Snake River – July 2015

July 20-22, 2015

Our family planned a three-day trip to enjoy the rapids on the Snake River through Alpine Canyon in Wyoming. The water was fairly low (~4460 cfs), so there were only a few rapids with large waves, but even a low water rafting trip is better than no rafting trip.

We decided to go mid-week to avoid the weekend crowd. We left home early Monday morning and got chased by a rain storm all the way to Star Valley, Wyoming. The temperature was quite chilly, so we decided to camp at Alpine Campground near the shores of Palisades Reservoir rather than deal with the colder temperatures up in the canyon. This also provided a safer campsite for the grandchildren.

Relaxing around camp

We arrived at camp later than planned and the weather was marginal, so we decided to hang out at camp rather than do a chilly run on the river that evening.

The girls loved playing in Jamie’s hammock

Dinner time

Jamie is becoming an expert at building camp fires

The weather warmed up nicely on Tuesday so we were able to enjoy two runs. We started the first run at the Elbow put-in about 2.5 miles upriver from the more popular West Table put-in. We let Sophie and Aspen float through this mellow 2.5 mile stretch and then the adults continued on for the main run.

Sophie and Aspen are ready to go

Approaching West Table

The best rapids at this flow are Double D, Big Kahuna, and Rope. On our first run we hit all three of the large waves perfectly, but unfortunately I left the helmet camera in the car. I did get video of the afternoon run and our Wednesday morning run, but we didn’t hit any of the waves quite square on.

Double D

Approaching Kahuna

Kahuna

Rope Rapid

After rolling up the raft, we headed for home at about 4:00 PM on Wednesday – just before a big storm front hit. As we drove through Alpine the wind was really blowing hard, with lots of dust in the air. On the drive home we passed through four such storm fronts and had lots of wind, lightning, and pouring rain. We got home fairly late, so we spent much of the day on Thursday drying out the tents and putting all of our gear away. It was a short trip and took a lot of work, but it was fun to spend time with the family and enjoy some time on the river.

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Duchesne Ridge Adventure Ride – July 2015

July 10-11, 2015 Last year, for my first over-night adventure ride, I spent two nights camping in the Uinta Mountains. I wanted Jamie and Jason to enjoy a similar experience, but we only had time for two days of riding and one night of camping. I decided to explore the area around Duchesne Ridge since I have never been in that area before. The scenery turned out to be spectacular!

Beautiful mountain scenery

We spent a few evenings prepping our bikes and loading our luggage. On Friday morning, we were ready to depart.

Ready to ride

The plan was to leave from home (in Sandy), go up American Fork Canyon, take Main Canyon from Wallsburg to Daniel’s Summit and stop for gas and lunch, then on to the West Fork of the Duchesne River. Our original plan was to camp along the North Fork of the Duchesne, but we got behind schedule and didn’t make it that far. That turned out to be a good thing – I doubt we would have found a place to camp along the North Fork on a Friday evening. The plan for Saturday was to cut through Soapstone Basin on our way to Wolf Creek Pass. Because we were behind schedule we decided to skip the Soapstone section and just ride the highway to the pass. From the pass we rode along the Duchesne Ridge, dropped down to Mill Hollow Reservoir, then worked our way to Heber, stopped for lunch in Midway, then returned home via Guardsman’s Pass and Big Cottonwood Canyon. We had a good mixture of paved road, easy dirt road, and somewhat rougher Jeep roads. We even threw in a little bit of single track along the way. We encountered rain and had to take a break for about 45 minutes while a lightning storm passed by. We covered about 235 miles over the course of two days.

Our GPS track

Our GPS track

In general I don’t like riding on pavement on a small dirt bike – especially with heavy traffic. I therefore planned our route to stay off the main roads as much as possible. We worked our way south by taking the Dimple Dell road, then over Traverse Mountain to Highland, and then up American Fork Canyon.

American Fork Canyon

American Fork Canyon is fairly steep with a lot of switchbacks and turns, so it is perfect for a motorcycle. But to add to the excitement, we rode two sections of my favorite single track just to see what it was like with a fully loaded bike. These are some of the easiest single track trails in American Fork Canyon, so we didn’t have any problem, but we found that having a heavier bike certainly took some of the fun out of the ride.

Single track

Weaving through the brush

We then rode down to Cascade Springs and took the dirt road to Charleston. The road was in good repair this year – last time I was here it had severe wash boards. We took a short jaunt down the highway along Deer Creek Reservoir, and then turned east towards the small town of Wallsburg. This is where the rain started.

Rain in Wallsburg

The rain was a little annoying, but the scary thing was all of the lightning in the mountains – right where we were heading. So, we decided to seek shelter and found a bench under an overhang in the Wallsburg LDS Girl’s Camp (which was unoccupied).

Waiting out the storm

We let the storm front – and the lightning – pass us by, and then decided to press on and see how muddy Main Canyon would be. Main Canyon turned out to be quite rocky, with somewhat sandy soil, so the rain didn’t pose a problem.

Still raining in Main Canyon

There is one hill climb with bowling ball sized rocks that were a little slippery due to the rain. Jamie and I made it up fine, but Jason took a spill.

The rockiest section of Main Canyon (and our trip)

We arrived at Daniel’s Summit Lodge at about 3:00 PM. We bought gas (expensive) and had a wonderful, but late, lunch.

A late lunch at Daniel’s Summit

When we came out from lunch, the sun was shining and it looked like we might have some good weather going forward.

Closeup of the mountain trails

Closeup of the mountain trails

A short ways down the highway from the summit is a dirt road (#143) that heads over towards Currant Creek Reservoir. This road is somewhat rocky and the soil isn’t as sandy as Main Canyon. Luckily the mud wasn’t a problem. We continued east on #92, then turned north on #82 and #83, which leads to Mill Hollow.

Beautiful country

Wildflowers

Scenic overlook

We turned east on trail #50, which follows the West Fork of the Duchesne River. I was surprised that the trail was rockier and rougher than I expected, since I was under the impression that this was a popular ride for those with large adventure bikes. With our smaller bikes the ride was quite enjoyable, and the scenery was great.

Starting down the West Fork of the Duchesne River

We decided to ride until about 6:00 PM, and then find a place to camp. Most of the good campsites were taken, but we finally found a site with a fire ring that was unoccupied. It turns out that this was probably the very last available campsite within an hour of riding.

Camp

The campsite wasn’t the best – but it would do. The only semi-flat ground was on the dead-end road – but that meant you ended up sleeping in the tire trough. We collected a bunch of firewood from downed Aspen trees, and then spent about 45 minutes trying to start a fire so we could warm up our pre-cooked tin foil dinners. Even with two Eagle Scouts in the group we could not get a fire going. We need to add a few essentials to our packing list! I did, however, have a small backpacking stove, so we were able to convert our foil dinners to beef stew, so we didn’t go to bed hungry. We even topped it off with freeze dried Crème Brûlée. It rained again during the night, so our tents were nice and wet in the morning. Rather than wait for them to dry, we packed up and pressed on. Shortly after leaving camp we came to a small reservoir. Beyond that point the road was much smoother and wider and there were far fewer campsites. But the scenery continued to amaze.

West Fork

After passing the Moon Ranch we arrived at Highway 35. We rode east, then north to scope out the North Fork Road. This road was paved about half way, then dirt. It was a very scenic ride.

North Fork Road

We returned to the highway and rode up to Wolf Creek Pass. After a short break at the pass, we took road #91 along the Duchesne Ridge. I planned on stopping for a snack while we enjoyed the view, but there was a cold wind blowing and we wanted to get off the mountain before an afternoon storm hit.

Mud along Duchesne Ridge

This was a fun ride, but there were numerous mud holes along the way. Some of them were much deeper than they looked. Luckily no one had trouble getting through.

Mud and meadows

Great views

The temperature warmed up as we dropped in elevation on our way to Mill Hollow. I hadn’t been there since 7th grade science camp many, many years ago. It didn’t look familiar at all. The parking area was extremely full, so we opted to press on.

Mill Hollow Reservoir

A few miles further down the road is an old guard station that is all boarded up. There was a nice fire pit with log benches, so we enjoyed our snack there.

Snack time at the guard station

After our break we took trail #122 up to trail #60. Trail #122 was somewhat rocky, but not too difficult on small bikes.

Trail #122 is somewhat rocky

Trail #60 was a blast! It was mostly smooth dirt that twisted through the pines. Frequent mud puddles added to the pleasure as we wove past them. This was the most enjoyable dirt road of the trip.

Fast cruising on trail #060

Trail #96 was also really fun. Our plan was to take trail #310 west, and then drop down into Heber. We quickly found that #310 is private property, so we had to take the pavement down to town. But that wasn’t all bad – this road was really fun on a bike. It was very smooth and wove through the trees and various cabin properties.

A fun ride down the pavement

We stopped in Midway for gas and another late lunch. We each got a nice hamburger and milk shake – which really hit the spot.

Lunch in Midway

Just as we were finishing our lunch a gust of wind blew my bike over – and just like dominoes, my bike knocked Jason’s over, which in turn knocked Jamie’s bike over. The bikes didn’t sustain much damage, but all three of our helmets did. The temperature really dropped as we climbed towards Guardsman’s Pass, and it began to rain once again. Luckily it was a small storm and quickly blew over. We arrived at home with just enough time to unload and wash our bikes before dinner. It was a great trip and a great introduction to moto-camping for Jason. We learned a few lesson and will go better prepared next time. Jamie also learned that the KTM 250 lacks the power of the KTM 350. She did fine except on steep climbs on the pavement. The bike just didn’t have the power to maintain speed in 6th gear. That will soon be remedied with a few minor mods. Until next time…

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Skyline Drive – July 2015

July 3, 2015

Now that Jason has completed his two-year service mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was time to get him back in the mountains and enjoy a day of dirt biking. We decided to start off with something easy, so we did a variant of a ride from a few years ago on the Skyline Drive. Last time we rode the 50 mile loop clockwise and rode up Fish Creek Ridge. This time we went counter-clockwise and rode down Bear Ridge. We parked at the staging area near the old Tucker Rest Stop in Spanish Fork Canyon. Here is our GPS track.

GPS track

GPS track

Here is our helmet camera video:

This portion of the Skyline Drive is very easy. It quickly climbs in elevation, starting at around 6400’ and climbing to around 9000’.

Heading up the Skyline Drive

Once you get up on top, the terrain opens up with great views in all directions.

Up on top

We decided to explore a few side spurs in the area since we have not spent much time in this area. Our first side spur was Garret Ridge. The first part of the trail, as shown below, is wide open, but the trail soon enters a dense wooded area. We didn’t go all the way to the end of the trail (if it does end), but we enjoyed the ride for a few miles before turning back.

Garret Ridge

Our next spur took us out near Brown’s Peak. This trail was fairly rough and rutted, so Kim didn’t enjoy it much. I think the trail continues on all the way down to the valley near Indianola, but we stopped at the first scenic overlook.

Jason near Brown’s Peak

I asked Jason how he liked the new KTM (he didn’t know we had it until after returning from his mission). He said basically the same thing that Jamie did after her first ride; “this bike goes where I aim”. He felt it was a great improvement over my old crf250x that he used to ride.

Kim approaching the overlook

Kim was not excited to learn that we had to ride back over the rough road, but she took her time and made it just fine.

Heading back from Brown’s Peak

Our final spur was Johnson Ridge. At the end of this short road we stopped and ate lunch in the shade. After lunch we rode back to the north on Skyline Drive and then east down Bear Ridge road.

Bear Ridge

The top part of Bear Ridge was really a fun family ride, but it got fairly rough later on.

Bear Ridge

The rough part of the trail wasn’t overly difficult – it was just rough with rocks embedded in the ground.

The rough portion of Bear Ridge

Just prior to merging with the Starvation Road you get a nice view of Scofield Reservoir off in the distance.

View of Scofield Reservoir

Starvation Road is fairly low in elevation, so it was a pretty warm ride back to the car. Luckily the road is in good condition so we could keep moving to keep cool. Our total ride, including spurs and lunch, covered about 52 miles and took about 4 hours.

Having not ridden for two years, Jason was a little nervous as we first started on the ride, but it didn’t take him long to get comfortable on the bike. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t keep up with him.

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Hobble Creek Single Track – May 2015

May 30, 2015

I have ridden many of the single track trails in Diamond Fork canyon, but not the ones in Hobble Creek. The Uinta Trail Council cleared the trails from tree fall the prior week, so we decided to explore the trails. Four of us went; me, Bob, Ron, and Ross. Ross borrowed my Husaberg for its last ride before I sell it.

The red track on the map below shows our route. The blue dashed lines are the single track trails that we didn’t get to.

Hobble Creek trail map

Hobble Creek trail map

We staged at the Kirkman Hollow trailhead up Hobble Creek Canyon. We met up at about 9:00 AM and beat most of the crowd.

Kirkman Hollow (trail #012) was a little more challenging than I expected, but it was within my skill level. I hadn’t ridden tight single track for some time, so I was a little nervous at first. But my confidence and pace picked up fairly quickly. Soil conditions were just about perfect. The recent rains kept the dust down and gave us nice tacky soil. There were a few small mud puddles in the low spots, but they didn’t pose a problem.

Trail #012 tees into trail #013, which we rode east through Burnt Hollow. This trail primarily follows the ridge line, so it was significantly easier than Kirkman Hollow. It was a very enjoyable trail with occasional views of the nearby mountain ranges. There was one section that followed a barbed wire fence, so you want to stay focused on not go off the trail.

The trail eventually merged with the Pumphouse Ridge road (#115), then forks off and down to Sawmill Hollow. I had heard that this section had loose and steep switchbacks, but they really weren’t that bad. There were a few steep sections and some exposed tree roots and rocks, but for the most part it was a fun trail. To my surprise, it was much easier coming back up. It seemed fairly challenging going down, but quite easy coming up (but not a beginner trail).

Next we rode down Packard Canyon (trail #091). This was the easiest trail of the day. I think my children would really enjoy this trail. We took a short break at the bottom, and then headed back up.

Right after starting back up, we took a wrong fork in the trail. This trail soon faded out, so we fanned out trying to find the trail. Most of us quickly gave up, but someone (I won’t say who), pressed on and bushwhacked his way through trying to find the main trail. It turns out he found an old trail that went up a different canyon. We spent the next 3 hours trying to find him and make sure he wasn’t hurt. By the time we met up again, we were tired and decided to call it a day. We will have to return another time to explore the remaining single track trails.

Below are  a few video clips and some screen grabs from my helmet camera.

Kirkman Hollow staging area

There were some rocky sections

And some side hill exposure on narrow trails

But mostly smooth trails winding through the brush

Beautiful scenery

Stopping to enjoy the view (or wait for me)

Winding through the trees

And meadows

Sawmill Hollow

Heading back up #013

Be careful riding along the fence line

Beautiful trails

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Cedar Mesa Adventure Ride – Apr-May 2015

Apr. 30-May 2, 2015

For some time Jamie has wanted to do a multi-day motorcycle adventure and camp along the trail. She was able to break free for a few days after finishing another semester at the University of Utah, so we put a trip plan together.

I had read several trip reports on AdvRider.com of scenic rides in southeastern Utah near Mexican Hat. The more I learned about the area, the more I wanted to go explore it. The area is rich with incredible scenery and vistas, ancient Indian ruins, and history from the Mormon Hole-In-The-Rock expedition.

The trick was to stitch together the most interesting trails in a way that would be appropriate for our small dirt bikes. We could take trails usually avoided by larger adventure bikes, but we wanted to minimize our time on paved roads – especially with 65 mph traffic. We also wanted to avoid trails that were overly technical or had miles of deep sand.

After several iterations, we came up with a plan that included Butler Wash, a portion of Comb Wash, Valley of the Gods, John’s Canyon, Goosenecks of the San Juan, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Snow Flat Road, Elk Mountain Road, Cheese & Raisins (Whiskers Draw), and a portion of Cottonwood Wash. We also worked out a visit to at least one Indian ruin each day.

Be sure to watch the highlights video in HD on YouTube:

Participants included:

  • Dee Gardiner (trip leader) – KTM 350
  • Jamie Gardiner – KTM 350
  • Bob Dawson – KTM 525
  • Scott Barton – DR-Z400E
  • Ross Vellinga – KLR 685
  • Scott Connors – KLR 650
  • Jordan Connors – XR350

The total loop worked out to be about 237 miles and took 2.5 days to complete. We started at 10:00 AM on Thursday, April 30, and finished our ride at noon on Saturday, May 2. The following map shows our route, with a different color representing each day’s ride.

Three-day loop covering 237 miles

Three-day loop covering 237 miles

We left Salt Lake City after work on Wednesday. Half of the group stayed in a motel in Monticello while the other half camped at the trailhead. Prior to meeting at the trailhead, we drove over to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and picked up our reserved permits to hike into Moonhouse Ruin.

Day 1: Butler Wash, Comb Wash, Valley of the Gods, John’s Canyon

Our plan was to meet at the trailhead where Hwy 95 crosses Comb Wash at 9:00 AM. We arrived right on time, and after loading our bikes, hit the trail at about 10:00 AM. We rode pavement back along Hwy 95 through Comb Ridge and turned south into Butler Wash. Here is a map showing our first day’s route.

Day 1 - 88.5 miles

Day 1 – 88.5 miles

Butler Wash turned out to be sandier than I expected. It wasn’t deep sand, but it did take a little while to get used to riding a heavily loaded dirt bike in sandy conditions. Jamie and I had helmet radios, and after checking her status a few times I had confidence that she would do just fine. She ended up completing the trip without a single crash (not everyone can make that claim).

In spite of the sand, Butler Wash was a fun ride. We stopped about 2/3 of the way through and hiked to Monarch Cave ruin. This hike was not very difficult, and it was interesting to see some of the relics at the site. Jamie noted; “this is like a museum without the museum”.

Jamie hiking to Monarch Cave Ruin

Monarch Cave Ruin

After completing the hike we finished Butler Wash, took Hwy 163 to Comb Wash and rode down to the San Juan River. We got stopped for construction along the highway, which turned out to be a good thing. We were later able to ride all the way to Valley of the Gods without any traffic coming up behind us. Being on small dirt bikes I find high-speed highways the most nerve racking, and it was nice to just cruise along at 55 mph without cars passing us.

Comb Wash had the most sand and the deepest sand of our entire journey. Those on heavier KLRs struggled and had a few crashes through this section. But for those of us on smaller dirt bikes, this was one of the most enjoyable trails of the route. The trail has several tight banked turns as it winds down the wash towards the San Juan River.

We ate lunch in the shade of a cottonwood tree near the bank of the river. We enjoyed this break and a chance to get out of the sun since the temperature was in the 80s.

Lunch near the San Juan River

After lunch we wanted to visit San Juan Hill – the last and hardest hill climb of the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition, River House Ruin, and the remains of the old Barton Trading Post. The Barton’s that were killed here were ancestors of Scott Barton, so that added special meaning to our visit.

San Juan Hill

Scott near his ancestor's trading post

Scott near his ancestor’s trading post

There was a steep rocky section of the trail leading to those sites, and Jamie and I didn’t feel like attempting it with our fully loaded bikes (even though the KLRs made it just fine). In hindsight, this is my only regret of the trip – we should have made the climb so that we could visit all three historic sites.

We walked up the hill and down the trail to the base of San Juan Hill. Since we were in our motorcycle boots we decided not to walk all the way over to River House Ruin. We had already visited it on our San Juan River trip a few years ago. The rest of the group stopped to see the remains of the Barton trading post, but only Bob made it all the way to River House Ruin. It is unfortunate that we were so close, but missed out on that spectacular ruin.

After getting the group back together we road back up Comb Wash. Once again those on larger bikes struggled. They were excited to spend some time on the pavement, whereas those of us on smaller bikes were not looking forward to the pavement.

Luckily we had no traffic as we worked our way west to the Valley of the Gods trail. The Valley of the Gods trail is an easy 17 mile ride past a number of large monoliths. It was a relaxing and scenic ride.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

By the time we reached Hwy 261 it was getting late, so we decided to ride out to John’s Canyon and find a place to camp. John’s Canyon Road was a fun ride. It was also about 17 miles long. It reminded us of the White Rim trail since it followed a plateau above a river. We found an excellent grassy place to camp about a mile up John’s Canyon. Most of us enjoyed steak and potatoes for dinner.

Jamie and Bob enjoying the ride along John’s Canyon Road

Jamie’s tent and bike

Steak for dinner

Sunset in John’s Canyon

We were all tired from the heat, the hikes, and the 88 miles of riding. It was nice to sit and relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery at camp. As the sun set we even got serenaded by a bunch of frogs.

Day 2: Goosenecks of the San Juan, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Snow Flat Road

We awoke to another beautiful sunny day. After a nice breakfast (Jamie and I had our family’s “Super Scrambled Eggs”) we packed up and rode back out along the John’s Canyon Road and out to Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park.

Day 2 - 100 miles

Day 2 – 100 miles

Breakfast time

Jamie and Dee at the Goosenecks Overlook

We then rode down to Mexican Hat for fuel, water, and an ice cream. After a short break, we headed to the Moki Dugway. I first encountered the Moki Dugway many years ago on a spring break trip during my college days. I then visited it again while doing shuttle for our San Juan River trip. But for most of the group, this was their first time here. As you approach the dugway you wonder where the road goes. It climbs 1200’ to the top of the mesa, and the road continues on almost directly above where it approaches the bottom of the cliff. The switchbacks are really spectacular. The scenery is also spectacular, so you really have to focus on staying on the road. We stopped at the top to enjoy the view and take some pictures.

Dee and Jamie at the top of Moki Dugway

Panorama from Moki Dugway

Our next stop was Muley Point. We ate our lunch overlooking John’s Canyon Road and the San Juan River. You could also see Monument Valley off in the distance. It is amazing how far you can see from this vantage point. This is another popular place to camp, but it would have been quite exposed to the wind we had the day before.

Lunch near Muley Point

Panorama from Muley Point

After lunch we tried to take an old dirt road that paralleled the pavement, but it quickly became obvious that this road is no longer in use. It took us a while to regroup back on the main road, but once we did, we made good time riding the pavement to Snow Flat Road.

I wanted to ride the entire length of Snow Flat Road, but since we didn’t want to ride through the sand in Comb Wash, we decided to do an out-and-back on the trail.

Snow Flat Road had recently been graded, so there was a fair amount of soft silt to ride through. It wasn’t overly difficult, but I was surprised that the road had so much loose material.

Our destination was a side spur to the trailhead for Moonhouse Ruin. We were lucky enough to reserve 7 out of 20 hiking permits for the day. The short spur down to the trailhead was perhaps the most enjoyable trail of the entire trip. It had fun twists and turns as it meandered through the Juniper trees. There were even some fun banked turns.

After changing into our hiking shoes we began the hike down the cliff to the ruin. It was a fun hike and the ruins were well worth seeing.

Hiking to Moonhouse Ruin

Moonhouse Ruin

Moonhouse Ruin

Upon completion of our hike, we rode back the way we came and continued north on Hwy 261. We found a nice place to camp near the bottom of Elk Mountain Road. The temperature was a little cooler than the night before since we were at a higher elevation.

Day 3: Elk Mountain Road, Cheese & Raisins (Whiskers Draw), Posey Overlook

Jamie had a wedding reception to attend in Salt Lake that evening, so we got an earlier start for our last day of riding. It was a little chilly as we climbed in elevation and rode between the “Bears Ears”. The Elk Mountain Road was in pretty good condition and it was fun to ride through the pines instead of open desert.

Day 3 - 48.5 miles

Day 3 – 48.5 miles

Panorama from Elk Mountain Road

We made good time and decided to take a fun ride on a trail the Jeep community calls “Cheese and Raisins”. I have no idea why it is called that, but it was a really fun trail with a lot of fun banked turns. There was one semi-challenging part where the trail crosses Whiskers Draw, and there were a number of deep ruts that required caution. Nevertheless, it was a really fun ride.

Jamie crossing Whiskers Draw

From there we rode out to Posey Overlook. We hadn’t seen many other people on our entire trip, so I was surprised to see how many people hauled their camp trailers out to the edge of the cliff on top of Comb Ridge. There were campers at almost every possible pullout. The view of Comb Ridge and Comb Wash was spectacular. It seems that I keep using that word – but that is because the entire trip really was spectacular.

Group shot (except for Jamie) at Posey Overlook above Comb Wash

Our last stop was a short hike to Tower House Ruin at the head of Butler Wash.

Tower House Ruin

Tower House Ruin

We arrived back at our cars at noon, packed up and headed for home. Those in my car decided to take the scenic route past Lake Powell while the others went via Moab. We stopped for a hamburger at Stan’s Burger Shack in Hanksville, which is a tradition amongst adventure riders.

A few in the group suffered a few crashes along the ride, but there were no serious injuries. Jordan broke off his front brake lever, but was able to rig up a makeshift lever with some vise-grips and tape. I believe everyone enjoyed the trip and felt that it was well worth the time. The riding had good variety for our skill level, the scenery was spectacular, and we had great weather. It was a great trip!

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Clake SLR Left Hand Rear Brake (LHRB) – Apr 2015

After installing a Rekluse auto-clutch I quickly learned that a left hand rear brake (LHRB) would be a great safety feature – especially for gnarly descents.  The only LHRB I could find at the time was also provided by Rekluse, but it is merely a modified bicycle brake system and I always felt that it was kind of weak. A few months ago an Australian company by the name of Clake (for “clutch-brake”) introduced a new product called a “staggered lever retrofit”, or SLR.  It looked like a much more solid design, so I decided to try one. Clake is a fairly small company and they have been swamped with orders from all around the world.  This, plus the slow shipping from Australia to the US meant that it would take about one month to receive my SLR kit.  Unfortunately it also meant that making contact and getting customer support was very challenging.  Luckily for me, a fellow inmate on AdvRider.com, who lives in Australia, offered to act as middle man and help me sort out a few problems. I was beginning to think my money had been lost and that I would never receive the SLR, but it finally arrived about one month after placing the order.

Clake SLR kit

I was excited to install the new brake lever and test it out.  I began by removing the Rekluse LHRB.  My excitement quickly turned back to frustration when I realized that my kit was missing the two banjo fittings that screw into the ends of the brake line.  That meant I had to contact customer support yet again (thanks to my middleman) and wait about 3 weeks for the missing parts to arrive. Furthermore, my kit did not include any instructions.  The Clake website had a video of how to mount the brake lever assembly to the handlebar, but nothing about converting the rear brake master cylinder or how to bleed the brake line. Since I had already installed the Rekluse kit, it was pretty easy to figure out how to install this unit.  Notice that in the lower ziplock bag in the above photo there is a black cylindrical adapter and a rubber o-ring.  These both go inside the rear brake master cylinder reservoir.  Start by removing the brake fluid from the reservoir and then carefully place the o-ring in the bottom.  Then carefully screw the black adapter into the reservoir.  As it tightens, it should compress the o-ring, forming a tight seal around the adapter.  Essentially the adapter converts the reservoir to a short section of pipe – or brake line.  The new brake reservoir is up on the handlebar with the new lever assembly. The supplied DOT approved brake line then connects to the adapter via a banjo bolt.  Carefully route the line up to the handlebars, avoiding the exhaust pipe or any sharp objects that could wear a hole in the line.  Do not secure the line in place until after you have finished bleeding the system.

Master cylinder adapter

Note: The fluid sight glass on the old reservoir is no longer used to check fluid levels.  Do not worry about the air bubble that will likely be visible in there.  The sight glass is now outside of the fluid path.

Follow the Clake video instructions for mounting the lever unit to the clutch perch.  Then connect the other end of the brake line to this assembly (remove the plastic plug first).

Update: Clake now has a video showing how to properly mount and bleed the line.

Clake SLR mounted to handlebar

Mount the unit so that the reservoir cap is level.  You can adjust it for rider comfort after you finish bleeding the system. Remove the lever from the assembly for easier access to the reservoir cap. It took me about five tries to get the Rekluse LHRB system free of air bubbles.  Air can easily be trapped at any of the banjo bolts, the foot pedal plunger, or at the hand lever plunger.  Learning from that experience, I reverse bled the system this time, which worked much better. I had my son watch the Clake reservoir, ready with a syringe to suck out the brake fluid as I pushed it up from the bottom.  I used a second syringe, filled with brake fluid, to push fluid up the line from the brake caliper, past the foot assembly, and up to the hand lever.  Since the lower part of the line already had fluid, this prevented air from entering the existing brake line or caliper. I continued to push fluid up the line while tapping the foot brake lever, the hand lever, and tapping and wiggling the brake line.  I repeated this process until we stopped getting air bubbles out of the system. I then tightened up the caliper bleed screw and topped off the reservoir before putting the cap back on. I am not 100% certain that I got all of the air out of the system.  The brake works much better (stronger) than the Rekluse brake, but it still seems a little weaker than I expect.  But I think I am experiencing “springiness” rather than “sponginess”.  In other words, the brake rotor is flexing, which causes some give in the brake lever.  But even with this springiness I can lock up the rear wheel with a single finger on the lever. The next step is to adjust the levers for best comfort and access.  It took a little fiddling to get it where I wanted it.  The idea is to use your index finger on the brake lever and your two middle fingers on the clutch lever.  This is new for me, so it will take some getting used to.  But after one day of riding with the new system I am pretty happy with it.  It is particularly handy on gnarly descents – especially when I panic and put my feet down.  It is also great while sitting and cornering.

Lever alignment

Conclusion At first I was concerned about the stability of Clake since they never responded to any of my email queries.  But now that I have the system in place, I am very happy with it.  I think Clake is an honest company – they are just overloaded with orders.  For a small company, I suppose that is a good thing.

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Kanab – Mar 2015

Jamie wanted to go somewhere different this year for spring break, so we decided to go to Kanab, Utah. I had heard about two trails that sounded interesting; Hog Canyon and the Mail Drop Loop. But as I researched them, I found that they consisted of a lot of deep, soft sand. To be blunt – we don’t like sand. I think these trails would be really fun on an ATV or RZR, but they are brutal on a dirt bike. So I began looking for alternate trails.

Peek-A-Boo (Thur. Mar 19)

There is a small slot canyon just north of Kanab that the locals call “Peek-A-Boo”. Most maps list it as “Red Canyon”. We parked at the trailhead labeled “45-TH” on the following map.

Peek-A-Boo GPS track ~47 miles

Peek-A-Boo GPS track ~47 miles

The trail goes northeast from the parking area until you drop into Red Canyon. You then follow the wash to the west until you come to the beginning of the slot canyon. The slot canyon is a nice easy hike that is only about ¼ mile long.

Jamie is ready to ride

Like most of the trails near Kanab, this area is very sandy. We thought we would give it a try since it is only about 3.5 miles to the slot canyon. That would give us a chance to see how bad the sand was and then we could decide which trails to ride during our three-day vacation.

Even riding downhill is challenging

The sand was not as bad as I expected – it was worse. This is probably the deepest and softest sand I have ever ridden in. The trail had numerous ATV and truck ruts, so it was almost impossible to steer.

Jamie kicking up roost

A few short sections of the trail weren’t too bad, while other sections were extremely deep and soft. We both struggled along and made it okay without any crashes. But it was a real workout – even going downhill.

Once you drop into the wash the trail is much easier to ride. The wash bottom has thicker sand and gravel, so you can get some traction.

Dee at the slot canyon trailhead

The hike through the slot is very easy and short. It would be a great hike for young children.

Jamie entering the slot canyon

Peek-A-Boo slot canyon

Riding back to the car was much more difficult because we had to plow our way up hill. We stopped a few times to rest, but we both made it okay.

Once we got back to the car we grabbed our jackets and headed out on a dual-sport ride to explore the area without dealing with more sand.

We first rode around the loop containing the “Best Friends Animal Shelter”. I was totally surprised at how large this animal shelter was. There are several buildings, each dedicated to different kinds of animals. There is a home for dogs, puppies, cats, birds, horses, and probably many more. This was a very interesting and scenic little loop.

We then headed southwest on Hancock Road, which took us out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Jamie was three years old last time we were here, so she didn’t remember it at all. For that matter, I didn’t remember much either. We didn’t pay to enter the park and we had no interest in riding in the sand, but we did stop at a few viewpoints to enjoy the scenery.

Taking a break at Coral Pink Sandy Dunes

To add variety of our ride, we rode back on CR43 to Hwy 89. Both Hancock and CR43 were nice leisurely rides, but once we hit Hwy 89 the tension rose quickly. Our dirt bikes are fairly comfortable up to about 55 mph, but they get sketchy beyond that. Luckily we only got passed by one vehicle on our way back to the car, but those few miles of high-speed pavement reminded us why we like riding in the dirt.

After loading up the trailer and changing clothes, we headed into town and had a nice dinner at the Rocking V restaurant and then checked into our motel and had a nice soak in the hot tub.

Toroweap (Fri. Mar. 20)

Friday was our only full day of riding, so our plan was to ride out to Toroweap (about 60 miles) and back. My wife and I camped out there last year with our Jeep, but I wanted to try the ride on our dirt bikes. Note that to enter Grand Canyon National Park you need to have a street legal bike.

We were concerned that the road may be too muddy since they had a large snow storm in this area about one month earlier. We also worried that there would be huge ruts, making the ride fairly dangerous. But we found that the roads had been recently graded and they were in excellent condition. There was a light layer of loose gravel on top, but we found we could generally average about 40 mph and feel quite safe.

Toroweap GPS track ~160 miles

Toroweap GPS track ~160 miles

We decided to ride out on the Sunshine Trail (CR109) which starts about six miles west of Fredonia. This is the most popular route for cars and trucks, so we feared it might have a lot of wash board and dust, but the trail wasn’t too bad. The biggest struggle was just the length of the road – almost 50 miles before the trail gets interesting.

Jamie starting down the Sunshine Trail (CR109)

Along the way, Jamie called me on the radio and told me there were some wild horses. They crossed the road just before I got there and ran off to the south. They were too fast for me to pull out my camcorder, but I recorded a glimpse of them on my helmet camera.

A short time later Jamie spotted antelope along the side of the road. We both stopped to take some pictures, and they stopped to look at us. As we rode off, the antelope started running again and ran over the top of the hill and down the other side. The road went around the hill, so the antelope ran full speed across the road right in front of me. That was quite a sight.

Antelope

To break up the monotony, we took a detour down a side spur into Hack Canyon. We didn’t go all the way to the end of the road, but it was a fun ride down the canyon. I think the road leads to a hiking trailhead of some kind. I was surprised that this road had also been recently graded.

For further variety, I found a side trail that would bypass a portion of the main route (shown in red on the map). We started up this side trail, but it had a lot of deep ruts and we came to a closed gate. Since it was getting late we decided to stick with the main road so we could enjoy lunch out on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Jamie entering Grand Canyon National Park

Once you enter the National Park the road starts to get rougher, with the roughest section right at the end. It is about 7 miles from the park boundary to the rim, and this portion was really fun on a dirt bike. This is the section that most people don’t like in their trucks or Jeeps.

Toroweap overlook

We passed one truck just before we got to the rim, so we were the only ones there. We enjoyed our lunch break at a picnic table in the shade under a tree. After lunch we explored the rim and took some pictures. The view is certainly worth the long ride!

Looking up river

Looking west, with Lava Falls in the background

We took the Clayhole Road for our return trip. This road goes basically due north and comes out near Colorado City. In order to avoid some pavement, we wanted to take a shortcut on the Navajo Trail (shown in red) or CR241 (shown in orange). We could see the Navajo Trail going west, but found no trace of it going east. We started down CR241 but it didn’t seem like a very well-traveled road. We soon came to a gate and decided we had better turn back. We didn’t know if the road was open to the public since it passes through private property and perhaps Indian Reservation land. If this shortcut would have worked it would have saved us about 15 miles of pavement.

We had to ride about 20 miles of pavement to get back to the car. This was the scariest part of the trip. I let Jamie set the pace and she pushed it at about 60 mph almost the whole way back. Thus, it was about 20 minutes of high tension riding. Luckily we only had about four vehicles that had to pass us. There was a lot of traffic going west, but only a few cars going our way.

We rode a total of about 160 miles. Most of it was easy, but it was still a very tiring day. We quickly went back to the motel for a soak in the hot tub, a shower, and then a late dinner at the Three Bears Café across the street from our motel.

Little Creek Mesa (Sat. Mar. 21)

After the long ride on Friday, I feared we might be too stiff and sore to enjoy another day of riding, but we actually felt pretty good. Jamie said; “we came here to ride, so let’s ride”. That’s my girl!

A few years early a few families did a fun ride on Little Creek Mesa, which is in between Hurricane and Colorado City. Jamie was not able to make that trip, so I thought she might enjoy this ride.

We rode almost the same loop as last time, but this time we went clockwise (shown in orange) instead of counter-clockwise (shown in dashed blue).

Little Creek Mesa GPS track ~30 miles

Little Creek Mesa GPS track ~30 miles

I made one wrong turn which led us out to a cliff edge. I thought we might have a nice view from the edge, but the trail turned before we got there. So we back tracked and returned to the main loop. I took the spur to show Jamie where Scott and Bob took a cold swim last time we were here.

On the west edge of the mesa there are a view nice spurs to viewpoints overlooking Warner Valley, Sand Hollow, and Saint George.

Sand Hollow in the background

We continued on our loop and enjoyed lunch overlooking the abandoned golf course below the radio towers (LCTop).

Above the abandoned golf course

At LC6 rather than stay on the main road we took a rougher road that followed the rim. This road had some sandstone sections with some significant ledges. It wasn’t too hard for Jamie or me, but the families that were with us last time probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

At LCTop there is a trail that goes down the face of the cliff with several tight switchbacks. This looks like a very rough and rocky road.

This loop was about 30 miles long. We finished early, which gave us time to drive home and wash the bikes before dark. This ride was very fun. It had a lot of twists and turns through the trees and a few rocky sections to keep you on your toes, but nothing too difficult or scary. It was a nice relaxing ride in comparison to the two previous days – a great way to end a great trip!

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