San Rafael Swell – Aug 2014

Aug. 21-23, 2014

I have wanted to explore the new SITLA single track trails that were opened up last year in the La Sal Mountains east of Moab. I figured August would be a good time since the elevation is up around 9000’. Bob and Ross decided to join me, so we put together a plan to explore the area for three days. But as luck would have it, a huge monsoon rain storm moved into Utah. Southern Utah got hit the hardest, with flooding around St George. The entire state was impacted by this storm for about a week.

So, that put a damper on our La Sal plans. Since the temperatures also dropped, we decided we would go to the San Rafael Swell instead.

Thursday: Fix-It-Pass and Devil’s Racetrack

Our original plan was to drive down Wednesday evening and camp, but since it was only a 3.5 hour drive to the San Rafael, we decided to leave early Thursday morning. That turned out to be a good decision since the Swell got hit with some pretty heavy rain Wednesday afternoon and evening.

When we arrived at the Swell we could see signs of the heavy rain, but the trails looked to be reasonably dry. We quickly found a place for our base camp and headed off to the Wickiup trail – a good warmup ride for Ross on my Husaberg FE450. We then proceeded over Fix-It-Pass and dropped into North Coal Wash. The sand in the wash was very firm from all of the rain. This made it really easy to ride the wash.

Base Camp

Wickiup, Fix-It-Pass, & Devil’s Racetrack

Our main objective was to ride Devil’s Racetrack, which is a really fun, but semi-technical trail. Afterwards we visited some of the nearby petroglyphs and Swasey’s Cabin. Ross did really well and we finished our 58 mile ride with no major mishaps. We then returned to camp for some BBQ hamburgers.

Ross and Bob coming down Fix-It-Pass

The “steps” section of Devil’s Racetrack

Friday: Waterfall Trail and Behind The Reef

We got a brief rain shower during the night and woke up to a beautiful day, but it was sort of chilly. We started out on our ride after Bob’s great breakfast and quickly made our way to the Waterfall single track trailhead.

The Waterfall Trail & Behind The Reef

The Waterfall Trail seemed to have more whoops and loose rocks than I remembered. This is probably because the trail is getting heavy usage since there are not many good single track trails in the San Rafael, so those that exist get very heavy use.

A narrow and technical section of the Waterfall Trail

We made good time and finally came to the steep hill climb with the ledge at the top. This was the only section that had me worried. Last time I was here (going the other direction), someone had removed the ramp made of rocks at the top. This time, someone has constructed a much better ramp. Bob noticed that by making a slight left turn just before the top you had a very clean line. Bob made it look easy. I almost made it – I was a little off my preferred line and chickened out at the last second. I got my front wheel up on top, but not the back. I know it was all mental. If I were just a little more aggressive I would have easily made it.

Bob making it look easy

After finishing the Waterfall trail we rode the scenic Behind The Reef trail. Sections of this trail have suffered serious erosion, which would make it a very challenging ride on an ATV. There were also a lot more rocky sections than I remembered. But we enjoyed the ride and again had no mishaps.

Ross coming down the ATV ramp on Behind The Reef

Somewhere along the Behind The Reef trail

We rode down to the Muddy Creek near Hidden Spendor Mine to see how much water was flowing. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the road is now open down to the river. When we floated the Muddy a few years ago it was a real pain carrying our inflatable kayaks all the way up to the cars on the bluff.

Muddy Creek access point

On our way back to camp we explored a few less traveled roads and ended up going down South Fork of Eagle Canyon to Eagle Arch. We then returned to camp and Ross treated us to a fantastic steak dinner. We put in about 88 miles and the Husaberg low fuel warning light came on at 81 miles.

Ross enjoying the view on the way back to camp

Saturday: Breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River

Just before bed we noticed a lot of lightning flashes off to the west. It then got really windy and I had to get up and re-stake my tent and tighten everything so it wasn’t flapping in the wind. It was a good thing I did, because shortly thereafter it started to rain. It rained all night long and there was no sign of it letting up in the morning.

We decided to just pack up our gear and head to Green River for a nice cooked breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant. I have had dinner there many times, but this was my first time eating there for breakfast. Once again I was not disappointed.

As we drove home it was clear that this was another very large storm. All of the side streams were extremely muddy and flowing higher than normal for this time of year. There was evidence of recent rain all the way back to Salt Lake City.

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About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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One Response to San Rafael Swell – Aug 2014

  1. Jason says:

    I was wondering if you had any gps tracks for the waterfall trail? I sent you a pm over on motoutah.com in case you can’t see the email it required me to enter for this comment.

    Thanks

    -Jason

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