The moons aligned this past week and allowed for a perfect opportunity to take my youngest son Benji (12 years old) on a 4 day ride exploring more of the great back country of Utah. Benji has been "blessed" with the same disease as I have, a serious case of wanderlust and a love for using a motorcycle to explore. The plan was fairly loose....head south from our home in Northern Utah and get south of Price Utah where we could then hit as many dirt roads as we wanted. The forecast called for near perfect temperatures and conditions. Last Thursday morning, he laughed as his friends left on the school bus and we got ready to depart. We slabbed it south to Price Utah where we stopped in for lunch at Big Moes. Benji is a desert racer and one his racing buddies Dad's owns Big Moes Eatery and we've always wanted to stop in for a burger. While there, we bumped into a good friend who lives in Price, who was having lunch with his wife. It's an incredibly small world sometimes. The next destination was "The Wedge" overlooking the San Rafael river in the San Rafael Swell. This is like a mini Grand Canyon of sorts. I've been there before, but wanted to give Benji the chance to see it. The view and weather could not have been better. From there, it was on to Buckhorn Wash to check out the pictographs. I love the Swell. So much beautiful country. Because we were riding solo....you'll have to settle for a lot of scenery and still shots. When riding with my buddies, I like to take a lot more action shots. Eventually we crossed I-70 and then stopped by the Twin Knolls area which is the trailhead for the 5 Miles of Hell Trail head and some of the other Temple Mountain motorcycle trails. Several very dedicated members of the Sage Riders motorcycle club to which I belong, help maintain these trails. I'm proud to be a Sage Rider and I stopped to read some of the comments in the comments box. Eventually Temple Mountain came into view looking south. And we made a quick stop at Goblin Valley. We've been here several times when the kids were younger. From Goblin Valley we headed west on Wild Horse/Muddy River Road. I was surprised to see the road is now paved all the way to the Little Wild Horse slot canyon trailhead. I was kind of disappointed at this, but my disappointment quickly turned to smiles when I realized that immediately past the trailhead, the "road" turns to this. That's what I came for and I had a big grin on my face at that point. We continued down the wash and then started to look for a place to setup camp. Camp for the first night was this great place....somewhere down the Muddy River wash road. Life is good. Temperatures were mild, but the next morning we had a small fire before starting the next day of adventure. More goodness. Self portrait along the Wild Horse/Muddy river road. And the area from which we just came after the road climbed out of the wash. Eventually, Factory Butte mesa came into view looking south towards Caineville. We both just stopped and took it all in for a minute. This is why I adventure ride. The road continues southwest and traverses lots of interesting geology and at times you feel like you're riding on the moon. Just before getting to the Muddy River we came upon this old homestead. It was in surprising great shape and was so remote it was nice to see that vandals hadn't destroyed anything. The interior walls still had the remnants of original newspapers that had been used as some sort of insulator. They were still intact enough that you could easily read and see the text and pictures. The pictures looked as though it was from the 1930's or so if I had to guess and the prices on the advertisements reflected the same. Look closely and you can see the price of shoes. I knew from the maps that we had to cross the muddy river. The road dropped into a wash bottom and got really sandy and then came to this. This was about the point that I started to get a little nervous. I've ridden in this country a lot on regular dirt bikes and know that quicksand is a real threat. I've buried a regular dirt bike more than once and the thought of a 500+ pound bike getting stuck had me sweating. We scouted up and down the banks for a good spot to cross and eventually found what looked like a good spot. I told Benji to wait and let me try and get across first without him on back. This is the only action shot of the trip.....me crossing the Muddy River for the first time. Turned out to a simple crossing, so I came back across, picked up Benji, and then rode two-up across the river. More riding on the moon, on our way towards Caineville. And then this view! Eventually made it to the Factory Butte OHV area off Highway 24 and played around on the hills for a minute. Enjoyed the scenery through Capitol Reef National Park. Benji on top of the world, loving life. And then on to Torrey Utah for gas and lunch. Torrey is beautiful. I want to live here. The plan was then to ride Highway 12 south to Boulder and then Escalante. I've ridden portions of Highway 12 but never strung it all together. There is a great route south out of Capitol Reef on dirt that takes you up to Highway 12 that we rode a few years ago, but this time we stuck to the Highway for a while. Hard to imagine more incredible views and perfect weather for March in Utah. We hit the summmit at 9,500 feet and still a fair amount of snow left. Just a few hours earlier I was wrestling the big pig in the middle of the San Rafael Desert. I love spring in Utah. I've always wanted to ride the Hogsback on Highway 12 between Boulder and Escalante. Great views of course, and then we passed the campground to Calf Creek falls. That hike is been on my to-do list for years, but this wasn't the time. I also want to come back and ride Hells Backbone which cuts off and takes you to Escalante. I'll be back for sure. Eventually got to Escalante, and right on the east edge of town there is a new visitors center for the Hole in the Rock pioneers. A few years ago I rode the eastern portion of this trail which is the section after they had lowered the wagons and crossed the Colorado River (actually the toughest part of the route). I became fascinated with the history and have since read several books regarding this incredible story. As a result, I really enjoyed the visitors center. The Hole in the Rock road that takes you to the top of the cliffs where the "Hole in the Rock" story was made famous starts right on the edge of town. It's more of an "in and out" and I've never been down it (just the eastern side of the trail on the other side of the river), but will come back and ride it some day. Our destination instead was the "Smoky Mountain Road" that starts right south out of town on the western edge. This was seriously the highlight of the entire trip. I had no idea how great this road was going to be. Maybe it was the combination of perfect weather, being with my son, extreme remote backcountry riding, and seeing virtually nobody for 60 miles of dirt, but this is what adventure riding is all about. Smokey Mountain Road was a dual sport riders paradise. We eventually came to the intersection with Smokey "Hollow" road. We dropped down this road. And it turned into a wash bottom where there were no tracks but cow tracks from whenever it was most recently muddy. It was getting late in the day and we were looking for a spot to camp and we had just dropped off a cedar mesa, so we turned around to get back on top where we could have some firewood and a better camp spot. No tracks other than ours and lots of cows. Nothing like heading down an obscure two-track in the middle of nowhere with not a soul in site, to find your home for the night. Love it. Home for the night. Life is good. Put a price tag on this. Sunrise the next morning. Ready for another day of adventure. First view of Lake Powell and Page Arizona to the south from the Smokey Mountain Road. Where we're headed. Yes, there is a road down there. Seriously the best road of the entire trip. Eventually dropped down into Big Water and then Page Arizona. Next time I come back here, I'll get some gas in Big Water and then turn around and head right back up Smokey Mountain road with a few variations. There are some other north south routes that you could loop together and spend 2-3 days riding and likely not see a soul. Gas and water would be your only limitation. A quick stop at Glen Canyon Dam. A few years ago we took the tour down in the bottom of the Dam. From Page, the plan was to head east towards Monument Valley. The only problem is, that there are pretty much no options other than highway due to everything being on the Navajo Nation reservation. The views were nice, but highway gets old for me after too long, so much so that I had a friendly chat with an Arizona State Trooper that let me off with just a "warning" :) We came to a main intersection in the Highways right next to a little reservation community and could see big poofs of smoke coming from a big BBQ on an old trailer. Sign said "Navajo Fry Bread and BBQ". It was time for lunch and a perfect opportunity to enjoy some culture. $8.00 for a huge rack of ribs, chicken, roll, baked beans, corn, and a drink. If you tip the lady, she'll even put the tailgate down for you on the truck for some fine dining. Benji thought this was the coolest thing ever. While there, this woman came over and in a thick European accent, asked me about my bike. She was from Bavaria and here touring the southwest with her husband. She said she had seen countless Harleys but nothing quite like my KTM. She was fascinated with it and asked all sorts of questions and wanted to sit on the bike. Everywhere we went, people asked lots of questions. Lunch was great, and was one of those little ad-lib moments on a ride that you can't plan, but make up the experience. From there it was on to Monument Valley. I hate to say it, but Monument Valley was a serious let down for me. The scenery was beautiful, but it was something about being in this over-commercialized environment with gift-shops, tour buses, and lots of people, contrasted with where we had just come from where the only sound of mankind were the jets 35,000 feet overhead, that made me want to get out of there as fast as we could. We took the obligatory photos and tried to enjoy it, but couldn't get out of there fast enough. One of the funniest sites were these tour trucks loaded with Asian visitors all wearing dust masks. From there it was on to Mexican Hat Utah, and then Bluff Utah. In Bluff, we visted the "Bluff Fort". This is the other end of the Hole in the Rock (San Juan Mission) expedition. This is the area that these pioneers were called to settle in the late 1800's. When they got there, they set up a fort and built a meeting house and then each family built a very small cabin (about 15x12 feet) to live. The majority of the original cabins are since goine, but the meeting house structure is still in tact and has been restored, and replicas of the original cabins have been built. The inside of the meeting house. These are the original walls and structure, but the interior decor has been rebuilt. Interior of one of the cabins. While we were there, I met a guy who was the contractor for the rebuilding of the cabins. He had been given a copy of the original fort plans of Brigham Young, and rebuilt them to the exact same specifications. The history for each family was noted on each cabin. It was cool to spend some time here reading about the history. From there we motored north towards Blanding and Monticello but were looking for some dirt. We peeled off towards Hovenweep National Monument and then turned north up Montezuma Canyon. This was an awesome little canyon with some petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and great scenery. Benji checking out some petroglyphs. The canyon bottom was full of cottonwoods and we had deer run in front of us. Cliff Dwellings up in the cliffs behind Benji. The further north we went we got into some beautiful ranches along the bottom of the canyon. This layer of sandstone formed a lot of natural alcoves where the rancher had excavated further into the rock and made himself some pretty nice "out buildings". They were each about 100 feet deep and he had all his hay and farm implements stored in them. Then as we went further north, we found these homes that had been built right into the sandstone. I would love to see the interior of these. Montezuma Canyon eventually popped us out right south of Monticello. It was cold in Monticello and still some traces of snow since it sits at near 7,000 feet elevation. We boogied north on the highway to drop in some elevation towards Moab and find a camp spot for the night. Just north of Church Rock, we got off on the dirt and found a great spot to camp. View of camp the next morning looking back south toward the Abajo Mountains and Monticello. As much we didn't want to, we needed to put our heads down and head for home. We continued north towards Moab, then up Highway 128 along the Colorado River, then Green River, Price, Duchesne, Highway 40, Heber City, Coalville, Weber Canyon, and home. We took very few pictures along the way as we were trying to get home. Strawberry Reservoir was still completely frozen over and there were ice fisherman on the lake as we cruised by. Spring in Utah. In Weber Canyon we stopped by "Devil's Slide" for a picture. Since this is only about 30 miles from home, we've driven by this countless times, but I've nicknamed it "Devil's Buttcrack" and all I have to say is "Devil's Buttcrack" and Benji starts giggling, so I figured it was an appropriate last picture for my trip with Benji. It was an awesome 4 days with my son and a trip we'll both remember for a long time.