Spanish Fork may perhaps not be best-known for its trail-riding in the mountain bike community, with iconic destinations such as Moab and the Wasatch Crest network stealing pretty much all the Utah thunder. Other areas in the St. George areas and freeride zones from Green River to Area99 etc, seem to draw enthusiasts of a different ilk... but if you're looking for a higher-elevation respite from the heat, yet relatively close to the amenities of SLC, you may need look no further. We intended to find out.
The morning dawned crisp with some high-clouds diffusing the soft daylight, which didn't exactly send us scrambling out of our sacks. I wasn't thrilled with the early light (or lack thereof), so I rolled back over and shut down for another hour or so; having had a pretty epic late-evening composition-session followed by a midnight cooking extravaganza out of the back of Samba. One by one, the group awoke, prepared low-effort breakfasts and set about gathering gear, slowly packing up our site a bit, and dressing for a ride. We had a morsel of intel that we'd sourced from a website, but weren't entirely sure about route finding once out there and underway. We'd heard a scant few vehicles pass us since we'd pulled into the site, on the access road, but hadn't seen another soul until some Government folk arrived mid-breakfast, with a horse trailer and unloaded to go ride off somewhere (with a rifle no-less). Were they hunting spandex-clad roadies, masquerading as mountain bikers on 29'ers?
The trail we'd set out to ride was a 12mi loop with 1500f climbing and was supposed to top-out at 8400ft. Mellow climbing was in the description, along with an 'occasional short but tricky steep sections, with incredible views and an awesome downhill', as being on the menu. We were sold, so we geared up and set out up the hill through the gate that was immediately outside our campsite. We’d ridden quickly the night before, up to an intersection in the trail (nothing marked), and then turned around to go prepare dinner etc. We arrived at the same intersection again now, and reasoned that as this was a 'loop' we'd proceed 'clockwise' as per-the directions from our internet-based guide. We veered left, and were greeted within about 5minutes with a climb about as subtle as a kick in the face from an startled elephant. Off the bikes... pushing straight up what appeared to be an animal trail through scrub oak, we muttered in disbelief that this was to be considered 'a mellow climb'. Perhaps we were on the wrong course? Eh...
We topped out in a grassy clearing and immediately found more double track that led downhill and apparently westward to what seemed to be the main access road we drove in on. We passed a weather station and saw more double track, a corral etc, in the distance, so we forged-on, ultimately ending up back down by the entrance road. This couldn't be right? Minimal cell-service wasn't helping our map-acquisition on Google Maps, and we only had vague directions from the trail-description... So we did what guys usually do when unsure about where to go: We chose the road that appeared to climb back up in the direction we wanted to go. Never ask for directions... ever.
Climbing up this other road, we sort of were given the impression that it was regularly somehow trafficked. It was graded in appearance, and moderate of slope, making climbing a bit of a treat so nobody seemed to mind much. About 5minutes into the climb, we were passed by State of Utah Water Department trucks (2 of them), not seemingly in any particular hurry, but they seemed to be bound for somewhere, so we figured we couldn't be SUPER far off the beaten path. About 5minutes later, we rounded a corner and saw the trucks parked in a fenced-off area with a gigantic vault-door being opened by the workers; water department signs abounded, accompanied by a smattering of 'no trespassing' signs.
Hm, I wonder what that's about? We wondered. ''Did you see the size of that vault-door?' 'How many guys you think it takes to open that thing?' 'Is that why they had that crane on the back of that one truck??' We rounded another corner and ran smack into the end of the road. We thought it a bit strange that we were getting some quizzical looks from the water-guys, but chalked it up to the general look mountain bikers get from non-mountain bikers in questionable remote areas bereft of obvious singletrack. Now we understood the 'where they think they're going?' looks.. We somewhat sheepishly rode back down the hill to the intersection, after consulting the map for another minute at the top. We thought we sorted our mistake, and backtracked to the original intersection where the left-turn was initially made. That proved to be the correction we needed, as the route doesn't veer from the parking lot until you reach an actual signed-trail. Interesting. Why didn't we think of that?
Sometimes in more remote locations, nothing is marked and trails are derivatives of animal trails (such as some in our valley where we reside). Apparently most of Utah is on a different programme and they actually mark their trails? Good to know we thought! By the time the group was on the apparent 'right trail', and after our late'ish start to the ride, I reasoned I hadn't time to complete the ride; being several days-behind in my blogging, and I was anxious to get to Moab to get some wireless so I could post my back-log of content. I saluted the group, and explained my obligation to my assignment and need to post-up content etc, and thanked everyone for their patience and devotion to the mission... and bid them well on the rest of the exploration up the trail.
This would also coincidentally mark the end of the road for us as a group, as the rest of the gang was Grand Junction-bound for the RanchStyle event the coming-weekend. I would divert to Moab to rendezvous with a bike recently purchased for a loved-one, and then ride with her as she was driving over from our valley for the weekend. I cruised down the trail after saying my goodbyes, packed the truck, and set my course for Moab.
The bond forged among friends through travel and shared adventure holds something incredibly special in the structure of friendship. Shared moments bringing people together, be they meals, route-planning, weather or sport, seem to connect folks at different levels for life. Experiencing different landscapes and our overland travel together, bonded by a love of biking and travel brought us into an intimate circle. Celebrating the joy-of-fresh-fish united us in a search immediately upon arriving in Washington, of sharing a celebratory meal of the freshest and most savory local offerings we could get our hands on. The choices of riding destinations to keep everyone interested and engaged along the way was always a group decision, with everyone offering input and sharing knowledge and concerns, bringing the best of who and what they were at all times, and spreading the joy and love of all-things-bike and travel, everywhere rubber was placed on the ground and Mexican food was served.
To share moments in time with people so incredibly special is something I truly am thankful for. We're blessed with the ability to create opportunity to travel, work eat sleep and breathe the very things that so many people can only day-dream about in cubicles, classrooms, boardrooms, and anywhere else there's longing to escape the confines of society. To sleep under the stars is to truly experience perspective in life. We've learned to passionately pursue that which empowers us and fuels our personal happiness. We're committed to being better examples of humanity through our pursuit, and helping others in the process through non-profit work, volunteering, media and the love of the bicycle.
What's driving you? I'm on-to Moab for more riding, more adventure, more experiences, more of life. I'll be back.