Here's a wee slide show of 8 days of fab riding Dave and I did north of Moab at spring break. We rode some trails we have ridden mtb's on before near Moab then headed further north to White Wash and traveled over some amazing new-to-us terrain. Fantastic scenery and riding.
Most days we ran into sections on the trail that were too difficult for me to ride and we had to turn around. This moto game is not like mountain biking where you can pick the bike up and carry on over something too difficult to ride. I need to build moto skills!
After Scott posted this pic I had to go there to see and smell for myself...our spring break bikepack destination was sealed. The new Antelope Peak section trail that bypasses the gas line and Gila River Canyons sections needed my tracks. Click on the links for photos because Scott's pics are far, far better than any of mine.
We parked at Picket Post, rode 65 miles on the road to the trailhead at Tiger Mine Road, then 100 miles of sweet AZT back to the car. We took 4 days - very casual pace :-)
I was lucky to have my fave ride partner DH come along too. The flowers were wowzers!
Carpets of flowers.
We camped at Freeman Rd water cache and were treated to a spectacular Sonoran sunset
Riding the Boulders section the next day I had intense flashbacks to racing through there at sunrise/moon-set in the AZT300 race last year. It is such a flowy section.
Then onto Ripsey. Thumbs up from DH as we both had a perfect score on the big hill switchbacks.
The flowers were busting out on Ripsey too.
We camped that night near Kelvin Bridge. Unfortunately DH's rear tire was in the process of decomposing and he made the wise but disappointing decision to bail on the AZT and ride the road back to Picket Post. He nicely took my sleep kit and I got to ride the Gila River Canyons section from Kelvin Bridge to Picket Post only partially loaded.
The first thing I ran into was a trail crew turning a jeep road into a trail - how cool is that ?!?!
Brand new trail made from a jeep road
Trail slightly more mature trail with a few landscaping touches. It was like a bike path for a while!
The section along the Gila river on the "bike path" was fast and fun. Then the trail heads north and climbs skirting the border of the spectacular White Canyon wilderness area. So beautiful.
I was back at Picket Post before I knew it and before I was ready to be over with my ride. I'm hungry for more bikepack adventures now.
One of the best things about the Dixie's is the people it attracts. A small, talented group toed the start. Everyone's kit looked tight and pro. It's amazing how far bikepacking has come in a few short years.
Left to right: Eszter, Ken, Sara, Taylor, Aaron.
Since I had to be back in St George Sat evening I chose different ride for the day - one that put me on top of Powell Point when the leaders arrived.
Aaron was first up:
Followed shortly by Eszter.
They were carrying spots - with bluedot I knew when they'd be up there, and who was coming next. It appeared nobody - so I rode the route to Tropic with Ez. What a blast! Super fun 2 hour descent, it throws a little of everything at you.
Ken and Sara on the way up Powell Point looking snappy (they don't have a spot):
Ez on the Henderson Canyon descent
Looking the other direction on the trail...I finally discovered my droid was set on blue tint, doh!
Aaron about ready to roll south of Tropic
They are in the thick of the hardest part of the route. Very remote and the southern exposure can make it feel warmer than it actually is. It is gorgeous down there tho! We'll see what the day brings, but I don't think we'll see any finishers before dark.
We headed up to the Markagunt Plateau Saturday for a final check on conditions. According to the snow models it looked tight - too tight for comfort. I had to have on the ground intel. Here is what we saw.
The Virgin River Rim trail is at the top of that ridge - and as far as we could tell it was covered in 4-8 feet of snow. The area is saturated with runoff, the snow is still deep, and the downed trees are worse than ever. A ranger said 200 trees were cut out of a 1/4 stretch of a local trail.
That turned out to be a pretty big deal. I had anticipated several snow detours, but the VRRT via Woods ranch is the entrance to the Markagunt. With that access currently unavailable, it was time for some thinking.
I have so many GPS files for the region from scouring out the best routes for Trans Utah - thousands of miles of tracks in fact - I was confident of coming up with a good alternative, one that did not even include the Markagunt at all. C'est la vie...
Looking at paper maps for about an hour I came up with an idea. It did require some scouting for a key connector, and it panned out nicely. Great Western Trail to the rescue!
The new route gets more singletrack in the Red Canyon area, finishes with Thunder Mountain(!), has an optional out and back to Powell Point, a fantastic descent into Tropic, completely circumnavigates Bryce Canyon NP, and still maintains the Paunsaugunt as its core. Beyond Tropic it gets quite remote - it will be committing for riders leaving Tropic. There are no bailouts until the other side of the Paunsaugunt.
It doesn't quite hit the 200 mile mark, but I guarantee you won't feel cheated on distance by the end ;)
One of my favorite areas on the route is Henderson Canyon beneath Powell Point. The ride to Powell Point is optional since it could be a bit wet up there, and it makes refueling in Tropic problematic. 10 hour time bonus and the best view going for those that do it!
From the top southern Utah is in view, including Bryce in this pic.
The Paunsaugunt is wild and remote. There is awesome singletrack, steep atv track, and some forgotten trail. It's slow going and the route's crux. Plan water carefully leaving Tropic.
There's a good hard core group making the trip. I'm really looking forward to meeting folks in Red Canyon for the start. Sadly, I can't do the ride this year but will ride a good bit with folks on Saturday before I make my exit.
Event site is here. Chatter on bikepacking.net is here.
I've been getting quite a few inquiries about how the big snowpack might affect the Dixie 200 this year.
Short answer: it will go regardless of snow conditions. If there is significant snow remaining the week prior I will re-route to dryer ground.
Long answer: the Paunsaugunt is snow-free. The real problem area is from the Spruce trail to Navajo, a roughly 30 mile segment. The Virgin River Rim trail is melting out nicely and I think it will be fine.
The Midway Valley SNOTEL site is very close to the route. The snowpack right now up there is the highest on record for this date.
I've added a snow model layer to the maps. It's a bit of a kluge but you get the idea...the maps on BlueDot are a lot nicer ;) Keep in mind this is a model, not actual...and I'll tweak the course in the final week based on conditions on the ground.
The course additions I was thinking of earlier? Those are still in the deep purple areas, 100+ inches still there in June!
Click the image to go to the live map. Check out the new route file with waypoints on the Dixie 200 page.
This snow has everyone scrambling! The next one to be scrambling in the area is the Crusher ;)