorials and videos on the web already.  My focus will be on the process of planning an adventure.

Research

I enjoy researching new areas to explore.  The Internet makes it really easy to find a lot of useful information, but I also enjoy reading guide books for the area of interest.  I have found a lot of very useful information in user forums by reading other people’s trip reports.  I also enjoy watching YouTube/Vimeo videos so I can get a sense for the difficulty of a trail or road.

Regardless of how much research you enjoy doing, the first step in planning any adventure is to have an idea of where you want to go.  If your adventure can benefit from a GPS and a little pre-trip planning, perhaps my lessons learned can help you on your way.

You may even find existing GPS files (GPX is a common exchange format) which you can download and import into your mapping software.  This may save you a lot of time, or at least give you a path to follow.

Maps

I really liked the maps I purchased for Memory-Map.  There were multiple levels of detail, so I could select the one that worked best based on the scale of my trip.  But as with most older tools, the maps were raster maps – meaning they are essentially a digital photograph of a map.

The newer Garmin Maps have vector data in addition to the base map.  This data provides a mathematical description of major roadways, giving the mapping software and your GPS the ability to compute a route.  So, it was time to buy yet another set of maps.  I ended up buying the Garmin 24k Topo maps for the states nearby.

After installing the maps into BaseCamp (a free application from Garmin), I also installed portions of the map into my GPS.  My older GPS would not directly support map sets larger than 2 GB, so I had to remove my 4 GB micro-SD card and load the maps via an SD card reader.

You can launch the Garmin MapInstall program from within BaseCamp.  You then select the map you want to load and the segments to load (highlighted in red below).  You can even select segments from multiple maps.  The green bar on the right indicates how much memory will be used.  I was able to load 100k maps for the entire western United States, all of Utah and Idaho and portions of surrounding states at 24k resolution on my 4 GB card.  It does take a few hours to transfer this much data to the SD card.

MapLdUtah

Waypoints

Waypoints are a way of marking a specific location. For example, you can mark key junctions on your route, campsites, towns, points of interest, etc.  You can even select a symbol that visually helps you understand what type of waypoint you have created.

When I transferred waypoints from my older software tools, the symbols were generally lost when transferring to the GPS.  With BaseCamp, many of the symbols are compatible with my GPS, so the symbol transfers intact.  The following snapshot shows a waypoint with a blue flag symbol.

Points Tracks Routes

Tracks

The above snapshot shows a hand drawn track in the light cyan color.  Because it was hand drawn, it does not follow the road very accurately.

Tracks are useful for highlighting your desired path – both on the map (which you can print out if you wish) and you can transfer the track to the GPS.

With my older software, none of my tracks would be visible in my GPS.  I would manually have to enable each track and select a color.  With BaseCamp, the color of the track is transferred to the GPS and all tracks are visible, reducing the amount of effort on my part.

The GPS will also record the actual track as you follow your path.  By using a different color for the recorded track, you can easily see if you are deviating from your intended path.  And when you return to your computer, you can replace your hand drawn track with the actual GPS recorded track for a more accurate record of your trip.

Note: If you store your planned tracks on the SD card and your actual recorded tracks in internal memory (or visa-versa), it is easy to upload just your recorded tracks to your computer after your trip.

Routes

The green line in the above snapshot is a route.  A route is essentially a series of waypoints (notice the small black dots) with a straight line connecting the dots.  It is easier to create a route than a track because you simply drop waypoints along the road rather than tracing the entire road.

With BaseCamp’s auto generate capability, routes are sometimes very easy to build (and sometimes not).  After selecting the route creation tool, click on the map at your starting point.  When you move the cursor to the next point along the route, you see a line between the mouse pointer to the previous point, as shown below.

Rubber Band

Once you click the next point, BaseCamp computes intermediate shape points (the black dots referenced earlier) and fills in the detail for the route to follow the road.  When it works, this is a huge time saver.

AutoGenerate

The tool generally works quite well if there aren’t a lot of intersections along the way.  But when there are alternate paths to choose from, the tool often gets confused, as shown in this example:

Bizzare Loops

When the tool generates bogus paths, hit Ctrl-Z to undo.  You can sometimes get a better result by zooming in and picking points closer together.  Or you may actually get better results by zooming out so the side roads become hidden.

Sometimes you will get better results if you reverse the route.  This causes the software to recompute the route coming in the opposite direction.  Reversing routes is also handy if you want to combine two or more routes into one.  If one route goes the opposite direction, it may connect the wrong ends together.

When auto generate doesn’t do what you want, you may have to hand create the route segment by segment, or draw a track by hand.

Example Plan

The following diagram is an example plan that combines two nearby canyons into a scenic loop.

Loop

The green and blue lines are routes that I created using the auto generate feature.  I did have some trouble on the far left due to all of the side roads in town, but I eventually got it to work.

The red and cyan lines are tracks that I hand drew just for comparison.

After drawing my loop, I entered waypoints at key intersections and points of interest.

Once my plan is complete, I can transfer it to my GPS for navigation.  You can also convert between tracks and routes – so you can load whichever you prefer into your GPS.

When following a route on a GPS, it will show you the distance and bearing to the next waypoint.  This can work great if you are covering a large distance on major roads, but if you are riding on trails, the waypoints may really clutter up your GPS display.  For dirt bike outings, I therefore prefer to transfer tracks to the GPS and simply follow the colored line.

Google Earth

I have found Google Earth to be a great resource for trip planning.  It gives you a satellite image of the terrain as well as a coarse 3D representation of the terrain.  I have learned, however, that the actual trail is generally more technical than it might appear on Google Earth.

You can do route planning directly in Google Earth, which can then be exported and converted to a form that your mapping software can read.  But if you do your design in BaseCamp, you can view it in Google Earth without exporting and converting any files.  This makes it really easy to spot check your design as you go and make sure your plan is sound.

If you find any errors in your design, you should correct them in BaseCamp.  Alternately, you can correct them in Google Earth, export them, convert them, and import them back into BaseCamp – but you generally loose something in the conversion process – so proceed with caution.

Here is a top down view of our loop as viewed in Google Earth.  Notice that it is a little difficult to read because the tracks are overlaid with a large number of waypoints.  The routes also have all of the shape points showing.

GE Top View

You can deselect the points in both the track and the routes to get a much cleaner look.

GE Top View wo Points

You can also view your plan in 3D to get a sense for the terrain.

GE 3D

I have also found it interesting to examine photos that others have inserted in Google Earth along my intended route.  This allows me to get a sense for the terrain and difficulty of the trail.

The following snapshot shows how my hand drawn track deviates from the actual road.  If the deviation is too large, it may be worth redrawing the track.

GE Track Error

I would also note that you should be looking straight down (hit the “R” key) when checking for path accuracy.  Otherwise the inaccuracies in the 3D earth model will exaggerate the errors.

Summary

Learning to properly use a GPS and GPS mapping software takes time.  Luckily, I enjoy learning this sort of thing.  And I like to do the research to learn about new areas.  While my old methodologies still work, I have been excited to learn some new tools and techniques that will hopefully help me be better prepared for my trips.

But if you are the type that doesn’t consider it an adventure unless you head off into the great unknown, then by all means, go enjoy your adventure.  But for those, like me, that like to know as much as possible before exploring an area, I hope that some of my tips will be useful.  Plan your adventure and then go enjoy it in safety!

 

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Five Mile Pass – Nov 2015

Nov. 14, 2015

The forecast called for clear and sunny skies, with highs around 55º, so Jamie and I decided to spend the afternoon out at Five Mile Pass. Kevin’s work got canceled, so he decided to join us. This would be his first chance to ride the KTM 350.

We wanted a mellow ride, so we opted to stay out of the hills and ride on the south side of the highway. One of my objectives was to explore the single track trail I found last spring. I traced it out on Google Earth and it looks to be about a four mile long loop.

We worked our way south enjoying some fast cruising on easy Jeep roads with some smooth banked turns. It didn’t take us very long to get to the start of the single track loop.

As we were about to start the loop, Kevin was unable to get his bike started. We checked the fuel pump, the fuel filter, and wiggled some wires. We finally figured out the start/kill button had rotated on the handlebars and the kill button was being depressed by the throttle cable. Once we figured that out, we were back on the trail.

Jamie took the lead, with me filming her and Kevin bringing up the rear.

Jamie starting on the single track

The first part of the trail is in a gully. It is fairly tight, but not overly technical. It is actually a pretty good trail for people to practice single track. There are no serious obstacles and no steep side hills to fall off of.

Portions of the trail that are in the shade still had snow. Luckily the ground was frozen, so we didn’t have to deal with mud.

There was snow in the shade

After a while I let Kevin pass me so I could film him. He hasn’t ridden very much single track, but he did very well.

Kevin

The trail went out into a farmer’s fields and we missed a turn. We ended up riding several miles of ATV trail and bumpy Jeep roads working our way around so we could pick up the last portion of the single trail. We ended up missing about half of the single track, so we will have to go back and try again someday.

The last portion is on a knoll. To get on top we had to negotiate a fairly steep hill climb with loose rocks. Everyone made it up fine, but it did require you to pay close attention to the trail. Kevin commented that it was much easier on the KTM 350 than it would have been on his old DR-Z400. The newer, lighter bikes are so much easier to manage. In fact, later on in the day I noticed Kevin darting back and forth on the trail “playing” around – something he seldom, if ever, did on the DR-Z400.

Kevin makes the rocky hill climb

View from the top of the knoll

Heading down the other side

After finishing the loop, we took one lap around an old motocross track on the edge of the farm field. We quickly remembered why we don’t race – we don’t jump, we can’t make tight corners, we don’t like whoops, and we ride really, really slow.

A jump on the old motocross track

Banked turns

It was getting late, so we started working our way back to the car. We rode north to the bottom of the wash coming from Seven Mile Pass. I have previously ridden down this wash several times, but this was my first time riding up. It is a really fun ride with lots of banked turns. But it was a little difficult to see because we were riding into the setting sun.

Heading up the wash towards Seven Mile Pass

Fun banked turns

This is one of my favorite trails

There is one rocky section near the top. I think Kevin was in a gear higher than he wanted, so he got stalled for a while.

There is one rocky stretch near the top

We then cruised back to the car on the easy roads down below the foothills.

Cruising back to the car

We quickly loaded up the car and headed home for dinner. It was a fun afternoon. We rode almost 35 miles in only 2.5 hours. And best of all, no one crashed.

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