Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Burr Trail

Stopping early yesterday in Torrey, UT and waiting out the storms over the Grand Staircase - Escalante was the right decision. There were reports of large hail at the top of Boulder Mountain and extreme flooding in many of the washes. It would not have been a pretty ride. The next morning offered blue skies along with crisp cool temperatures.

When I left Torrey the plan was to continue my meandering ways across southern Utah and position myself within striking distance of Ojai, CA for the lunch at Boccalli's on Saturday. It didn't take long to get the first picture of the day. Today is going to be a good day.

When I stopped at the top of Boulder Mountain for a spell, something made me think about the Burr Trail. Back in the late 1870s John Burr developed a cattle trail he used to move his herd between winter and summer ranges. The trail itself is roughly 75 miles long and runs between present day Boulder, UT and SR-276 through the Waterpocket Fold, Burr Canyon, Mule Twist Canyon and onward to Lake Powell. I didn't want to get into a lot of gravel and sand and such so I thought I'd run the Burr Trail until the heavy stuff started. (It always starts that way, doesn't it?)

About a quarter mile east of Boulder there are signs indicating the road isn't recommended for trailers or RVs and is 75 miles of dirt and rough road. These signs were old and rusty and apparent hold-overs from when a good portion of the trail was paved back in the 1980s. The road out of Boulder is a well-paved and downright exciting ride mostly through the red wall canyon.

The dirt part of trail doesn't start until reaching the entrance to Capital Reef National Park about 25 miles east of Boulder. Over all, I'd rate the dirt road surface very high. There isn't a lot of gravel or sand on the road even in the turns. However, there are sections that are worse than others with large rocks or pot holes and some sections of washboard, but it's nothing I wouldn't take any bike down. Just a word of caution... in some sections there's a good layer of clay. When it rains I would imagine the clay gets downright nasty and would make for an interesting trek even for a 4WD.

The sketchiest part of the trail is a series of switchbacks that last about a mile. They take you down a step or two in the Grand Staircase. The switchbacks themselves are wide and easily navigable in both directions. In the first picture below you're looking from the top of the switchbacks. Below and in the distance you can discern the road. That's where you're going. The remaining pictures are of how you're going to get there.

After taking the big step down, it's more dirt road through some amazing country. I cannot imagine living and working this land as John Burr and the other area pioneers did. I'm not sure today's man is as determined and hearty as yesterday's.

Coming around a bend and cresting a hill, this is the first site of Lake Powell in the distance. What a welcome site. Like a dumbass, I left Torrey without eating breakfast. I had plenty of water, but it's not a good idea to head out into the unknown without packing something to eat. Seeing the lake in the distance made me even hungrier. I couldn't wait to get some gas and a sandwich.

I was only 6 miles from SR-276 when I crested a small hill and noticed a rather large dip in the road ahead indicative of a wash. Considering the rains of the past few days, I slowed and expected at least a little sand covering the road. I'm glad I slowed too because it wasn't sand covering the road. It was mud! And a lot of it. I don't typically do mud, but especially out in b-f-e miles away from anyone and anything, but especially the anyone who may just be needed to help get me out of a predicament. I sat there for a while and weighed my options. First of all, I'm damn hungry, but can wait. Second, I have enough gas to get back to Boulder and I planned on going back to Boulder anyway. Third, while I could make it across, why risk it? So I turned around and happily road the Burr Trail back to Boulder.

The Burr Trail is an amazing road and I would heartily encourage you to check it out. But in the process, don't miss out on SR-95 and SR-24 that it circumvents. You'll want to run those roads as well. Both ways, of course.

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