Aug. 2-3, 2013
Epic: extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope. (Merriam-Webster)
For me, this was an epic adventure. On Friday, August 2, we rode 85 miles from Logan Canyon near, Beaver Creek, to Soda Springs, where we stayed in the JR Inn. We returned via a different route on Saturday (78 miles). If I had to choose another word to describe this trip, it would be “rocky”.
We started our adventure with eight people; Burt, Logan, Ed, and Lyndon Lamborn, Scott and Andrew Barton, Mike Nield, and me. Andrew only rode with us the first day.
Figure 2 shows our GPS track of the ride. We started at the Beaver Creek turnoff in Logan Canyon and rode north to Soda Springs, Idaho, along the track shown in red. The blue track shows our route for the return ride the following day. More detailed maps follow.
Our group met at the Beaver Creek staging area at about 9:00 on Friday morning. The first leg of our journey took us up the Sink Hollow trail (#353). This trail was much rockier than I remembered, although I recall that on our last trip it took us over two hours to go 4 miles with a large group, including some ATVs. With this group, we were moving considerably faster. We were able to keep moving by having each person wait at junctions until the person behind them relieved them. This is much faster than waiting for the entire group at each junction.
The Sink Hollow trail ends at Gibson Basin, which is a wide open meadow that sometimes contains a small pond. There is a fun trail all the way around the basin, but we just took the western portion over to the Highline ATV trail (#316).
This portion of the Highline trail is intermediate difficulty, with a few rocky sections. With good line selection, it isn’t too bad. On occasion the trail opens up on the ridgeline, offering some scenic views.
There is a fairly steep descent at the end of this trail segment, just before reaching the dirt road at Danish Pass. From there, the trail gets significantly more technical.
After a short segment of the Highline single track (#316), we turned onto the Snowslide trail (#319). This was my first – and perhaps last – time on the Snowslide trail. The terrain is very steep and the trail is narrow. It requires intense concentration to stay on the trail.
I am not very good at riding tight switchbacks, so on the first switchback, I tried to do a multi-point turn. I snagged my foot on a rock, lost my balance, fell over and dropped my bike. I wasn’t moving, but I guess that still counts as a crash. Picking my bike up always takes a toll on my energy level. Since we were in for a very long day, I was trying to ride as efficiently as possible.
Following the switchback, the trail was very narrow and you had to cross several exposed tree roots. Andrew slid off the trail and took a tumble head-first down the hill. He didn’t enjoy that.
After getting off the steep portion of the trail, we came to a small stream crossing followed by a boulder field. The stream was just deep enough to make your tires nice and slippery.
The right section of the boulder field looked easier than the left, but there was a deep hole in the stream that ate your front tire. Luckily, Mike was there to help get me going again. As seen in the above photo, Andrew is taking the better route to the left. The left route looks harder, but it is the better route to take.
Snowslide joins the North Fork of St Charles trail (#318). This section was fun to ride as it flowed through trees and meadows, eventually coming out onto the pavement in St Charles Canyon.
We stopped at a campground to fill our water bottles, and then took a break at Blue Pond Spring, which is just off the pavement.
The next section is Davis Canyon (#314). The last time I rode this I was having a very bad day. My bike was running lean (partially clogged fuel injector) and hot. The bike would die in the tough, slow sections. I think I dropped my bike about eight times that day. This time, my goal was to ride this trail without such frustration. I am happy to report that I did much better and even enjoyed the ride this time.
There is one significant obstacle in Davis Canyon – “the wall”. Last time Jason and Scott and I just lifted our bikes up. This time we rode up. There is about a 6” wide slot to hit, which is a challenge due to the narrow, off-camber trail and loose soil. If you go too far to the right, your tire will wedge in an undercut slot. If you go too far left, you might flip over backwards.
Andrew didn’t have enough momentum on his first attempt, but spotters where there to prevent him from taking a nasty fall backwards. On his second attempt, he made it up, but popped a wheelie at the top. He bailed off his bike, but at least he was up. A few others also struggled to make it up.
After watching people struggle, I wasn’t confident in my ability to make it up the wall. My most common crash is from not riding aggressively enough to make the climb, stalling my bike, and falling over. I did not want that to happen on this hill.
I asked Burt if he would ride my bike. He simply said; “no”. What? What do you mean no? So I collected my courage, revved up the bike, and got ready to slip my clutch to avoid stalling the bike. I shot right up the wall and made it easily. Not in very good form – but I did make it up okay.
Burt then showed us how to do it in style.
The Davis Canyon trail connects to the Midland trail (#312). This is the trail where, on my last visit, I clipped a tree root with my handlebar and collided head-on with a tree. I did much, much better this time.
I did have my second (and last) crash of the trip along this section. After riding a lot of narrow and rocky stretches, the trail opens into a large meadow. I was finally able to get my bike out of first gear (at least it seemed that way). After the meadow is a hill climb. I was cruising up the hill in fairly good form, but got slightly off balance. Since the trail was dished out, I was not able to steer to correct my balance, and ended up dropping my bike again. This time I managed to stay on my feet. I quickly picked up the bike and continued on my way before the next person had to stop and wait.
Just before we reached the Bloomington Canyon road we stopped for lunch. I let a little more air out of my trials tire to improve my traction, which did help for the rest of the trip.
There is an ATV trail from Bloomington Canyon road to a pass near Paris Peak. Beyond the pass, the trail (#340) turns to single track. There is a very steep and loose descent on the single track. The trail is in pretty bad shape in that section. The rest of the trail is quite rocky, but not overly technical.
Lyndon’s bike was leaking rear brake fluid and his brake eventually failed. This caused him to slam into a rock and crack the bottom of his crankcase (his skid plate was sitting safely at home in his shed). We were able to patch the leak with some JB Weld (amazing stuff) and we were on our way again.
We rode a few miles up Paris Canyon (#421), then through Green Basin (#405). It was nice to relax and open up the throttle for a change.
We then rejoined the Highline trail (#316) and rode through Copenhagen Basin (#430) to Emigration Campground, where Burt had parked his trailer with tools, fuel, and snacks.
Kim and Terri decided to meet us at Emigration campground. We estimated that we would be there between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. They gave up waiting and started driving out at 5:00 PM. Luckily, just as they were leaving, they saw Mike pull in and stop at the trailer.
This worked out especially well for Andrew, who had been having a very tough day. His boots were too small, so his feet were extremely sore, and he had suffered quite a few mishaps throughout the day. My guess is that he couldn’t stay focused on the trail since he recently became engaged 😉
We stowed Andrew’s bike in the trailer, and he rode with Kim and Terri back to the Barton’s cabin in Garden City.
After a much needed break, we continued our journey north along the Highline trail (#316). I really enjoyed this portion of the trail. In fact, I think my entire family would love this trail. The trail was mostly smooth-flowing double track that meandered through the forest. It was a nice change of pace from the rocky trails we had been experiencing most of the day.
Our plan was to stay on the Highline trail for many more miles, then take a single track trail (#348) down into Soda Springs. Since it was getting late, we decided to take the easier route down Eightmile Creek (#425). This turned out to be a wise decision. On the following day we were unable to find trail #348 and #316 was pretty slow going. Even going down Eightmile Creek, it was getting very late when we finally arrived at our motel in Soda Springs.
The upper part of Eightmile Creek was semi-rough, but then it smoothed out into a nice gravel road. At the bottom we reached pavement, which led us into town.
We stopped at the Maverick station to buy gas, and then checked into the JR Inn for a quick shower. After getting cleaned up, we walked over to witness the hourly eruption of a cold-water geyser. We then enjoyed a wonderful multi-coarse meal at the Geyser View Restaurant.
The next morning we ate breakfast at the Main Street Diner, then packed up and began our return journey.
We planned on riding up the Bailey Creek single track (#349), but we were unable to find it. As an alternate, we rode up trail #331, which was a fun ATV trail that climbed swiftly up the mountain and then joined the northern portion of the Highline trail. We stayed on the Highline trail almost all the way back to our cars at Beaver Creek. Most of the trail was not overly technical, but it was very rough and rocky. There were some gorgeous views of the countryside.
I was somewhat disappointed in the northern half of the Highline trail. It was scenic in spots, but I got really tired of all of the rocks. It wasn’t super technical, but it just got old. I was certainly ready for a lunch stop when we got back to Burt’s trailer.
After a good break, we rode back through Copenhagen Basin and then hit one of my favorite portions of the Highline trail. The section between Copenhagen and Paris Canyon reminds me of the Star Wars speeder flight through the trees. The trail is fast and twisty – just the way I like it.
We eventually made it back to the single track portion of the trail. Much of the trail is in wide-open meadows with great views, but the steep side-hills make you stay focused on the trail. The portion directly above Bloomington Lakes is really sweet!
South of Bloomington Lakes the trail becomes very rocky again. There is one particularly nasty spot shortly after the trail transitions to the western slope. It looks easier to go downhill to the right around a large boulder, but the upper line is actually much easier. A couple in the group attempted the lower route and tipped over.
There is another challenging hill climb that is full of rocks and ledges. I remembered it being around a left-hand turn, but I couldn’t remember exactly where. So every time I came to a left turn, I would tense up in anticipation. It turns out this challenge is shortly before the junction with the Snowslide trail. This part has always been challenging for me, but it was particularly difficult on this ride because we had already ridden 60 miles of semi-technical trail. Once I got past that portion I was able to relax a little bit, and I was certainly ready for a ten minute break.
Our original intent was to continue on the Highline trail back to Gibson Basin. Since we had already ridden that portion of the trail, and because we were all very tired, we opted to take the dirt road down through Egan Basin and then jump back on the last portion of the Highline trail that takes us to Beaver Creek campground.
Most of this last portion is a fun and easy trail through the trees, but there is one rocky section near the bottom, as shown in the next photo.
The final obstacle is to cross Beaver Creek. I don’t know why they have the road cross the stream at its deepest location, but it can make for some entertaining videos due to the submerged rocks in the stream. On this trip, everyone made it through unscathed.
From here it is a fast cruise down the last four miles of the Beaver Creek dirt road back to the cars. I estimated that we would finish our ride by 6:00 PM. I pulled into the parking lot at 5:59 PM. Pretty good guess for a change.
The ride to Soda Springs was 85 miles long, while the return trip was 78 miles. My low fuel indicator light came on at 74.5 miles, which I thought was pretty good since I was usually riding in first or second gear.
They were two long and tiring days, but they were both extremely fun and rewarding. It truly was an epic adventure.