Soldier Summit – Sept. 2009

Sept. 12, 2009

I had so much fun riding the trails near Logan Canyon and Bear Lake that I was anxious to get out for another ride while the weather is nice.  For several years I have wanted to explore some of the single track trails south of Strawberry Reservoir.  Jamie was game to join me even though our last two single track attempts turned out to be well above our skill level.  Jason was also planning on coming, but dropped out due to a pulled muscle in his back.

The primary objective was to explore the single track trails – but we failed at this, as described in the report.  Our secondary objective was to explore the legal ATV trails in the area and identify candidates for nice “family” rides.  We struck gold in this regard – these trails are truly wonderful in terms of scenery, smoothness, and lack of technical difficulty.  These are trails that the ladies will love!

My GPS record of our ride is at the end of this document.  The routes marked in yellow are hand drawn estimates for trails that we did not ride, but are helpful in following the account.  Utah State Parks & Recreation has published an OHV trail map for the entire Strawberry area.  Their map is probably easier to read and follow than mine, so it is worth looking it up on-line.  The latest version that I have found was published in 2008.  It can be found at:  http://static.stateparks.utah.gov/docs/StrawberrySystem08.pdf

Saturday Sept. 12: Soldier Summit – Strawberry Reservoir – Diamond Fork

I picked Jamie up at her BYU apartment and we drove up Spanish Fork Canyon to the trail head parking just past Soldier Summit.  Soldier Summit is just one of many access points to the trails in this region.  The Unicorn trail head part way up Ray’s Valley Road is a good starting point and it has public restrooms.  You can also enter from the Strawberry Reservoir area.

We began our ride at about 10:45 AM with nice temperatures and clear skies.  We rode up trail 131 for almost 10 miles to the summit at Willow Creek Ridge.  The lower portion of the road follows a small stream with numerous beaver dams.  As we got higher in elevation the road had numerous tight turns with a steep drop off on one side – thus demanding caution.

This is a very nice dirt road.  It is mostly hard packed dirt with only a little loose gravel or small ruts.  Much of the road (and many of the other roads as well) could be traveled at a decent speeds.  Jamie and I were cruising at 30-40 mph much of the time.

A group of hunters were camped at the intersection at Willow Creek Ridge (754) and trail 131.  This is where single track trail #83 was supposed to begin (shown in yellow because it is not an actual GPS route).  We drove around for about 5 minutes looking for the trail, and then walked through the camp and found a very faint single track trail that looks like it has not been used by man or beast in many years.  There was not a trail marker sign, so we were not sure if this was the correct trail or not.

We decided to ride over to the Willow Creek Guard Station and try trail #25.  The guard station was locked and it was older than I expected.  I don’t know why it is there – it is just in the middle of large open meadow of sage brush.

We finally found the beginning of trail #25 with a fairly new trail sign, but it did not indicate what types of vehicles were allowed on the trail.  It is clearly a small single track and there were a few horse tracks, but no sign of motorcycle use.  We rode down the trail for about 100 yards to the first stream crossing.  The trail crossing had been washed out, leaving about a 3’ drop in to the small stream.  We looked for a bypass, but the area was basically a marshy swamp, so we abandoned this trail.

The next single track entrance is trail #26, but we opted to skip that and ride around to trail #27.  I was hoping to ride 27 from north to south and then ride up to Strawberry Peak (one of several by that name).

We continued on 131 until we were almost at Strawberry Reservoir.

Jamie near Strawberry Reservoir

We then turned on to trail 109 which climbed back up in the hills.  The map shows this as a blue, or intermediate, trail, but in my opinion it could easily be a green trail.  We found the trail head for French Hollow (27) and it had a new sign, along with the usual icons indicating what vehicles were allowed.  It is open to foot traffic, horse, and bicycle – but closed to all motorized travel!  The map clearly shows this as a motorcycle trail, but the sign says otherwise.

I was disappointed to find this trail now closed.  I was further disappointed to find that road #90 is also now closed to ATV travel.  Road 90 was open on my 2004 map, but closed on the 2008 version, and it had “no ATV” stickers on the trail markers.  90 is another very nice dirt road – easily traveled in a car.  It did not make sense to me that this road is closed to ATVs as it makes a nice loop out of 131, 109, and 90.  Without 90, trail 109 leads to nothing ride-able on ATV or dirt bike.  So, being in a mind to protest, we decided to ride 90 and take our chances.  This was probably the nicest road in the entire area – it wound through the trees and has excellent views high above Strawberry Reservoir.  I have now sent an email asking the Forest Service to consider re-opening this trail.  (Not that my vote counts).

View of Strawberry Reservoir

Part way along trail 90 is a spur called Forest Road which used to lead down in to the canyon where the single track trail is.  We rode it for a few miles and found it is now closed as well.  So we returned to 90 and then back to 131 and rode back up to try trail #26.

We found a horse trailer parked at the beginning of trail 26 (it is hunting season after all).  Like 25, it had a new sign – but no indication of whether it was open to dirt bikes.  We could see the trail head down in the valley, and it looked a little more challenging than we wanted to attempt as it was about 1:00 PM.  So we headed over to trail 335 (objective #2) and found a nice spot for lunch in the shade of the trees.

While eating lunch we discussed our ride options for the afternoon.  Jamie said that she wanted to head back over to Strawberry Ridge where the “whoops” are for getting air.  It is a long ways from where we were, but we had time – so why not.

We continued west on 335 and then turned north on 43.  We passed a few groups that I thought at first to be hunters, but I think they were collecting choke cherries.  We then turned north on Indian Springs Road (42) and then west on 501.  501 has some pretty deep ruts making it a challenge for ATVs, but it wasn’t too bad on bikes.

Heading north on 518 we noted that the road has recently been graded.  The road is now wider with some sections covered in loose rocks.  It is still an easy ride, but not as smooth as it used to be.  Once the rocks get beat down in to the dirt it should be a “normal” dirt road again.

Since we were in search of good single track, I decided to take Jamie on the Fifth Water Trail (15) and a portion of Center Trail (9).  I had been there previously with Gary a number of times.  I wanted to avoid the advanced sections and hit the intermediate portions of the trail.  As we headed down through the trees and the tight turns on the top of Fifth Water I heard Jamie exclaim; “this is fun!”  The lower portion is a little more technical, keeping you on your toes.  There were two nasty rock sections just before we turned north on Center Trail (9).

Jamie on the Fifth Water single track

I warned Jamie that there were some tricky spots on Center Trail, but that it was mostly a fun ride.  I have video of a previous ride of Gary’s friend Mark having a humorous crash just as he approached the camera.  But even I was in for a surprise.  This trail has seen a lot of use since I was here last, and it needs work (does anyone need an Eagle project?).  Much of the trail now consists of a rut almost 1’ deep with exposed rocks and tree roots.  It is now much more technical than it used to be.  At one point I lost my balance when I hopped up a large boulder and my left foot peg dug in to the dirt on the side of the rut.  This stopped my bike and caused me to tip to the left.  I didn’t tip all the way over because my bike was inside the deep portion of the rut.  But I will still count it as a crash.

The Center Trail then splits.  In the past I have always gone straight north on the “black” section of the trail (shown in yellow on my map).  I knew there was a really challenging hill climb with a tight S-turn, and I wasn’t anxious to try that since we had already ridden over 50 miles.  I told Jamie the story of riding this trail with Gary and his BYU roommates.  Gary was on Kevin’s DRZ-400E shortly after we got it.  It had an electrical short, and every time he turned hard left a wire got pinched and blew a fuse – which killed the bike and prevented the electric start from working (and no kick starter).  We quickly went through all of our spare fuses and tried inserting a piece of wire.  I ended up trading Gary bikes so that I could share in the frustration.  Once we got home the short was easily found and repaired.

Jamie and I turned east and rode up the Fifth Water Ridge Trail (14).  This trail was really fun!  There was one steep hill climb with loose dirt somewhere near the middle, but it was mostly fun cruising through the trees.

The trail ends on the nice Sixth Water gravel road (715), which took us back up to the ridge so we could ride the whoops on Strawberry Ridge (22).  We only rode the whoop section up and back, and then headed back down 518 to work our way back to the car.

Shortly after rejoining 501 we rode another section of the Center Trail (9) single track.  This was another fun trail.  The first part had a few exposed roots to deal with, but from there on it was fast single track cruising.  This brought us out on the road from the Unicorn trail head (42).  We turned left and returned to the car via 42, 43, and 131.

We considered taking the long way home by riding up the Willow Creek Ridge trail (754) to Strawberry Peak, and then down via 147, but when we got to the junction it was almost 4:00 PM and we had already ridden about 75 miles.  We figured we would run out of gas and time, so we just rode down 131 back to the car.

We ended up riding about 85 miles in 5 hours, with about 9.3 miles of single track.  I used 1.7 gallons of gas and Jamie used 1.2 gallons.  So we probably would have had enough to do the longer loop, but we may have “run out of gas” even if our bikes didn’t.

Even though we didn’t get to ride as much single track as we hoped, we had a fun ride.  It was nice to be on less technical but scenic roads where we could satisfy our need for speed.  I would like to go back to the area with Kim and enjoy the beautiful fall colors.  I just need to figure out when.

For additional photos, visit my Picasa Photo Album at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dee.gardiner/SoldierSummitRideSep09#

Soldier Summit - Strawberry loop

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About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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