May 14-16, 2009
Jamie was unable to join us for our annual spring break ATV trip due to her schedule at college, so she asked if she could do something after school got out. She didn’t have to twist my arm very hard, so we planned a trip to Moab. I wanted to go a week earlier, but my bike was in the shop getting new valves. I was hoping Kevin could also join us, but his summer job started the day we left. So it was just Jamie and me.
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Thursday May 14: Hell’s Revenge
We left Salt Lake about 8:00 AM in order to arrive in Moab around noon. A few years back I was able to ride a portion of the Hell’s Revenge trail with Paul Bradley, Mike Kessler, and Adam Kessler. I thought it was very unique and very fun, so I have wanted to ride the rest of the trail.
Fins-N-Things would have made a nice warm up ride prior to Hell’s Revenge, but our schedule worked best if we rode Hell’s Revenge on the first day. When we arrived at the trailhead the weather was nice, but hot – around 85º.
In addition to getting new valves I also got a new piston and rings and a new set of tires. The steep climbs of Hell’s Revenge proved a challenge until my bike was “broken in”. I found myself killing the engine more often than usual, which was a bit frustrating. But as the rings broke in, I felt the power return and found that I could easily lift the front tire with a little throttle – which I haven’t been able to do for some time.
Luckily “Lake Michigan” was dry this year. Last time it was full of water, and this time I could see the rocks and ruts that were not visible last time. After a short sandy section we hit the first major section of slickrock. This section was a blast! It has some extremely steep ascents and descents. This trail is not for the faint of heart. It was fun, but you have to trust your bike and your tires and just go for it. I learned that it was easier going down the steep hills in second gear, as first gear would just skid.
We rode out to the overlook and took a short break. We then looked around for the famed “Hell’s Gate” hill climb. Hell’s Gate is on a small loop at the end of the overlook trail. Jeeps first go down a nasty trail and then try to come back up Hell’s Gate. If you want to see what it is all about, do a search on YouTube. You will likely find several videos of Jeeps flipping over backwards.
I was not about to go down the “easy” entrance, let alone come up Hell’s Gate. I did, however, take video of Jamie coming up. You will have to see it to believe it.
On the return from the overlook we reached a series of ledges that threw me last time. On that trip I lost control and bounced off into the trees with Paul laughing right behind me. When we arrived at that section of the trail I told Jamie about my prior experience.
On our way back from the overlook, I again blew it. I didn’t actually “tip over”, but I did stall the bike on one of the ledges. My rear tire then slid to the side and I needed to realign my bike. I couldn’t get my leg over the rear of the bike, so I ended up laying the bike down to change my footing. Jamie said it was all in my head and that I should go back and try again to “beat that hill”. But I was content to move on.
We rode around the “Black Hole” and stopped to look at “The Bathtub”. I haven’t quite figured out what makes Jeepers want to drive down in a hole like that. To each his own I guess.
Shortly after “The Bathtub” we had a very steep descent. I was in first gear, started to slide, and my bike killed. It was a bit nerve racking as my rear tire started to slide out to the side and almost pass my front tire. I managed to straighten it back out, but left a nice skid mark on the hill about 30’ long. So much for my new rear tire! And of course Jamie rode down it with ease.
We took the bypass around “Tip Over Challenge”. I don’t need to be challenged to tip over, I can do that almost anywhere. After the bypass we somehow missed a turn and skipped a short loop that included “Rubble Trouble”.
Our plan was to turn around at that point and ride the trail in the opposite direction. But we were getting tired and knew we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Plus we wanted to hit the hot tub before dinner and a movie. So we continued on and rode out the “new” but not “improved” exit. They have now closed the entire area around “Lion’s Back” so they routed the trail on some old Jeep roads to the exit. This was absolutely the worst part of the trail. Nothing but loose dirt, rocks, and 2’ ledges. I wouldn’t want to take my Jeep down that!
But we made it safe and sound. Including the short ride on the pavement back to the car the loop was almost exactly 9 miles in length, but it took about 2.5 hours. Hell’s Revenge is a very unique trail. For those not afraid of steep climbs, it is a must do – at least once.
Friday May 15: Fins-N-Things
I had previously ridden Fins-N-Things twice in one day, so I wanted to try it in the reverse direction this time. For the most part, there wasn’t much difference, but there were a few spots that are more difficult in reverse.
The end of the loop (or the beginning for us) was the most fun with lots of long sandstone fins. It was really fun from waypoints FINS24 to FINS21. It was similar to Hell’s Revenge, but not nearly as steep. You could stand up and relax much of the time. This allowed us to enjoy the ride instead of hanging on for dear life.
Beyond that point there was a mixture of soft sand, slickrock, and rock ledges. One descent in the vicinity of FINS20 could have been a disaster going clockwise around the loop. About half way down the hill I realized that there was a deep crack at the bottom just large enough for my front tire to drop in to. Luckily I was able to stop and swing my bike around and drive around the slot. This would have been obvious when coming the other direction.
The next few miles are more of the same, with an occasional rocky section. At FINS12 we left the Fins-N-Things trail and rode the Porcupine Rim Jeep trail – but that is left for the next section.
After returning from Porcupine Rim, we rode the south half of Fins-N-Things. When traveling in the usual counter-clockwise direction you arrive at the first steep and intimidating descent. It was like a waterfall – the sandstone is rounded off on top and drops about 12-15’ to the sand below. Last time the sand at the landing was rounded out, so you could just roll down the cliff and roll out on to the sand.
This year the sand at the bottom has been thrown out away from the cliff. I suspect Jeeps and ATVs have been spinning their wheels trying to go up the cliff, digging out the sand and throwing it back away from the base of the cliff. Thus, instead of a nice rounded bottom, there is a pit about 1’ to 2’ deep, with a sand bump a few feet away from the sandstone cliff. ATVs coming down the cliff received quite a jolt when they hit the bottom.
But we needed to go up this hill. It wasn’t obvious that it could be done. You couldn’t get a run at it because you would slam in to the hill.
After studying the wall for a time, I decided to try the far left approach. It was not as steep as the rest, but it was covered in sand since that as where people would walk up or down the hill. I made it about ¾ of the way before stalling out. Luckily I was able to get my footing and not slip back down the hill. I spun out a little when restarting, but made it up okay. So Jamie took the center and steeper route and shot right up! Once again showing me up.
The ATVers that were watching were impressed with her skill, but I reminded them that Jamie learned it all from me 🙂
Fins-N-Things was a pretty fun ride. It has fun sections of slickrock, but there was a price to pay with the occasional rough section. If you are in the area and want to just “sample” the trail, do an out-and-back on the end section from FINS24 to FINS21 and back.
Friday May 15: Porcupine Rim
Several years ago I rode the Porcupine Rim Jeep trail with Glen Taylor. We started up the main Porcupine Rim trail where the mountain bikers ride, but decided it was too challenging. This was, after all, Glen’s first time on his new ATV.
With so many trails being closed in recent years, and with an ever increasing interest in OHV use, the trails are getting a lot of use and abuse. I found the Jeep road much more difficult than it was a few years ago. The ledges are dug up, making them taller with loose dirt and rocks below. It was a rough road and not much fun.
But then the upper portion where the bikers ride was even worse. What a nasty trail. There was a great view up on the rim – and a great place for lunch – but it really wasn’t worth the bother.
My intent was to ride the rim and then part of the descent that the bikers like – at least down to the wilderness study area where it turns in to a very advanced trail. Supposedly this section of the trail is more enjoyable. But we decided we had had enough with rough and rocky roads and ledges, so we headed back to finish Fins-N-Things while we still had some energy. In fact we took the upper exit and joined the Sand Flats Road at PORCPN7. This is a beautiful section of the road and was a joy to ride down.
Riding Fins-N-Things and part of Porcupine Rim took most of the day, with a total of only about 38 miles.
If I were to do Porcupine Rim again, I would skip the main Jeep road and enter at PORCPN7. From there it would be reasonable to ride out to the wilderness study area boundary and back. You could then enjoy the view and the fun sections of the trail but avoid many of the nasty ledges.
Saturday May 16: Crystal Geyser Single Track
Saturday was our “fun” day. Enough with rocks and ledges (or so we thought) – let’s head to the Crystal Geyser area and enjoy some fast desert single track.
With the recently published BLM Travel Management Plan I was able to ride this area with confidence about which trails are legal and which are not. To my pleasant surprise “Guy’s Trail” is still open. I just found it last fall, so I would have been disappointed if it was now closed.
We parked at Crystal Geyser and rode the single track trail called “Guy’s Trail”, which follows Little Grand Wash. There were some new roads in the area providing access to new drilling rigs, so some of the single track has been replaced with a gravel road – but it was still a very fun ride. “Guy’s Trail” is mostly fast riding through the desert with an occasional crossing of the wash and a few gullies. You can get air on some of the crossings if you are up for that sort of thing.
At RDJNCT2 the trail intersects another drilling rig access road. Just past BYPASS JNCT is a fun little canyon to ride through. But beyond that the trail comes to some tall ledges that I didn’t want to attempt with just the two of us. So we rode back through the canyon and took the road down to Salt Wash road.
Rather than continuing on Guy’s Trail south of Salt Wash (which I have ridden three times now), we chose to check out a portion of the “Endure Loop”. I thought this was an ATV trail, but after checking the map again verified that it is a legal single track. That is good, because there was one spot on a ledge that was only about 1’ wide. It was an interesting ride, but not all that much fun. I would rate this section as advanced.
After a brief stop overlooking the White Wash area, we began our return journey via the Oil Well Wash ATV trail. I first discovered this trail with Jamie and Jarett Jolley a few years back. It was a fun ride, with tons of whoops that really wore out my legs. The trail is now frequented by ATVs, which have flattened out the whoops and widened the trail. For me this was a refreshing change. What a blast! This trail was an absolute riot to ride. The trail criss-crosses the wash with small to medium sized whoops along the way. ATVers that don’t like the whoops can simply stay in the sandy wash bottom. Thus, it is a fun trail for bikers and ATVers alike.
The trail forks shortly before reaching the Salt Wash road. We had time and energy, so we explored both forks. The right fork is the shorter and easier of the two, but they both drop you out on the Salt Wash road.
We took the Jeep rode heading north until the “Crystal Geyser Single Track” exited to the right.
We expected this to be similar to Guy’s Trail, but it is much more technical. It was obvious that this trail was much less traveled – and we now know why. It led to a tight canyon with narrow slots between huge boulders. We basically walked our bikes up and over three small ledges.
After exiting this canyon the trail merged with a more heavily traveled single track. We turned right and continued on, only to be stopped at a very steep hill climb that would have zapped our remaining strength in the heat. So we headed back to the fork and found where the “easier” single track left the main Jeep rode. It merged at the cattle guard (CG Gate).
We then zipped back to the car via this nice Jeep road. I have now ridden from Crystal Geyser to White Wash on at least three different Jeep roads (not counting the single track). This route is by far the easiest and most enjoyable of the bunch. The others are not all that bad, but they are more rocky.
This ride was about 38 miles in length and took us about 4 hours to complete (including lunch and rest stops). I have been trying to piece this loop together for a number of years, and other than a short section of the single track that we gave up on, I have now completed that goal. This was a really fun ride!