Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reeder Canyon to Grassy Lake trail loop: bike riding in ATV country

Reeder Canyon: its just on the northwest corner of Joe's Valley Reservoir, tending up-canyon on trail 5 of the Arapeen trail system going west, where it meets with the Southern Skyline Drive portion of the Great Western Trail. I have listed specific milage/elevation and logistical info at the bottom of the post.

Starting the climb is high desert sage and sandstone.

As with most canyons in Utah, a steep, rocky, river-cut V-shaped lower canyon makes for a hard start, till you reach the U-shaped prehistoric hanging glacial valley. Up there, the wildflowers were... well you see the picture....

The wide basin made for a fantastic, meandering climb. Most of it I was able to climb seated, spinning a moderate 32X19 single gear on my 29er.

At the head of the canyon, the alpine meadows make it worth it. The ridge in the background is the highpoint of the loop, standing at 11,000 feet.

After a few hard out-of-the-saddle efforts you reach Skyline drive. While most of Skyline rolls along the high plateau, the junction of with Reeder Canyon occurs at a relative low point of 10,400 feet.

Tempo pedalling out of the basin, passing a sheepherders tent.

The final pitch to the high plateau kicks up a bit. I remember this climb well from when I did the entire 90-mile Skyline drive many years ago. Around the corner of this climb was the site of my geared bike's drive train demise: At the top, a right turn lead to vicious black clay mud, made sticky from 4 inches of snow the night before my years-ago ride. The derailleur of my then-bike snapped. I fashioned a single speed to ride the 30 of the next 60 miles of the route. The final 30 I did with a zero-speed kick bike when that broke. By then I was hooked on single speed and have been ever since. 

At the top. The Skyline drive can be seen rolling along the plateau to the West in the distance, 60 miles to its terminus. 

But I chose to go back east on the Clay Bench canyon rim, where I met this Vaquero in his camper, and his horses---probably a ranch hand for the sheep and cattle that graze here in the Summer months.

The ATV track snaked its way down, hugging the canyon rim on the descent. It had nice bermed corners.

Freaking beautiful. While every mountain biker goes to Moab/Fruita and all that smooth Colorado single track, nobody goes for the infinitely greater milage and remoteness of the Arapeen ATV track of central Utah. The ATV track rides much like single track for all intents and purposes. The gradients are prefect for riding/climbing. And to be honest, you don't see many ATVers except near the trailheads, as most don't ride more than an hour or so before turning back to their campers. Plus, there is a feeling of excitement of exploring undiscovered and remote places that can't be matched. Consider me hooked. There is a lifetime of riding to do in the Southern Wasatch Plateau. I aim to link up as many of these canyons as I can. 

A parting shot of a passing storm over the upper basin of Reeder canyon and the Skyline drive. After parting ways with the canyon rim, I headed down the neighboring Grassy lake drainage (trail 52), till I rode down to the reservoir. 

Stats for those who are interested: round trip was about 30 miles, 8.3 miles out of the canyon, but about 12 miles of climbing total when you include the Clay Bench climb. Bottom to top elevation gain was 2600 feet. A map of the Reeder canyon loop can be found here: where my chosen route descended the Clay Bench ridge-line rather than the more common lower descent listed on the map.

The Arapeen OHV trail network summary can be found here:

And a more detailed paper map of the entire area can be sent to you for free, or download GPS tracks free, courtesy of Sanpete county, by clicking here:

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