Tie Fork / Willow Creek Single Track – Sept. 2011

Sept. 3, 2011

Our family has a saying… “Nobody likes trail #111”.  Years ago I led Kim and Jamie up a very rocky trail in American Fork Canyon.  It was a terrible trail – full of bowling ball sized rocks.  After about ½ mile of torture, we turned back.  Ever since then, whenever I lead the family on a “bad” trail, I get reminded of trail #111.

We can now add to that saying.  “Nobody likes trail #310.  Or #311.  And we especially don’t like trail #83, or #25.”

A few years back Jamie and I attempted to explore some intermediate level single track in the mountains between Strawberry Reservoir and Soldier Summit.  We had previously ridden other single track trails that are part of the Strawberry OHV map.  The intermediate trails (blue on the map) were quite fun while the advanced (black) were pretty challenging.  So here is a whole network of blue trails that looked really fun.  Unfortunately, the trails were completely overgrown with weeds and brush.  It didn’t look like anyone had ridden the trails in years.  So we abandoned our plan.

About two weeks ago some folks from the Uinta Trail Council cleared the brush and fallen trees from this network of trails.  They posted information about the trail on MotoUtah.com.  So, here was my chance to explore those rare intermediate level single track trails!

One of the council members sent me a map with a suggested route to follow, as shown in the following map.  The blue dashed lines represent the single track trails of interest.  The yellow line outlines his suggested route, going in a clockwise direction.

So, we had a plan.  Jamie and Jason were eager and willing to join me on my quest because “this is going to be fun!”

We pick Jamie up at BYU around 9:00 AM and drove to the new Tie Fork rest stop part way up Spanish Fork Canyon.  The rest stop makes an excellent staging area – plenty of parking, restrooms, and fresh water.

Well, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.  Figure 2 shows our actual route – we fell far short of our overall goal

Our GPS track

 We started off on schedule, leaving the rest stop shortly after 10:00 AM.  We followed trail #117 until we found the bottom of trail #310.  Trail #310 is an ATV trail that heads up the mountain and would lead us to Willow Creek Ridge, where the single track trail began.

Tie Fork rest stop

I knew that trail #310 had one really steep hill to climb – but I didn’t know about all of the others!  Nor did I know that the trail was primarily loose silt and broken shale rocks – very slippery on a dirt bike.

After successfully making 5 or 6 steep climbs, we came to “the” steep one.  We had no warning.  We came around the corner and there it was – no room for an approach.  I got about half way up, saw the ledge, and totally chickened out.  So now I was stuck on this steep hill of extremely loose broken shale rock and loose dirt.

Jamie came around the corner and started the climb, saw me stopped, and she stopped.  Now two of us were stuck.  Luckily, our family uses helmet radios.  We radioed Jason and told him to stop and come help.  After several minutes we are all safely down from the hill and ready for plan B – take a different road to the top.  So we got to ride back down all of the steep climbs we had just come up.

The steep hill with the ledge

Plan B was to ride up trail #311, which was our intended route back to the car at the end of the day.  This was actually two trails, #613 first, followed by #311.  613 was extremely fun!  This was a nice ATV trail up a small valley.  The trail winds in and out of the trees.  Now we were having fun!

But alas, all good things seem to come to an end.  The upper half of the trail had deep erosion rut right down the middle of the trail.  Some portions of the rut were very muddy.  At one point Jason got stuck – and I mean stuck.  His back wheel dug into the mud until his foot pegs hit the sides and wedged the bike.  Again, our radios came in handy.  Jamie responded to Jason’s call for help.  It took about one half hour to get him out.

Jason waiting for help

It was about 12:30 PM when Jamie and Jason finally reached the top of #311.  Time for lunch – and we haven’t even reached our “primary” trail of interest.

After lunch we took #131 up to the summit.  131 is a nice gravel road that goes from Soldier Summit to Strawberry Reservoir.  It is an easy ride, and the views are spectacular.  You do, however, need to pay attention so you don’t ride off the side of the road – it would be a long way down before you came to a stop.

Trail #131

We finally arrived at the beginning of the single track.  Our intent was to ride down Willow Creek along trails #83 and #25, and then exit via French Hollow, #27.

In addition to clearing the trail, the Uinta Trail Council also installed sign posts along the way.  It was a good thing too, as the trail was very difficult to follow even with the signs.  The trail started off through a meadow.  The trail was narrow, but sort of fun to ride except it is rough due to embedded sheep footprints all along the trail.

The trail then enters the bottom of Willow Creek and basically follows the stream, with numerous stream crossings.

Jamie crossing the stream

Portions of the trail are through the weeds and grass, some through thick willow bushes (as seen above), and some on steep talus[1] slopes.

Jason following the trail

The talus slopes are what really caused us grief.  These trails are certainly not intermediate skill level – they are very advanced!  The trail is narrow and the talus slopes are extremely slippery.

Jamie with that “you said this would be fun” look

Some of the talus slopes were extremely nerve racking.  If you gave the bike too much throttle and caused the wheel to spin, the rear wheel would spin out and slide down the hill.  So, we had to go very slowly, which made it difficult to balance.  And when you are off balance you can’t steer where you want to go.  We had multiple problems on various sections of talus slope – and none of us enjoyed it.

Our worst incident happened to Jason.  He lost his balance and tipped to the downhill side!  It was very steep, and the trail was about 20’ above the flat land below.  Jason fell and tumbled down the hill, scraping his shoulder and back, and bruising his hip.  His bike slid about 5’ and stuck in some small bushes – upside down.

I walked back to help Jason, but we could not get sufficient footing on the slippery slope to lift the bike.  Luckily, a good Samaritan solo biker happened by at that time (the only other person we saw on the trail).  He stopped and helped us pick up the bike and ride it through the brush back to the trail.

Other portions of the trail were precariously close to the edge of the streambed.  Sometime later Jason again lost his balance and fell about 2’ and landed upside down into a fairly deep pool of water.  He was thoroughly soaked!  He had water dripping from his boots the rest of the day.

Mutiny planning

When we came to the first junction, we agreed to exit this not-so-fun single track as soon as possible.  So rather than continue down Willow Creek, we turned left and rode out through Racetrack Hollow (also #25).  This was no easier than Willow Creek, but it was shorter.

We finally exited the single track at about 3:00 PM.  Our day was far spent, so we took road #131 back to the top of ATV trail #117.  117 turned out to be a very fun ride.  It was fairly fast and had interesting turns and scenery.

Our total ride was about 37 miles long.  The first half of those miles took almost all day.  We rode about 17 of those miles back to the car in less than one hour.

I was hoping to explore more of the Willow Creek/French Hollow single track trails, but fell short of that goal.  It is doubtful that Jamie or Jason will ever agree to make another attempt – and I seriously doubt that I would either.

Oh well, we survived the day with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises.  We look forward to more enjoyable rides in the future!

Quotes of the day:

“You said this would be fun!”  Everyone

“I have crashed more today than in the past 5 years.”  Jamie

“I need help.”  Jason and Dee

“I lost my start button.”  Jamie

Our video:


[1] Geologists define talus as the pile of rocks that accumulates at the base of a cliff, chute, or slope. The formation of a talus slope results from the talus accumulation.

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About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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One Response to Tie Fork / Willow Creek Single Track – Sept. 2011

  1. Pingback: Willow Creek Single Track – July 2014 | Gardiner Family Adventures

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