Utah the Beautiful

Deciding When To Leave

After much deliberation I decided to not go with the big bike, 2-up riders into Baja on the first of September and instead to meet up with a Canadian named Philip Lemieux. Philip was also leaving on the 1st of September but from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Therefore, he'd be a couple weeks behind. I decided that instead of getting too comfortable at my sisters place in Santa Monica that I'd travel up to Utah to meet Philip and our first adventure together would be riding the White Rim trail. This still gave me a good 9-10 days of riding from SoCal to Moab.

Angeles Crest to the Mojave Trail

I set off on the first with the ambitious goal of riding the Angeles Crest Highway to Barstow where I'd pick up the Mojave trail and ride 140 miles of sandy off-road through the Mojave desert...alone. I knew I wouldn't make all 140 miles in one day but I figured I'd find a place to camp along the way. I got set back a little going over Angeles Crest because a motorcyclist crashed and needed to be medivac'd out so they shut down the highway for the better part of an hour. I didn't hit Barstow until the early afternoon and the temps were blazing. I pressed on but quickly got too hot, ran out of steam and had a tip over. The sand was deep, the trail was washed out and hard to follow and while looking around for where the trail went next I lost the front end and myself...washed out. My pack still needed a lot of work, it was too heavy and moving around too much. It would lumber side to side making it hard to correct, especially in deep sand.


Shortly after getting the bike back upright I decided to bail out. It was just too hot, there was literally no shade to be found, my bike wasn't sorted yet and the travel was too slow to make it through 140 miles of the trail alone. I got on the GPS, found dry river trail that b-lined to I-15 and headed out across open desert to pick up the start of the trail. It was a hard trail and when I got near I-15 there were train tracks in the way. After riding down the trail tracks for several miles there was finally a crossing. There was a bridge over the interstate but no on ramp and a barbed wire fence stretching as far as the eye can see. There was a break in the fence for the bridge but a very steep descent down the other side. I decided I had no choice and went for it dropping over the edge and hoping the bottom wasn't too soft. Fast forward to me bombing across open dessert, popping up onto the highway way and merging into traffic in a cloud of dust. I would find a cheap hotel just outside of Vegas for the night. Totally exhausted...not a great start to solo adventuring.

Lake Mead to Zion and Kolob Reservoir

The next day I started off by riding through Lake Mead on my way to Zion.


Stopping along the way to dart down one of the many dirt trails off the main road.


The ride was beautiful and fast and I found some fun dirt but still my pack was not right making the bike a handful off-road.
I purchased an annual national parks pass for $80 that has more than paid for itself by now. It's good for all national parks, monuments and forests. It also provides discounts for the camping spots that charge $5-$15 depending on location and facilities.
After a breathtaking ride I rode through Zion and was presented with even better views and some really fun turns. Not satisfied with the overly touristy camp spot right past town I decided to keep looking for a better spot. I saw on my GPS that you could potentially drive to the backside of Zion down Kolob Reservoir Road. This turned out to be an amazing drive, with no tourists and as spectacular as the drive through Zion.


At the top were free camp spots and only 2 of them were taken. I grabbed one...dropped my pack...and went exploring.

My exploration of Zion turned out to be amazing. I couldn't believe where, and how deep, these unmaintained roads went into the park. The riding got a bit harry with downed trees blocking the road, big washouts and detours. The roads looked like they hadn't been used in a while. Similar to the type of stuff I have found in Mendocino when exploring off the beaten path. Well it turns out I had inadvertently drove past a gate that was open when I passed through and assumed it said "Road Closed" on it like all the other gates...indicating that the road was open due to the gate being open. Around dusk when I went to head back to my camp spot I found the gate locked behind me. Needless to say I was in quite a pickle. I won't say how but I managed a way around the gate.
When traveling off road look for gates. Stop at all gates, even (especially) open ones. They may be closed when you get back.

At camp I met some young guys from Germany that rented a car in LA and drove all the way up to Vancouver and back down!

Bryce and Burr Trail

I got up early, packed up and hit the road heading for Bryce Canyon. I drove back down Kolob Reservoir Road and through Zion yet again. I was underwhelmed with Bryce Canyon, geologically it was awesome as well as beautiful but it was just a touristy road with built up viewing spots which kills the adventure and spectacle aspect for me.


It was a long ride with lots of highway and I was feeling like stopping early for a swim and to relax. But not wanting to pay for camping at a reservoir I kept looking. In Boulder I met a couple dudes who told me about a little camp spot off Burr Trail with a creek. I found it and had an amazing camp spot all to myself. Even got to cool off in the creek. In addition, I learned about Burr Trail which turned out to be an awesome partially dirt road that ran through the backside of Capitol Reef.

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Burr Trail, Bullfrog and the Best Camping Spot Ever

Burr Trail turned out to be amazing. Stellar views and a dirt switch backs down into the canyon.


Then a long dirt road with lots of cool 4x4 trails off to canyons and vistas. Had an amazing morning of dirt, challenging enough to be fun but not too challenging to kill the fun.


I stopped for lunch at Bullfrog on Lake Powell and then headed back north to find a place to camp. More off-roading looking for a camping spot near water and no luck. Ended up driving halfway around the lake to a town called Hite...where there are 3 adults and 3 children. I met one of the adults, Melissa, a total sweet heart and spent a lot of time with me going over maps and giving me pointers on where to visit and where to camp. She told me of a camping spot not too far south of Hite that used to be on the water and where with a little aggressive off-road you can get to where the water level now is. She was right and at the end of it I found the most amazing place to make camp, go for a swim and have a fire. I slept outside under the stars...it was a perfectly clear night with the coyotes howling (I have a video of that)...bats chirping overhead keeping it mosquito free and the fish literally jumping out of the water.


Natural Bridges, Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley and Canyonlands

Tons of highway, lots of sights and some rain. Went to a reservoir just outside of Blanding that has free camping. My plan was to stop early, have a swim and relax. But riding out to a camp spot the rain had turned the silt into clay and before I realized I crashed pretty hard. In the crash I tore my GiantLoop and now just about every stitch on the damn thing is frying or falling apart...therefore I can no longer recommend GiantLoop...I still like the style of bags but go with a different brand. ***update - GiantLoop has decided to replace my pack for free and is shipping a bag to where I will be stopping next! They stand by their products.*** When I got to the camp site it was crawling with ants that I think came out with the rain. I said fuck it and drove another 100 miles or so to the Needles part of Canyonlands. There I met a cool guy, David, who let me camp with him and we traded stories by the fire for a while. David is retired, lives on the road and goes on long hikes off the beaten path looking for Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs. He has some awesome photos here.


Moab, White Rim Trail and the Kansas 5

I rode out of Canyonlands to Moab where I decided I'd take a day off. Check into the Hostel there, get a shower, get my pack sewn and relax for a day and a half. However, the hostel was booked up, I couldn't find anyone to repair my pack, I couldn't find full synthetic oil for my bike and the cheapest hotel I could find was $80 a night. While at the outdoors store looking for someone who might know where I could get back bag fixed I ran into 5 moto riders from Kansas. They were on small dual sports; 2 x Honda 650L's, 2 x Yamaha 250's and 1 2014 KTM 690 Enduro R! I chatted with them a bit and they told me they were headed down the White Rim Trail to a camp spot they had booked in advance. They said they booked two sites with capacity for 3 vehicles and people each. I asked if they wouldn't mind me tagging along...due to the coincidence that I'd round out their numbers and make sure they had two of each types of bikes they agreed. I guess my day of rest would have to wait.


After an ice cream, a swim at their hotel and then a lengthy stop at McDonalds they decided that they had procrastinated enough and guaranteed we'd be riding one of the most dangerous roads in America in the dark...so we set off. Sure enough, about 45 mins after sunset, just as it started to get full dark we pulled up at the camp spot. The camp spot had amazing views and the sunrise in the morning was spectacular...luckily it started raining just before sunrise to wake us up in a mad scramble looking for a rain fly's.


Imminent Rain on the White Rim Trail

After watching the amazing sunrise we headed out without our packs to explore a bit more of the road and ride down a trail to the Colorado river. After stopping by the river we drove back past our camp to explore the road further south before coming back up to get our packs and head out via Potash road.


On our way south we passed and overlander who told us he heard there was a massive rain storm coming in 2-3 hrs. We quickly turned around, rushed to get our tents packed up and our gear back on our bikes and we headed north as quickly as we could. We had just got to pavement when the first sprinkles came. None of us wanted to risk being stuck trying to get out of there in heavy rain.
The overlander also told us that the entire White Rim Trail is now passable again. However, if this rain came through there I wonder if it will get washed out again somewhere.
On Potash road we rode by some pretty great views of the Colorado river.



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Distance: 1592 miles
Elapsed: 6 days 4:12:20
Max Elevation: 9079 ft
Min Elevation: 17ft
Camping/Hostels/Hotels: 5/1/2


Utah the Beautiful
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