Category Archives: Exploratories

Teatime on the tops

We're back!  It was a super week of bikepacking.  Talk about fortunate, southern Utah has terrain of all sorts.  Incredible terrain at every fork in the trail.  And with those forks come a few epic moments.

We started out heading N from the Paunsaugunt area.  It was all new to us.  We were loaded and ready for 7+ days on the trail, a new experience for us.

I fretted over what sort of shelter would be best for us for months.  This Henry Shires tarptent did the trick nicely.  At just over 2 lbs it's light and barely noticeable on the bars, and once setup is quite large and airy.  Very airy actually - as it's a single wall tent the bathtub floor is connected to the tent body with a swatch of netting to facilitate airflow and resist condensation.

We quickly got into an evening flow of making some dinner creation then heading out for a short walk/hike.  It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Tea in hand, walk to the super scenic spot we camped near, enjoy.

Two land masses were omnipotent on the trip:  the Tushar mountains (above) and Powell point.

Flowers, lakes, aspens...aaahhh, summer in the Fishlake national forest.

The Fishlake NF is full of these little corrals.  No clue what purpose they served!

Koosharem refuel stop.  One stop shopping, it's all in the merc.

I tossed darts at a map and came up with a route for the trip.  I had some parameters to work with, but my darts did not always aim true.  More beer would have helped?

Day 2 we did a nasty bit of trail out of Koosharem that was full of hike a bike, then followed it up with something north of 10k more climbing into the Sevier plateau.  Tough day.  In Koosharem I picked up a bottle of bug juice and said something like "gawd this is heavy.  We'll have to get slaughtered before I put something that big in my pack."

Day 3 we got slaughtered.  That dart problem you see, combined with a crap memory had us on the lakeshore trail of Fishlake, which is cool to a point then completely unrideable amidst huge boulders.  And mosquitoes.  Dense clouds of carnivorous mossies.

We camped near here:  marshland = killer mosquitoes.  The tent was bulletproof against the critters though.  Needless to say, the next town with bug juice had my business.

Pelican Sam lives in Johnson Res!

Leaving Torrey on the way to Boulder Top, a lake covered plateau over 11,000'.  It was going to be 3 days riding from here to the next resupply - it was the crux of our trip!  We were excited, nervous even leaving Torrey.  Did we have enough stuff?  Would this rain in Torrey be snow up high?  What are road and trail conditions way up there??

Tingling anticipation, good stuff.

The Great Western Trail is everywhere in this area.  It's a web of trails, not a single thread.  Some ATV, some faint goat trail.

The road to Boulder Top surprised us with how gentle it was.  We'd been riding some tough terrain up this point, but today we found ourselves at 11k and wondering how we got there so fast.  It was a most pleasant climb!

Lakes everywhere, the terrain flirts with timberline.  Trees struggle to survive, but the lakes are full of fish.  I was wishing for a rod.

Phlox.  Everywhere up here!

An unassuming hill gets the RD highpoint award.

So by now I was firmly gripped by an evening tea habit.  We needed gas to fuel the stove and it was disappearing quickly.  Also, our water filter was getting clogged (paper filter, doh!).  LW pops into this cabin and says I gotta come take a look inside...

...and inside was a half full can of gas, the same kind we brought, and a katadyn bag drip water filter in near new condition.  Both items left behind by some slob of a camper.  Unbelievable!  I got chills just from the impossible odds of this coincidence.

We camped at this magical lake on the edge of Boulder Mountain...

...and then it was tea time!

Our overlook was so great as to pull us back in the morning.  We were treated to swifts doing their impossible aeronautics and this Golden Eagle cruising the early thermals.

We'll be back to this spot for sure.  Next time we'll have 2 kids with us experiencing their first bikepack trip.  Wes has been talking about bikepacking for a couple months now, and he's only 9!

On tap for this day:  55 miles, all over 10k'.  I never knew there was that much high terrain in s. Utah!  Boulder Top, Griffin Top, Barney Top, Table cliff Plateau.  Most of these high plateaus in the this region are called "tops." 

The day ended on a sweet short trail to Powell point.  Yep, right on the Trans Utah route.

Bryce Canyon all plainly visible from up there.  And most all of the known world, in fact ;)

Tea time again.  Great time of day :)

We descended the TU route (in reverse), and LW sniffed out some new (to me) singletrack.  TU will get some modifications in this area.

Powell point is the upper right landmass in this pic.  Magical lighting, and a killer fun trail!

I'd never hiked Bryce before, so day 8 was on foot.  Crazy but true.  You really have to hike Peekaboo to get the full perspective of those hoodoos.  Dazzling.

Livin' large on the tops with my favorite bikepacking partner.  My head is still up there.

GL SS training

May 29th a group of us will be heading out on a Grand Loop mission.   I've done this route before, so to make it more challenging this time around I'll have just one gear.  This route is hard enough that success rate is something south of 40% for those that attempt it - and it only appeals to a rather salty crowd.  SS finishes?  Nada.  I don't know if I can do it...and I like that.  Makes me feel alive with that tingle in the tummy.

Since I have yet to do an overnight trip with the single - and May 29 is coming quick - the time is  now!  And, why not dovetail it with some TU splorin'?

I mapped out something that was about 130 miles and looked fairly climb heavy.  That should be sufficient.  What I got was a bit more than I had imagined tho!

Distance is ~ 15 miles short - a GPS malfunction towards the end of the 2nd day had me losing a big chunk of data.  Grrrr....

The start was up Veyo-Shoal creek road.  Confusing sign - singletrack road?  That's an oxy-moron.  Sure looked like double track to my eyes....up the recently burned moonscape, steep climbing - loaded and single, ouch - just what I needed to get a feel for.  Oi.  I knew there was water aplenty up here but I started with 175 OZ just cause.  I really don't want to do much walking in the Shandies so this would be a good test.

The moonscape quickly gave way to incredible greenery!  2 weeks ago the oak brush was still dormant.  It is now a glimmering shiny spring green and it covers every peak in this region.  The riding continued steadily up, up and up...

Detour from plan #1:  like a moth to a lightbulb, I seem to have this fatal attraction with the South Boundary trail.  I could not pass up such a *civilized* looking trailhead.  Off into the unknown...

And as luck would have it it was mostly rideable!  Big views, epic descents on singletrack overgrown with flowers giving way to a descent down a nearly unrideable boulder field.  But not quite ;)

That was almost at the Nevada/Utah state line, it is lonely remote country.  Water was everywhere.  Heading east, Pilot Peak trail escorted me past Flatop, then Ox Valley...and one big hike a bike up to the top of Big Mountain to see this.  Farthest horizon  line is the Lost Peak area where the above trail was, center of pic is Flatop and Pilot Peak, Ox valley not too far but out of sight.  Already a big day, I still had some miles to cover to get where I had planned to camp.

It's flower season as we all know from MC's blog.  This is one of my favorites.  Most of the time you don't see them until you are nearly on top of them as they grow so low to the ground.  Pink carpet, I call them Emma flowers.  This particular patch I found amidst a 4 mile hike a bike. 

4 miles and 100 oz fluids later brought me here.

Since it is outside the boundary of Pine Valley wilderness I thought I'd give it a go - but once at the lake I was looking for alternatives.  And...I found one!  A brilliant trail rolled along the top of this range, from lake to lake.  The trail was often gone only to reappear.  Can you read the sign below?  Yea, this place has been forgotten by all but the hardiest of cattle.

Eventually the trail became a ripping singletrack descent, all rideable - flowy even.  Fun stuff!  I was thinking there must be a way to work this in the TU route.  Suddenly the trail ended and this is the sign that greeted me.

Hmph.  Some strange management going on here.  Apparently equestrians rule the roost here.  Oh well, it was an awesome ride nonetheless.

Overnights in rough country on a SS?  Seems pretty doable to me!  I did a lot of futzing with gear placement and had a batch of velcro straps and zip ties to use.  Once the Epic Designs seatbag arrives things will get even better as the front end was too heavy for hike a bikes - and one consequence of a heavy front end when on a SS is a light rear end - bad for traction. 

Body, GI, fueling:  spot on.  Dave V2 is ready.  Tick tock till May 29 6pm...

TU Splorin’ Resumes

It's a never ending quest to get from StG to the Markagunt by dirt.  Instead of looking South into the AZ strip, I've been looking at NW of town.  This is a rugged, remote, complex region of volcanic mountains, green valleys and even a few lakes.   Subtly soft in places, brutally hard in others.

Much of said exploratories are done solo.  When with others I do my best to warn of varying conditions...bring arm/leg warmers no matter the temps!  Scratchy brush out there in the bush. 

There is always the bubba factor in remote places.  Yesterday we found plenty of live ammo on the ground - with crosshatched bullets to do extra damage, those rednecks are really stepping it up - and then this:

Hike a bike in varying portions are inevitable...

These rides seem to be more about ruling out routes than finding them.  I'm tired dad!

And then it happens.  We find the perfect trail heading off into the perfect landscape

with surprises around every corner

and suddenly we can see beyond the hike a bike, the bleeding shins, the sore shoulders, and see the beauty that surrounds us, high and low.

Wish you were there.

Ah, oh yes, you will get  your chance!  And I'll do my best to keep hike a bike to a minimum.

Trans Utah V3.0

Trans Utah is getting an upgrade.  Based on last years running, and the fact that nobody has completed the course yet, here's where it's headed:

- Route.  Marshal's experience in particular up Kolob road was not at all what I had in mind when designing the route.  Kolob road is getting the ax.  Seeing how that was a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle major changes are going to be required.  The issue is getting to the E side of  Zion - there are few good options off-road.  I've been doing some exploring in a completely new direction...it will be big, hard, and beautiful!

- Date.  The "start date" is in the same spirit as AZT300, CTR, GDR, TD:  it is merely a recommended time to start the course so that everyone can do a "group ITT" and benefit from some camaraderie on the trail.  Of course you can opt to do it at any time you see fit.  Last year's start put riders into an early snowstorm, and this years date is right on top of the 24 hours of Moab.  This year's start will be earlier - exact date is not locked down but Sep 26 has been suggested to take advantage of moon cycles and other calendar conflicts.  I'm open to suggestions, but leaning hard towards accepting the suggested Sep 26 date.

- Finish.  This year's route will end in Boulder, UT. 

In the meantime, I'll be working on that revised route, 'splorin and collecting GPS tracks, sunburns and smiles.  LW and I may even tour the route early-summer :)  Somebody has got to finish this beast!

Paunsaugunt sploring

This weekend we headed over to the Paunsaugunt for more sploring. Wow, double decker wow! The scenery was unmatched, trails amazing and weather ride perfect.

The main target was to ride a bunch of the Grandview trail and find a more interesting route up onto the plateau than Proctor Canyon. Finding reliable info on the Grandview trail is near impossible. It is a 78 mile non-motorized trail along the Sunset Cliffs and Pink Cliffs near Bryce Canyon National Park.

The trail rolled right along the top of these...

Views were both huge and immediate all at the same time.

A mixture of ATV and single-track.

A little foot travel was required this time to find the route we wanted up from the valley on top of the cliffs. It will be a real grunt with a bike...

Up to the rightly named Sand Pass.

Looking back at Sand Pass from along the cliffs.

I never did see a Paunsaugunt directly. One stalked me in the bushes for a while when I was riding. I saw it in my peripheral vision only. Another left these tracks each morning near camp.

There is lots of water up on the Paunsaugunt plateau which was a big surprise

This spring had crazy lush vegetation

and this spring was delicious

Breathing fresh Paunsaugunt. Aaaahh

New toy for this boy

Siren Mary, Brendan, and Matt stopped by for a bit yesterday.  They are on their way to Banff for Mary's start to Tour Divide.  Mary looks so good!!!  Calm, strong, witty, she's in a great space leading to this most epic of epics.  We talked strategy and equipment...they even pulled her bike off the car for us to spin around a bit.  Killer handlebar setup with tons of position options from cruiser upright to aero back stretching.  Sorry, no pics (I was slacking on the camera dept!).

They also left us with this little beauty.

I never thought I could be so excited for a hardtail...my times have changed.  This bike has a long history already...to keep the story short, it never could have happened without Lynda.  It's been custom built by Brendan to my specs with the goal of multi-day SS forays in mind, hence the big front triangle for frame bag storage.  It's a 29er.  Did I mention it's a single speed?

It just so happens I have a pair of sweet liteweight wheels laced up by MC to go on her.  The Explosif is getting canibalized - at a frame weight of 1.5 lbs heavier than the Siren it's been benched ;) 

There's been lots of help getting it built up.

First ride in a few hours!  Then I'll break it in at KMC this weekend.  How better to get the ride dialed, eh?

Time has been tight lately...too much livin' to keep up on the blog - but TransUtah explorations continue.  The latest was a foray to find an entrance to the west side of the Paunsagunt plateau - not as easy as one may imagine.  Private land everywhere in the valleys beneath the rim, you can get within a mile of Forest Lands most anywhere but that last mile could get you shot...success was finally had though, here's the teaser.

From June 08

Overnight in the flowers

More fun on bikes this weekend in the million acres of the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. This time we drove the 30 miles south from St George to the border of the park and started riding from there.

We also took overnight gear.

This was my first bike-packing adventure. I'm not sure how much I like riding with all that extra weight on my bike and back. It was hard work...

The route went down Jump Canyon to start

There were more flowers in Jump Canyon than I have ever, ever, ever seen in one place in my entire life.

We had to stop every minute or so for closer looksies and pics.

The entire canyon glowed orange. It was heady and mesmerizing. I felt almost stoned riding along rubbernecking around at the flowers and views.

Flower, flowers.

Next we headed up Hidden Canyon but the turn off down to Pakoon Basin looked very attractive - what is around that corner? Must go back... Pakoon Basin - maybe there was a bazaar down there? Who made up these names?

Fields of yellow flowers.

Is this a turban? Maybe lots of these down in Pakoon Basin?

Hidden Canyon climb goes up about 3,000 rubbly feet in 8 miles.

Hidden Canyon Rim looking down towards Lake Mead and along and up to Snap Point in the hazy distance. The end destination was to be Snap Point but we fell waaaay short of there. Must go back....

Giddy pink flower love...