The Smoky Mountain road between Big Water and Escalante covers huge expanse of remote, lonely, beautiful country. The road surface is actually quite good for the most part. Water availability is not bad either. It's been dry for a good long while yet we found plenty. The area lends itself nicely to an ambitious 2 day or ambling 3 day bike trip - I highly recommend it so I'll post a few more details than normal for this one.
A lot of these pics ya gotta click for the big version...
Near the start of the route (starting at Big Water) this sign looks so new and official. Not to worry, the man was nowhere to be seen and every other sign was bullet riddled, old and illegible ;)
After a bit the climbing comes on in earnest taking you up to the southern end of the Kaiparowits plateau. Initially steep, it rolls a lot through drainages and contours in other spots.
Lake Powell in the distance, Smoky Mountain road contouring below.
Other signs of life. This was the first (but not last) time I would hear yee-haw! this trip. Cowboys are grumpy.
We took a diversion. At Collet Top we headed over the Left Hand Collet canyon to descend to Hole in the Rock road. The Grand Staircase site said the road conditions were "unknown." In the future I'll know unknown means non-existant. The conditions were unknown cause this rockslide prevented vehicle traffic and the road was later abandoned.
For the most part we traveled a stream/canyon bottom for 11 miles. Most of it was rideable but very slow. Sand, water, big rocks and boulders, a bit of slickrock - a real cornucopia of conditions. Slow going, but it really put a smile on our face anyway. It's not everyday you get to ride something like that.
A cruise on HitR road took us to Escalante. It'd be easy to get lodging there and not take the overnight gear...
But you'd miss out on this.
You'd also miss out on the redneck locals. For future reference don't ever camp in the open near towns on a Sat night. Holy crap...repeated high powered rifle shots overhead scared me beyond belief. And here I thought I was afraid of nothing in the woods....drunk johny reb and his 12 half brothers were playing all sorts of antics. Big spotlights looking for gawd knows what, they spotted us in our sleeping bags. Shit. Nothing like being the evening's entertainment for local drunken idiots.
Yea, nice sunrise pic but note the atv track in the lower right corner. This shot was taken from where I was camped. They came by within inches in the middle of the night spewing rocks and hoots and hollers. The episode lasted at least 2 hours...
Heading south from Escalante on the Smoky Mtn road takes a nice climb to the ride's high point.
Beyond this point there is a wonderful section of rolling road. It skirts several canyons, crosses others, big views abound. You'll have to ride it to see it, I was too enthralled to stop ;)
I took a spur to the SW on Heads of the Canyons road. It goes in and out of several drainages. Plenty of up and down and road conditions similar to the Kokopelli trail. I kept having deja vu...then I realized riding this was remarkably similar to the White Rim - except much less traveled, more tech and more climby.
It drops through canyons on it's way to Big Water. This looked old and abandoned but there was food in the cupboards - oops!
Everywhere to the north is wilderness study area - no motorized vehicles allowed. Nice ATV tracks here, not one of them turning around at the signs. What is about ATVs that requires disrespect for land and your fellow man plus mass stupidity to ride them? My disgust is complete.
Strange black hearted canyons on the way into Big Water.
So there you have it. This may be the off-season and all...and I think I'm chilling out but I've got quite the string of 25 hour weeks going here. It's just too much fun to stop!