14 April 2018
This is my third dirt bike ride to the Dollhouse area within the Maze District of Canyonlands. I was with Ross and Danny on this trip. We stayed in a cabin in Hanksville rather than camping near the trailhead or along the trail. We got a fairly early start because we had a very long ride planned – and then had to drive back home that evening.
Poison Spring Canyon
For the past several days I had been monitoring the water level of the Dirty Devil River. From reading other trip reports, I felt confident that we could safely cross the river if the flow was less than 50 cfs, and perhaps up to about 70 cfs. For the past few days the river had been fluctuating between about 35 and 55 cfs, so we figured we would give it a try.
So, we parked at the staging area for the Poison Spring Canyon ride – the same one I did with Jamie and Jason a few years back. Poison Spring Canyon is a fun ride through a pretty little canyon. There are springs along the way, so there are numerous shallow water crossings and a few slightly deeper water puddles.
When we reached the Dirty Devil River, we stopped to scope it out. There hadn’t been any flash floods in at least two months, and it was obvious that Jeeps or trucks had crossed recently, so we figured the mud would be fairly solid and not act as quicksand. Nevertheless, I was pretty nervous being the first one to cross on a dirt bike. The water got up to about my front axle in a few spots, and there were a few truck tire ruts hidden under the muddy water, but it was a fairly easy river crossing.
Ross carried pretty good speed as he crossed, so his bow wake soaked him good. Danny hit it a little slower so he wouldn’t get all wet.
North Hatch Canyon
Once across the river, we began riding through North Hatch Canyon. I had never been here before, but I had read trip reports by others that showed washed out sections of the road. But this year the road was in great condition. It was a very pleasant ride, and the scenery was spectacular – especially in the first few miles as we got views down the canyon where the Dirty Devil flows towards Lake Powell.
At one point I traded Danny bikes since he has been considering buying a lighter bike. I used to own a DR-Z400 similar to his, so I was extremely surprised at how unstable his bike felt. No wonder he wobbled around every time he hit a little sand. I was very nervous riding his bike – I felt like I had little control over where the front tire would go. I don’t recall my DRZ behaving like that.
Ross took one spill in a soft sandy wash crossing, but otherwise everyone had a safe ride so far. We eventually reached Sunset Pass where I quickly scoped out the primitive campsite there (reservations required).
A few miles beyond the camp, we came to the four-way intersection at Waterhole Flat. It took us 2-1/2 hours to travel about 40 miles to this point due to us scouting the river crossing and stopping to take photos several times.
The Land of Standing Rocks
Our original plan was to ride up the Flint Switchbacks and out to Panorama Point, but that is a long ride from the junction. So, we decided to ride the 20 miles out to the Dollhouse section. This would be my third time on that trail, but I was okay with that because it is a really fun ride on a dirt bike (street legal of course).
The road was rougher than I remembered (that happens a lot). For a time, I thought I could perhaps drive out there in my Grand Cherokee and camp, but after riding it again, I concluded that the road is too rough for a stock SUV. You really need good ground clearance in several areas along the trail.
We made pretty good time, but I think Ross and Danny were somewhat surprised at how technical some sections were.
We stopped for lunch at one of the Wall campsite in the Land of the Standing Rocks section, then quickly rode out to the end at the Dollhouse.
We had now been riding for about 5 hours (including lunch), so we figured we better head back to the car before dark.
We were all getting tired, and somewhat sore from our ride on the Hole in The Rock Trail the day before. Ross and Danny each crashed a few times on the way back attempting some of the steeper ledges.
When we got back to Waterhole Flat we wisely decided to take the easy, but longer, way back to the truck via the road that comes out near Hite. This road was about 30 miles long, followed by about 30 miles of pavement on Hwy 95. The dirt road was in great shape this year, so we made good time – but we were getting pretty tired.
Hwy 95 goes through a scenic canyon as it leaves Lake Powell and heads towards Hanksville. The speed limit is only 55 mph, which is perfect for me on my small dirt bike. Ross took off in front on his more highway capable KLR while Danny followed behind me. About 20 miles into the paved ride, my bike instantly died and I coasted to a stop on the side of the highway.
My bike wouldn’t start, so I suggested that Danny head to the truck and come back and pick me up. Just as he left, I realized he didn’t know where my keys were. I locked my trailer to Ross’ truck, and we locked Danny’s spare bike to the side of the trailer. They couldn’t go anywhere without finding my key.
I figured they would look for my key, then come back and ask me where it was. While I waited, I did a few experiments to try and get my bike running again – without success. I pushed my bike back down the highway a few hundred feet to a side road where they could safely stop with the trailer to pick me up.
Sure enough, Danny came back, asking about the key. He informed me that Ross got a flat rear tire about 100 yards from the truck. We were both lucky to have our mechanical issues within easy reach of a rescue.
Once we got all of the bikes loaded, we headed for home. We were a few hours later than we hoped, but I got home just after midnight, so it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
On the drive home, we shared stories about the great rides from the past two days and marveled at our good fortune for having breakdowns at the end of the trip and right along the highway. It really was a memorable adventure!