Early last summer Greg and I took the "Dixie 311" bait on offer from Dave Harris. Which is to say that we couldn't resist the idea he'd been dangling before us: A 300+ mile bikepacking loop on little used trail, in SW Utah, with super scenery and allegedly even better riding.
The riding the first few days was excellent--over the top of the Markagunt, up, across, around, and down the Paunsagunt, then a hot lap of the Thunder Mountain trail had us in excellent spirits as we tanked up on water and climbed past sunset toward the Sevier Plateau.
We quickly discovered the reason that no one rides there: A scorcher of a forest fire laid waste to tens of thousands of acres, and in the wake of that fire there isn't much left to ride. Trails still exist on the ground but they're covered by hundreds upon thousands of downed trees. No way through there but to carry (and occasionally drag) bikes and get comfortable with a 1mph pace. For days.
The Tushar Mountains had far fewer downed trees, but the trails Dave routed us onto were mostly too steep to enjoy. With much exertion many of them could be slaved up, but when you crested the top expecting (and, after awhile, demanding) a fun descent as 'payoff', you'd be repeatedly disappointed by even less rideable descents. That's right--hike-a-bike up earned you hike-a-bike back down. Unlike Dave, we aren't superstar high-horsepower riders, so we didn't expect to be able to ride all of the climbs. But the downhill hike-a-bike had us scratching our heads in wonder.
Highlights of the trip were stunning weather (only one t-storm in 7+ days out), stunninger flowers, crystal clear creeks to fish in and drink from, burning turns on Thunder Mountain, blasting through skunk cabbage, aspens, and bluebells on the Virgin River Rim, bacon, sausage, and ice cream in Circleville, and a week of camping under the stars.
See for yourself:
Thanks to Dave for the motivation, inspiration, and map work to get us out the door. Thanks to Greg for being such a great bikepacking companion: His spirits are always appropriate to the mood of the day and the trail. He also has a keen sense for when nap time approacheth--usually where tiny rivulets course through lush alpine meadows. Worked for me. Greg's words and images from the trip are here.
Nice to see Lee and Joan out there a bit too--thanks for dinner!
Thanks for checkin' in.