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Riding Utah June 11-20
6/28/2017 10:53 AM
The final chapter...
It's about a 5 hour drive from Moab to Circleville, with stops. The plan was to get to the RV park in the very early afternoon, have lunch, ride some local sections of the Paiute Trail System in the afternoon, then ride the Fremont Trail (136 miles return) to Bryce Canyon National Park the next day. As they say, the best laid plans...
We stayed in the Circleville RV Park and Kountry Store. Highly recommended! For the afternoon ride, we started off on the Rocky Ford Trail a couple of miles from our camp. It started off as a good dirt road, eventually becoming a good double-track. At a fork, the road made a serious change towards a very rocky double-track. Think of irregular loose rocks varying in size from grapefruits to volley balls, layered on top of a dirt base. It was rough but manageable until it got a bit steeper going uphill. I was leading and bogged down, digging a few holes with the rear tire trying to get started again (that's how I know there was dirt under those surface rocks!). I turned around and Don, who was watching patiently from the bottom, and I decided to try the other fork. This trail hadn't been much fun so far, and we were only about 1/2 mile into a 20-mile trail!
So we went back 1/2 mile and turned up P-01, the main loop of the Paiute system. That was much more fun! Some short rocky switchbacks on what was mostly a slightly rocky double-track. It headed up into the hills/mountains and there were trees around. It was pretty, and isolated. Eventually the track diverted into a wash where it was more sandy with a sprinkling of rocks and lots of little turns.
That was pretty fun. The problem was my bike was acting up again, the electrical cutting out completely for a few seconds to a minute or so. If it came back on quickly, I could restart the engine without stopping and continue on. If not, I had to stop and wait for the power to return. The frequency of this was increasing, happening every minute or two. We decided that the bike wasn't reliable and to head for the RV park before the electrical quit for good. That also meant we wouldn't be riding the Fremont Trail the next day. Instead, we headed home a day early.
I don't have any photos of this ride, but I do have video from my helmet cam. It will be a while before I have time to put it together into a little movie, but I'll post when it's available. There might be some video on the Elephant Hill experience as well.
6/25/2017 1:24 PM
It's only a 1.5 hour drive from Moab to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park ("Needles"), so we found a good campsite, packed lunch and headed into the park. It was going to be over 100 again and there's very little shade so we wanted to get going as early as possible. The photo shows the Needles in the distance:
Don had never been there before, but I have and tried to ride Elephant Hill twice, only to get blocked at the same very short but extremely steep descent ( I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get back up it). After looking at it for many minutes, we decided that we could ride it down, and with both of us, we could get our bikes back up again if we needed to. The plan was to do a loop ride through an area to the south called Beef Basin, but to get there we would have to cross several very severe challanges for jeeps. One is called "Bobby's Hole" and the only descriptions I have of them are from the POV of jeep drivers, not dirt bikers.
After Elephant Hill, the road was mostly pretty good but a little sandy, interrupted by a couple of serious rocky and uneven climbs. We'd park at the bottom and hike up to figure out a line, or if it was even possible. The first one was sketchy but possible and we made it okay.
The second was a lot longer but didn't look too difficult. However, it was really hot, and hiking up that hill with all our gear on and no shade did me in. We never got to the top to see what the downhill side looked like. We decided to have our lunch at the bottom under a tree, then head back:
Climbing back up Elephant Hill turned out to be a real challenge. When we got to a tricky spot, we'd park the bikes and walk up to figure a line. I'd go up first and I always got bounced off the planned line on the first rock I hit (within a few feet of the start) and just bounced up wherever my bike took me. Don did better at keeping his line, but has hindered by his gearing being too tall to go very slowly. I have a video of him wheelying up one of the easier sections.
On top of the challenging climb, my bike was acting up. First the fuel line developed a large crack just where it attaches to the bottom of the gas tank. My bike was spraying gas on the hot rocks, where it would boil away. Fortunately Don had a knife so he cut off the damaged part without losing too much gas.
The second issue, discovered half way up, was that there was some sort of electrical problem that resulted in all the power going off for a few seconds to a few minutes. When that happens, the engine dies. We tightened the connections on the battery and wiggled everything else we could to see if anything was loose, but couldn't find anything that would cause it to go off again.
After Elephant Hill, we headed for the NP Visitor's Center to watch their video on the park and cool off a bit. After that we rode out another road I know that's really fun, but my bike's electrics cut out again, so we decided to head back to camp to see if we could fix it.
We saw a pretty nice sunset that night:
The next day we took off early for Circleville, on the way home, to ride the Paiute and Freemont Trails.
6/25/2017 1:00 PM
The Utah motorbiking saga continues...
BTW, I don't recall if I've mentioned it already, but I've posted the GPS tracks of our riding in the Document Library https://vcmc.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=86&club_id=370060
Our last planned ride for Moab was to ride all the passes of the La Sal Mountains, just east of Moab and with some snow at the tops year-round. We would start by riding up the Onion Creek Road on the east side of Castle Valley, then heading SW to the La Sal Mountains and ride the roads through the three passes there.
The ride up Onion Creek went well. There wasn't much water in the stream so we didn't get too wet going through the gazillion crossings. I lifted my feet up and Don tried to pop the front wheel over every time. There were about a half dozen adventure bikes in front of us, so when they stopped for a break, we kept going so we could keep out of their dust. The road wasn't too rocky there, but I knew it would get worse and we'd be at their heels trying to pass.
When we got to the top of what Garmin calls "Onion Creek and Hideout" Rd, we headed away from the La Sals to ride up to Polar Mesa. I was expecting it to be a sketchy road, but it was almost good enough for a Honda Civic. On top of the mesa it wasn't quite as good, but more fun. We rode to the edge to get a good view back down into Castle Valley:
On the way back down, we had a great view of the La Sals:
The road in the foreground is the Polar Mesa Road.
We stopped at a place that had fossilized dinosaur tracks, and also an overlook of the Castle Valley, this time from the opposite side as Polar Mesa:
From there, the plans fell apart. It turns out that the road we were going to take, La Sal Loop Road, was closed. We found out later they decided that the peak tourist season was the time to repave it! (I've got to say, though, that Utah does a great job of keeping their gravel roads in really good shape.) We found an old jeep road that went part-way past the closure, and got us to Miner's Basin Road, which we were going to climb and have lunch at the top. The road to Miner's Basin is extremely rocky, with some places having large (almost soccer ball sized) loose rocks, but it wasn't steep where it was loose, so we made it without much problem.
There was a parking area where the road ended, a vault toilet, a couple of trailheads and a large pond. And no bothersome bugs. It was very pretty, but I can't imagine very many people driving up that road to get to the trails for hiking!
After lunch, we bumped our way back down to the La Sal Loop Road where we could see the road work a few hundred yards in the direction we wanted to go, so we headed back down the jeep road we took up to get there. The jeep road was just technical enough to be really fun to ride, so even though we couldn't complete the route I had planned, we did get some good riding in and see some spectacular views!
Overall riding distance was 114 miles. We were riding about 4000' higher than Moab, so we didn't notice the hot weather at all until we got back down to the valley.
We hadn't planned any rides for the next day. I wanted to leave it free in case we couldn't do one of the earlier rides because of weather or whatever. I rode up to Arches National Park in the morning and toured through there. There's some pretty amazing geology to see there! If you go to Moab, you need to visit Arches NP. Don met another rider in the RV Park who knew the area well and went with him up to the famous Slickrock Trail where he tried the "Practice Loop." I did that last year and know that it's not easy because of really steep hills, sharp turns, and possible drops to your death if you get too far off the line. Traction is good because it's almost 100% sandstone, but everything is done at really low speed. That's one of the things that inspired me to get a Rekluse clutch for my bike. In the end, Don didn't get banged up too badly.
The photo is of a huge rock formation called Three Gossips in Arches NP:
The next day we packed up our campers early and headed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and the extremely challenging Elephant Hill jeep road.
6/24/2017 5:54 AM
Very nice. Good job!
6/23/2017 12:22 PM
Oh man that looks incredible. Nice ride report and excellent photos!
6/23/2017 12:11 PM
To continue with my trip summary... After spending a day in Escalante, we drove to Moab, getting there in time for lunch, then a ride in the afternoon. We rode out Kane Creek Road to Hurrah Pass, then down to the Lockhart basin next to the Colorado River. Total distance was 50.4 miles.
Me along the Lockhard Basin Rd:
Don on a Colorado overlook:
There was a real change in the weather compared to Escalante. Rather than cool/cold and very windy, it was going to be around 100 with light winds for the rest of our trip.
BTW, I've uploaded more photos of our outing to the Photo Albums, with a little help from John.
The next day we were going to ride over to Mineral Bottom on the Green River, taking as many jeep roads as possible. That would involve riding up to the Island in the Sky district of Canonlands National Park which is about 1400' higher than Moab, so a little cooler. On the way we took a side trip to Dead Horse Point State Park:
That's the Colorado River way down there, just to the right of Don.
In this photo, you can see the Shafer Trail in the distance, to the left of Don. That's the way we would come back.
In this next photo, Don is standing at the top of the switchbacks that take you down to Mineral Bottom:
It's a long way down, but the road is in really good shape. You could drive a Honda Civic down without too much trouble.
On the way to Mineral Bottom, we had only one technical challenge - a short, loose climb followed by a step-up of about 2'. We looked at it for about 15', each planning our own route. Don went first and made it look so easy that I followed his path. It turned out to be much worrying about practically nothing.
After Dead Horse Point State Park, we took jeep roads as far as we could to Mineral Bottom. That was the most fun part of the ride for me. Didn't stop long enough to take any pictures, though. The video I made last year on this ride shows that part of the route pretty well, though: http://www.venturacountytrails.org/Movies/Utah2016-05/IslandPop.html , starting at about 2:45.
At Mineral Bottom, the Green River is really swollen this year from the spring runoff (that's the White Rim Road along the edge):
Total riding distance for the day was 136 miles.
The next day we rode up into the La Sal Mountains where we would be a little cooler. I'll write about that later.
6/21/2017 6:16 PM
We got back a couple of days ago from our trip to Utah. Here's a brief summary.
Our first ride was from Escalante north to Bluebell Knoll, at just over 11,000' elevation. I picked the only cold day of the week to ride there with a forecast high of 40 degrees at the top. It was sunny, very windy and chilly on the well-maintained gravel roads where we could ride fast, but much more fun and warmer when we took the rocky jeep roads. Here's a photo where we stopped for a break, somewhere around 9500'.
The ride was about 54 miles each way, but we got to a locked gate at about 45 miles. The road ahead wasn't open for the season yet, although we didn't see any signs of mud or snow on the way there. We had to make do with having lunch at the nearby Miller Lake:
We mostly took the good gravel road back just to make better time. We were riding into the wind and it was so windy it felt like we were going 70 even though we were going 30. My KTM 350 was struggling to keep up the speed when going up a slight rise against that wind!
Even with the wind and cold, it was a great ride and the jeep trails were a ton of fun. We passed lots of side roads so I know there are many options. I'm going to go back later in the year and get to Bluebell Knoll! First I'll check with the forest service office to make sure the road is open ;-)
4/7/2017 12:36 PM
Don Sisting and I are taking our dual-sport bikes to Utah in June for some intermediate riding. If anyone would like to join us for any part of it, let us know! Here's the rough outline:
June 12: Escalante, UT. Easy ride up fire roads to Bluebell Knolls.
June 13: Moab. Easy afternoon ride, probably Hurrah Pass to Lockhart Basin next to the Colorado River
June 14-16: Moab. To Mineral Bottom (Canyonlands NP) and back via back roads, Onion Creek and La Sal Mountain Triple Pass loop, TBD
June 17: Needles District of Canyonlands NP. Hopefully we'll complete the Elephant Hill jeep trail (I've tried twice already, but now I have a new clutch and improved suspension). There are other roads to ride as well.
June 18-19: Circleville. Ride parts of the Paiute ATV trail system and the Fremont ATV Trail (goes south to Bryce Canyon NP)
On previous trips, I've made some videos so you can see what to expect...
Mineral Bottom run:
Onion Creek / La Sal Mtns:
Paiute ATV Trails:
I hope to be able to add an Elephant Hill video when I come back!
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