UTBDR & a Little Extra

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MagnaMungus, Sep 20, 2021.

  1. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    After rescheduling several times and work obligations threating to cancel the trip, I finally set out on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route. I don’t know if this was truly an epic adventure, but it was a terrific week-long diversion before delving headlong into a stretch of work-related torture.

    Thursday 9/9/21 Day One (sort of)

    We set out from Montana at 6am, trailering the bikes to Garden City, UT. It made the most sense for our group of six to ride the route from North to South. The smoke was so thick all the way through Montana and Idaho that we were worried we weren’t going to see anything along our route. It was so bad at one point it was raining ash on the truck when we stopped. Once we began to head east along Rt. 30 in Utah the smoke began to clear. By the time we made it to Garden City there was blue sky, and we breathed a (refreshing) sigh of relief.

    Hitting the Bear Lake/Marina Side KOA Holiday around 4pm we promptly set about making some grub and prepping our bikes for the next day’s ride. One of our riding buddies showed up shortly thereafter and after some well needed food we decided to see what Garden City was all about, so we got on our bikes and cruised the strip. Garden City is one of those little lake towns out west that likely went unnoticed for decades but is now seemingly exploding. We were all a bit taken aback by the amount of new (and expensive looking) construction on and around the lake. The water level was quite low due to drought conditions in Utah, so we took the opportunity to ride our bikes along the beach and then cruised up the hill overlooking the lake to catch the sunset. The rest of our group rolled in around 8:30 and we grabbed some pizza and retired to the campground for some suds and conversation.

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    *For those looking to ride the UTBDR north to south, the KOA offers long-term parking for $1.50 a day in an empty lot adjacent to the campground. But by the time you read this that lot will probably have been turned into high end commercial/residential property.


    Friday 9/10/21 Day 2 (really day one, but you get the idea)

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    Our group was comprised of two KTM 790 Adventure R’s, a KTM 890 Adventure R, a KTM 950 Adventure, a BMW 1200GS, and a humble 2005 BMW 650GS. We were geared up and ready for adventure. We loaded up the bikes, parked the trucks, and retreated out the back gate of the KOA on an epic trip…directly across the street for breakfast. After a quick nosh at the Campfire Grille, we were finally underway at around 10am. The route immediately climbs out of Garden City and up into the hills on a nice twisty highway. In fairly short order we were on the trail and I was stoked for the ride ahead. We were quickly met with a trail full of baby-heads that crossed underneath the highway and out into the high-country. Our group were all experienced riders, some more so than others, but I was a bit concerned about the guys on fully loaded bikes hitting the chunder first thing in the morning. All was well and the trail smoothed out a bit and we meandered through thick forest, clear skies, and beautiful scenery.

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    I and one other rider had downloaded the GPS files from the BDR website and loaded them into our Garmin units. I also loaded the tracks into Gaia GPS as a backup. I like to have paper maps with me as well, but I neglected to buy the updated Butler map before the trip. One member of our group had an older map, and the other two guys were just along for the ride and weren’t too into navigation. After one little standoff where someone thought the trail went one way, though my Garmin and Gaia said the opposite, we got along just fine. This same scenario where we would get to a crossroads and split up became a common theme later in the ride.

    For a time, we didn’t encounter many people, nor much wildlife, until we came upon a large sheep herd being carefully looked after by a small pack of dogs. And by carefully looked after, I mean that one dog barked at us a bit, and the other slowly roused himself from his midday, mid-road slumber only as my buddy nearly stopped on top of him. They couldn’t be any less concerned about a bunch of dudes on motorbikes. Had we been wearing wolf-skin coats, perhaps they would have reacted a bit more aggressively, but I digress.

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    We came out of the hills into Woodruff. I blinked and nearly missed it. The guys wanted to stop for gas, but the pumps weren’t really working so we pushed on toward Evanston, WY. As we made our way down the highway, we could see some rain up ahead. I stopped and threw my jacket back on just in time for a torrential wind and rainstorm. We were riding leeward trying our darndest to keep the shiny side up and just hoping for a gas station to appear and offer some respite. We made it into Evanston and huddled in a car wash bay and waited for the storm to pass.

    Once the skies cleared, we headed into town to find some lunch and dry off. There wasn’t much happening in town, and we struggled a bit to find an open lunch spot. Finally someone hipped us to a cool little joint called Suds Bros. It was a kinda fun little dive bar/classic rock/hillbilly bar with an eclectic crowd, and the food and drink proved quite delicious. I don’t drink, but the other guys were pleased to be out of Utah for the moment and to be able to enjoy a cold beer with their lunch.

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    Leaving Evanston, we headed off into the open skies of western Wyoming. There were some stray storm clouds here and there that threatened to divert us, but just as it seemed we faced imminent downpours, the trail would bend and lead us towards blue skies. The dirt roads were quite pleasant, having received just enough moisture to rid them of dust, but not enough to turn them into quagmires. The trail followed some nice wide country roads before entering some private land owned by 2 Bear something or other. I don’t know what the proprietor of 2 Bear was all about, but one thing was for sure, he hated smooth roads. The road going through the property had been scraped up by a bulldozer that left innumerable, jumbled patches of baby-heads and small boulders. After many miles of that nonsense, we came to our first real water crossing. The first four guys made it through just fine but the fifth and sixth guys…never showed up. So we waited…and waited, and eventually two of us crossed back over the creek to search for our missing companions. The 650GS apparently was struggling with a loose ground wire that the 1200GS didn’t notice and who just drove on by him. After smacking the side of the bike enough to make contact, the 650 finally got rolling and we came upon him first. The 1200GS, we were then informed, had hit a rock sending his front end one way and his back end another leaving him in the dirt with a malformed aluminum pannier. I continued along the trail until I saw the 1200 ambling along having regained his composure, and we made our way back to the creek crossing. The 1200 made it across the creek just fine, but the bank and bushes on the other side proved more challenging. Adventure riding isn’t just a clever name.

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    We regrouped and continued along, enjoying the late afternoon ride and keeping our eyes peeled for a campsite. Being the start of hunting season, the hills were overrun with giant campers and RV’s with side by sides and ATV’s everywhere. We finally found a relatively secluded campsite just west of Mirror Lake Highway and made camp. One of our group chatted with a nearby group of campers who gave him a few beers and informed him the fire regulations had just eased in Utah, so we built a campfire, the boys had their drinks, and we had a lot of laughs trying to straighten out the bent BMW pannier, fix the loose ground on the 650, and shooting the moon around the fire.

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  2. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Montana
    Day 3

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    Dawn broke with overcast skies and the threat of rain. It had drizzled a bit overnight, but not enough to make camp a quagmire. We broke camp fairly quickly and mounted our bikes in search of food and fuel. I had packed enough food to satisfy my meal requirements, but most of the other crew needed to forage elsewhere, so off to town we went. Mirror Lake highway into Kamas was a zoo. There were cars, campers, and hunters everywhere. I had mixed feelings about the crowds, at least people were getting out into the woods, but damn if the dirt roads didn’t feel like a highway.

    The stretch of pavement over Bald Mountain Pass was nice and scenic, but the overnight precipitation made some of the tar snakes in the road a bit treacherous. Coming around a corner my front wheel skidded enough that the rider behind me saw it. I decided to be a bit more cautious and slowed my roll a bit. We got into Kamas and piled into the Mirror Lake Café just in time for the classic car poker run to come through. Our window seat gave us a great vantage point and scoping out the cars was a nice little treat.

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    After breakfast we made our way back east to get on the trail again. We quickly climbed through aspen groves into the high country on a really nice gravel road. We got up around 10,000’ and had some killer views through the Uinta-Wasatch National Forest. There were some killer high camps out there, and probably some darn good elk hunting by the looks of it. Up at the top of the pass the BDR route takes a little jog to the west around Heber Mountain, but that road was unfortunately closed due to logging activity, so we had to continue along the Forest Service Rd. 054. The route descended toward Currant Creek Reservoir and then followed Currant Creek Rd. through The Narrows and into Wagon Boss canyon before dumping us out onto Rt. 40 west of Fruitland. It was a fun, zippy little section, which was good, because what laid ahead was not so fun, nor zippy.

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    We rolled down the highway to the gas station and caught a view of a nice big thunderstorm rolling right over our route. We huddled under one of the tractor trailer pump bays and rested while we mulled over our options. The next section runs south through Sand Wash and into a canyon section. It being the tail end of monsoon season and flash floods being what they are, the group thought it best to bypass that section and continue further east towards Highway 191 south to pick up the trail at Argyle Canyon Road. Highway 191 proved to be a nice little jaunt and I’m sure it made the group feel more at ease. I’m not sure what we missed, and the BDR might have been just fine, but better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to having to pick up or unstick large adventure bikes from the mud.

    We turned east onto Argyle Canyon Rd which drops pretty quickly down into the canyon. The rain had indeed done its job and the trailer was slicker than snot. Three of us waited down towards the bottom for a while keeping an eye out for the rest of the group. When they didn’t show up we decided to turn around expecting them to be waiting to tell us they weren’t going any further. In fact, the big Beemer had slipped in the mud, and it was no easy feat getting it back up in the slick mud. Four of the riders decided to head back to the highway and find a hotel and we agreed to meet up in the morning in Wellington.

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    My partner in crime and I continued along the road and in about 5 minutes the mud turned to dirt and we were treated to a terrific canyon ride with no dust, lush hillsides, and beautiful farms. We were quite pleased we decided to carry on. The trail dumped us onto 9 Mile Canyon Road and we were surprised how nice the pavement was and decided to check out the petroglyphs right up the road. I came to find out that the road was paved sometime in the 2000’s in order to protect the petroglyphs from excessive road dust. After checking out the ancient rock graffiti we decided to look for camp. 9 Mile Canyon is pretty narrow, and we weren’t sure we were going to have any luck until the perfect opportunity reared its head.

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    I spotted the pavilion off the side of the road and upon closer inspection it turned out to be an old homestead turned picnic site. We marveled at our good fortune as radar showed some potential storms coming our way. The site was dead quiet with nobody else around, so we parked the bikes under the pavilion and made some dinner. After dinner we decided to check out our surroundings and scramble up the hillside on the other side of the road to catch the sunset. After some fun poking around the hillside, we retired back to camp and relaxed staring up into the night sky and shooting the breeze ‘til late in the evening. There was quite a bit of lightning behind the mountains to the southeast and we wished we could have seen the light show. Be careful what you wish for…

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    We threw our pads and bags on the ground under the pavilion and settled in for the night only to be woken around 2am by deafening thunder. The storm we wished we could see came right over our heads. Lightning bolts streaked across the sky and thunder could be heard rolling through the canyon. When the rain started to fall was when things got interesting. The wind picked up and blew the rain sideways into our shelter. I had parked my bike perpendicular to the wind before going to bed hoping it would be a little added protection, which it was, until the pavilion started to flood. The rain was so torrential it just started coming at us from all sides. We quickly made for the high ground and threw our sleeping pads on top of the picnic tables, but the rain was still coming in sideways, so we wrapped our bags in our tent rain fly’s. Having battened down the hatches, we crawled back into our bags and safely looked on as the storm made its way overhead. I was grinning ear to ear. What a beautiful site and what a great experience. Thunderstorms out west can be a spectacular sight and this storm left nothing to be desired. Mother nature is an incredible thing. My only regret is that I didn't get out of bed and set up my camera to try and get some photos of the lightning.

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  3. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Day 4 – Nine Mile Canyon to Moab (why Moab?)

    Having loaded our KTM’s two by two into the pavilion we were spared from the storm. We awoke exuberant and feeling somewhat blessed to have found such a great campsite and to have experienced such a storm in relative safety and comfort. We scarfed some oatmeal, downed some go-go juice and made our way to Wellington to meet up with the other fellas. It was a bit of a late departure from the gas station as the other guys still needed to round up some vittles, so we were on the road around 10am.

    Out of Wellington it was a buffed-out gravel road through a dry desert landscape and we cruised along at a pretty good clip. Jeff, who I would complete the rest of the ride with, studied geology and I was given a survey course on the prehistoric sand washes via our Sena intercoms. Signs popped up showing the way to the Jurassic National Monument and I spotted a waypoint for the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry on my GPS. After a brief summit with the rest of the gang, we agreed to stop and check it out. The website for the quarry says it “contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found”, so if you’re riding the BDR, and you’re into that sort of thing, it’s well worth the side trip.

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    After leaving the dinosaur quarry the trail dropped off the county roads and we finally got into some 2-track. We immediately came upon a washout that proved a little difficult for some of the guys and then the trail got sandy. I knew our prospects of continuing as a group didn’t look good. Again, the guys decided they were going to find a different route and we would meet up for lunch in Green River. This time we held onto one other riding companion so three of us carried on. The 2-track bit wasn’t bad at all with some bumps and sand and a few muddy sections, we were through it in short order. The trail then comes out to a road that took us through a large flat that felt very much like we were riding along a prehistoric ocean bed. That feeling was compounded by the mud puddles that were created the night before. The roads were greasier than a strip mall personal injury lawyer and we struggled here and there to stay upright, but we prevailed and were treated to some majestic scenery. The road skirted along the southern edge of the Cedar Mountains through Utah State Trust Lands, past Chimney Rock toward the Mexican Mountain Wilderness.

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    We got off the gravel onto some 2-track and after a little route finding we encountered a pair of bikers. Judging by the heavily laden adventure bikes, we assumed they were fellow BDR riders, so we stopped to chat. The lead rider seemed jovial enough but the first thing out of the mouth of the second rider was “how far to the highway?” I chuckled a bit at the question, thinking he was just joking, but was then informed that he wiped out not too far down the trail and had broken his collarbone. Luckily for him they didn’t have much further to go before hitting a gravel road, but I can’t imagine how painful it would have been to manhandle a fully loaded adventure bike any distance off-road in that condition. We offered assistance but they were content going it alone, so we wished them good luck and headed on our way. A little way down the trail we saw the distinct splatter of a downed adventure bike in the mud.

    The section from the Green River Cutoff heading south was rad and we were ripping. I was racing along when I came around a corner and saw a large mud puddle. I tried to brake hard but realized that wasn’t gonna work so I thought I would just goose it. I got almost completely sideways coming out the other side and heard Jeff behind me over the intercom asking how the hell I just pulled that off. Having grown up riding dirt bikes in the desert in southern California its hard for me to curb my desire to go full rally mode. After coming out of the wash section we were treated to one of the most spectacular views along the trip. The San Rafael Reef along the eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell juts out of the landscape heading north to south and offers miles of breathtaking scenery.

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    Another little highway section brought us into Green River where we met the guys at Ray’s for some lunch. Before hitting the trail, we stopped for gas and took the opportunity to wash off some of the mud our bikes had collected. That silty mud sticks like tarpaper and the power washer barely cuts through it.

    Heading out of Green River the trail heads east skirting along the Book Cliffs. After a couple riders went down in some soft sand our group decided that the riding was a little too tough, so we split up again. Jeff and I carried on and we decided to meet up again in Thompson Springs. Yet again the guys missed out on some great riding and equally rewarding scenery. This section of trail is so much fun with so many views and I just dug in. I rallied along for a little bit leaving Jeff in my dust until I realized that I was blurring the landscape and missing out on some of the view. I rolled it back and decided to regroup and soak up a little bit more of the experience. We checked out the Sego Ghost Town and the Sego Canyon Rock Art Site before dropping into Thompson Springs and meeting up with the other guys.

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    They were feeling worked and wanted to head into Moab and stay at a campsite with a pool and hot tub. I wasn’t really feeling that plan, but for the sake of group unity I capitulated and off we went to Moab. Well as fate would have it, that campground was all booked up, so we went down the road to another in-town campground that was essentially a glorified parking lot with segregated tent stalls. I wasn’t in the best of moods as I would have much rather camped near the mountains, but after a shower I actually appreciated the minor civilized detour. One of our group members had a cousin visiting Moab as well so we cruised into town and hit the Spoke for some drinks and late night grub. It turned out to be a great night with lots of laughs and storytelling that just became part of the overall adventure. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow and things work out just fine. So, that’s why Moab.

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  4. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    Day 4 route, sorry I forgot to post above. FYI, for those who noticed or care, pay no attention to the elevation profile. My GPS altimeter is f'd up and won't recalibrate, but I'm pretty sure I didn't hit 98,422' anywhere along this route. :hmmmmm

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    #4
  5. AZ Africa Twin

    AZ Africa Twin From the AZ High Country

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2017
    Oddometer:
    837
    Location:
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Too funny! I posted almost the same ride today, although our BDR route ended in Wellington due to the wet conditions, and we also slept in the Clifford Rayl picnic area!

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    I enjoyed your report and photos. It made me want to go back up and finish the Wellington to Moab sections. When it dries out!
    #5
  6. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Nice! Thanks for sharing the photo, it’s such a good spot they should add it as a waypoint on the route. Bummer to hear your trip got cut short and I hope you get back to finish it up. I’ll have more ride report coming. I finished the BDR, tooled around for a couple days and then did a week of work in Vegas. I just finished a 20hr drive from Nevada to Montana and I’m worked.
    #6
  7. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
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    Location:
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    Day 5 – Moab to Castle Valley Overlook

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    As a result of heading down to Moab the night before in search of a little R&R, we found ourselves a bit off course. It was agreed that we would head back up Rt. 191 to Thompson Springs and continue the route where we left off. We had a bite to eat at the Garage downtown, a highly recommended little breakfast joint. The night before I had noticed that I lost one of the bolts securing my MoskoMoto panniers to the mounting frame. Upon closer inspection it appeared that almost all the bolts had wiggled loose even though they had come from the factory with Loctite on them. I made a quick run to the hardware store and got what I need and we were underway again at the crack of 10am.

    The section of trail south of Thompson Springs hooks around the northeast edge of Arches National Park. I was hoping me might be close enough to catch a view of some of the arches, but there were none that I could see. The BDR took us through The Poison Strip and the Yellowcat Mining Area which had been the site of uranium mining that peaked in the 1950’s. Apparently, the Poison Strip earned it’s foreboding appellation due to the arsenic in the soil killing sheep herds that would graze there. Yikes! There were scattered remnants of the mining industry strewn about, e.g., timber framed buildings, rusted out hulks of vehicles and the like. For more adventurous folks there are mine shafts one could poke around and look for, but most of them have been sealed off.

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    The day began to get hot, like, really hot. By the time we got to Dewey Bridge and saw the Colorado River all I could think about was jumping in the water. Rt 128 is a wonderfully scenic stretch of tarmac that follows the undulating curves of the river through the canyon it spent millennia carving in its own likeness. We stopped at a riverside picnic area for a little shade and some sustenance before heading into The Narrows of Onion Creek. If there are only a few sections you ever manage to ride on the Utah BDR, be sure Onion Creek is on your list.

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    Onion Creek zig zags in and around massive red rock cliffs and contains multiple creek crossings. The creek was never deep enough to give us any trouble, and a short way in I finally got my chance to get wet. My feet were so hot in my boots that at one of the creek crossings I dismounted my bike and just laid down in the water, thoroughly soaking myself from head to toe. It felt great and really was what I needed, although my boots slowly started to fill up with water and I was left with what began to feel like a case of trench foot. I would have to spend the evening drying my boots out over the fire at camp, but more on that later. Onion Creek Road continues along down to the Fisher Valley and into the northern La Sal’s where the beauty and grandeur never ceased and I was awestruck by the majesty of the rock formations. Out of Fisher Valley the trail hooks north on Hideout Road before dropping south into the Manti-La Sal National Forest. This little section of road had a couple tricky sections that slowed our group up a bit. The old GS went down and broke a pannier mount, so they had to spend a bit of time doing some backcountry bailing wire and duct tape repairs.

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    The Manti-La Sal National Forest is splendid country and seems to exist a bit incongruously next to the hot, dry deserts of southern Utah. It was quite verdant up in the high country with cattle grazing on the hillsides and creeks and waterfalls around if you looked for them. We continued along to the Fisher Valley Overlook to admire the view and snap some pics of dinosaur tracks. We had the place to ourselves for a few minutes until a tour bus showed up and tourists of all sorts filed out. We decided it was time to scram and made our way to the trail which quickly turned into pavement. The actual route heads down out of the hills and hooks south onto La Sal Loop Rood towards the Castle Valley Overlook, however I wasn’t paying attention to my GPS because of the fast, fun and twisty pavement and missed the turn. I signaled for the group to turn around, but nobody seemed to want to stop. Jeff and I were on intercom and just decided to go on ahead by ourselves. The other guys could figure it out for themselves, and I was pretty sure they just wanted some civilization and a shower.

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    Jeff and I continued up to the Castle Valley Overlook, shredding the pavement along the way. We spotted a couple campgrounds in the hills to the left of the road and after a quick investigation decided to camp there for the night. Masons Draw Campground was tucked into a thick aspen grove where someone had bucked and stacked firewood near every campsite. We had the whole place to ourselves for a time until another solo camper in a minivan pulled into the opposite side of the camp. The other guys made it back into Moab and found themselves a hotel with a pool and told us it was 93 degrees in the valley. It was comfortably in the low 70’s up in the mountains where we were camped, and we delighted in our decision to stay at elevation. After some dinner we spent another night by the fire, shooting the moon, listening to music and watching the universe spin around.

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    #7
  8. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
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    Day 6 – Castle Valley Overlook to Blanding via Lockhart Basin

    Alright, the one you’ve all been waiting for, the BIG BASIN! Ok, maybe all three people who are reading this ride report aren’t as excited about Lockhart Basin as I was, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

    Being tucked into the trees as we were, we awoke expecting our tents to be covered in morning dew but were happily surprised to see that everything was nice and dry and the air was even a little crispy. We knew we had a long day ahead of us and we wanted to try and beat the heat as much as possible, so we downed our breakfast and broke camp quickly and hit the road. The Kokopelli Trail dropped us off the overlook before dumping us out onto Sand Flats Road that would take us through the Sand Flats Recreation Area. If you’re a mountain biker, dirt biker or Jeep-er than you most certainly know this area, it’s home to the Slickrock Trail, Porcupine Rim Trail, Fins and Things, and Hell’s Revenge just to name a few. Making our way quickly through Moab, we fueled up and touched base with the other guys to let them know our plan and headed for Lockhart.

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    Heading out of Moab to Lockhart Basin takes you past some of the other well-known outdoor adventure sites of Kane Creek and the Amasa Back trail network. There were rock climbers, cyclists, UTV’s, hikers, rafters on the Colorado. Southern Utah really is an amazing place for adventure, but at the same time, it’s also being overrun, and I think its incumbent upon us as visitors to try and minimize our impact as much as possible. I stopped a few times along the trail to pick up other peoples’ trash, and while I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume they just threw their trash into the desert, its still disheartening to see. The road up to Hurrah Pass should be a must for every BDR rider even if you’re not going to go all the way through Lockhart Basin. The views are absolutely stunning and the road is not terribly difficult.

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    Dropping down from Hurrah Pass really give you the sense that you’re heading out into no mans land. It’s hot, its sandy, its rocky and there are very few, if any, other people out there. Once we hit Chicken Corner is when the fun really began. Jeff and I both ride technical singletrack in northwest Montana so we weren’t overly concerned about the tough sections of Lockhart other than the fact we were doing them on fully loaded adventure bikes. I’m not sure if the different tricky sections have names or not, but I came around a corner and saw one that made me laugh out loud. Jeff was on intercom and asked what I was laughing about, and I told him to wait until he saw it. This was the first real tough obstacle that I thought would be worth supporting and spotting each other. It was a series of about 4 tall steps each made up of cobbly loose rock that came up to 3 lines near the top. I decided to send it straight up the middle and paddled through with not too much trouble. We decided to unload Jeff’s luggage as he tends to pack a little heavier, and for some reason it took us about 10 minutes to get his damn bike through there. I don’t know what he was doing differently than me, but boy after that we were hot, tired and worn out. There were plenty of other challenging sections but none that we had to work as hard for. Jeff took the lead for a bit, and I watched him quickly send a short technical section, so I followed his same line only I bottomed out my rear spring a bit on the exit. After a few seconds I started to hear some clanking and thought that maybe I had flatted out, but after a quick inspection realized my tires were fine and that I had blown my rear shock. The blown shock was no real surprise as that is endemic to the 790 Adventure R. I took it in stride and clanked and clunked my way out of Lockhart Basin with no damping on my shock, but at least I still had a spring.

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    I won’t spoil the fun and adventure of experiencing Lockhart on your own, but I will echo what others have said that it is challenging terrain that, at least on fully loaded adventure bikes, should only be attempted by expert riders. Intermediate riders on lightweight bikes may appreciate the challenge, but if you’re new to technical off-road riding and just bought your GS Adventure and loaded it up with every farkle that Touratech sells, maybe you should just watch the videos.

    As we made our way out of Lockhart Basin, we came upon a couple of mountain bikers that looked like they were out for a day ride. After stopping to chat and offering to refill their water bottles, they informed us they still had six days of riding and were heading out to Lake Powell. Collectively, I think the two riders had less gear than I bring on a day hike and I don’t know how the hell they were packing so lightly especially considering where they were riding through. They were either extremely experienced, or extremely stupid, or both, but my hat was off to them, nevertheless.

    Making it back onto pavement we stopped at Newspaper Rock before heading south on Harts Draw Rd down into Monticello for a much-needed cold beverage and a snack. I didn’t realize how worked I was until I was waiting in line at the gas station and had to squat down to avoid passing out. I apparently really needed some calories and fluids. As it was I drank 3 liters of water on the previous section. I made a few calls to see if there was anyone within a few hours ride that could do anything for my shock, but to no avail, everyone I called would have to order parts. I knew that hardest of the riding was behind me so I decided I would ride it out and hopefully not totally destroy my shock beyond repair. After catching up with the other guys who had made their way to Blanding, we left Monticello and headed back into the hills to chew up a few more miles of trail before meeting up them. The ride up and over Elk Ridge and down into Blanding was great with cool temps and huge aspen trees and it was a pleasant way to cap off a long, hard, hot day.

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    Considering how the rest of the ride had gone, Jeff and I assumed we wouldn’t be riding with the other guys the following day so we figured we would hotel it with them for the night and all go out to dinner together for one last hurrah. One of the guys in the gang took pity on me and offered to buy my dinner as consolation for my blown shock. What a guy. I took full advantage of the offer and downed nearly an entire rack of ribs.
    #8
  9. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    Day 7 – Blanding to Mexican Hat

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    The other guys decided the night before that they didn’t want to head back north and complete the section of trail they missed the day before, so we would meet up with them later that morning where the BDR meets Rt. 95. Jeff and I got an early start to hit the hill and when we went outside there was a trio of kittens scurrying around in the parking lot of the hotel. I had to restrain myself from taking them and putting them in bed with the other guys.

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    We headed back up into the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the Abajo Mountains. It was a crisp, refreshing morning but it was a bittersweet start to the day. We knew we were going to have a great day of riding, but we also knew this was the last day of the BDR trip together. I must stop here and give credit to all the people involved in putting together the BDR’s. Up to now we had been riding for 5 days across Utah, through breathtaking scenery on great trails, and not once did the trail disappoint. And still, the scenery along this section was some of the finest of the entire trip as we followed Causeway Rd. to Gooseberry Rd. to Elk Mountain Rd. For the umpteenth time this trip, Jeff and I felt the other guys had no idea what they were missing, and the riding was so easy and smooth.

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    We dropped down to Rt. 95 at Zeke’s Hole and followed the road to where it hooks south towards Butler Wash. We didn’t have cell service and weren’t sure exactly how we were going to coordinate with the other guys, but sure enough, after only about a minute we saw them come around the corner. I don’t know how on earth we were able to link up so perfectly the entire trip, but somehow it all kept working out. We all stopped to check out the Butler Wash Ruins and then made our way over to Lower Butler Wash Rd. Not surprisingly, in short order the rest of the crew decided they didn’t want to deal with the sand, and we made plans to try and meet up in Mexican Hat or the Valley of the Gods. We kept one other rider who was keen on seeing some of the other historical sites along the way. Butler Wash Rd. was a little over 20 miles and indeed proved to be quite sandy, but nothing we couldn’t navigate. We stopped at the Wolfman Petroglyph site where Steve and I walked down to explore while Jeff stayed at the bikes nursing his blistered foot. Once we got back to the highway, just before heading into Comb Wash, Steve decided he was going to stick to the highway and try and meet up with the other guys.

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    Jeff and I continued along the trail into Comb Wash and west along Snow Flat Road that separates the Fish Creek Canyon Wilderness Study Area to north and the Road Canyon Wilderness Study Area to the South. The riding proved to be a lot less sandy than Butler Wash, and unfortunately the other guys had been scared away thinking the riding would be too difficult. The riding was great, and the scenery again was just as good, and the guys didn’t know what they were missing. Coming off the dirt trail dropped us onto Rt 261 and from the Moki Dugway on Cedar Mesa we descended 1,200’ down toward the Valley of The Gods. I had never been to this area before so I had no idea what to expect, though I assumed with a name like Valley of the Gods it would likely be quite lovely. Words can hardly describe how stunning this area truly is. The Valley of the Gods is a sandstone valley filled with mesas, buttes, towers and mushroom rocks and the 17-mile Valley of the Gods Road snakes in and around them. At the end of the road as we were getting to Rt. 163 to head to Mexican Hat, we ran into Steve who had just left the other guys in Mexican Hat. He was off to ride the Valley of the Gods northbound and then to meet up with the rest of the crew in Hanksville as they made their way back north to Garden City. We said our goodbyes and were glad that he decided to stick with us on a few sections of the ride and we went off in search of the other guys. Unfortunately, we must have just missed them in Mexican Hat so we stopped for some food, shot them all a text message wishing them safe travels and the headed to Goosenecks State Park for one last camp together before Jeff and I would part ways.

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    #9
  10. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    Day 8 – Mexican Hat to Gooseberry Mesa

    The next morning Jeff and I parted ways, he was heading out Colorado to see some family and do some more backcountry riding on his way back to his truck and I was on my way to Henderson, NV to do some work. With no real itinerary for the next couple of days, the world was really my oyster. I debated heading down to the Grand Canyon, but I decided to head out towards Zion National Park and eventually through St. George where there is a Rocky Mountain ATV/MC, in the hopes that maybe they might be able to do some shock work for me.

    I headed south towards Monument Valley towards Kayenta and out to Page, AZ and Lake Powell. At that point in the day it was getting pretty hot down in the desert so I decided to try and find a place to swim around Lake Powell. Lake Powell lies in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and I pulled into the Wahweap Entrance Station just north of Page. Much to my chagrin, the beach areas were closed, I’m guessing due to the ongoing pandemic, so I split hoping to have better luck elsewhere. Just down the road I pulled into the Lone Rock Entrance and Lone Rock Campground which is just dispersed camping along a broad sandy shoreline. The signs recommended 4-wheel drive vehicles only due to the soft sand, but I had been through a whole week of sand and wasn’t worried. Well this sand was pretty damn deep, so after going through a few sections, I got as close as I felt like riding and walked the rest of the way down to the water. Lake Powell wasn’t terribly crowded and the water was wonderfully refreshing. I made a note in the back of my head to come back down sometime and spend a little more time, perhaps with a watercraft of some sort.

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    Back on the road I still had no idea of my destination, but I was passing through the Grand Staircase Escalante area, and I had always heard there are some great hiking trails out there, so I decided to stop at a BLM office and get a little local input. The woman working there told me there was a nice little slot canyon down at Wire Pass that was only a short hike but warned me that the road is dirt and wash boarded so I might not like it on my motorcycle. I assured her I would be just fine. The Wire Pass parking area was jumping, apparently, I wasn’t the only person with this idea, but after a short walk through a wash I got to view the slot canyon and was happy I decided to get off the bike for a bit and stretch my legs.

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    Next, I decided I was going to head toward Zion but just a little north of Kanab I kept getting glimpses out to the northwest of what looked like some beautiful scenery. Looking at the map I’m fairly certain I was looking into the Parunuweap Canyon Wilderness Study Area so I ducked off the highway to see where it might take me. I didn’t get too far before running into private property signs, and I didn’t really feel like spending too much time trying to figure things out, so I made my way back to the highway. Just before popping back out onto the highway, I noticed a neat little sandstone tunnel that went underneath Rt. 89 so I stopped to take a walk through it.

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    With Zion in my sights, I headed west on Rt. 9 towards the East Entrance. I visited Zion a couple of years ago, but they were doing work on the tunnel, so we didn’t get a chance to go over to the east side on that trip. Right after passing through the entrance gate, I spotted a big horn sheep perched up high on a rock face. I stopped to snap a photo as it trotted along the rock face just as easily as if it were on flat ground. I looked off in the direction it was headed and spotted several smaller big horn sheep apparently waiting for him to return to them. I continued along Rt. 9 snapping pics as I went along, before running into stopped traffic right before the tunnel. Seeing a couple just returning to their car in the parking lot across the street, I took advantage of being on a motorcycle and zipped across to steal their spot. The lot was directly across the street from the Canyon Overlook Trail so I quickly made my way up the trail, took in the view, snapped a few pics, and was back underway. It was such a short diversion that a gentleman standing by the trailhead sign when I set off was still there when I got back and was impressed with how quickly I did my out and back. All the campgrounds in the park were full which wasn’t terribly surprising, not that I really wanted to camp in the park anyhow. I decided to take the Smithsonian Butte National Backcountry Byway out of Rockville and head to Gooseberry Mesa for the night. From what I could tell I had the entire mesa to myself that night and I set out my chair on the edge of the cliff and watched the sunset before making some dinner and passing out.

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    #10
  11. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    Day 9 – Gooseberry Mesa to just outside Mesquite, NV

    Gooseberry Mesa was just as deserted the following morning as it had been the night before. I slept in my tent with no rainfly and had great views of the night sky, perfect temperatures and a gentle breeze. The morning temps were perfect, and I took my time eating breakfast and breaking camp. I decided to head into St. George first thing to see about fixing the bike, although in hindsight I wish that I had just decided to call them because of course they didn’t have what I needed and it would take a week to order parts. I chatted with a guy on a KLR 650 outside the shop for a bit, and he was struggling a bit getting a new battery in his bike and he was bummed that he wasn’t going to be able to hike the Narrows in Zion because of his schedule and the bike issues. It occurred to me that I had no real schedule and no insurmountable bike issues, so I turned around and headed back to Zion intent on hiking into the Narrows.

    For those not in the know, the Narrows is a slot canyon that has been carved out by the Virgin River that is accessible at the North End of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The hike goes right up the riverbed through the canyon, and I thought it would be the perfect thing for a hot day down in the desert so off I went. The last time I was in Zion the water level was too high and they weren’t allowing people to hike in the canyon, so my wife and I hiked Angel’s Landing, but today the water level was perfect. I cruised back into the park and the signs all along the road were showing parking was full in the park and advising people to park in Springdale and take the free shuttle. However, right inside the gate at the visitor’s center is a big parking area just for motorcycles, so I pulled in and hopped right onto a shuttle bus to take me up to the trailhead. The shuttle is quite nice and convenient as they don’t allow vehicle traffic up the canyon road during the peak season. The walk from Temple of Sinawa upstream is very popular and there were tons of other people hiking that day, but most people are fairly slow going through the water so if you’re surefooted you can make your way through the crowds pretty easily. A lot of people rent waterproof shoes and walking sticks in town, but I was just wearing a pair of Vans slip-ons and they worked just fine. The first section is paved and follows along the side of the river, and I’m not exactly sure how far I hiked, but I only went a couple miles in and felt like I got the whole experience.

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    I made my way back to my motorcycle and called my buddy that I was meeting in Henderson to work with and he said he was about an hour out of St. George. I made my way back into town and met up with him at a gas station and we searched iOverlander for a place to camp that night. We ended up camping off Fairview Avenue just west of the Virgin River Gorge and had a nice night.
    #11
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  12. MagnaMungus

    MagnaMungus Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2019
    Oddometer:
    46
    Location:
    Montana
    Day 10 – to Henderson, NV

    This was to be the last little stretch before heading to work for the next week so I decided to take the scenic route to Henderson and head down Rt. 169 past Valley of Fire State Park towards Lake Mead. As we were breaking camp I noticed some rain clouds off in the distance and decided to check the radar. There was a nasty looking storm cell heading right for us so I decided to take shelter in Mesquite and catch up with my buddy down the road. I made the right call as the storm that passed through had the intensity of a hurricane and I was grateful for the shelter that I found. Once the storm passed I headed out towards my destination.



    Rt. 169 is a nicely paved stretch that goes through some incredible scenic country. Valley of Fire State Park is worth a trip if you’ve never been, but I did that on my last trip with the wife, so this time I bypassed it. I cruised along snapping pics and thinking that this would be a great road for a sport bike, and almost immediately after having that thought a pack of about 30 sport bike riders ripped past me heading the other direction. They obviously had the same idea.

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    I short order I was out of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and heading towards civilization. It was a great trip and I have a list of places to go visit the next time I’m in the area. I hope you all enjoyed the ride report and pictures, and feel free to hit me up with any questions about the route or packing/gear tips as well.

    Cheers,

    Hugh
    #12
  13. Ironwood

    Ironwood Friday Harbor, WA

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,025
    Thoroughly enjoyed your report. So much to see in that part of N/A.

    Thanks!
    #13
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  14. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    21,906
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Beautiful country! I can never get enough Utah. ❤️
    #14
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  15. AzMtnThumper

    AzMtnThumper Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2015
    Oddometer:
    257
    Location:
    Flagstaff, Az
    Cool report, enjoyed the pics too.
    #15
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