1st ANNUAL UTAH 500
By Paul K Edmunds
The concept of an annual Utah 500 ride was originated by Chris Hickman, a resident of Springville, Utah. The idea was to ride from Mapleton to St. George, Utah staying off pavement as much as possible. In fact, during this initial ride, Chris logged 500 miles on his dirt bike.
Early Thursday morning saw riders collecting at the Edmunds’ residence in Mapleton anxious to begin the Utah 500. Vehicles were parked in front of their rural residential area. All riders collected and were ready for departure at 08:00. The 23 riders, divided up into three groups, included folks from Idaho, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Riders divided into two groups for the first section of the ride. The larger group headed up Mapleton Canyon, down to Diamond Fork and then took the Monk’s Hollow Trail ending up at Sheep Creep just north of the abandoned service station up Spanish Fork Canon on Hwy 6. That is a challenging bit of real estate especially with a back pack. The small group of six riders headed up the right-hand of Hobble Creek passing by Diamond Fork junction, Ray’s Valley, and through Sheep Creek to the abandoned service station to meet up with the first group.
After traveling 20 miles with the small group, Bill decided to abandon the ride. He is being treated for cancer which treatments have affected his vision. He stated he just can’t shake the double vision and would be ill advised to continue. So, at the Diamond Fork Junction, Bill turned around and headed back to Mapleton where he would contact his son to come and pick him up. Everyone felt badly for Bill as he had a great desire to complete this ride.
After waiting around the abandoned service station for some time, Chris showed up and stated there were problems on the trail. Seems Eddie lost his oil drain plug on his 2005 Yamaha WR450F. Peter, Eddie, and Charlie were trying to figure a way to plug the hole. They finally figured out that the upper bolt on the kick stand would do the job. And so a fix was made on the trail which included spare oil being carried in backpacks.
After the news was received, a group headed for Fairview taking the dirt road directly across the road from where they had been waiting. They stayed on the dirt road all the way to Hwy 89 where they rode down the highway briefly before turning on the Milburn road leading into Fairview. The Wood Hollow and Church Camp fires were visible from the trail with smoke rising above.
In Fairview riders fueled up at the local service station and quickly made a bee-line to Tee Cee’s for refreshments. They make tasty malts there. While conversing in the restaurant about our lost oil plug dilemma, a local guy went home and secured a drain plug off an abandoned bike and returned with the same. It was an act of kindness that was unexpected but appreciated.
Two riders elected to stay behind and wait for Eddie, Charlie, and Peter as they were on their way after fixing the problem. The remainder of the groups headed for Fairview Canyon only to find out that it had been shut down hours earlier because of the fires. So, riders took 400 East in Fairview to 800 East in Mt. Pleasant traveling to Mt. Pleasant Canyon and climbing up the rocky canyon to Skyline Drive where one could see the Church Camp fire to the east. The myriad of trails in this area is dubbed the Arapeen OHV Trail System.
We traveled south on Skyline Drive which turned into the Great Western Trail. We passed such memorable points on the trail as Danish Knoll. I took a picture of the sign to show my wife that they honored the country where she was born. We didn’t tag anyone when we passed Anus Hollow.
There was an alternate route heading off Skyline Drive down Reeder Canyon to Joe’s Valley Reservoir that Quinn and his son, Luke, took. They re-connected onto the Great Western Trail.
One could not help notice the myriads of wild flowers dotting the side of the dirt road—it was breath taking. There was also a snow bank on the road that hadn’t been opened that long ago. And the small lakes were scenic and inviting for a fishing expedition. All of this was enjoyed with semi-mild temperatures. Let’s put it this way, no one was wearing a jacket!
We stopped to take a picture of signage indicating “Highest point on the Skyline Drive, elevation 10,897 ft.” After leaving the highest point on our ride, we came to a junction where we would turn right. We continued to mark trail with surveyor’s tape. At this particular junction, there were dozens of ewes with their lambs. Max got a kick wandering out in the midst of them all. Shortly thereafter all riders were accounted for on the trail including my two sons, Eddie and Charlie, with the oil drain plug problem.
We turned off the main dirt roads to find our way into Salina taking an ATV trail that was somewhat challenging, especially during the heat of the day. It paralleled I-70 for a distance dropping down to an access road, making for a short ride into Salina. This old boy was looking for the motel long before we reached Salina.
In Salina, we fueled up and headed for the Super 8 Motel. The rooms were a welcome site after a long day’s journey. While checking into the motel, we greeted several folks who were staying there with their rigs and hot air balloons. They are planning on participating in the Balloon Festival early tomorrow morning if the wind will cooperate.
That evening we dined on Mexican food at the Mexicana Restaurant located next to our motel. After a late supper, everyone was anxious to get some sleep. We logged 175 miles today.
This morning, Friday, we were joined by Jay from Pleasant Grove and Shane, Mark and his son, Dustin, from Las Vegas. Shane’s father, Doug, drove a pickup from Vegas with riders and three KTM bikes. They are anxious to get on the trail this morning. Doug plans on meeting the three of them in St. George after checking out his cabin at Panguitch Lake and doing some fishing with his brother. However, his plans were drastically changed as we shall see.
Breakfast was at Denny’s—what’s more American than Denny’s! After breakfast it was the usual fix-em-up stuff before we got on the machines and headed south out of town under the freeway and on to dirt roads that connected to Soldier Canyon and the Paiute ATV Trail system.
We crossed several small streams and played in the sagebrush for a moment trying to figure out the trail which will take us past Koosharem Reservoir and into the town of Koosharem where we will fuel up at a small, country store that doubles as the town’s post office.
We traveled north out of town making contact again with the Paiute ATV Trail system. Somehow, no one bothered to read the words on the map, “CAUTION: Steep Switchback, Rough!” Yes, we soon encountered a designated “black” trail out of Koosharem. It was on this dastardly part of the trail that Dustin ended his ride smashing his exhaust pipe tightly against the frame of his bike and forcing part of it to touch the bottom of the gas tank. No es bueno, amigo! And so, a cell phone call was made to Doug to drive his pickup to Koosharem and rescue both rider and bike. Shane and Dustin’s father, Mark, caught up with the group before Circleville.
As I was catching my breath, I remembered doing this route to Circleville with the Broadbent’s some 21 years ago—did I mention that I was much younger back then with more energy and strength. But I sure can’t complain at my KTM 500 XC-W with fuel injection—it runs like a champ.
After splitting up some of the groups and taking different routes with names like “Pole Canyon” but still somewhat part of the “01” Paiute ATV Trail system, we met in Kingston Canyon at the crossing of the Paiute ATV Trail with Hwy 22 to Kingston coming from Otter Creek Reservoir. There was a small park there with a foot bridge leading back onto the trail.
After a short rest and some munchies, we took the challenge and traveled on a rocky stretch into Circleville to the KOA Campground where we got fuel. It was here that we learned Aaron cracked the case on his Kawasaki. Thanks to Shane and his epoxy putty, the problem was put to rest. Aaron did have an additional problem with a bent lever—that can occur when you ride sans hand guards.
At the campground there was a small uprising, mutiny if you wish, from a group of four who wanted to take Hwy 89 into Panguitch and on to Red Canyon road and our motel accommodations at Ruby’s Inn. Dennis, our only physician, had wrenched his calf muscle yesterday on the trail in Maple Canyon and was in no condition to do an extra 20 miles today. So, four riders took to the tarmac and boogied 45 miles to Ruby’s Inn next to the Bryce Canyon entrance. Our accommodations were at the Bryce Inn, part of the Ruby’s Inn complex.
The larger group of riders continued south on the Fremont Trail towards Red Canyon highway staying well to the east and above Hwy 89. It was on this stretch of trail that Peter did a get-off and broke his left thumb. Charlie accompanied him into Panguitch to the hospital to get an x-ray of the break and receive medical attention. They didn’t arrive at the motel until after 8PM. Peter had a black, Velcro strap-on cast on his left arm and thumb.
All riders were able to get checked into the motel, Bryce Inn, and eat the $18 buffet supper at Ruby’s Inn Restaurant.
The Walpole Group was assessing their damages this evening when I encountered them out in front of their room. Seems Jayson’s Honda was making some strange noises—later we found out that his oil pump went out. He is out of the ride, but not for long. Peter cannot ride, so he is going to loan his Yamaha WR250F to Jayson. They will meet Doug and his brother in Hatch tomorrow morning to load up the dead Honda.
Oh, yes, well Brennan’s Honda is making strange noises as well. He found out later that his valves were shot. But they lasted long enough to ride the highway all the way back to Salina and place the bike on Jay’s trailer for a ride back to Mapleton. Well, one of the other Honda’s was making strange noises, and so that rider, Cody, joined Brennan for the highway ride back to Salina. Those Honda’s can be a challenge at times.
This evening at the motel, sleep came quickly as we were all pretty tuckered from the day’s activities. The “highway-four” did 150 miles today, while the other riders would log 170 miles, an additional 20 miles from Circleville on dirt. Charlie and Peter would qualify for the greater mileage even though they had to divert to Panguitch for a medical emergency.
Arise at 06:00 on Saturday morning and ready for a $10 buffet breakfast at Ruby’s Inn Restaurant, a short walk from our motel. With breakfast out of the way and back packs re-loaded and checked, it was time to depart at 8AM. We headed out and connected with the Paunsaugunt OHV Trail System in the Dixie National Forest. We passed by Tropic Reservoir and stopped at a scenic viewpoint on our way to Hatch and a fuel stop. The trails were dusty as it is very dry, but easy to maneuver. We were soon in Hatch and downing a cold one.
Doug and his brother met us there with the pickup which now carries Dustin’s wrecked KTM, Jayson’s dead Honda, and Peter with his broken thumb. As stated earlier, the Haycock’s didn’t get in any fishing, rather they were heaped with accolades for their meritorious act of kindness as unofficial “chase” vehicle.
From Hatch the group traveled on the Mammoth Creek road and other trails over to Duck Creek and the Loose Wheels RV Store for fuel and a rest stop. We ended up waiting an extended period of time for Aaron and Mike who never showed up. Seems they ended up traveling to Cedar City and catching a ride to St. George where they picked up Jeff.
As a side note, Peter thought at first that someone had stolen the tie downs off Jayson’s dead bike that was secured on his three-wheeled trailer in the hotel parking lot in St., George. It was Aaron and Company who came by and got the tie downs—miscommunication here folks. But all turned out okay in the end.
From Duck Creek the three groups, now clustered into one riding group, rode over to Navajo Lake. Chris was hoping to take some of the riders on a single track above Navajo Lake with a vista view of Hog’s Heaven from Strawberry Point—never happened. Somehow, they got bad info from a pedal biker.
All riders met at the west end of Navajo Lake at the junction heading south to the Bullock Ranch. While waiting at the junction, we encountered a bunch of runners. We had been seeing single runners off and on all throughout the day and signs with “East Zion Run” written thereon. Upon visiting with a participant, I learned that the run was 200 miles in total distance originating in Teasdale and finishing up at the Ponderosa Ranch close to the east entrance of Zion National Park. There were 18 teams entered with 12 runners on each team. The race was similar to the annual Ragnar Race held in northern Utah. This was the inaugural year of the race and they hope to hold it annually hereafter.
From the junction, Chris led us to his family ranch down a dusty road with locked gates. We stopped at the ranch for a while and refreshed ourselves. We took a group picture on the stairs of the cabin—we are down to 14 riders. After the short respite, we headed up to a lookout where one could see both Miners Peak and Crystal Peak.
We soon made our way on dirt, ranch roads to “The Garden” where Chris’ grandfather used to raise a small garden. Making our way through this area we connected with the old sheep trail leading down to Deep Creek. The trail was overgrown and somewhat hard to follow, but we all made it to the creek. Now for the crossing of the creek—that was adventuresome for one of the riders named Steve. He did a get-off after successfully crossing the creek only to pile it up on the other side into a parked bike. I didn’t make that mistake—had my son ride my bike across that semi-deep creek.
Now, for the real adventure and challenge of the whole trip, it was the Deep Creek Widow Maker—what a steep-straight-up-the-mountain trail! I made it across the other stream and part way up before realizing that I wasn’t going to make it. And furthermore, the drop off to my left made me cognizant of the fact that if I went down there, it was curtains both for me and my bike. So, Eddie, my son, was chosen “not at random” to ride my scooter to the top of this section. I had a chore just to climb up the beast. There were a few riders who helped folks up with their bikes. There was no reasonable amount of compensation to pay for what they did. Chris stated he had been worrying all during the ride about this section—and rightfully so, amigo!
After collecting everyone and consuming large amounts of water, we were off to Kolob Reservoir. We continued on the Deep Creek trail for a short distance before intersecting the main dirt road to the reservoir. At the reservoir we all stopped for refreshments at the Bait & Tackle Shop. It was a hot day.
We were soon on our way down to Virgin encountering oiled roads soon after departing Kolob Reservoir. From Virgin we took a dirt road crossing over to Hurricane Mesa, then on asphalt to the town of Hurricane. Chris guided us through back roads to Washington and St. George passing by Sand Hollow Reservoir. It seems we had to stop often to collect riders which caused for some grief as the temperatures were in the three digit category.
Our small, family group of riders was happy to arrive at the Marriott Hotel just off River Road where we were greeted by spouses. Bikes were loaded on trailers and the ride was termed a success and finished. We logged just under 160 miles today.
Our special thanks go out to Chris Hickman who came up with the idea for this ride and secured permission from property owners where necessary to traverse their private property.
Plans are to hold the Utah 500 each year during the month of June. Dates will be published for the ride next year, 2013.
Charlie, Eddie, and Paul Edmunds, Dennis Hamp, Chris Hickman, Peter and Max Smith, Park Sorenson, Steve Brown, Luke and Quinn Gillman, Mike Healey, Bill Jefferies, Aaron Tilton, Jay Camberlango, Jason and Justin Irvine, Jeff Macievic, Cody Simpson, Brennan Walpole, Dustin and Mark Delahoussaye, and Shane Haycock. Doug Haycock, chase vehicle.
|Click on photos to enlarge.|