Duck Creek Detour: Testing out the OffRoad Capabilities

As I was eating my third popsicle last night, the woman at the entrance to Pine Creek Campground mentioned a place called Cascade Springs. “It’s a beautiful place”, she said. “They recently paved the road up there, except the last few miles. You can’t do that part on your motorcycle. You’ll need a Four Wheel Drive or Polaris RZR for that.”

I don’t think she intended it, but the gauntlet had been thrown. As I left Pine Creek Campground and rode through Midway, Utah, I saw the sign for Cascade Springs. I turned up the road. It was maybe five miles to the actual Springs, and beautiful fresh pavement.

The newly paved road continued on past the Springs, but I turned into the parking area and walked down to the falls area to take a look.

At the back of the parking area was the dirt road she was talking about. My GPS said it would take me through to another highway and on toward Duck Creek. It was a rough drop-off from the paved parking lot to the two-track rocky road. That should have been the first clue. The first mile and a half or so weren’t too bad. It was more trail than anything I encountered on the eastern half of the “Trans America Trail”, with loose rocks, large boulders, and steep downhills. I switched the ABS off and started down. It was fairly steep, and loose in places, but with rock steps in other places. I thought to myself, “I sure hope I don’t have to come back up this.”

About half way down one particularly loose, steep section, I slid the front wheel and lost it. Would the ABS have saved me? No, because I was going about 2 mph, and the ABS doesn’t work at those speeds anyway. Luckily there was a large boulder on the side of the trail, and I fell into that with the right handlebar and top of the right pannier. The bike was about two-thirds of the way over, but with some added adrenaline, I was able to pull it back up and continue down the hill. Let’s see…500 pound motorcycle, 80+ pounds of accessories and gear, 200 pounds of me. Yep, this is no dirt bike. But still way more capable than my 1200 Super Tenere, which I never would have considered taking down this trail. If I had left the panniers and camping gear off, this would have been an easier ride. But then, that’s not how we travel, and there will be plenty more situations, whether in Mongolia, the ‘Stans, or the outback of Australia, where we will be in true off-road situations fully loaded, AND two-up. So this is great experience for later. I wish now that I had slowed down a bit and taken photos, but at the time, I was more focused on the trail.

A few miles in I reached a creek crossing. It wasn’t that deep — a bit below knee level — but the bottom was rounded rocks about the size of softballs, and the water was moving pretty fast. I picked my way across and up the hill on the other side. At the top was a boulder field, like there had been a rock slide across the trail at some point earlier. It was about 80 feet across. I again slowly picked my way across it, and less than a quarter mile later I came to a large locked, fenced gate. There was no trail remaining on the other side. It had grown over long ago. This was the end of the road. There were some fire rings scattered around; signs of campsites.

I did a 10-point u-turn and headed back the way I came. By now I was beginning to get a better feel for the 700 off-road, and although the handlebars are a little low, standing on the pegs and staying on the gas, I was able to pick my way back up the hills through the rocks.

Once I popped out at the parking area for Cascade Springs, I looked at my GPS again. It said I could continue west on the newly paved road and connect to another highway. And of course, once again, I believed it. And of course, once again:

So finally I gave up, turned back and rode back down to Midway, and continued on to Duck Creek, which was about 300 miles yet.

We did a lot of miles on I-15 getting to Salt Lake City on Saturday, and I didn’t want to do that again. So I took the “back way”. It was warm — the gauge read 100 degrees a few times — and for the most part there isn’t a lot to see. But here’s three things that did catch my attention:

This temple in Manti is the fifth temple constructed by the Latter Day Saints, and can be seen for miles, as it is huge and sits on a hill in the middle of a relatively flat arid area. The small town of Manti has a population of just 3,600 people, so the temple dominates it.

Off Highway Vehicle recreation dominates Utah, and this “Caboose Village” seemed to be a hotel for OHV’ers, along with a nearby campground.

The State of Utah restored Butch Cassidy’s childhood home, and it’s open for self-guided tours.

How many places make a monument of an outlaw’s home? I guess the Butch & Sundance history and popularity have made them heroes as well as outlaws.

I finally made it to the campground around 4pm, and found a nice shady spot in the pines. The campground host stopped by, and we talked about the record heat. He said it was 37 degrees when he got up this morning, and that was hot for this time of year here.

I am SO looking forward to that for the next few days.

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