White Rim Trail – May 2018

18 May 2018

Jamie and I rode the White Rim Trail back in 2014.  Last time we rode in a clockwise direction and it took us 10 hours to complete the loop.  This included two of the three side spurs; Lathrop Canyon and the White Crack.

This year we rode the third side spur – Taylor Canyon.  We also rode out to White Crack but decided to skip Lathrop canyon.  We rode counter-clockwise this year and made better time – completing the loop in 7.5 hours.

We made better time for two reasons; we had a smaller group, and we had helmet radios so we only stopped when someone wanted to.  We never had to stop and wait just to regroup.  We had six people in 2014, but this year it was just three; me, Jamie, and Jason.

Most of the White Rim trail resides within Canyonlands National Park.  They now require you to obtain a day use permit for each vehicle.  You can obtain a permit on-line up to 24 hours in advance.  We had no idea how difficult it would be to obtain a permit, so we each got one shortly after midnight.  You can also pay your park entry fee on-line so you don’t have to go to the fee station prior to starting the ride.

Our goal was to start our ride at about 8:00 AM so we could be finished by 6:00 PM.  We decided to go out for a nice cooked breakfast since we had a long day ahead of us, so we didn’t get started until about 9:45 AM.  Since we made such good time, we finish by about 5:30 PM.

The road out to the Mineral Bottom switchbacks was in good repair, so we were able to cruise at about 45-50 mph.  You can’t help but wonder how and why someone would build a road down the cliff as you descend the switchbacks.  You also get a nice view of the Green River, so be sure to keep your eyes on the road.

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Heading down to Mineral Bottom

The road then turns south and parallels the Green River for several miles.  In some places you can’t see the river due to the tamarisk trees, but in other places if you go off the road you will go right into the river.

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Following the Green River

We took the six-mile side spur up Taylor Canyon to see the Moses and Zeus rock formations.  I feared this might be a rough and rocky road, but it was really a very pleasant ride.

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Moses and Zeus – the rocks

Next, we came to the Hardscrabble section.  This is probably the hardest part of the trail.  It is a steep climb going either direction and some sections are loose and rocky.  Once you get up on the terrace, you have some great views of the Green River – so once again, pay attention to the road.

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Climbing Hardscrabble

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Riding along the terrace

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Jason on top of Hardscrabble, with Potato Bottom in the background

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Jamie enjoying the view from Hardscrabble

After a short break on top, we descended the steep road on the southern side, then rode through Potato Bottom and continued on the loop.  Some sections along here were really fun, but a lot of it is just straight open desert riding.  You do ride around a lot of small canyons, but from the trail they are difficult to see.  Because most of the trail is along the ‘whitish’ terrace (where the trail earned its name), you often can’t fully appreciate the scenery from the trail.

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Riding around one of many canyons

There are a few climbs and descents to make, but none of them are particularly difficult on a small dirt bike.  Less experienced riders on larger motorcycles could be challenged, however.

The second most difficult section is Murphy’s Hogback.  We stopped for our first lunch break once we got to the top.

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Climbing Murphy’s Hogback

After descending Murphy’s Hogback, which is also fairly steep, we continued on around the loop.  As before, the trail is a mixture of dirt, a little sand, and some sandstone.  We continued on, only stopping for periodic breaks, or to enjoy some great vistas.  By mid-afternoon, we were getting pretty tired of the sandstone sections – many of them are really bumpy.

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A view of the trail from Murphy’s Hogback

I think I prefer the ride in the counter-clockwise direction.  This way you get the soft sand along the Green River and the steep climbs at Hardscrabble out of the way before you get too tired.  But you do end up with lots of bumpy sandstone later on.  So, in general, the western portion along the Green River is the most technical, and the eastern section is easy, but rough.

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Washer Woman Arch in the background

It is also worth noting that there is only one short section of the trail where you can actually see the Colorado River from the trail.  You can get a great view of the river from an overlook side spur.  Whereas the western section has frequent views of the Green River.

We stopped to talk with a ranger that was raking out tire tracks near one of the campsites.  It always amazes me how many people just can’t seem to understand ‘stay on the trail’.  The ranger was very pleasant.  He asked if we had our permits but didn’t make us pull them out.  He asked about our opinions of the trail and which direction is our favorite.

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Rock formations along the way

We didn’t ride down Lathrop Canyon to the picnic area near the Colorado River, but decided to have our second lunch at a nice scenic view that kind of reminded me of the Maze District of Canyonlands.  We also skipped Musselman Arch.

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The view from our second lunch stop

Later we stopped briefly at the Colorado River Overlook, then pressed on to climb the Shafer switchbacks.

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The Colorado River

This is another very impressive road.  The road is much wider and in better condition than the first time I drove it back in the 1970s.  With good weather, you could probably drive this in almost any vehicle, although I would recommend having an SUV to give you some ground clearance and 4WD to get through patches of sand.

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Approaching the Shafer Trail

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Heading up the switchbacks

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View from the Shafer Trail

We made it back to the car ahead of schedule, so we had to time for a soak in the motel hot tub before heading out to dinner.

The White Rim Trail is not one of my favorite rides, but it is worth doing if you get the chance.  It isn’t overly difficult, but it is very long.  Be prepared for a long day out on the trail.  With the two side spurs, we put about 120 miles on our bikes.  Make sure you have enough to fuel to go that far and carry tools for trailside repairs – it would be long walk out.

White Rim GPS

Our GPS track

 

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Gemini Bridges – May 2018

 

17 May 2018

I hadn’t been to Gemini Bridges in many years, so I decided to take Jamie and Jason there for some dirt biking.  We drove down to the Moab area on a Thursday morning and stopped at the Gemini Bridges staging area.  You now have to pay to park here since it is on private property.

We unloaded our bikes with a strong wind blowing, then headed up the trail.  The main road is in much better condition than it was last time I was here, so it made for a pleasant warm-up ride.

The road starts by climbing a shelf road along the side of a cliff.  It then goes through a small valley and past “Gooney Bird Rock”.

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The shelf road

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Jason riding past Gooney Bird Rock

You then come to a T-junction; left goes to Gold Bar Rim, and right climbs a steep hill and heads towards Gemini Bridges and Arths Pasture (or Metal Masher).  The steep hill used to be loose and rocky, but not it is hard packed dirt and almost feels like pavement.

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The steep, but smooth, climb

After reaching the parking area, we walked about 300 yards to Gemini Bridges and took a few photos.

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Checking out the bridges

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Looking down toward Bull Canyon

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What looks like solid rock is in fact a fairly thin overhang

We backtracked a few miles then took a side spur into Bull Canyon.  The road used to go right to the base of Gemini Bridges, but it is now blocked off and you have to walk to see the bridges.

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Bull Canyon

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There are a few sandy sections

There is a ‘shortcut’ that connects the Bull Canyon road to the Gold Bar Rim trail.  Our hope was to ride out to the rim before it got too late, but unfortunately, this shortcut was much harder than I remembered.  Years ago, I rode most of this trail with someone on the back of my bike as we went in to recover his bike from the day before.  But this time I found the trail to be very technical with a lot of ledges, rocks, and short but steep climbs.

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Jamie leading us through the rocks and ledges

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Jason after making a climb up some ledges

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Jamie descending one of the rock gardens

We eventually made it to the end and were glad we didn’t have to go back the way we camp.  We all cheered when we reached the Gold Bar Rim trail.

It was getting late and we had a long day planned for tomorrow, so we opted to skip Gold Bar Rim and head in to town for a soak in the hot tube before dinner.  We had a few more obstacles to conquer before we were done, however.

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More ledges on the Gold Bar Rim trail

We eventually made it back to the car and started loading up just as a micro-gust of wind hit, filling the car with dust.  We later enjoyed that soak in the hot tub and a nice hamburger at “Milt’s Stop & Eat”.

Here is our GPS track for the ride.

Gemini Bridges GPS

GPS track

And our video:

 

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Poison Spring Canyon to the Dollhouse – Apr 2018

14 April 2018

This is my third dirt bike ride to the Dollhouse area within the Maze District of Canyonlands.  I was with Ross and Danny on this trip.  We stayed in a cabin in Hanksville rather than camping near the trailhead or along the trail.  We got a fairly early start because we had a very long ride planned – and then had to drive back home that evening.

Maze 14Apr2018 GPS

GPS track for the day

Poison Spring Canyon

For the past several days I had been monitoring the water level of the Dirty Devil River.  From reading other trip reports, I felt confident that we could safely cross the river if the flow was less than 50 cfs, and perhaps up to about 70 cfs.  For the past few days the river had been fluctuating between about 35 and 55 cfs, so we figured we would give it a try.

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Water flow for April 14

So, we parked at the staging area for the Poison Spring Canyon ride – the same one I did with Jamie and Jason a few years back.  Poison Spring Canyon is a fun ride through a pretty little canyon.  There are springs along the way, so there are numerous shallow water crossings and a few slightly deeper water puddles.

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Lots of small water crossings

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Enjoying Poison Spring Canyon

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Our first sighting of the Dirty Devil River

When we reached the Dirty Devil River, we stopped to scope it out.  There hadn’t been any flash floods in at least two months, and it was obvious that Jeeps or trucks had crossed recently, so we figured the mud would be fairly solid and not act as quicksand.  Nevertheless, I was pretty nervous being the first one to cross on a dirt bike.  The water got up to about my front axle in a few spots, and there were a few truck tire ruts hidden under the muddy water, but it was a fairly easy river crossing.

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Dee checking the water depth

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Ross taking a bath

Ross carried pretty good speed as he crossed, so his bow wake soaked him good.  Danny hit it a little slower so he wouldn’t get all wet.

North Hatch Canyon

Once across the river, we began riding through North Hatch Canyon.  I had never been here before, but I had read trip reports by others that showed washed out sections of the road.  But this year the road was in great condition.  It was a very pleasant ride, and the scenery was spectacular – especially in the first few miles as we got views down the canyon where the Dirty Devil flows towards Lake Powell.

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The view to the north

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Looking west – from where we came

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The scenery makes it hard to keep your eyes on the road

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Looking south

At one point I traded Danny bikes since he has been considering buying a lighter bike.  I used to own a DR-Z400 similar to his, so I was extremely surprised at how unstable his bike felt.  No wonder he wobbled around every time he hit a little sand.  I was very nervous riding his bike – I felt like I had little control over where the front tire would go.  I don’t recall my DRZ behaving like that.

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Ross enjoying North Hatch Canyon

Ross took one spill in a soft sandy wash crossing, but otherwise everyone had a safe ride so far.  We eventually reached Sunset Pass where I quickly scoped out the primitive campsite there (reservations required).

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Looking towards the Maze after crossing Sunset Pass

A few miles beyond the camp, we came to the four-way intersection at Waterhole Flat.  It took us 2-1/2 hours to travel about 40 miles to this point due to us scouting the river crossing and stopping to take photos several times.

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Approaching the junction at Waterhole Flat

The Land of Standing Rocks

Our original plan was to ride up the Flint Switchbacks and out to Panorama Point, but that is a long ride from the junction.  So, we decided to ride the 20 miles out to the Dollhouse section.  This would be my third time on that trail, but I was okay with that because it is a really fun ride on a dirt bike (street legal of course).

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Just proving I was there

The road was rougher than I remembered (that happens a lot).  For a time, I thought I could perhaps drive out there in my Grand Cherokee and camp, but after riding it again, I concluded that the road is too rough for a stock SUV.  You really need good ground clearance in several areas along the trail.

We made pretty good time, but I think Ross and Danny were somewhat surprised at how technical some sections were.

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A typical mixture of sand and sandstone

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One of the technical challenges is on this rock shelf

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Danny carving a turn with Mother and Child rock formation in the background

We stopped for lunch at one of the Wall campsite in the Land of the Standing Rocks section, then quickly rode out to the end at the Dollhouse.

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Approaching the Dollhouse

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Ross at our lunch stop

We had now been riding for about 5 hours (including lunch), so we figured we better head back to the car before dark.

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Group shot at the Dollhouse

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Some of the dollhouse rock formations

We were all getting tired, and somewhat sore from our ride on the Hole in The Rock Trail the day before.  Ross and Danny each crashed a few times on the way back attempting some of the steeper ledges.

When we got back to Waterhole Flat we wisely decided to take the easy, but longer, way back to the truck via the road that comes out near Hite.  This road was about 30 miles long, followed by about 30 miles of pavement on Hwy 95.  The dirt road was in great shape this year, so we made good time – but we were getting pretty tired.

Hwy 95 goes through a scenic canyon as it leaves Lake Powell and heads towards Hanksville.  The speed limit is only 55 mph, which is perfect for me on my small dirt bike.  Ross took off in front on his more highway capable KLR while Danny followed behind me.  About 20 miles into the paved ride, my bike instantly died and I coasted to a stop on the side of the highway.

My bike wouldn’t start, so I suggested that Danny head to the truck and come back and pick me up.  Just as he left, I realized he didn’t know where my keys were.  I locked my trailer to Ross’ truck, and we locked Danny’s spare bike to the side of the trailer.  They couldn’t go anywhere without finding my key.

I figured they would look for my key, then come back and ask me where it was.  While I waited, I did a few experiments to try and get my bike running again – without success.  I pushed my bike back down the highway a few hundred feet to a side road where they could safely stop with the trailer to pick me up.

Sure enough, Danny came back, asking about the key.  He informed me that Ross got a flat rear tire about 100 yards from the truck.  We were both lucky to have our mechanical issues within easy reach of a rescue.

Once we got all of the bikes loaded, we headed for home.  We were a few hours later than we hoped, but I got home just after midnight, so it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

On the drive home, we shared stories about the great rides from the past two days and marveled at our good fortune for having breakdowns at the end of the trip and right along the highway.  It really was a memorable adventure!

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Hole In The Rock Trail – Apr 2018

13 April, 2018

Last year I took Jamie and Jason on a three-day adventure ride that included the historic Hole In The Rock Road where the Mormon Pioneers took their wagons down a narrow and steep crack in the cliff above the Colorado River.

This year, Ross, Danny and I attempted to ride part of the trail on the other side of the Colorado River.  Whereas the Hole In The Rock Road is a very easy ride, the Hole In The Rock Trail is very difficult.

The trail is about 35 miles long and stops about two miles before reaching the river.  The trail gets harder as you go.  We only made it about 25 miles before turning back – and we were exhausted when we got back to the truck.

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Our GPS track (in brown)

We didn’t realize there was a nice staging area at the start of the western trail entrance (waypoint hr08), so we parked at a pull off along the highway in between hr09 and hr08.  We decided to start our ride via hr09 and finish via hr08 so we could see which way was best (hr08 is the primary road).

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Our staging area

The first 10-12 miles of the trail is pretty easy.  It starts to get a little rough as you go up an extended climb and come to waypoint hr06.  From here, you turn right, off the main road and onto the Hole In The Rock Trail.  The trail instantly becomes a lot more rugged.

The trail is mostly slickrock, with numerous ledges to deal with.  In between slickrock sections there are sandy sections.  I didn’t find the sand too difficult, but Danny and Ross struggled with their heavier bikes.  Ross was on his KLR650, which is really not a good bike for this type of ride.  The bike is really heavy and has very little ground clearance.  I hit my skid plate twice on this ride, and I very seldom hit bottom on my KTM.  Ross was hitting his skid plate frequently.

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An easy section of slickrock

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Ross trying to get going in the sand

 

 

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A typical section of the trail

Some of the trail is difficult to follow.  It really helped to have a GPS with an actual track to follow.  Keep a sharp eye out for black tire tracks on the slickrock, rock cairns, or metal bars drilled into the rock.  There are also several side spurs, so without a GPS track, you could easily end up going the wrong way.

The trail gets harder as you go; the ledges get taller and the climbs steeper.  We eventually came to a section that had rocks piled up to make the climb easier for Jeeps and UTVs.

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Danny walking his DR-Z400 up the shelf

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Ross popped a nice wheelie coming up the last step

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I thought I would just ride up the ledges…

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…but quickly chickened out and waddled up like everyone else

 

Right at the top of this climb is a historic marker for the Grey Mesa Wagon Road.  The pioneers sent scouts out ahead of the main group to search for the best route through this rugged country.  They struggled to find a way off the mesa until one of the scouts saw a mountain sheep and followed it down off the mesa.  I walked part way up this route (no motorized vehicles allowed on this part of the historic trail).  It was steep and difficult to negotiate on foot.  I wouldn’t want to ride my motorcycle down this trail – I can’t imagine what it was like in a horse drawn wagon.

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The historic marker

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Note the road cut just to the right of the sign

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Another road cut – narrow and steep

A few hundred feet past the historic marker, we came to a ‘waterfall’ on the road that looked pretty challenging.

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The ‘waterfall’

The waterfall itself was about 5-6’ tall, with three smaller ledges above it.  We decided we could probably get down it okay, and probably get back up – but there was a high risk of getting out of control on the upper ledges and taking a nasty fall.  Because it was getting late, and we were getting pretty tired, we decided not to take the risk.  We wanted to make it as far as the even more challenging “chute,” but decided to take a lunch break and head back to the truck.

 

Thus, we had to go back down the rocky ledge that we had just come up.

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Danny coming back down the rock pile

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Our lunch spot at a nice primitive campsite

The return ride seemed a lot harder than the ride out.  I don’t know if the trail really is harder going the other way, or if it was just because we were tired and sore.

Danny and Ross both took a few spills on the way back, which further wears you out when you have to repeatedly pick up your bike.

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Ross softly laying his bike over after not quite making the climb

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Danny’s bike fell hard, but luckily, he stayed on his feet

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Danny going up one of the steeper, but easy, climbs

 

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Enjoying the view towards Lake Powell and the Henry Mountains

The weather was fairly chilly and very windy, but for the most part the weather wasn’t a problem.  We were working hard, so we kept warm, and since most of the trial is on sandstone, the wind wasn’t too much of an issue.  The wind did, however, blow around enough sand to jam up the lens cap on my camcorder.  So, I wasn’t able to film as much of the trip as I had hoped – other than with my helmet camera.

 

We rode approximately 50 miles round trip and were very tired by the time we finished.  We were all glad we didn’t go any farther along the trail or it probably would have been dark when we got back.

We loaded up the trailer and drove for about two-hours back to Hanksville for dinner and our cabin at Duke’s Grill and RV Park.  We just wish they had a hot tub to soak in.

It was a challenging ride, but we all really enjoyed it.  It will be a memorable ride for us.

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Mojave National Preserve – Mar 2018

 

14-17 March, 2018

Bob invited me to go explore the Mojave National Preserve in southern California.  He wanted to visit some of the places he used to go with his family when he was young.  I was able to arrange my schedule to join him, and at the last-minute, Ron also decided to come.

We were able to cram all three bikes and all of our luggage into Bob’s pickup truck, so we didn’t have to haul my trailer.  We left early on Wednesday morning, for the seven-hour drive to our starting point just west of the small town of Nipton, CA.  We rode for four days and returned home late Saturday evening.

We covered approximately 315 miles.  Some sections were paved, some were easy dirt road, and other sections were more rugged Jeep roads – in particular, parts of the historic Mojave Road.  We also crossed an almost dry lake bed and played in the sand dunes around Crucero Hill, where Bob used to ride years ago.  Here is our four-day GPS track.

Mojavi Track 2018

Four-day GPS track

Day 1:

We arrived at our staging area at around noon and quickly loaded our luggage onto our bikes.  We rode south along the Ivanpah Road, then southeast towards the New York Mountains.  The mountains were much larger than I expected – this is supposed to be a desert after all.

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Getting ready to ride

Rather than stick to the main road all the way, we took a side road and explored Sagamore Canyon.  This gave us a chance to adapt to riding our bikes with luggage, as well as make any adjustments to keep our luggage from bouncing around.

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Miles and miles of Joshua Trees

When we arrived at the OX Ranch, we decided to backtrack and head up into the New York Mountains.  I read of a nice camp location up in Caruthers Canyon and wanted to check it out.

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OX Ranch

We really had no intention of camping there, but when we found the spot, all three of us wanted to camp there for the night.  It was a wonderful campsite with a nice picnic table built out of rocks and concrete and it offered a fair amount of shelter from the strong wind that had been blowing all day.

It was only about 3:30 PM when we got there, so we decided to go ride a portion of the Mojave Road and then return to this campsite.  The trail dropped into a sandy wash for a few hundred feet.  Bob and Ron missed the exit and continued down the wash.  I decided to wait at the junction and hoped they would return to find me – which they eventually did.  We then worked our way back up to the campsite, rigged our tents, and cooked our dinner.  We rode about 62 miles on day one.

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Great campsite

Bob went to bed as soon as it got dark – at about 7:00 PM.  Ron and I wanted to stay up longer, but the cold soon drove us into our tents as well.  I spent a few hours reading, then went to bed.

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Day 1 GPS track

 

Day 2:

I woke up at about 5:00 AM and heard the pitter-patter of light rain.  I slept a few more hours and was surprised to wake up at 7:00 AM with about 2” of snow on the ground – and still coming down hard.

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2″ of snow covering the ground

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Frozen kitchen

Bob and I stowed most of our gear under our tent vestibule, but Ron’s tent didn’t have two vestibules so he left much of his gear outside.  Everything, including his boots, was covered in snow.

I left my cook stove out, and found it frozen to the table and difficult to light due to the water in the stove head.

By the time we ate breakfast and packed up our gear, the sun came out melted most of the snow in the areas sheltered from the cold wind.  The soil was fairly sandy, so we didn’t have to deal with slippery mud as we rode down out of the mountains.

We were surprised by the snow because the forecast for Baker called for highs around 70° and lows around 46°.  We later learned that Baker is only about 1000’ in elevation and our camp was at about 5600’.

After exiting the mountains, we took the Cedar Canyon road west to the Black Canyon road.  Both of these roads were being graded, which made them somewhat muddy and slippery.

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Day 2 GPS track

Rather than continue on the muddy Black Canyon road, we turned west to explore the more rugged Wild Horse Canyon road.  We stopped to check out the Midhills campground, which was still covered in snow even though it was at about the same elevation as our camp.  This campground offered almost no shelter from the wind.  That would have been a very cold place to camp for the night.

We also checked out the Hole-In-The-Wall campground.  This is much lower in elevation but offers even less shelter from the wind.  There were numerous motorhomes in this campground since the access road from the south is paved.

Our original intent was to camp at Hole-In-The-Wall campground so we could explore the “Rings Trail”.  With the cold wind, we decided to skip the hike and press on.

Our next destination was the Kelso Visitor’s Center.  Rather than take the paved road all the way around, we took a shortcut over the mountain on the Vulcan Mine road.  This road was fairly rocky, but not all that difficult on dirt bikes.

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Kelso Visitor’s Center

After eating lunch and checking out the visitor’s center, we took a quick sandy road north along an old telegraph line.  The bushes and cactus hung over the trail, so our hand guards took a beating.  I also found numerous cactus spines stuck into my luggage.

We then rode another section of the Mojave Road west.  This was a fun section of the trail, which lots of smooth whoops formed from the local terrain drainage.  We stopped to sign in at one of the Mojave Mailboxes.

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Bob at the mailbox

From there, we rode north on the Aiken Mine road to check out the lava flow cave, and then camped at the base of an old volcano cinder cone.  We put in about 92 miles on day two.

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Entrance to the lava tube

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Ron inspecting the light shafts inside the tube

This camp was only at about 3300’ elevation, and the wind died down once the sun set, so it was the warmest night of our trip.

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Cinder Cone camp

Day 3:

After breakfast, we continued west on the sandy Mojave Road, then took the paved Kelbaker Road into Baker for gas and supplies.  I had to try three different gas stations before I could find one that would take my credit card.  I have no idea what the problem was.

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Day 3 GPS track

We worked our way south and picked up the Mojave Road again as it crossed the Soda Lake bed.  The lake bed was mostly dry, but the middle section was still fairly wet and muddy.  We were able to ride through it okay, but you had to ride carefully.

We stopped at the Traveler’s Monument rock pile and read the secret inscription on the plaque at the top.

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Bob checking out the monument

We then worked our way over to the Crucero sand dunes.  I was carrying a heavier load than Ron and Bob, and I am not very good at riding in sand.  While crossing a steep side hill, my rear end spun out and down I went.  My left foot and knee buried in the sand and I was wedged under my bike.  I tried to wiggle free for about ten minutes before Bob and Ron came back to rescue me.  I decided to take my lunch break and rest while they explored the dunes a little longer.

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Crucero sand dunes

We hit another patch of mud on our way east to the Jackass Canyon road and ended up riding along the railroad tracks to avoid the mud.  Bob hit a sharp rock and sliced his almost new rear tire.  He installed a few tire plugs and was able to get the tire to hold air long enough to get to our next camp (we all have Tubliss inserts in our tires).

The road between the railroad tracks and Jackass Canyon was very sandy and fairly tricky to ride with a loaded bike.  We stopped at the base of Old Dad Mountain for Bob to top off his tire again – a fitting backdrop for us three old men.

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Old Dad Mountain

We then rode east across the fun section of the Mojave Road that we rode the day before.  We found a nice place to camp at the base of some large rock outcroppings.  This camp was at about 3800’ elevation, and once again we had a cold wind blowing all night.  We logged about another 92 miles on day 3.

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Camp #3

Day 4:

The wind blew again all night long and was quite chilly in the morning.  I ended up cooking breakfast under my vestibule to get some shelter from the wind.  We packed up and got an earlier start than the other days since we had a long drive home.  We wanted to be back at the truck by noon but enjoy some good riding all morning.

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Day 4 GPS track

We rode the Mojave Road east until we hit the Ivanpah Road.  We took a short break to visit the Rock Spring cabin.

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Rock Spring cabin

We had a little extra time, so decided to go check out the Indian Well petroglyphs.  There is a natural well about 15’ deep with water in the bottom, so the Indians marked many of the surrounding rocks with petroglyphs.

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Stopping at the Indian Well petroglyphs

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Some of the petroglyphs

My GPS showed a shortcut back to the Ivanpah Road, but it led to some private property, so we had to backtrack.  We then buzzed back to the truck on the Ivanpah Road and arrived at about noon – right on schedule.  We logged about 68 miles, loaded up the truck, and began the long drive home.

This was my first time to the Mojave Desert, and it was quite different than I expected.  It was certainly more mountainous than expected, and the scenery was impressive.  There were a lot of Joshua Trees and other forms of cactus.  We didn’t see much wildlife other than jack rabbits.  The weather was windy and colder than expected, but overall, it was a great early spring adventure.

Posted in California, Dirt biking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Great Basin – Yosemite Road Trip – Sep 2017

Sept. 27 – Oct. 1, 2017

Great Basin National Park

It takes about four hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Great Basin National Park, but you pick up one hour by moving into Pacific Time.  Thus, we arrived with plenty of time to check out the two visitor’s centers and eat lunch before our 1:00 PM Lehman Caves Tour.  We also took the short nature walk near the visitor’s center prior to our tour.

There are two tours to choose from; the 60-minute Lodge Room Tour, or the longer 90-minute Grand Palace Tour.  We got reservations in advance since they only allow up to 20 people per tour.

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Entering the cave

Each tour is led by a ranger.  You are allowed to take a jacket, camera, and flashlight into the cave.  The cave is about 50° F year-round, so a jacket is highly recommended.  The flashlight is optional, but it is handy for taking a closer look at some of the formations.

The cave floor is fairly flat, but there are a few sections with stairs, and several areas where you have to duck to avoid hitting your head.  The tour was interesting and informative.  We learned a lot about the local geography and how such caves are formed.

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Lehman Caves

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Lehman Caves

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Lehman Caves

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Tall columns

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Interesting colors

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“Shield” formations

After our tour, we took the scenic drive up to Wheeler Peak.  Due to recent snow, the last mile of the road was closed, so we had to walk into the trail head.  There are several hikes to choose from, but we elected to just do the short nature walk.  The trail was mostly on boardwalks and was covered in a few inches of snow.

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Autumn leaves and pines

I was hoping to see some beautiful autumn colors, but the mountains here are mostly pine, so the colors where not all that great.  Nevertheless, it was a pleasant drive and great to visit this type of forest which is quite different from the forests around Salt Lake.

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Wheeler Peak

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Walking to the trail head

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On the nature trail

After our hike we drove just over one more hour to Ely, Nevada, for dinner and our motel.

Yosemite Tioga Road

The next morning, we drove for about five hours to get to Lee Vining, CA.  The road went over a lot of small mountain ranges – many more than I expected.  This made the long drive quite interesting.  I expected more barren desert, but it was actually a fairly scenic drive.

After buying gas in Lee Vining, we started up the Tioga Road towards Yosemite National Park.  We stopped at the first campground to eat lunch, then resumed our climb up the mountain.

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Tioga Road

You enter the national park shortly after reaching the summit.  The Tioga Road is very scenic, with large granite mountains and beautiful mountain lakes.  We stopped at a few lakes to take photos and a short walk along the beach.

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A lake near the pass

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Another lake

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Kim at Tenaya Lake

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Tenaya Lake

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The view from Olmstead Point (I think)

It took a few hours to make the drive across the mountain, so we were pretty tired by the end.  Rather than do more sightseeing, we opted to head to our motel room at the Rush Creek Lodge.  This is a fairly new facility just outside of the park, about 10 or 15 miles from Groveland, CA.  The rooms were nice, and they had a large pool and two hot tubs, along with fire pits and various games.  The only thing I didn’t like about the place was the restaurant.  This is one of those expensive restaurants where you can’t even understand the menu, and the helping sizes are very small.  We ate dinner there the first night, but avoided it for the remainder of our stay.

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The view from our room

Yosemite Valley

We ate our own breakfast in our motel room, packed a lunch, and headed towards Yosemite Valley.  As we approached the valley, we could see that the valley was quite smoky from the nearby forest fires.  Luckily, the smoke cleared as the sun warmed up the valley air.

We arrived fairly early to beat the crowds.  It was fairly easy to find a parking space near Yosemite Village, which acted as our base.  We didn’t want to move the car throughout the day for fear of not finding another parking space.

We walked through the village on our way to Lower Yosemite Falls.  The falls are much more impressive in the spring when the water is flowing fast, but it was still a beautiful sight.  I suspect the streams had increased in flow due to the recent snow and rain.

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Kim at Lower Yosemite Falls

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Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

We then took a stroll through the meadow going over Swinging Bridge and Sentinel Bridge.

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The view from Swinging Bridge

Our feet and legs were getting pretty tired by then, so we jumped on a shuttle bus and headed to the trailhead for the “Mist Trail”, which leads to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, as well as the longer hike to the top of Half Dome.  This trail was paved, but very steep.  We didn’t even make it as far as the bridge before giving up and heading back down.  Our knees were not up for such a strenuous hike.

We decided to save our packed lunch for dinner, and buy lunch at the Yosemite Grill.  We each got a hamburger and shared a batch of fries and a lemonade.

We then visited the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed the two movies they show.  I think we both slept through part of it.

Because we were so tired, we decided to skip the ¼ mile hike to Bridalveil Falls and drove out to Glacier Point.  We drove right through one of the burning forest fires, which made us a little nervous.  We could see smoldering trees right along the road.  But we figured it must be safe since they hadn’t closed the road.

The view from Glacier Point is spectacular.  You get about a 270° field of view overlooking Yosemite Village, Half Dome Village, and the two waterfalls we failed to reach on the Mist Trail.  You also get great views of Half Dome, and can barely see the people that made the trek to the top.

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Vernal and Nevada Falls

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Half Dome

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Yosemite Falls

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Amazing views from Glacier Point

On our way back to the motel, we stopped at Tunnel View, which offers a great view of Bridalveil Falls and El Capitan.  We took a few photos of El Capitan showing where the large rocks fell the previous two days.  One of the falls killed one man from Wales and injured his wife.  That was sad news.

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Bridalveil Falls on the right, the rock fall on the left

South Lake Tahoe

On Saturday morning, we had about a four-hour drive to South Lake Tahoe.  This drive consisted mostly of back country mountain roads.  It was a fairly twisty road which would have been much more fun on a motorcycle.  The scenery was nice, but it is mostly more of the same – huge pine trees.

We were able to listen to LDS General Conference via satellite radio, which helped the time fly by.

We arrived at South Lake Tahoe at about lunch time and found a nearby beach for a picnic lunch.  The wind was fairly strong and bitterly cold, so we opted to eat in the car.

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Lake Tahoe

Our original plan was to either walk along the beach or take the gondola ride up to Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort.  The weather was too cold for a walk, and the gondola was closed for the season.  So, we opted to take the two-hour drive around the lake while we listened to the afternoon session of General Conference.

We then checked into our motel, which turned out to be very run down – but at least it had a decent bed.  We found a nearby pizza shop for dinner and watched “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” on TV before going to sleep.

The next morning, we began our long drive home (about 8.5 hours), stopping for breakfast (in the car) and lunch (in the car) and to buy gas in Elko.  We arrived home at about 5:00 PM to a pleasant surprise – Marcy and Isaac came over to fix us dinner.

We covered a lot of miles and spent a lot of time in the car, but the scenery was absolutely spectacular.  It was a great road trip.

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Boulder Mountain Adventure – Sept 2017

Sept. 12-16, 2017

In 2016, we attempted a ride from Challis, Idaho, to Burgdorf Hot Springs.  We had to go elsewhere due to a large forest fire.  So, we tried again this year.  I spent months planning and refining the route, only to cancel yet again because of fires and smoke.

Thus, this year’s Idaho trip ended up in southern Utah.  We decided to explore the Boulder Mountains.  I also wanted to include a few trails I have been wanting to ride for several years; such as Cathedral Valley, the Wolverine Loop, the Burr Trail, and the Rosebud ATV trail.

I only had one week to put the plan together, and luckily it turned out to be a great route.  The original plan included over 600 miles of trail, dirt road, and paved road.  Our actual route ended up somewhere around 440 miles.  The route was challenging, but I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

Day 1 – The Great Western Trail:

We started our ride at the Gooseberry staging area just outside of Salina.  This is just a 2-hour drive from Salt Lake City, so it worked out really well.  We rode south on the Great Western Trail (GWT) for about 50 miles.  I didn’t have a detailed GPS track for the GWT, so I did the best I could with my GPS software (Garmin Basecamp) and GoogleEarth.  Most of the route was on ATV trails, but I missed a few sections and planned in a few dirt roads to connect ATV segments.  This turned out well because it gave us a change of pace, allowing us to ride a little faster on the twisty mountain roads than we could on the ATV trails.

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Bob crossing the stream right at the trailhead

The trail had a good mixture of easy, flowing trail, and a few rocky sections to keep you on your toes.  We rode through Aspen glades, pine forests, and open meadows.  The Aspen leaves were starting to turn, and the overall scenery was absolutely beautiful.

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The Great Western Trail

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Rain squalls and autumn leaves

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The view from our lunch stop

We started our ride at about 11:00 AM and stopped for lunch at about 1:30 PM.  It started to rain and hail while we ate lunch.  The higher elevations were completely covered in a light blanket of hail, but luckily the trails were not too muddy or slippery.

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The trail is covered in hail

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Wet trails and great scenery

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More great scenery

After completing the GWT, we rode some dirt roads to an overlook above Cathedral Valley.  I planned on camping at Round Lake so Ross and Bob could fish.  Since it had been raining, we decided to camp at lower elevation.  Ross knew of a place near Meeks Lake at about 8300’.  This was a nice camp, but there was not a fishing lake nearby, nor any great scenery.

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Overlooking Cathedral Valley

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Our first camp

Day 1 - 2017

GPS track for day 1

Day 2 – Cathedral Valley & Henry Mountains:

Ross got up early and rode down to Morrell Pond to fish.  The rest of us took our time eating breakfast and packing up camp.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

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Ross at Morrell Pond

Ross knew of a trail that would traverse over to Round Lake, putting us back on our original track.  Round Lake was 400’ higher in elevation, but it would have made a much nicer camp.  It even had a picnic table and outhouse.

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Ron at Round Lake

From there we dropped into Cathedral Valley and stopped at the overlook.  Cathedral Valley is a bizarre place.  We had been riding in mountain forests, and now we were in this strange desert environment.

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Cathedral Valley

It was a fast ride through Cathedral Valley, but we took our time to enjoy the scenery and the odd rock/dirt formations.  We stopped to see Gypsum Sink, which Bob claimed was formed by a meteor.  We also stopped at Glass Mountain, Temple of the Sun, and Temple of the Moon.

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Gypsum Sink

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Glass Mountain

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Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon

 

We had a light rain as we rode along Cathedral Valley Road.  The rain felt refreshing in the heat of the desert.  From there we took Hwy 24 to Hanksville for gas and a late lunch at Stan’s Burger Shack.

We stocked up on water, and then headed into the Henry Mountains.  The road through the Henry Mountains was rockier than I expected.  It wasn’t difficult on a dirt bike, but I wouldn’t want to drive it in an SUV unless it had good off-road tires.  We saw several deer along the way, and at one point I had a small herd of deer running parallel to the road for several hundred yards.

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Henry Mountains

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Autumn leaves in the Henry Mountains

It started to rain just as we reached Bull Creek Pass, at over 10,000’ elevation.  Rain was becoming a major theme of this trip.

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Rain is coming

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Bob at Bull Creek Pass

Rather than rush to try to keep to our original schedule, we decided to camp at McMillan Springs Campground, which is also at about 8300’ elevation.  This is a beautiful campground and we were the only ones there until one Jeep pulled in later in the evening.  The rain had stopped by the time we arrived at camp, so we were able to enjoy the evening and allow our gear to dry somewhat.

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Camp at McMillan Springs

We logged about 112 miles of scenic, but fairly easy riding.  It was a refreshing change of pace from the more rugged, but fun, ATV trail the day before.

Day 2 - 2017

GPS track for day 2

Day 3 – The Burr Trail & Wolverine Loop:

Once again, the day started off clear and sunny.  We packed up camp, and headed down out of the Henry Mountains.  Just a few miles from camp, I spotted a small herd of buffalo.  They entered the road, then jogged down the road for a few hundred yards, before turning off again.  I quickly turned on the helmet camera, but didn’t get very good footage of them.

The ride from camp to the Notom Road was more interesting than I expected.  In GoogleEarth is looks quite desolate, but it was actually fairly good scenery and a nice ride.

It started to rain again just before we reached the Burr Trail switchbacks.  After climbing the switchbacks, we rode a side spur out to the trailhead for Upper Muley Twist.  This was a fun ride down a sandy wash.  We also took a short hike out to an overlook.

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The Burr Trail Switchbacks

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The road to Upper Muley Twist

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Looking towards Lake Powell from the overlook

Our next adventure was the Wolverine Loop.  My wife and I drove this loop a few years ago, and I remember thinking it would be a great ride on a motorcycle.  I was right!

Rather than ride the entire loop, we took the “Cutoff Road”.  I wouldn’t recommend this for stock cars or SUVs, but it was a fun ride on a dirt bike.  It also followed a sandy wash much of the way.

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The Cutoff Road

Shortly after rejoining the main loop, I spotted a tarantula crossing the road.  That was the first tarantula I have seen in the wild.

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Tarantula on the Wolverine Loop

We stopped at the trailhead for the Wolverine Petrified Forest.  We ate lunch, and changed into our hiking shoes (at least those of us that hadn’t lost a shoe off the back of our bike).  My friend Dave Buckmiller said the good wood is about one mile down the canyon, so off we went.

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Petrified wood

At about ¾ of a mile, I climbed the side of the wash to see a large collection of wood.  From that higher vantage point, I could see a huge storm moving in fast.  I could tell this was much larger than the other storms we had encountered.  But I had no way of telling the rest of the group, who continued on down the canyon.

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The approaching storm

The storm front hit just before we got back to our bikes.  There were strong gusts of wind, and I saw it blow over Bob’s bike.  Then it started to rain and hail, with lots of thunder and lightning.  The only shelter we could find was a small Juniper tree at the trailhead.

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Seeking shelter from the storm

It was raining so hard that small streams began forming all around us.  As soon as the wind stopped and the rain let up a bit, we hit the trail and wanted to get out of that area.

I knew the road back to the Burr Trail crossed the wash a number of times, but eventually climbed out of the wash bottom.  So off we went.

At first, there were small streams, maybe a few feet across, which we crossed repeatedly.  But as we traveled down river, the streams combined and became a fairly significant stream.  In some places, the entire road was a river.  The only way I could tell where the road was, was by the berms along the side left by the road grader.

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Small streams starting to form

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Getting larger

The river got deeper and deeper, and it was really quite swift.  There were small waves all along the course.  I hit a few places where the water was up to my front axle, so it was probably over one-foot deep.  At one point the road left the streambed for a few hundred feet.  Where it re-entered, it was steep and the waves were significantly larger.  I did not want to ride into that with my bike.

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The water was pretty swift

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The road is a river

Just behind us there was a flat area where we could camp if we had to wait out the storm.  We watched the river continue to rise and wondered if the camping area was high enough to be safe.

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Waiting for the water to drop

Some wondered off, looking for alternate places to camp.  Bob called me over to talk.  He noticed that we had missed a turn about ¼ of a mile back, and we were no longer on the main road.

It turns out we turned onto the side spur to the Horse Canyon Trailhead.  The stream in Horse Canyon was fed by the road we came down, and the road we should have taken.  That is why it got deep so fast.

The river was too deep to ride safely back up, but we found a cow trail that led back to the main road, avoiding the deepest sections of the river.

After getting back on the main road, the stream got smaller and smaller as we moved north.  We eventually left the streambed entirely and quickly rode back to the paved Burr Trail.

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Ron crossing one of the last streams

The rain had picked up again, so it was a chilly and wet ride down Long Canyon to the Deer Creek Campground.  Deer Creek is a small campground near a swift stream.  No one was camping there, but there were signs all over warning of flash flood danger.  The storm was starting to subside, so we decided to stay.  In fact, the sun came out about two minutes before it went behind the sandstone cliff.  Deer Creek is in a fairly narrow canyon, so you lose the sun early, and don’t get it in the morning until fairly late.  That is great on a hot summer day, but not so great when you want to dry out all of your gear.

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My campsite at Deer Creek campground

We logged about 94 miles, plus the hike, and sitting out the storm for about an hour.  Deer Creek is only 5700’ in elevation, which was nice since the storm brought in much cooler temperatures.

Day 3 - 2017

GPS track for day 3

Day 4 – The Boulder Mountains:

We didn’t get packed up and ready to ride until about noon.  We took our time getting ready, waiting for the sun to come up and dry out our tents.  Once we were on our way, we rode in to Boulder to get gas and supplies.

We abandoned our original goal of exploring the Boulder Mountains – we were too far behind schedule and it was too cold at higher elevations.  So, we headed north on Highway 12, up and over the mountain on a scenic paved road.

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Heading up Hwy 12

Since I prefer to avoid pavement whenever possible, we took a side road that paralleled the highway.  I think it is called Big Ridge.  It is road #180 and #169 on my map.

Just as we reached the turnoff for #180, I asked the group if they wanted to skip this since there was another large storm building to the north.  Ross said we could easily beat the storm, so we pressed on.  We almost finished Big Ridge before the storm hit, but we still had the Rosebud ATV trail and the road down Pleasant Creek to do.  Once again, we all got quite wet before the day was done.

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Ron on Big Ridge

The Big Ridge trail is an old Jeep road.  Some sections are fairly smooth, while other sections are rocky.  Occasionally the trail would pop out of the trees with great views overlooking Capitol Reef National Park.

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Overlooking Lower Bowns Reservoir and the approaching storm

The rain hit before we finished, and it was coming down hard by the time we got back to the pavement.  We rode north for a fraction of a mile or so, before turning off on the road to Lower Bowns Reservoir.

For years I have wanted to ride the Rosebud ATV trail, which parallels the road to Lower Bowns.  It was raining pretty hard, but we stuck with the plan and rode the trail.  I was somewhat disappointed.  I had heard great things about the trail.  It was quite rocky, and it wasn’t very long.

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Somewhere along the Rosebud trail

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Approaching Lower Bowns Reservoir

After finishing the trail, we stopped for lunch at Lower Bowns Reservoir.  Luckily the rain had let up a bit during our lunch break.

After lunch, we started down the Pleasant Creek road (#168).  It was a bit slippery in places, but most of it had enough rock content to not be too bad.

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Pleasant Creek Road

There is a fairly steep, sandy descent just before the trail crosses Tantalus Creek.  When we got there, it was running fast and deep; a dark brown water from all of the rain.  Bob and Ross were right behind me, but there was no sign of Ron or Danny.

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Approaching Tantalus Creek

Ross and Bob went back to find Ron and Danny, while I found a stick to measure the depth of the water.  At the road crossing, it looked to be about 2’ deep, but about 10’ to the left was only about 8” deep.  It seemed like we could safely cross it.

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The river crossing

After making that assessment, I rode back to find the others.  Danny noticed that his tent had fallen off the back of his bike.  It must have happened while he was riding in the back, or someone in the group would have seen it.  He went back to look for it, without success.

We considered our options and decided to stay together as a group and go back to the pavement and drive into Torrey and find a motel.  Danny and Ross were sharing a tent, and with all of the rain, it would have been a long and miserable night without a tent.  It was probably good that we didn’t cross Tantalus Creek because there is a much larger crossing later on after Tantalus Creek merges with Pleasant Creek and Sulphur Creek.  It was probably be treacherous with all of this rain.

When we got back to the pavement, we decided to have Ross and Danny go back to the Big Ridge trail and ride to the gate.  Danny closed the gate, and was therefore in the back during that stretch of the ride.

Ron and Bob and I hung out in the Lower Pleasant Creek campground while we waited for them.  The sun came out for a while, which we soaked up as best we could.

Ross and Danny found the tent, but we decided that since it was now fairly cold and most of us were quite wet, we would stick with the plan of staying in a motel.

We slowly rode down to Torrey (Bob had a leaky rear tire), only to find that all of the motels were full.  I guess all of the other campers also wanted to get out of the rain.  But then the sun came out again, and brightened our spirits once more.  We found a place to camp just east of Torrey.  I guess this is a popular overflow camping area – there were tents and motorhomes everywhere.  We logged about 115 miles that day.

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Looking for a place to camp east of Torrey

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My campsite near Torrey

I got my tent set up and then called my wife to check in.  This was the first time we had cell service since leaving Salina.  I also checked in a few times per day with my inReach satellite communicator.

I then cooked up my last freeze-dried dinner, and spent another long night in the tent.  It got dark at about 8:00 PM and we never built any campfires, so the nights seemed fairly long.

Day 4 - 2017

GPS track for day 4

Day 5 – The Great Western Trail:

We awoke to another beautiful clear day.  In fact, this was the only day we didn’t get rained on.

Bob repaired his rear tire, and we headed back to Torrey for gas.  We then rode north along another section of the Great Western Trail.  I got a GPS track from Dave McIntire, which really helped because there were a lot of trail junctions in the first few miles.

This is really a rocky road.  It wasn’t hard (at first), but it was rough.  Ross commented that my kids would hate this trail.  I said they could handle it fine, but my wife wouldn’t enjoy it.  But then the trail got worse!  Ross was right – my kids would hate that trail.

As with many of our other trails, this one occasionally broke out of the trees for some gorgeous scenic views.

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View from the Great Western Trail

I think this trail is about 12 miles long.  The first 10 miles or so aren’t too bad, but as the trail climbs in elevation, it gets rockier and because of all of the recent rain – muddier.  That last few miles are limited to 50” or narrower vehicles, and it is pretty rough ride.  There were some long rocky climbs, and a few sections were muddy and slippery.  There was one bog that had logs laid down for the ATVs.  These logs were extremely slick on a dirt bike.  I went down extremely fast.  Ron and I had a hard time getting solid footing to pick up my bike.

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One of several rocky climbs

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The smooth “cream filling” in between rocky stretches

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The slippery logs

 

We stopped for a break after one muddy climb, and then pressed on to the top where the trail meets forest road #206, which goes directly past Elkhorn campground.

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A great place for a break

From here, my plan was to ride easy roads back to the car.  But because the weather was good, and the Great Western Trail we rode up on the first day was so fun, we decided to take the Great Western Trail back to the car.

The autumn colors were even better than before, and it was a great ride back along the trail.  This is really a fun trail, going either direction.

Day 5 GWT (12)

Great views along the GWT

Day 5 GWT (14)

Riding through the Aspens

Day 5 GWT (16)

Riding through the Aspens

Day 5 GWT (20)

More great trail

 

We did, however, encounter more mud.  We had to cross one pass at over 10,000’ elevation.  There was snow along the side of the road, and the melting snow made the trail very muddy.  I went down two more times in the mud, and a few others struggled as well.  Ross did an amazing job manhandling his heavy KLR through the rocks and mud.

Day 5 GWT (24)

One of the muddy sections

Day 5 GWT (26)

More mud

At just after 4:00 PM we decided we better bail and take the paved road back so we could get home at a decent hour.  We logged about 80 miles on that last day, including maybe 40 or 50 miles of ATV trail.

Day 5 - 2017

GPS track for day 5

Our entire trip came in at about 440 miles.  It was really a great trip.  I think everyone had a blast.  The rainy weather even added to the experience.  Although I prefer to ride and camp in better weather, it did create some interesting experiences and generated great memories and stories.  It will be tough to beat this trip!

2017 Adventure

GPS track for the entire trip

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