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Old 10-19-2009, 04:03 PM   #1
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Exploring South-Eastern UT's backroads on a DR650

All Summer I have been planning a big multi-day ride, one that would have me exploring parts of Utah that I've heard much about and only seen small parts of. I've been pouring over maps, reading about trails and different areas from various sources, learning what I could before setting out.

I wanted to stay on as much dirt as possible, until it was time to head home. My plan was to head out from home in Fruita, CO and head towards Moab, using parts of the Kokopelli Trail to get me there. From Moab, follow the South side of the Colorado River, then turn towards Hurrah Pass. Beyond that I would travel thru Lockhart Basin, then into Cayonlands NP and up Elephant Hill. My route would take me thru The Needles area, then into Beef Basin and the Abajo Mountains above Monticello. Eventually I would drop out of the mountains, then take the highway over to explore Arch Canyon, then South again along Comb Ridge, reaching the final destination of Bluff, Utah.


Day 1- I left after Noon on Friday, leaving me plenty of time to make Moab. I hate being in a rush! Here's the bike loaded up with camping gear, food and water for 3 days. I also carried a Camelback with the rest of the gear and food and the stove on my back.-




Riding thru Rabbit Valley and McGraw Bottom on the way to Moab.-









After arriving in Moab I got a room at the Silver Sage Inn, cleaned up, then started walking down to the Moab Brewery for dinner. I was lucky enough to find some friends that were in town and already there, so we shared diner together.


Day 2- The next morning I loaded up the bike and set out for the beginning of Hurrah Pass. I had to pace myself, I had a lot of riding ahead of me and much of it would be very difficult.

Hurrah Pass-






And beyond...-










The turnoff for for Lockhart Basin. This portion of the trail turned out to be one of my favorites from the trip, the trail winds up a wash providing plenty of opportunities for playing around. Despite the fun, there were more than a few challenging obstacles.-








Little did I know that this would be 'practice' for some of the upcoming trials ahead.



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Old 10-19-2009, 04:06 PM   #2
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More from Lockhart Basin-














I came across a guy in a white TJ with Oregon plates on it, headed for Moab. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, he had left the Needles area, where he was staying at the Needles Outpost. We talked briefly about traveling solo out here in the desert and how peaceful it was. -




As I got closer to the Needles area and Canyonlands NP, the amount of people camping and hiking picked up. It was a bit odd seeing so many people, after seeing hardly anybody for the last 20+ miles. I decided to stop at the Needles Outpost for lunch and a break. The older couple that runs the place are a bit different, but they're good people. I had a $6 hotdog, it tasted good enough though, so I was happy. As I was leaving the gal asked me if I was traveling solo, I said yes and she told me to come check something out. She had Google Earth pulled up, tracking a friends Spot messenger. She pulls up his track and it's tracing the route I just rode, going the other way. I asked if her friend was in a white Jeep with Oregon plates... sure enough, same guy! I need to get a Spot, at least so the wife can see where I am when I don't have cell service.

At the Needles Outpost.-






I didn't plan to camp in the Park for the night, so I didn't stop for an overnight permit. Many of the campgrounds were full, lots of tourists seeing the sights over the weekend. I rode thru the park towards Elephant Hill. I was going to stop at the bottom of the hill, but there were cars all over, parked on the road and tourists milling about. I really didn't want to stop and get asked about whatever they were going to ask about... usually the first thing I hear about is the size of the gas tank. There were a few people standing at the bottom of Elephant Hill, I carefully rode around them and headed up the hill. Last time I saw Elephant Hill was a few years ago, shortly after the NP Service filled in the holes with concrete. Well now there are more holes and it's pretty rough, even for a bike. The hardest and most chewed up portion is from the bottom to the first switchback.

As I rode up, I honestly ran out of skill and was riding on pure luck most of the way up. I missed one massive hole by centimeters and wheelied over a few more. I stopped at a switchback about half way up, took some photos and caught my breath. Sadly I didn't get any pictures of the trail at the bottom, I was to busy riding and praying.








And back down the other side-

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Old 10-19-2009, 04:10 PM   #3
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I rode into the Needles area and some amazing scenery. The roads were very rocky and many times were in the bottom of a wash. Given the high amount of 4x4 traffic and the sandy washes, keeping the bike upright AND avoiding the big rocks was quite a feat. This sand riding was just the beginning... I hate riding in sand, especially loose, light stuff that has seen lots of travel. Those that enjoy riding in that stuff on a motorcycle are sick in the head!

The squeeze wasn't that bad, even on my wide-load DR650. -






I followed the road back to the campsite called the Devils Kitchen, with a name like that I had to check it out. It was amazing, a little nook surrounded by massive rocks. There was a couple parked there with their Jeep, we talked and learned that they were from Durango, CO. They invited me into their camp to see the area, the photos I took do no justice to this place. The campsite is under and behind the big rock in the first picture.-






I headed back out to see more of the Needles area.-
















On my way past Chesler Park I came across this neat pictograph panel, the hand prints were the most amazing to me, seems like it wasn't too long ago that they were created.-





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Old 10-19-2009, 04:12 PM   #4
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Pretty soon I crossed over the Park Boundary and was on my way to Ruin Park and Beef Basin. I didn't realize what lay ahead of me... I had already had a long, difficult day and was getting worn down riding over the rocks, ledges and sand. I was enjoying the ride thru the canyon along a nice 2 track, maintaining some good speed clipping along in 3rd and 4th gear.




The canyon started to narrow and I round a bend, seeing this dugway that has been cut as a way out of the canyon. It's steep and long, soon as I saw it I know it would be trouble. As I got closer, I saw how eroded the hill was, lots of big loose rocks, deep sand and plenty of holes from previous 4x4's that had climbed the hill. I stopped for a few pics and decided to charge right up. From what I could see, the bottom didn't look too bad, but past that the hardpack disappeared. The hill could be divided into 2 sections, the lower and upper sections with a slight flat spot in the middle. The upper section had more rock that was imbedded, making riding do-able due to the traction, but still difficult. The bottom section was much different... hardpack from the bottom up, part way, then totally dug out, soft and sandy. I rode as far as I could and ended up spinning out on a big ledge. Ooops!






From here it was a fight to get to the flat spot in the middle. After unloading the gear I ended up working my ass off, trying to push/drive the bike up while standing off to the side. I worked harder here than I ever have with a bike. At one point I considered turning back, but decided that I had to keep trying for a little longer before calling it quits. Eventually I made it to the flat spot in the middle of the hill, took a nice long break to cool down and catch my breath, then loaded the bike back up and proceed to ride up the remaining half of the hill, flipping it off as I crested the top.

I wouldn't recommend riding this hill without help or on anything bigger than a 650. Even a 400cc-sized bike would be a handful here. And I think the hill needs to be re-named from Bobby's Hole Hill to 'Mother-Fucker Hill' or 'Son of a Bitch Hill', cause I'm pretty sure that's what I called it numerous times. Something more appropriate would be nice.

Headed the other way, a short distance from Mother Fucker Hill I came across a sign. Ah, now they tell me! So '1 Wheel Drive' isn't recommended?




And on to Ruin Park... there were some great Native American structures out there. It was very cool to get so close to these structures and see how carefully they were assembled. Makes you wonder if the builders knew how long they would last as they put them together. Simply amazing!-






















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Old 10-19-2009, 04:13 PM   #5
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As I continued on, I began to gain elevation. The landscape around me changed and soon I was looking down on valleys below me and seeing the Abajo Mountains ahead of me. Some of the views into the canyons below were simply amazing.-













I found a nice, quite spot a ways off the road and decided to setup camp there. The ground was flat and the spot was hidden, so hopefully I wouldn't be bothered by passers-by.-








I gathered up some deadfall for a fire, dug a shallow fire pit in the sand and went to work. I figured I'd take a video, since I didn't have anyone to talk to and the camera seemed like good company.






After I got the fire going, I started working on dinner. On the menu tonight was Beef Stew! I fired up the stove and began boiling 2 cups of water. After the water came to a boil, I poured it in the bag and waited for the 'stew' to rehydrate. Apparently it smelled pretty good, because soon after I had a visitor come into camp! I was blown away, he walked right in with little to no fear. He seemed quite curious really, came within several feet of the fire and hung out for a bit, then went on his way. I went on and ate dinner, keeping an eye out for my curious visitor.














Greg@RME screwed with this post 10-19-2009 at 04:44 PM
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:16 PM   #6
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Day 3- I slept pretty good thru the night, I was really tired from all that riding and work from the previous day, it was a long, rough day. The temps were about perfect for sleeping, nice and crisp. Morning came and I packed up, taking my time in order to let the sun hit me before I started riding again. I headed out gaining even more elevation and ended up riding around 9,000 ft. There were massive pine trees around and some of the aspens were doing their best to hold on to their leaves. I fell in love with this area, no doubt that I will be back.






















I reached Bears Ears Pass and saw the valley unfold before me, then began the quick decent to the highway. I rode to the Natural Bridges NP and topped off my water supply (FYI, the water there sucks!). I then headed East, until I dropped into the valley containing Comb Wash. I decided to head up Arch Canyon first, which proved to be a great ride.



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Old 10-19-2009, 04:17 PM   #7
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Looking down into Comb Wash, which appears to go beyond the horizion looking South.-








I turned up the road towards Arch Canyon, not totally sure what to expect. I have heard about the canyon and seen a few photos, but didn't know what the trail itself was going to be like. The trail crosses the wash many, MANY times... probably 50+ times. Only the crossings on the bottom had lots of water in them, the upper crossings had minimal water or were almost dry. Most of the traffic up Arch Canyon consisted of 4Wheelers, so the trail was a bit more than ATV width and all the travel had again, made for lots of soft sandy fun!

One of the first crossings scared the shit out of me as the front tire of the DR650 went under the water about 1/2 way in. The water was murky and I had no idea how deep it was, I didn't expect it to be deeper than my tire! I also carried a bit of speed into the crossing, to help maintain forward momentum, so it created quite the wave of water that splashed up onto me. I made it across and kept the bike upright, but I'm sure the look on my face was priceless.























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Old 10-19-2009, 04:18 PM   #8
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After going back out of Arch Canyon and managing to keep the bike mostly upright with all the sand and water crossings, I rode South into Comb Wash on my way to Bluff, UT. Bluff was my ending point for the journey and I couldn't help but feel a bit of sadness as I realized that this trip was coming to an end. I decided not to focus on that and rather look at what was around me simply continue to enjoy the time I had left out there.






















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Old 10-19-2009, 04:24 PM   #9
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I finally made into Bluff, UT on Sunday afternoon and had a look at the historic Bluff Fort. For those who may not be aware, Bluff was the destination of the hearty group of Mormon Pioneers that made the Hole in the Rock trail, so there is a good deal of history in Bluff involving the HITR expedition. They Mormons were trying to find a quicker route to Bluff from further North-West. Bulff was established as a buffer town for the blooming Latter Day Saint colonies further in the State, which was quite brave considering the country and it's current inhabitants.

The Bluff Fort was under construction, lots of cabins being rebuilt and refurbished.

































Thanks for reading, sorry about all the photos! Hope they were enjoyable and prompt others to consider visiting these places.

In the end I rode about 300 miles off-road in varying terrain, then 200 miles on pavement back home, totaling over 500 miles in 3 days. I missed out on 2 other destinations I wanted to see, Dark Canyon and Mexican Hat. I've been wanting to explore Dark Canyon for years, after reading an article in a 4x4 magazine about this motorized road in the middle of wilderness. Mexican Hat would have been fun to see and had I made it that far South, I would have gone a bit further into Arizona just for shits & giggles.

What was funny about the end of this trip was how I realized how comfortable sitting on that bike. I think my riding ability grew by leaps and bounds during this ride. There were many moments that I was riding beyond my skill and was just running on pure luck. I know my sand riding ability improved, as did my technical riding ability. Hopefully I can remember what I learned on the next ride!

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Old 10-19-2009, 04:38 PM   #10
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Great report and pics You're lucky to live so close to such great riding. I spent a week riding around Moab back in 2005. I can't wait to get back out there!
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:39 PM   #11
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I like desert RR's. Nicely done.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:50 PM   #12
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Yeah!

This is the kind of ride report I like - backcountry rough riding with camping mixed in. Good job on the trip report.

Did you have to follow much pavement or could you keep to the rough dirt for most of the distance?

Don't suppose a track has been posted?......

Cheers
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Old 10-19-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klaviator
Great report and pics You're lucky to live so close to such great riding. I spent a week riding around Moab back in 2005. I can't wait to get back out there!
Glad you like it! We moved here by choice and I'm always aware how fortunate we are.


Quote:
Originally Posted by the Outlaw
I like desert RR's. Nicely done.
Thanks!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Sleazy
This is the kind of ride report I like - backcountry rough riding with camping mixed in. Good job on the trip report.

Did you have to follow much pavement or could you keep to the rough dirt for most of the distance?

Don't suppose a track has been posted?......

Cheers
Agreed! Rough riding and remote camping is the best! For the most part, much of this area has little to no paved roads, so you really have no choice. Hwy 191 is a ways away and that's what I took back home, but it's not what I'd call close.

I do not have the GPS track. I wish I did, I'd love to have the track to refer to.My Zumo had not been getting power and I thought it was the cord, so I bought a replacement. Turns out it's the cradle and I learned this hours before I left on this ride. I had the GPS charged up and only used it when I need clarification on the route or other information.

I ended up using paper maps and that worked quite well. The GPS would have been handy, but not required. It would be fairly simple to make that route, just by laying it out on a map and seeing the places I visited.
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Old 10-20-2009, 08:34 AM   #14
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Very nice report and pics.
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:07 PM   #15
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Great report. It is fun to see places that I've ridden before. Even better though, your report is a great reminder of many more places that I haven't seen but I need to!
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