Our spring trip to the San Rafael Swell got cut short due to an injury, so Bob Dawson and I decided to go back and give it another try. We left early Friday morning in order to ride Devil’s Racetrack before dark. The weather was perfect, with clear skies and temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s, and we basically had the place to ourselves.
On our way to Swasey’s Cabin we made a short stop to visit the Lone Warrior pictograph.
I always enjoy the ride down Eagle Canyon, but this time the upper portion of the trail seemed to have a lot more loose rocks. So either my memory isn’t very good, or the trail is getting dug up from seeing so much traffic.
The ride up Secret Mesa was also quite rocky, and it looked like someone had dragged a screen or something to level off the trail. The Eva Conover road also seemed rockier than I recall, but it is still a fun ride with lots of small ledges and twists and turns. There is one section that has a fun series of banked turns.
We ate lunch on the cliff overlooking South Coal Wash.
South Coal Wash is a fun and fast ride since the sand is usually quite damp. There was more water on this trip than I have seen before, so it was extra nice. North Coal Wash was once again dry, so as usual, I struggled somewhat riding in the soft sand.
Devil’s Racetrack is a classic ride. It is similar to the Eva Conover road, but noticeably more technical. It also has a fun series of banked turns, but most of the trail is on rough slickrock with numerous small ledges and loose rocks. It is a great trail for developing skills at line selection.
Devil’s Racetrack has two major obstacles, which I call the “ledges” and the “steps”. When riding north to south you go down the ledges and up the steps. We didn’t have any trouble going down the ledges so we took a break and debated whether we wanted to practice going back up. We decided not to expend the energy and risk an injury since there were only the two of us.
A few hundred feet further down the trail you come to the steps. The first step is getting harder each year since spinning ATV tires are digging out the sand. We stopped to scout the section and find an appropriate route. This was Bob’s first time here, but he immediately spotted a great line that was fairly clean and straight.
Bob went first, and made a clean run. He didn’t scout as far ahead as I did, so he ended up going up a ledge that was about 2’ tall.
I have ridden Devil’s Racetrack at least a half-dozen times, but I have never been able to ride the steps section clean. I usually stall my bike at least six times. I don’t drop my bike, but I hit the rock ledges, lose momentum, and stall the motor. It seems that the ledges are spaced such that your front and back wheel hit steps at the same time.
This year I was determined to make it without stalling the bike. My new auto clutch was my secret weapon. I didn’t know if I could ride it clean, but I was confident that I could make it without stalling the motor.
The first step is about 3’ tall and usually has a little sand scattered on the rock. Needless to say, it can be quite intimidating for all but expert riders. I fostered my courage and gave it a go. I made it up the first step, but got a little off my line. I therefore intentionally stopped before hitting the second step. Rather than continue on a poor line, I backed up a bit and realigned for my preferred route. I rode the steps clean from there on. That made my day!
After finishing the steps I always think we are almost done with the trail, but after riding it south-to-north last year with my son Jason, I realized that there are still many more ledges and rocky stretches to ride through. Bob and I both rode the entire loop without a single crash or even a close call. That made us feel pretty good. We rode about 53 miles.
We stopped briefly at Dutchman Arch, and then the pictographs at Locomotive Point. We then buzzed back to the car, loaded up the bikes on Bob’s dual-bike carrier and headed towards White Wash to find a camp.
We gassed up in Green River and made it camp with just enough time for me to set up my tent before sunset.
While I set up my tent, Bob was cooking up some fabulous fajitas. After dinner we sat around the fire and shared adventure stories before going to bed.
White Wash has a vast array of trails to choose from. Some are very easy, others are very hard. Over the years I have found many trails that I really enjoy. They are challenging, but not overly technical for my skill level. I was anxious to show Bob the area, so I devised a plan that connected most of my favorite trails. My original plan turned out to be overly ambition. Our bikes had enough fuel for the job, but our bodies did not. We were ready to call it day by mid-afternoon, with another total ride of about 53 miles.
Our camp was near the junction to Salt Wash. We rode down the Salt Wash rode and picked up the southern portion of Guy’s trail. This was a good warm-up ride, although the trail has suffered some serious erosion. We then jumped onto a portion of the Enduro Loop that drops off the cliff and into the White Wash area.
We rode up the wash, taking a little time to attempt some sandy hill climbs. We then headed south on Brian’s trail, with the deep sand once again giving me fits. Brian’s trail is a combination of soft sand and slickrock. The first slickrock climb looks impossible to those that haven’t ridden slickrock before. It is amazing how steep of a climb you can make due to the incredible traction offered by sandstone.
Just before going over a saddle there are two sets of ledges to negotiate. In the past, I have always taken the zig-zag route to the left, but this time, with my auto clutch at the ready, I decided to go straight up the main trail. Last time I rode this Troy told me it wasn’t as hard as it looked. I disagree. I think it was harder than it looked – and a fall could be fairly painful. Luckily, I made it up without problem, as did Bob.
Shortly after crossing the saddle the trail intersects Mary’s trail. The western portion of Mary’s trail is really fun, in my opinion. But there are some steep climbs and a section that is exposed on a cliff edge. This trail is not for the faint of heart. The eastern portion is significantly more intense, so we didn’t ride that section.
Mary’s trail is almost exclusively on slickrock. There are a number of climbs that look almost impossible, but if you pick your line carefully, you can ride right up. The ones that scare me the most are those that you have to climb on an angle. I always worry about my tire sliding out from under me and taking a nasty slide down the rough sandstone.
My original plan was to ride back to the east by taking No Name Mesa to the eastern portion of Mary’s Trail, but it appears that No Name Mesa has been closed. Plus, we didn’t want to ride the harder part of Mary’s trail.
So, we ventured south and dropped in to Red Wash. A few years ago they installed a fence across Red Wash, so I assumed that it was closed to motorized travel. But while browsing around on Google Earth I noticed that there is an opening in the fence and a trail into the wash.
Bob and I really enjoyed riding up and down this wash. Bob was getting pretty good a pulling wheelies across the small flowing stream in the bottom of the wash.
Next on the agenda was Dead Cow Wash. The top portion of this trail is significantly different due to heavy rains. There are new channels and a lot more exposed rocks. But once you get into the main part of the canyon, it is still spectacular.
They have now closed the lower portion of the wash, so you can no longer ride all the way to the Green River. The new exit is just beyond the steep sand hill, which is also now closed.
The new exit has not been in place very long, but it already has a deep rut in the sand. After climbing the sandy trail you must make a 90 degree right turn and climb a steep slab of sandstone. A new single track trail then leads you back onto the old whooped out road that crosses the bluff. From there you can either stay on the bluff, or drop down closer to the river and ride over to the bottom of The Tubes. We didn’t check, but I suspect the trail under the cliff back to Dead Cow has also been closed.
We stopped for lunch under a beautiful cottonwood tree at the base of The Tubes. While resting, a group of four other KTM riders stopped to visit. It was like a mini KTM convention. They were a friendly group from Colorado, members of the Bookcliff Rattlers motorcycle club.
Both Dead Cow Wash and The Tubes had more water flowing than I have ever seen before. I feared that the wet conditions would make it difficult to make it up the ledges in The Tubes, but Bob and I made each one without much trouble.
After exiting The Tubes, we rode the entire length of “Three Miles Of Whoops” and dropped into Ten Mile Wash. This was my first time riding that entire section, and it really wore me out. I am not good at riding whoops, and I really don’t like deep sandy whoops. But I did verify that I need to do some work on my suspension.
Ten Mile Wash was actually easier than prior trips. The whoops weren’t too bad. The worst part was dodging oncoming traffic with all of the blind corners. Bot almost got mowed over by a couple on an ATV. They didn’t even bother to slow down as they ran him off the road.
I wanted to ride the Cow Freckles single track trail, but we were getting too tired so we decided to save that for another day.
One of my goals on each outing is to map new sections of trail to add to my GPS collection, so we rode up North Fork of Ten Mile Wash. What a pain. That was the deepest, softest sand of the entire day. We were already very tired, and this trail just about did us in.
We then took Mary’s Saddle, which connected us to the Red Rocks single track. There is one intimidating climb on Mary’s Saddle. It looks sort of like a beehive. The problem is that you cannot make a straight approach to the climb – you have to take it on an angle.
Since I have ridden it before, I knew it wasn’t as hard as it looked. Bob, unfortunately, didn’t hit it with enough speed so his back tire slid out and he went down. His footpeg made a nice scratch in the rock, but otherwise everything was fine. I helped him get his bike upright and back down the hill, which I have dubbed “Bob’s Knoll” (or “Bob’s null” – since he failed to make it up). He made it easily on his second attempt. That was the only mishap in our two days of riding with a total of over 100 miles of fairly technical trails.
After riding the Red Rocks single track, we decided to ride Red Slot. I don’t particularly enjoy this trail, but it was the shortest way back to the car. This short trail has two tall ledges to negotiate. The following photo shows Bob dropping off the harder of the two. It is tall and steep and off camber. You have to be careful so your footpeg doesn’t clip the ledge as you go off. A fall could be nasty. I can’t imagine trying to ride back up this trail.
From here we just wanted to get back to the car and head for home. We rode the Red Wash road, then up White Wash to the main road. We took the short single track section of the Enduro Loop just before reaching the car. We finished our ride at about 3:30 PM, packed up, and headed for home.
We enjoyed two days with perfect weather, great scenery, and some really fun trail riding.