In an effort to extend my exploring range, I purchased a couple of Honda ATVs. (Yes, I am still married and yes, she is still talking to me. However she does seem to clinch her teeth whenever she talks to me now.)
I was growing weary of the long winter and there was no sign of spring. The winter can be especially long when you are anxious to try out your new toys. (I found I was also clinching my teeth a lot.)
Finally, a Saturday was forecast as being above 40 degrees and sunny in the San Rafael Swell area so I picked up my brother David in the morning and we drove down to the Head of Sinbad area. We unloaded the ATVs and drove them under the I-70 freeway to the Dutchman Arch area.
Then on to the Devil’s Racetrack.
Several years ago, I attempted to drive this trail in one of my Ford Explorers. (I am on Explorer #3 now.) We were convinced to turn around by a group of ATV riders who assured us that we wouldn’t get far in an Explorer. We then watched as these riders paraded past us, easily bouncing over large boulder fields that I had struggled to navigate through in my Explorer. Some of the riders were youngsters, some were “large” women and some were “seasoned” citizens. It was a large family group of all shapes, ages and sizes! THAT is when I decided I needed my own “boulder hopper”.
However, the Devil’s Racetrack is NOT where you want to go when you are first learning to control a 600 lb piece of metal over uneven ground. (I found out later that this trail was rated “Technical – Extreme”.) In spite of the machine’s temperament to propel itself forward at reckless speeds, gravity and the physics of immovable object have a way of countering desirable maneuvers. I quickly discovered that these machines are very stable and forgiving, able to bounce across boulder fields and climb just about anything you point it at. Sometimes the hardest part was just holding on.
The Devil’s Racetrack is a fairly narrow strip of rock that joins two mesas. Trying to figure out how to negotiate this area would have been somewhat easier if not for the rather extreme cliff on the north side of the “trail”. Then once you are across the narrowest part, you find yourself face-to-face with a shear four foot shelf. I found David at the top of the shelf with no idea how he got the ATV up there. Surely these things can’t climb vertical walls! Yet the black rubber tracks of many riders ran right up the wall.
Well since ‘little’ brother had managed it, ‘BIG’ brother can’t back down… in this case literally. I proceeded to place the front wheels against the wall and hit the accelerator. The front of the ATV shot up in the air and was about to overturn on top of me when David grabbed the front and pulled it back to the shelf where it proceeded to climb the wall and then attempted to run him over. Once safely on top of the shelf, David explained the need to “lean forward” when attempting that move. (How do you “lean forward” when you are pointing at the stars?!)
We passed several groups of ATV riders heading in the opposite direction. Several flagged us down to talk about trail conditions. One group of four Hispanic men on ATV’s, told us they were there to “break in” a new guy. They were about to enter the Devil’s Racetrack so I figured that would do it.
Once on the next mesa top, the next few miles were patches of rocky and challenging areas, up and down low hills that were sometimes snow and ice and other times sand or mud but no place where you could work up a decent steady speed.
Soon we were near the Twin Priests rock towers and the light cirrus clouds helped make interesting pictures.
We were looking for a natural arch in the area but it didn’t turn out to be where we thought it would be. Several miles later we found it hiding on the north side of a distant rock wall. Trial riders heading one way would probably miss it completely and riders going the other way would probably be too busy keeping to the trail to notice it. ATV riders probably didn’t understand the significance of such a large undocumented natural arch. It was beautiful! I was just giddy with enjoyment. (Man, it must have been a LONG winter!)
We then decided to continue down the trail until it drops into the North Fork of Coal Wash. We could then drive up the wash to gigantic Slipper Arch for pictures and lunch.
At that point, we had to make a decision as to whether to turn around and go back via the dreaded Devil’s Racetrack or continuing the loop trail. We naturally opted for continuing the loop. This required that we continue up Coal Wash to FixIt pass which would drop us into the canyons to the north at the head of Saddle Horse Wash.
We had driven the Explorer to this point last year but found FixIt Pass was impassable for road vehicles. ATV’s didn’t have much trouble though it was a tight fix between several boulders. (After Devil’s Racetrack, it was no problem for us “experienced” riders.)
We found the north slopes muddy and slick but managed to make our way east to Cane Creek. Here we could take an ATV trail south to return to the Head of Sinbad area by way of Reid Neilson Draw.
That turned out to be a long, muddy, slippery, exhausting ride along rock ledges on the side of a canyon. I didn’t think the trail was ever going to top out of the canyon. By this time, we were hammered and our arms, necks, wrists and hands were aching. However, the trail from the top of the canyon was on sandy and mostly flat dirt roads. Finally we could enjoy some speed.
While David headed straight back to the vehicle to the south, I stopped to take pictures of the petroglyphs located nearby.
It was getting dark before I finished the last few freezing miles back to the vehicle and trailer. Soon we were loaded up, tied down and heading for Green River for a sandwich and a mandatory just-get-me-home Mountain Dew drink.
Over all, we decided that the ATV experiment was a huge success. We were already planning our next ATV trips and longing for warmer weather.
By the way, the total length of our first ride: 35 miles! YIKES!