White Wash & San Rafael Swell – October 2008

When: Thur Oct 16 – Sat Oct 18, 2008

Where: White Wash/Red Wash, Crystal Geyser, and San Rafael Swell

Who: Dee, Kevin, and Jason Gardiner; Kevin, Jarett, and Spencer Jolley; Taylor Brockbank

The weather was perfect this year!  Clear and sunny skies with temperatures in the low 70s during the afternoon.  It was a little cool while riding fast, but warm when riding technical sections.

Thur Oct 16: White Wash, Red Wash, Trin Alcove, and Dee’s Pass

We parked at the head of the Salt Wash road a few miles prior to the entrance to the White Wash sand dune area.  After unloading the bikes, we rode west on the Salt Wash road and then took the southern end of the Crystal Geyser single track trail.  This section was more challenging than I remembered, but it was a good warm-up for what was to come.  Sort of a skills assessment test.

Taylor and Jarett played around in the White Wash sand dunes for a while, while the rest of us enjoyed the nice weather.  We then followed the wash south until we hit the fun ATV trail that meanders around and drops in to Red Wash.  Although somewhat technical, this is a fun place to ride.  The wet wash bottom is an excellent place to go for speed.

We exited the wash to the south and ventured in to areas I have not been before.  I was searching for a section of the Dead Cow Trail some refer to as “the tubes”.  We first rode east on the old cow road.  This was a fun section with a little sand and some nice bumps to try and get some air.

As we dropped in to the narrow canyon that heads towards the Green River, the challenge level rose quickly.  Numerous deep sandy sections, some tight and steep climbs around obstacles, and an occasional tree to pass under.  This section is not for ATVs or the faint of heart.  It was hard – but it was also fun – mainly because it was interesting.  We found “the tubes” and took some nice photos in this section (refer to the web postings).

Jarett in Dead Cow Wash

It was getting late, we were getting tired, and we hit another challenging obstacle prior to reaching the river.  Rather than continue on in to the unknown, we decided to turn back.

After exiting the canyon, we took a quick trip out to Trin Alcove.  This is a Jeep trail that could easily be handled by most ATV riders.  The view is incredible.  We took a wrong fork in the road and didn’t end up on the very point of Trin Alcove, but we were close enough to get some great views.

Rather than cut back through White Wash we decided to go north on the Ten-Mile Point road and then finish the southern half of the Dee’s Pass loop.  Several years ago we rode the northern half, but decided the southern half was too challenging for the younger kids on their xr70s.  We made a wise choice!  What a terrible trail.  We got lost a few times (even with a GPS) and had some pretty nasty rocky hills to climb.  Driving right in to the setting sun didn’t help matters either.  But we made it back to the car before dark.

Total mileage was about 38 miles.  18 miles of fairly technical riding in to and back out of the tubes, followed by some easy cruising, and about 5 more miles of technical challenges at the end of the day.

Fri Oct 17: Fix-It-Pass & Devil’s Racetrack loop

Devil’s Racetrack GPS route

Today’s activity was to be the highlight of the trip.  A ride through the famous Fix-It-Pass trail and the infamous Devil’s Racetrack in the San Rafael Swell.  It was a great ride – but it was very challenging.

We parked at exit 131 off I-70 and rode down the fun trail past the Wickiup (trail 645).  This is one of my favorite trails as it winds through the Juniper trees and crosses the wash numerous times.  You then speed through the open meadows before dropping in to Cane Wash (643).

The ride to the Wilderness Study Area and down in to Horseshoe Canyon (638) is also one of my favorites.  It starts to get more technical and rocky as you approach Fix-It-Pass.  A few years ago Fix-It-Pass was repaired and a bypass path was cut for ATVs.  That bypass path is now in pretty bad shape, so we elected to ride down the main Jeep road.  It wasn’t too bad going down, but coming up would be pretty challenging.

Shortly after Fix-It-Pass you enter North Coal Wash and deal with the deep soft sand.  Speed demon Jason took off trying to stay with Taylor and Jarett.  As I rode around the first bend I find Jason lying in the sage brush about 3 feet above the wash bottom.  As I studied his track in the sand, it was evident that he lost control, made a hairpin turn and hit the embankment and got launched into the air clearing the first sage brush and landing in a hole prior to the second sage brush.  He has now added sage brush to his list of things he does not like!

We stopped for a break at the junction that leads to the Devil’s Racetrack.  Kevin Jolley noticed that Spencer had a flat front tire.  This is the same TTR-125 that got a flat rear tire a few years ago in North Coal Wash.  For some reason that bike just doesn’t like Coal Wash.  We pumped up the tire and headed up the Devil’s Racetrack trail (641).

Devil’s Racetrack is much harder – and longer – than I remembered.  I don’t know how much is due to my loss of memory, and how much is due to trail usage.  There are definitely a lot more loose rocks and soft dirt/sand from all of the use this trail gets.  Ever since they closed down all of the other trails in the area, it has focused large crowds on to just a few open trails.

We found a nice shady spot and stopped for lunch.  Spencer’s tire was flat again, so we tested out my front fender tire kit that I bought after our last North Coal Wash adventure.  The tube was torn at the valve, so we replaced the tube and continued on our way.

In the midst of the rocky sections, there is a section about 1 mile long that has numerous banked turns.  I was following closely behind Jason as he enjoyed the turns.  I was filming him (I thought) with my helmet camera.  When we finished, I checked the camera and found it was in the wrong mode.  So we went back and tried it again.  Unfortunately my memory stick was full so I didn’t get video on either pass.  Bummer.

We finally reached the large ledge drop-off and then the stair section of the trail.  I remembered these two obstacles as being “the” difficult ones.  But along with the rest of the trail, they were harder than I remembered.

While we were at the stairs section, another group came the other way so we watched an ATV, a Yamaha Rhino, and a Polaris RZR descend the stairs.  Of the three, the RZR seemed to handle it the best.  The ATV was often on the verge of tipping, while the Rhino was constantly dragging bottom and had one wheel high in the air – it just doesn’t have the articulation needed for this type of terrain.

This was actually the third group we encountered with a RZR (one in Red Wash, one in North Coal Wash, and one on Devil’s Racetrack).  I asked each of them how they liked them in comparison to an ATV.  I feared they would be hard on your back since you can’t stand up in the rough sections.  All three said they felt safer and had a smoother and more enjoyable ride in the RZR.  One even commented that he switched from his cushy two-seater Can-Am because of back problems.  They seem to be quite capable machines – and they can carry a lot of cargo.

Returning to our story…  The stairs section is a challenge, but we all made it through safe and sound.  It was entertaining to watch everyone get bucked around and try to stay with their machines.  But all riders and bikes came through in working order.  By the time we reached Dutchman Arch we were very glad to be off the rough trail and take the easy way (644) back to the car and then on to the hot tub at the motel.

Jarett celebrating after making it up the “stairs”

It was a very challenging ride.  We only covered 40 miles (including the repeat on the banked turn section) in a very long but memorable day.

Sat Oct 18: Crystal Geyser loop

Crystal Geyser single track

Our plan for Saturday was to ride the Green and Orange portions of the Dick Brass trails in the San Rafael Swell.  But the temperature was much cooler and we wanted to get home early enough to wash the bikes and put them away (and Kevin had to write a talk for sacrament meeting).  So we opted to explore some of the trails around Crystal Geyser.  I had previously ridden from Crystal Geyser to Salt Wash two or three times, but my hope was to find the single track trail to White Wash.  We rode a portion of it on Thursday, and I have ridden the other section of the southern end on previous trips, but never any of the northern sections.

As we were preparing to ride (we were the only ones at Crystal Geyser), who should drive up but our friendly ranger that we met last spring after our “Behind The Reef” ride.  He checked our licenses and registration, and finding us fully legal this time he let us off with a light sentence by only “talking” to us for about 30 minutes.

He warned the boys to stay on the trail and reminded them of the stiff fine if he catches anyone riding off legal trails.  He also informed us of some recent changes in the law.  For your information, here are the highlights:

  • The 5-digit license numbers are no longer required.  Feel free to remove them from your machines.
  • It is now possible to street legalize an ATV.
  • All youth (< 18 yrs) must carry their safety certificate or a copy of it with them when they ride.
  • All adults must carry their driver’s license.  This is for notification purposes in the event of an accident.
  • All youth (< 18 yrs) must remain within 300 feet AND within line-of-sight of a supervising adult (18+).

That last one was a real surprise to me.  This rule is a result of search of rescue operations for kids while their parents are nowhere to be found.  They are trying to legislate good parenting.  This is going to be a tough law to live by.  I can barely keep up with Jason now – and he is only 13.  When he rides like Jarett and Taylor, there is no way I will be able to keep within 300 feet of him.  Anyway, I thought I would pass along the information.  This is all covered in the “Utah Off-Highway Vehicle Program” brochure.

Since I didn’t want to get a ticket, I asked the ranger if the single track trail to White Wash was legal.  He said yes it was.  I asked if he knew where it was.  He pulled out a map and showed me a double track Jeep trail that I had not ridden on before.  I wondered if he understood my question – but I took him at his word that the trail was legal.

We started down the Jeep trail and found where the single track crossed.  Almost all of the tire tracks turned on to the single track, so we followed it.  This was a wonderful ride!  Probably my favorite ride of the entire trip.  It was mostly fast cruising through the desert, but you had to stay alert for wash crossings, whoops, and an occasional outcropping of rocks.  If we had ridden this prior to Devil’s Racetrack we may have considered it very hard – but now it was just great fun.

There were a few nasty ledges to drop down just before reaching Salt Wash.  Rather than risk it, we opted to walk/lift our bikes down.

It was now about lunch time and we wanted to finish up and head for home.  Lunch was in the car, so we took the double track road back home rather than the western single track.  This trail was much nicer than the other two Jeep trails I have ridden from Salt Wash to Crystal Geyser.  It was mostly smooth and fast and would be enjoyable by most ATV riders.

The total ride was about 25 miles and took about 2.5 hours.  If we had included the southern portion it would be about a 40 miles loop.  The entire 40 miles can be done as a single track if so desired.

All in all we had a great time, but we were all very sore and tired by the end of the weekend.  It was a real workout man-handling our 250 lb machines each day.  But it was sure fun!


About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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