Saturday, June 16, 2007

Riding the Uinta Mountains - Day 2

Day 2

This map has the two parts of the Saturday ride on it, first I did the yellow road out and back then the red loop counter clockwise. This ride was to the north of the other 3 days, just south of Manila as you can see from the map.
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Bigger version of map


I started out by taking the Sheep Creek Geological Trail in the truck with the CRF in the back of course.
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The idea of the trail is to display all the various layers and formations as you go up the very steep sided canyon, I took pictures of each sign with the appropriate formation but it wasn't very interesting looking at it again. Highway 191 which heads north and uphill from Vernal also has signs for each layer with little snippets of information about the layer, things like "coal found here", "dinosaurs roamed", "fossilized giant squid found", "Benicia_RT went here", and so on. The canyon is very pretty, the loop is mostly paved with very short stretches of gravel and lots of big pot holes!
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The Morgan Formation was at an interesting angle up a side creek.
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It's quite a twisted piece of geology.
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Right at the top of the loop I found a place to leave the truck and set out on the CRF, my intention was to ride out to Spirit Lake but within a mile I saw a sign to the The Utah Lookout and had to go see
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Attached to the bottom of the tower was a plaque which read as follows
"Ute Mountain Fire Tower. The Ute Mountain fire lookout tower was built by the CCC in 1937. It is unique as the only structure in the entire state of Utah operated for the purpose of fire detection and supporting observation and living quarters on an elevated tower".
Surely that isn't trying to say its the only fire tower? Just the only one with living quarters on the platform, however it's true that I haven't come across any other fire towers in my Utah wanderings.

Unfortunately the tower was closed and didn't look as though anybody had been up there for a while, it was actually quite rickety. I climbed the steps to just below the platform which was locked shut
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The road to Spirit Lake was quite civilised
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Looking back at the fire tower from the west
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Nothing eventful happened on the way to Spirit Lake, it was a well used and maintained dirt road.

Spirit Lake (10,166ft) - Spirit Lake was really beautiful, this picture does it no justice at all
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At the far end of the lake there is a rustic lodge with a small restaurant and cabins available, it would be a great place to spend a weekend away from it all. At the end where the picture was taken there is a spillway where a couple of people were fishing for trout, when they had gone I walked along the bank and could see the fish swimming in the stream. I took a whole load of pictures of the stream and spillway, I really want to go back with the SLR.
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Over the stream (the middle fork of Sheep Creek) I walked across the small dam and was surprised to find this
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The forest on the other side of the dam was idyllic
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After lunch, fortunately not in the truck today, it was time to head back and find some side trails, the next destination was Long Park Reservoir - I've just discovered that it is entirely missing from the map I used for the route! I thought something didn't add up...
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The trail obviously hadn't been used much so far this spring, the dandelions are making a gallant effort to reclaim it, you can just see the tracks in the middle, other parts of the trail were well worn so I know I wasn't bushwhacking, this an area on the top part of the NW yellow loop on the map.
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Trail 15 starts out right with a small water crossing
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As I rose higher patches of Iris started to appear, they are incredibly tenacious here even trying to grow in the tracks of the trail
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The road twisted up into the hills
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and finally reached Long Park Reservoir (8,640 ft) - I just updated the map, the reservoir is present on the 7.5' quad but not on the 100k map I used for the my route.
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From Long Park it was an easy ride to Sheep Creek Reservoir, obviously the fishing is good in these parts
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and then on to Browne Reservoir which was so boring I didn't even take a picture of it, however there was an interesting trail leaving to the south, I had to check it out. At first it was sandy with some rocks then as it went into the small valley it began to get rockier and rockier
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then it got wet
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Just after this I pulled over to let some ATV riders pass, a woman riding on the back of the first one gave me a look of horror, the last ATV had a forest ranger riding it so I asked him if it was tough ahead, without even slowing down he just shouted, "not really". Shortly after that I came across another lone ATV and we chatted for a while, he said this trail was OK but rocky but that trail 14 was really bad, to quote him "I've been scared before, but not that scared...". The little man in my head didn't like the sound of this at all but the map showed trail 13 went the same way and the ATV rider said that one was much better so I decided to press on.

Pretty soon the stream and trail merged
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and then it got steeper
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and steeper, and rockier
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at this point the little man wasn't happy at all and I decided to turn back, I think it was a wise decision. I retraced my ride to the Spirit Lake road and returned to the truck, but I wasn't quite ready to be finished. The map showed another trail that ran south of the Geological Road and it turned out to be very scenic

Honsberger Creek (I think)
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All over Utah it seems to have been a good year for red flowers, with Indian Paintbrush, Penstemon and Globe Mallow all putting on a good show
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Once I reached the paved highway I followed it north for a few miles to a sign I had seen the day before - it said "Death Valley" - how could I resist? I took a spur off the main trail following a sign to Death Valley Enclosure but the trail petered out in some cows after a couple of bumpy miles.

Looking over Death Valley to Manila
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Back on the main trail with DV in the centre
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Everywhere I go there is a Windy Ridge
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From there I made my way over the mountain and back to the truck, 83 great miles on the CRF. It was quite a warm day and I went through 5 litres of water during the ride, the CamelBak was well used.
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