Bear Lake Single Track – Sept. 2011

Sept. 5, 2011

After having so much fun (NOT) exploring the single track trails up Spanish Fork Canyon on Saturday, we venture off again on Monday (Labor Day).  Scott Barton, Jason, and I, decide to do the ‘short’ version of a single track loop near Bear Lake.  It was a good thing…  Our route is shown below.

Single track loop

We parked in the staging area called “Harry’s Hollow”, about 5 or 6 miles up Bloomington Canyon.  Being a holiday, we expected to find a crowd – but no, we were the only ones there.

The clouds were building and the temperatures were mild, in the upper 60s.  We feared we might get some rain, but lucked out and only got a few sprinkles.  We became totally soaked anyway, due to continual sweating along the challenging trails.  Actually, most of the trail wasn’t all that challenging, but there were enough hard spots and downed trees to give us a good workout.

We got a fairly late start after a hearty breakfast.  We left the staging area about 11:30 AM.  We returned seven hours later – extremely exhausted.

Paris Peak

We quickly rode up Bloomington Canyon (#409) to the trailhead for trail #340 – Paris Peak.  The climb towards the peak is a fun ATV trail, although it is a little rough and rocky for a typical family ride.  Once we crossed the summit the trail turned to single track, and the intensity level rose dramatically.

I learned, via, that Midland and Davis Canyon had been cleared of trees.  I falsely assumed that Paris Peak had also been cleared.  Shortly after starting on the single track, we came to our first downed tree.  As I tried to work my way around the tree, I lost my balance and tipped to the downhill side.  By the time I got a solid foot on the ground, the bike was too far over for me to hold it, so I dropped the bike – fall #1.  I also lost my balance and fell over, but reacted quickly enough to hop over the protruding branches on the fallen pine tree.

On the trail again, we went about 100 yards and came to a very steep descent.  The trail went straight down the hill – with loose dirt and skid marks everywhere.  Who made this trail anyway?  We all made it down without incident and hoped that we wouldn’t have to turn around and go back up.

Another 100 yards and we came to a second steep descent.  The trail then opened up into a beautiful meadow at the base of Paris Peak.

Paris Peak

From here the trail was really quite fun as it meandered through meadows and forest.  There were occasional rocky sections, but nothing too bad.  At one point we missed a turn and rode a few miles before the trail disappeared.  We backtracked and followed the correct route down the mountain.

The descent was fairly slow and rocky and my bike began overheating.  When it got too hot it would lose power and sometimes die.  Losing momentum in the middle of a rock garden is generally not good – hence crashes #2, #3, #4…  I lost count.  But I learned that my new bike is much heavier than my old one.

The last mile or two was the most challenging.  Not because the trail was hard, but because of all the fallen trees.  We did not want to go back up the trail, so we pressed on – and came to one downed tree after another.  In some cases we lifted our bikes over the tree, and it other cases we could work the bikes underneath.  But they all took a lot of work and we became drenched in sweat.  It took us almost two hours to travel 3.6 miles.  If the other trails were this bad, we would be in for a very long day.

One of many fallen trees


After arriving in Paris Canyon we zipped up the road to the Highline trail (#316).  This high speed travel helped cool off my bike, getting it ready to climb to the ridge of the Highline trail.

We attempted this trail back in July, but it was blocked with trees and fields of snow.  The trail was now clear.  With just the three of us, we traversed the trail fairly quickly.  It was not as difficult as I remembered it from a few years back.

We stopped for lunch at the beginning of the single track (because my bike needed to cool off again).  It was good to take a break and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Lunch time!

Typical view along the Highline Trail

The single track was as fun as I remembered from last year.  In fact, it seemed easier.  The places that gave us grief last time were no trouble at all – probably because we were mentally prepared for it this time.

North Fork

We wanted to ride down a trail called Snowslide, but we knew we would be running out of daylight and energy before we were done, so we opted to take North Fork (#318) down to St Charles Canyon.

The top of the trail had some steep, rocky descents, but nothing as challenging as Paris Peak.  The remainder of the trail was mostly very fun.  There were a few rocky stretches that contributed to an increase in my crash count.  About this time I was wishing for my stock height seat instead of my ‘tall’ seat.  That ground was just too far down when the bike was tipping to the downhill side.

We stopped (to let my bike cool) in a wooden section that had been burned out.  Jason and Scott enjoyed a quick battle with wildflower buds.

Rest stop along the North Fork trail

Scott also managed to get ash on his face.

Should we tell Scott he has something on his face?

Near the bottom of North Fork we came across an old decrepit bridge across a beautiful stream.

The stream in North Fork

“Bridge Not Safe”

In spite of the warning sign, we ventured across the bridge and continued down the trail.  We shortly came out on the paved road that leads to the Minnetonka Caves.

Davis Canyon

Riding down the paved road quickly cooled my bike off again.  The beginning of the Davis Canyon single track (#314) was a little challenging to find because it is such a narrow trail.  It started off really fun as it meandered through the forest.

The trail entered a narrowing canyon, which forced the trail to follow the small streambed.  Sections of the trail were wet and muddy.  I almost crashed again, but managed to grab a small Quaking Aspen tree to help hold me up.

We quickly came to the most difficult obstacle of all – a rock wall about 5’ high.  I am sure good riders could just fly up the rock, but not us.  With the three of us we were able to lift the bikes up the ledge.  Luckily we had just installed “Tugger” straps on all of the bikes.

The weather was looking threatening, so we wanted to hurry on.  It would be very difficult to get out of this area if the trails were all wet.  So, we pressed on.  There were a few long rocky climbs, but most of the trail was pretty fun.  When we arrived at a fun section, I would ask Jason to turn on the helmet camera.  It seemed that almost immediately the trail either turned nasty again, or I crashed again.

Scott approves of this trail!


A short section of double track (#1152) connected the Davis Canyon trail with the Midland trail (#312).

Most of the Midland trail was fun, but it seemed to go on forever.  We were soaked in sweat, thoroughly exhausted, and it was getting late.  We managed to ride most of the trail without incident, but we did encounter a few problems.

On one really nice section of trail I remember thinking this would be fun on a mountain bike.  It was mostly smooth dirt on a gradual descent as the trail traversed the mountainside.  We were therefore able to pick up our speed somewhat.

At one point, an old dead pine tree lay parallel to the trail on the uphill side.  The old root ball partially hung over the trail.  I snagged my handlebar on the root ball, which twisted my bars and threw me off balance.  I veered off the trail to the right (downhill side) and slammed into a large pine tree trunk.  The bike hit first, and then my head.  I felt like a ram, head-butting an immovable object.  The bark of the tree snagged my helmet visor and twisted the helmet on my head, bending my glasses in the process.  I then tumbled down the hill about 15 feet.

I quickly assessed my condition before attempting to get up.  It seemed that all of my limbs were still intact.  When I turned around I noticed my bike lying upside down with gasoline leaking out of the vent hose.  Scott quickly came over and helped me pick the bike back up.  Let’s see, what was my crash count at?

Luckily, I was not seriously hurt.  My ribs were sore, but my neck and head seemed fine (I was crazy to begin with).  I noticed a few scraps of plastic on the ground, so I looked over my bike.  The front fender brace had broken and one of the tank shrouds popped part way off, but that was all the damage I could see.  It is amazing the abuse those bikes can take!

Jason was right behind me with the helmet camera running.  Unfortunately, I was blocked from view by his handlebars, so all we have recorded is Jason’s reaction to my crash.  He stopped, and said; “Oh, dear”.

I did not want others to experience this same problem (although I think there were marks on the tree before I got there), so I pulled out my folding saw and asked Jason to trim off some of those nasty roots.

Jason trimming roots. I collided with the tree between Jason and Scott.

This crash rattled me somewhat, so I took it pretty easy for the next mile or two.

We soon came to a stream crossing in a wetlands area.  I am surprised someone hasn’t rerouted this portion of the trail.  Scott went first and managed to get thoroughly stuck in the mud.  By the time Jason and I found alternate routes Scott had worked himself free.

I am always amazed at how stupid cows seem to be.  We had to ride through a herd of cows.  All they needed to do was step 3’ to one side, but no, they ran down the trail the same direction we were going.  They would peel off one by one, and after a few hundred yards we finally had a clear trail again.

The trail eventually opened up into a large meadow.  This allowed us to finally open up the throttle and get some speed – a refreshing change of pace.  This didn’t last very long, however, as we came to a ridge and then a very long descent back down to Bloomington Canyon.  My bike was overheating again, so I coasted most of the way down this section of trail.  Going down rocky trails really works your arms and shoulders.  I was ready to be done by the time we got to the bottom.

A quick jaunt down the road brought us back to the car.

We rode about 43 miles in 7 hours, which was certainly not a record for speed, but we did meet our objective of riding this loop consisting of multiple single track trails.  We were tired.  We were hungry.  We were soaked.  We overcame some significant obstacles.  But most of all, we had a great time.

I crashed a total of 7 or 8 times (mostly just tip overs).  Jason and Scott did much better with only one crash each.  I was tired and frustrated because my bike was not running well.  I later learned that I had a partially clogged fuel filter which was causing my bike to run lean and hot.  I also had a tall seat cushion, which made it too hard for me to reach the ground on uneven terrain.  Both of those problems are now resolved, so hopefully I will enjoy it more next time.

On the drive home Scott was talking about doing it again – but the long version next time.  I wonder if he will find anyone to go with him…


About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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5 Responses to Bear Lake Single Track – Sept. 2011

  1. Devin Pope says:

    Hey great blog post. Was wondering if you thought trail 340 would be ok to mtn bike? Is trail 340 pretty much down hill? Have a cabin in Bloomington and looking for mtn bike trails. From the video it looked doable. Was going to ride from Harry’s hollow to paris peak then down to the 421 and back around to Harry hollow. Thanks

  2. If you are a strong mountain biker, I would think you could do 340. It is a steady climb to Paris Peak, but not too steep. There is a really steep section once you start down the single track, but it is short and could be walked if necessary. Beyond the steep section, there are some pretty rocky sections, but again, you could walk them if necessary. You could then complete your loop by coming back via 365.

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