|03-22-2011, 08:39 PM||#1|
Joined: Aug 2005
Location: Harrisville, Utah
Toroweap-Grand Canyon and Trailer Queens
Trailer Queens and “No Wrong Turns”
An Adventure ride to Toroweap – March 17-19, 2011
High on the Shivwitz Plateau of Northern Arizona, I approached a road junction where my friend Charles was waiting. I asked, “Did we take a wrong turn back there?”, and he jokingly quipped, “We’re on an adventure ride Mike. There are no wrong turns.”
Simple, yet profound, his words summarize the essence of what I love about adventure riding…..the freedom of roaming the backroads on two wheels, seeing areas the majority of the world will never see, and enjoying good times with friends.
The plan was to sneak in an early season adventure ride with a group of fellow riding buddies. Based on the recommendation of a friend, we decided to venture to Toroweap Arizona (also known as “Tuweep”) on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Toroweap is an extremely remote, yet incredible vantage point into the Grand Canyon, and boasts one of the most dramatic vertical drops anywhere in the entire park with over a 3,000 foot sheer vertical drop with nothing between you and death other than your own stupidity or an ill-timed strong gust of wind.
Thursday morning arrived and the intent was for everyone to complete a day of work and then trailer the bikes to St. George Utah. I commented to my wife that morning that it seemed sacrilegious to be trailering adventure bikes. I felt like a hypocrite, comparing myself to the countless Doctors and Lawyers who trailer their Harleys to the Sturgis motorcycle rally for a weekend of motorcycling fun.
Within an hour, I acted on my intuition, wrapped up some loose ends with work, sent an email to all my buddies telling them not to plan on me trailering down with them, and offered a few loving jabs about them being trailer queens.
Shortly thereafter I was on the road….destination, St. George Utah. I had a minimum of 350-400 miles to cover, with a questionable weather forecast, so I committed to my wife that I would stick to the pavement, but avoid the interstate at all costs.
It didn’t take long for the cooler March temperatures and overcast skies to cause me to second-guess my decision but I was committed. I took primarily backroads and highways all the way south. Many will recognize this popular stop in Elberta Utah.
And the back way from Goshen Utah to Mona Utah:
I stopped near the Mountain West MX Park because I had never been there and was excited to see such a nice facility.
It was then on to Levan, Gunnison, and eventually Sigard Utah. I had intentions of going up over the Fish Lake National Forest in hopes of riding all of Highway 12. I rode the southern half last May and wanted to do the entire highway this time. I had a hunch based on the snow and weather in Sigard that I wouldn’t be able to make it due to the elevations. This is what it looked like in Sigard:
But I pressed on, but found more snow the higher I climbed:
I rolled 10,000 miles on the KLR, literally right as I passed this historic marker (memorial to a Peace Treaty struck between Brigham Young and the local Indians. I wonder if Brigham Young rode a KLR J
I motored south and managed to drop out of the snow, past Otter Creek Reservoir near Antimony Utah, and then west through Kingston Canyon which popped me out on the highway north of Panguitch. This was an enjoyable little canyon:
When I gassed up in Panguitch I could tell it was going to get interesting, but at this point I was committed. The plan was to either continue all the way south to Kanab and then to St. George, or possibly cut through Zions National Park.This is what greeted me near Mt. Carmel Junction:
Snow covered windshield:
But, my persistence paid off and I made it to Zions and enjoyed a beautiful drive through the park and only saw a handful of cars the entire time. It was as if I had the place to myself.
I arrived in St. George and met up with 3 of my other friends, Jason, Troy, and Kenny. We were staying the night at Kenny’s sister-in-law’s house and his mother and father in law stay the there during the winters.
Kenny’s mother in law Mary Lou is a history buff and was absolutely infatuated with the idea that we were riding our bikes to Toroweap. She had been there herself and couldn’t stop talking about it. She kept saying, “Oh, we are going to have so much fun!!” in her very sweet and animated way. I think if we could have strapped her on the back of one of the bikes, she would have willingly gone with us. They cooked us a full-course breakfast in the morning and told us all about the history of the places we were going to visit and sent us out the door with a handful of maps. I think she was more excited about our ride than we were! Here, Jason rides the Trailer Queen out of the garage ready for his maiden-voyage adventure ride on his new 950.
Our general route (remember, there are no “wrong turns” on an adventure ride) was to ride in a counter-clockwise loop from St. George with intentions of hitting a few key landmarks such as the Three Corners area of Utah/Arizona/Nevada, Mesquite and the Virgin River Mountains, Mt. Trumbull, Toroweap (Grand Canyon) and then back home.
We first had to meet up with our two other friends, Charles and Brent, who had stayed at a difference location Thursday night.
We rode west from St. George to Shivwits and then took a Utah designated Scenic Backway known as the Joshua Tree scenic backway that cuts through the Beaver Dam Wilderness area. This is the furthest north that Joshua Trees grow.
For being a Joshua Tree scenic backway, I sure wasn’t seeing a lot of Joshua Trees. However, once we descended the backside of the Mountains, the landscape started to change.
And before long, we were riding through an awesome desert chalk full of Joshua Trees.
Our westerly route caused us to intersect the Beaver Dam wash. This isn’t some little desert wash with easy routes in and out of it. I was very impressed with the size of this wash. Here’s a view of our first vantage point:
The “UNEV” pipeline was under construction so we encountered a lot of pipeline workers and equipment along the power line road. The best part was that a water truck had watered the road and made the conditions perfect.
The group enjoying the view of the wash and of the pipeline construction.
We hoped this water truck could follow us all the way to Toroweap:
Across the wash we eventually caught up with another crew laying this impressive pipeline all the way from Salt Lake city to Las Vegas.
The trench above was cut right through the road we had to travel. The crew lead was a super nice guy from “Southern Alabama” and told us within a few minutes he would have a large steel plate placed that would allow us to cross the trench. He said the pipeline will deliver diesel and jet fuel. We had our own water truck and our own bridge builders.
The next stop was the “Three Corners” area of Utah/Arizona/Nevada. There’s a whole story behind this, but the short of it is that this last Fall I got the idea that it would be fun to try and ride our bikes to all 6 corner markers of the state of Utah. Troy in our group took the challenge seriously and completed a solo trip successfully last Fall, being the first to declare that he had visited all 6 corners. The rest of us are slowly picking away at the corners and this was one for all of us to accomplish together. Here, Jason is just nearing the three corners marker:
And yours truly, to ensure photographic evidence that I made it:
Next stop was Mesquite Nevada for gas and lunch, and then beginning the eastward portion of our journey across the Virgin River Mountains.
On every ride, there are little segments that prove to be real surprises. We rode Lime Kiln canyon road east out of Mesquite and this road proved to be a real surprise.
There were multiple small stream crossings, enough technical riding to keep you on your toes, and a lot of scenery that we just weren’t expecting.
I try to prove that even the KLR can have a little fun.
Kenny descends the other side of the Virgin River Mountains:
I loved the Solitude…and small two-track roads like this:
Our intent was to continue in an easterly direction and eventually get to the Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse and then camp at Toroweap for the night. But, as alluded to earlier, it’s important on rides like this to not get caught up in a set itinerary because stuff happens.
We encountered a few technical sections like this:
At the top, Troy’s bike was squirting coolant out of his left radiator in a pin-hole leak so it was time for some trail-side repair:
Troy happened to have some radiator stop-leak stuff so we doctored it up and continued our journey.
I love the desert and we just continued to enjoy the ride. It became quickly apparent however that we were not going to make it to Mt. Trumbull before the day escaped us so we opted to find a campsite for the night. At that point we had gained some elevation again and we were in kind of a high-desert juniper tree forest. We found a great old cowboy camp complete with some old rusty buckets so sit around the fire:
It doesn’t get much better than this. I go to work and tell people these kinds of stories and they think I’m a whack job. I realized how lucky I am to have other friends who think this kind of thing is as cool as I do.
The next morning we continued on towards Mount Trumbull schoolhouse. The route at this point was a real riot, with smooth flowing roads through the juniper trees with lots of turns, hills, and bumps to keep you on your toes.
Mount Trumbull school was a small community schoolhouse in an extremely remote location in the Arizona desert that actually had students up through the early 60’s. It was eventually abandoned and vandals burned it down about 10 years ago or so (very very sad), but a great group of volunteers rebuilt a replica that stands there now.
I love visiting these types of locations because it makes me want to read and learn more about the history. You can actually go inside the schoolhouse and they have lots of old photos and memorabilia of the era that the schoolhouse was operating.
I didn’t quite fit the chairs:
East from Mount Trumbull, the road really starts to climb again:
And before you know it, you’re in thick stands of Juniper trees, which eventually lead to Ponderosas pines. I always find it interesting how you can be in the middle of thousands upon thousands of remote BLM land, and then come upon a place like this:
This section of the ride was another one of those real surprises, and all of a sudden I felt like it was June, riding in the high-country at home:
We started hitting patches of snow, and I rounded the corner and found that I had just missed out on Troy’s yard sale in the middle of a mud hole. This is one of those moments where all your buddies whip out their cameras, snap the pic, and then ask you if you’re OK.
Troy was covered in mud from head to toe, but everyone else made it through OK:
We hit the summit near Mt. Trumbull where there is a trailhead (hiking) for Mt. Trumbull and lots of beautiful Ponderosa Pines. We were some of the first over the summit, and I don’t think we could have made it just a week or two earlier. A large ponderosa had smashed the Mt. Trumbull trailhead sign:
Troy fashions the latest in adventure riding mud gear:
This was the worst we saw, and after this we began our descent off the mountain, and on the stretch to Toroweap.
The terrain really changes at that point and we were back in the desert.
And into the National Park.
This is a very remote entrance to the park and no fees are required. However, there is a “Greater Tuweep Metropolitan Area” at the ranger station about 4-5 miles from the rim.
And then, it’s on to the Toroweap overlook, and boy-o-boy, what an overlook it is. I can’t tell you the way this made my stomach turn. I don’t consider myself overly afraid of heights, but it was all I could do to shimmy my way over to the edge. It’s over 3,000 feet of straight vertical drop at this point.
Pictures do it absolutely no justice whatsoever. Here, Jason takes a peak (you could see rafters below and they were just tiny dots).
Charles may be smiling in this picture, but he’s really saying “Brent….hurry up and take the dang picture before I poop my pants.”
All six of us pose for a shot (L to R, Me (Mike), Charles, Jason, Brent, Kenny, Troy).
A little to the west we take a look down on the Lava Falls rapids. The largest rapids on the Colorado for rafters. While we were watching, we could see rafters approaching the rapids.
The faithful horses waiting for us back at the stable.
We never had real great sunlight, as there was a haze all day, but the sun broke through while we were having a lunch snack and felt great for the middle of March.
Brent and Charles were staying an extra day so we split our ways at the Toroweap trailhead. Here Brent and Charles appeal to the moto-gods about their route for the next day (they were really just consulting an Arizona Atlas….remember, there is no such thing as a wrong turn on an adventure ride:
We stopped to check out the Toroweap campground on our way out from the overlook. This was our intended destination the first night. It really is a great area with multiple campsites, potties, and no fees.
Troy’s bike was still having some radiator troubles so we stopped by the Ranger station on the way out and borrowed some yummy rain water from the catch basin on the garage as an extra security measure in case we needed to nurse him home.
Our group was now split up with Brent and Charles on their way for another day of adventure and the remaining four of us headed back towards St. George knowing we had a long 5 hour drive home ahead of us that night. We headed straight north from Toroweap towards Colorado City Arizona. This was one long, straight, stretch of nothing.
We made it to Colorado City. This was sure an interesting place. I had never been there and knew this was home to the polygamous communities. It seemed to be either one extreme of poverty or wealth. These trailers in the background looked barely hospitable, yet, within a block there were huge homes bordering on mansions.
This home behind Jason looked to be at least 4,000-5,000 square feet but was completely unfinished on the outside (but was inhabited). Apparently that is done intentionally to reduce the value of the home for tax purposes.
I snapped this pic while riding so it isn’t very good, but this is the backyard of one of the huge houses:
We gassed up in Colorado City and then ducked our heads in the headwind and headed for St. George.
But not before MaryLou greeted us at the door with her enthusiastic wave of arms, inviting us in to tell her all about our trip.
She and the rest of Kenny’s family (sister and brother in law) insisted that we stay to eat dinner with them so we could tell them about our trip. It was incredibly hospitable of them to let us in their beautiful home after two days of eating dust on the trail, but it seemed a fitting end to our little mini adventure. As Mary Lou had so properly stated the morning we had breakfast with her, “We are going to have so much fun!”. We did in fact have an absolute blast.
It was then time to load the Trailer Queens and make the long trip home. I can hardly wait for the next ride.
Here’s a pic from Charles and Brent the next day…..looks fun.
mknight screwed with this post 11-10-2011 at 08:33 AM
|03-22-2011, 09:05 PM||#2|
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: SL, UT
Looks like another "must do" to put on the list!
Not sure how you find time with USRA and everything else... Great report.
|03-22-2011, 09:28 PM||#3|
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Chandler, AZ
Great report and pics, thanks for posting.
I really want to get up to Toroweap too. They say the drop off into the canyon is the most spectacular from there.
Steve in AZ...
Time is the greatest teacher...but it kills all the students!
|03-23-2011, 04:33 AM||#4|
Joined: Mar 2007
Awesome ride report. Thanks for the effort. I love that area!
~KTM 640 Adventure R~
"Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been"
|03-23-2011, 05:20 AM||#5|
Joined: May 2010
Location: seal beach, ca.
You did a great job capturing So. Utah.
I've been going to Tuweep for a long time and as you know, pics & words does not paint the picture. A truely amazing place.
BTW, the last garage photo-TW200 tucked away?
Congrats on your trip! Awesome!!!
|03-23-2011, 05:49 AM||#7|
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: St. George, UT & Temecula, CA
Great job and thanks for sharing!
Flying Monkey Adventure Rally Oct 1-4, 2015
|03-23-2011, 06:26 AM||#8|
here and there
Joined: Jun 2006
Location: Salt Lake City UT
05 KTM 450 MXC , 01 Triumph Tiger 955i
04 KTM 950 ADV , 00 Husaberg 501FE
04 GasGas TXT300 PRO , 70 Jawa 250
|03-23-2011, 09:39 AM||#10|
Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Draper, UT
Nice report. Thanks for sharing.
"A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind." - Thierry Sabine
|03-23-2011, 09:48 AM||#11|
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Draper, Utah
Fantastic RR. Now I have another ride to add to my ever growing list.
2009 BMW F800GS
1978 Yamaha DT 250(project bike)
|03-23-2011, 02:40 PM||#12|
Joined: Aug 2005
Location: Harrisville, Utah
The funny thing, I had a TW200 exactly like that but sold it a year ago. My friend Jason on the orange 950 also had a TW200. Super fun little bikes.
Yes, anybody who hasn't been to Toroweap should put it on the list. The only other time I've ever been to the Grand Canyon was when I backpacked to Havasupai over 20 years ago. Havasupai is across the river from Toroweap and just a few miles upstream.
|03-23-2011, 08:04 PM||#13|
To the peak!
Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Salt Lick City
Excellent ride report. Been to Toroweep but not on a bike, and never over Mt Trumbul. That 5-corners idea is kinda cool. One down ... snagged the 'inside corner' last year with Harkus and Infidel. Here, they're trying to piss in two states...
Earlier that day, we pissed in two rivers...
Woops, sorry for the hijack.
Current bikes: '06 KTM 950 Adventure-S; '10 KTM 690 Enduro-R; '09 KTM 300 XCW - Plated
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. Its the life in your years -- Abraham Lincoln
|03-23-2011, 09:49 PM||#14|
Joined: May 2006
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Nice Report! I've been to many of the Grand Canyon viewpoints and Toroweap is my absolute favorite. There's some nice riding to be done out to there as well. It looks like you guys had a good time.
I don't think think I've ever seen that many Tourmaster Transition Jackets in one report. Great Jacket and a steal at the prices they can be found. I love mine. Are you guys sponsored by Tourmaster? Was this a catalog shoot?
|03-24-2011, 08:25 AM||#15|
Wandering Mtn Goat
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Orem, Utah
Nice ride report very well put together.
"We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time."
Family Youth Yoga and Future Farmers
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