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Old 10-19-2008, 02:56 PM   #1
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Southern Utah -- 1900 miles of Dual-Sporting Fun

Last Sunday I left Denver for a much anticipated figure-8 loop through Southern Utah. It would be my first time south of Moab on a DS bike. I had read so many great ride reports here that I was really looking forward to tasting some of the sweetness -- I wasn't disappointed.

I knew with only 6 riding days I would only be able to scratch the surface of dual-sport riding in that area. Here is loop I rode:




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Old 10-19-2008, 03:02 PM   #2
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Day 1 -- Denver to Durango (375 miles)

I couldn't leave Denver until 1 PM on Sunday, at which point it was 42 degrees and raining .

I blazed south on I-25 and the skies cleared south of Colorado Springs. By the time I was on 160 westbound passing the Sangre de Cristos mountain range, it had turned into a pretty day:


I spent the night in Durango at the Hometown Hostel. Highly recommended if you want cheap, simple, clean accommodations in SW Colorado.

Day 1 ride:


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Old 10-19-2008, 03:21 PM   #3
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Old 10-19-2008, 03:24 PM   #4
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Day 2 - Durango, CO to Torrey, UT (339 miles)

The next morning, I rode from Durango to Cortez, Colorado where I picked up Road G towards Utah.

Road G, near the Utah border:


Now this is a good looking sky :





I stopped in Bluff, UT to learn a bit about the Mormon pioneers who settled the area. These were the same families of Hole in the Rock fame.





From Bluff, I headed west to Valley of the Gods Road. This is now one of my favorite roads...ever:



Great scenery and fast dirt. Great dual-sporting fun:







At the end of the Valley of the Gods road, I turned right onto Trail of the Ancients/261 and almost immediately headed up the Moki Dugway switchbacks:





Looking back down on the Moki Dugway switchbacks and the Valley of the Gods:



From there I raced north on 261/Trail of the Ancients to try to catch the 2 PM ferry at Hall's Crossing:




Made the ferry, with 4 minutes to spare:



After the ferry, I took the Notom-Bullfrog road north to the bottom of the Burr Trail:













I followed the Burr Trail to Boulder, Utah, where I turned north onto Highway 12 towards Torrey.




Hmmm...might be a bit too chilly to camp tonight:


My humble accommodations in Torrey:



Day 2 ride:


-- more --

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Old 10-19-2008, 03:45 PM   #5
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Day 3 -- Torrey to Cannonville, Utah (207 miles)

Day 3 dawned cold, but beautiful:



It was 26 degrees when I left Torrey, heading east on Highway 12.



Gooseneck overlook:



After reaching the town of Notom near Capitol Reef National Park, I turned south onto Notom-Bullfrog Road:



It turned into a really fun 4th gear dirt road:



I bet Edward Abbey would be pleased that there is at least one national park that still has a dirt road leading into it!



Further down the Notom-Bullfrog road:



I didn't see another vehicle for hours. Perfect:



At the junction with the Burr Trail, I turned right and headed back up the switchbacks for the second time in two days:





The previous day, as I was chasing the setting sun, I'd seen a sign for the Wolverine Trail loop road. Today, I had the time to follow it. I was not disappointed:









After meeting back up with the Burr Trail, I rode into Boulder and fueled up. From there, I headed northwest on Hell's Backbone road (NF153). After a couple of days of riding in the desert, it was nice to be back up among the pine trees for a bit:



This bridge was built in 1933 by the CCC. Before its construction, there was no automobile route between the towns of Boulder and Escalante, just an old mule trail used to deliver mail:







After reaching Escalante via Hell's Backbone, I turned east on Highway 12 and rode a bit to get some good views into the Grand Staircase Monument:



See the road down there?



From here, I turned and headed west on Highway 12 towards Bryce Canyon National Park before stopping for the night in Cannonville.



Day 3 route:




-- more --
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Old 10-19-2008, 04:04 PM   #6
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Day 4 -- Cannonville to Muley Point (312 miles)

I awoke the next morning and headed into Bryce Canyon National Park. The friendly ranger at the entrance station asked if I was cold. I really wasn't as my heated vest and grips were doing a good job of keeping my core warm.

I asked her what the temperature was...and she replied: 22 degrees -- that's -5 degrees Celsius for our metric friends . I guess it was good I chose to motel it again last night, since the overnight low set a record low of 14 degrees .



The view from the Rainbow Point overlook:





Natural Bridge (actually an arch):



After leaving Bryce, I headed back east on Highway 12 to Cannonville, where I turned south onto Cottonwood Road -- a 46 mile long dirt byway which would take me right through the Grand Staircase national monument.



Grosvenor Arch, a short detour off of Cottonwood Road:





Further south on Cottonwood Road:





Nearing the southern end of the byway, near Big Water, Utah



After intersection Highway 89, I dipped down into Arizona and crossed Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona:



I followed Highway 89 all the way through Monument Valley:









Glancing at my map, I realized I was back near the Moki Dugway -- and had read of a sweet camp spot on Muley Point near the Dugway. So it was back up the switchbacks and down dirt FS241 to the overlook:

View from the top of the switchbacks:



I had the whole place to myself






Day 4's route:




-- more --
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Old 10-19-2008, 04:32 PM   #7
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Day 5 -- Muley Point, UT to Palisade, CO (348 miles)

Camping last night atop the plateau was fantastic. Dawn came early, and chilly. I stayed in my sleeping bag until the sun actually crested the ridgeline and things started warming up.



Sunrise on the rock, with the full moon above. The moon was so bright during the night it felt like a 60 watt lightbulb was next to my face. I could read by the moonlight.







Heading back down the Dugway. I knew I had a lot of miles to cover today:



At Monticello, UT I took a detour along highway 105 to see Newspaper Rock. The Needles district of Canyonlands National Park is visible in the distance:







Heading east on the Indian Creek scenic byway towards Church Rock and Highway 163/191:



Peter's Wash, a dirt alternative to highway 191 that looked interesting on the map:



After passing this old cattle pen, the 'road' took me down a series of rock faces and dumped me out in a stretch of deep sand:



The deep sand won...but it was a very soft landing.



I ended up removing all my baggage to lighten the bike, duck-paddling it the couple hundred yards forward to terra firma -- just around the bend -- and then walking back through the deep sand to fetch my stuff. The whole back and forth over this short distance took me about 45 minutes.

All the good technique I'd been working on this past week in shallower sand -- up on the pegs, light grip on the handlebars, steer with your feet and stay on the throttle -- went right out the window after this first stretch of deep sand. Clearly I need more practice in the deeper stuff.

I encountered a couple more short sections of deep sand but was able to keep the bike upright. With my heart still racing from the last piece of deep sand, I encountered a water crossing of unknown depth. So instead of stopping and checking the depth/plotting my line, I did the impulsive thing and just got on the throttle hard and plowed through -- the resulting bow wave went two feet over my head . Cooled me off nicely, actually.



I was laughing in my helmet as I continued down the trail towards pavement near La Sal, Utah.

After crossing the border in Colorado, I headed east on Highway 90:



Highway 90 led me to Nucla, where I took the Nucla-Delta Road -- FS503 -- up onto the Uncompahgre Plateau:



Making some time on FS503:



Further up, now on FS603, on the way to Divide Road:




After turning onto the southern part of the Divide Road, atop the plateau, I headed south to 90 (still dirt) towards Montrose:



From Montrose I rode north on US 550 to Delta and then turned northeast through Cedaredge on Highway 65 up onto the Grand Mesa:




I had really hoped to camp here for my last night of the trip, but the snow on the ground swayed me to abort that plan and find a motel down in town somewhere.



I guess the cold nights is the downside to trying to do a motorcycle camping trip in the middle of October out here...but the lack of crowds sure made up for it.

Day 5's route:





-- more --
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Old 10-19-2008, 04:33 PM   #8
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bueno! looking forward to more.
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Old 10-19-2008, 05:07 PM   #9
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Day 6 - Palisade, CO to Denver, CO (306 miles)

I left the sketchy motel where I ended up in Palisade, CO as early as possible on Friday morning and jumped on I-70 eastbound.

Sure it's the superhighway...but the section through Glenwood Canyon is kinda pretty for an Interstate:



The following day was the start of Elk hunting season in Colorado. I had seen literally scores of elk hunters and their ATVs in the past day. This one was pretty humorous:



From I-70, I turned south on US24 towards Leadville, Colorado.



I stopped at the former site of Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained for WWII. The 10th Mountain were the only troops specifically trained in mountain and winter warfare.

The Camp Hale cantonment area, where the men lived. During the peak of their training, there were more than 1,000 buildings in this valley.



A memorial to the 992 men from their division who were killed in WWII, at Tennesse Pass above Camp Hale:









I got chills standing at the memorial, and not because I was at over 10,400' elevation. Reading about the great courage and sacrifice of these men during World War II humbled me. All gave years of their lives, and 992 gave their very lives, defending our freedoms.

Including the freedom to pursue adventure, in whatever form we envision it.

Please, please, don't take your rights for granted. Defend them, and vote.

Continuing east towards Leadville, I was hoping to ride dirt Weston Pass over the Mosquito Range, but the snow on the mountains had me concerned about its conditions.



Still, I headed up Weston Pass road telling myself I'd turn around if it got bad -- I had never ridden it before, and was cautious of the signs stating it was a "high clearance 4wd" road.



The road was in great shape. A little snow and water, and a bunch of rocks on the west side, but nothing I couldn't easily ride.
At the top



Looking down the east side. More 4th gear fun:



From there I rode through Fairplay and took Highway 9 over paved Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge. Fuel there, then a quick run over Loveland pass and back to I-70 and Denver.




Day 6 route:





-- more (conclusions & thoughts)
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Old 10-19-2008, 05:46 PM   #10
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Great report. My wife and I road most of the same roads in Utah last May. It wasn't nearly as cold! We took pictures from many of the same places as you. I don't know if you hiked up to the Strike Valley overlook near the top of the switchbaks on the Burr Trail, but it is spectacular. I need to do those roads in Co. you took.

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Old 10-19-2008, 06:24 PM   #11
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Conclusions and thoughts

1. The area:

The scenery in Southern Utah is stunning. Along with western Colorado, I think it is the most picturesque area in the United States -- though others may well differ on that opinion.

This is big country, though, so plan on lots of miles to get from one place to another.

2. The ride:

For a first-timer in the area, I just wanted to get a taste for the geography and not spend too long in any one place. Traveling solo, I knew I could keep a pretty good pace and ride from morning until evening with few breaks. Traveling with even one other person, I am sure the pace would have slowed (longer fuel stops, meal breaks, etc.) and the total mileage would have to have been less ambitious. The flip side is that if I'd been traveling with someone else, I would have been more willing to try some desolate 4wd roads -- like the Hole in the Rock and Smokey Mountain roads in Grand Staircase National Monument.

Speaking of traveling alone off the beaten path...you may have noticed the orange SPOT transponder I had lashed to the shoulder strap of my Camelbak. I borrowed it from a generous FF here on ADV, and genuinely appreciated having it along. Thankfully I never needed to send anything other than an "OK" message to my wife and brother, but it was comforting to know I had some way of sending a distress signal if need be while I was far, far away from cell service.

Having done lots of pre-ride research/reading, I had a long list of places to try and see in a short period of available riding time:
  • Valley of the Gods
  • Monument Valley
  • Trail of the Ancients/Moki Dugway
  • Cottonwood Road -- Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument
  • Highway 12 between Escalante and Capitol Reef National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National park
  • Newspaper Rock
  • Burr Trail
  • Notom-Bullfrog Road & the Waterpocket Fold
  • Hall's Landing
Places I already know I want to see on a future ride:
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Hole in the Rock
  • Smokey Mtn Road Scenic Byway
  • Zion National Park
  • The rest of Highway 12 (east of Notom)
  • The Needles section of Canyonlands National Park
3. The season:

The middle of October is a chancy time to plan a big ride in Colorado, but it was the only window of opportunity I had. It was getting increasingly stressful as the weather looked increasingly bleak along the front range as my departure approached. Thankfully, the predicted snow turned to rain and I was able to get over to Utah without too much drama. I did need to re-route a bit on my way west to avoid some areas (i.e. Vail) receiving a bunch of snow.

I didn't see a single cloud in the sky the 5 days I was in Utah. It was cold in the mornings, but warmed up nicely during the day. The temperatures I rode in ranged from a low of 22 degrees up to nearly 80. I would have enjoyed it much less if I didn't have a heated vest and heated grips. I wore my heated vest on 5 of the 6 days. Even still, I usually couldn't feel my fingers for the last 30 minutes of each day's ride. Temperatures drop quickly in the desert!

The upside to the season was the lack of crowds. On several days, I rode for hours without seeing another vehicle. I would gladly trade a bit of chill for that kind of solitude again.

4. Gear:

I tried to pack light for this trip and decided to leave the saddlebags/side cases at home. I really enjoyed the bike more with just a duffel bag full of clothes and a sleeping bag strapped on behind me and tank panniers holding spare parts and tools.

I brought:
  • two riding shirts
  • three pair of socks
  • two riding shorts
  • one t-shirt
  • one sweatshirt
  • one fleece jacket and
  • nylon pants (for evening/off-bike)
  • plus my regular riding pants/jacket safety gear.
5. The Bike:

The bike performed great. No mechanicals, no issues.

Blazing down I-70 on the last morning of my ride, I was considering yet again that my 2003 BMW F650GS Dakar was a great dual sport bike -- for me. Sure I follow all of the "which bike is best" threads, and read most of the new bike reviews...and even tempted the kool-aid fate by taking a friend's KTM 990 for a short ride -- wow . But my Dakar serves me well whether I am riding (easy) trails, heading down the (decidedly non-technical) dirt roads I prefer, carving pavement, or droning at 80MPH for hours on end down the interstate slab to get to the beautiful riding areas. It's paid for, the insurance is cheap, and it gets 60 MPG no matter the terrain.

Plus I don't kid myself, the bike doesn't limit the rider. At all. It's certainly me who is the constraint. But I'm practicing, and feel that these 6 days improved my skill and confidence.


6. Conclusions

This was a really fun dual-sport loop. Lots of high-speed gravel, even more high speed pavement, tons of interesting history and stunning scenery.

A good friend of mine, who has ridden in Southern Utah a bunch, told me that I would be thinking of ways to get back to Utah before I'd even gotten home. He was right. Utah is a great state for motorcycling. I can't wait to get back and explore more.

Cheers!
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Old 10-19-2008, 06:25 PM   #12
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Well done, I am really anxious to ride some of those roads. Good to see you made it back safe.
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Old 10-19-2008, 09:15 PM   #13
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That looked like fun! I'm planning my birthday ride to the same area. I'm doing it in early Nov., so I hope it won't be too cold. I guess I should get a heated vest.

Cheers!
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Old 10-19-2008, 09:27 PM   #14
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Great Ride and Report

Hakatan,

Great pictures and prose. I am really envious of your 22 degree temperatures and snow on the ground. I am thrilled you had a great time and were a considerate bike owner .....






Letting your bike take a nap is a not a sign of weakness!!!

Ride safe!

Sevoman

p.s. If Mrs. Hakatan would like a ALCS Championship TB Devil Rays shirt....I am your man!!
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Old 10-20-2008, 05:14 AM   #15
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Wow, thanks. I think. Your report complicates things.
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