By Lynn R. Blamires
We thought of it as a bold plan: to ride the famous Paiute ATV Trail in central Utah in three days. An easy ride for a young bunch of riders, but this is a 50-something group trying to get in touch with their childhood. On top of that, some of these guys had not been on a ride longer than about 40 miles. Six men were committed only because of the promise of at least one night in a motel?which never happened.
HEADING UP THE TRAIL
Coming from the north, we chose Aurora, about 130 miles south of Salt Lake City, to stage our ride. We hit the trail at 9 a.m. heading west. We rode across Frog’s Flat, up Willow Creek Canyon and stopped at the top of Bean Canyon for a picture break. The trail follows the top of mountains and the views are well worth the trip.
We left the main trail to go into Fillmore for food and gas. As the trail winds down into Chalk Creek Canyon, it passes through sharp cuts in the cliff. The walls are steep and the views are rife with shadows and dark hues. Making a sharp turn into the bottom of the canyon, the path follows the stream and is dotted with shady campgrounds. The fun really begins as the trail makes a series of water crossings. At one point, the trail is actually in the bed of the stream. We traveled out of the canyon and onto the blacktop as we made our way into town.
To get back in the mountains, we took the south leg of the Fillmore loop, which goes up Maple Hollow, over Sand Rock Ridge and around White Pine Peak back onto the main trail. At a point the path narrows to about six feet and begins to descend into the valley. We took a black trail that saved some time and put us back on the main trail.
Each segment of the Paiute Trail is rated with a color code for difficulty: green is easy, blue is more difficult, and black is most difficult. Most of the trail we had been on was blue, but not always because of rough conditions; sometimes the segment is just a long one.
We soon came down into Skinner Hollow where the color turned black again. The track winds through the pinion pines on a steep descent ending on the frontage road at I-70. We traveled about 100 miles that day and ended up at Castle Rock Campground. Our trailside dinner consisted of a variety of gourmet canned goods.
The Castle Rock Campground gets its name from the castle-like formations in which it is nestled. It is the perfect place to spend a peaceful weekend. We refilled our water from the camp supply, which was cold and refreshing, and then headed out. The next section of the trail went into the gold mining country over Lower Kimberly, past Winkler Point to the Silver King Mine. There is a self-guided walking tour we found interesting and informative. We gained an appreciation for the lifestyle and hardships those early miners faced. We again left the main track down to Marysvale where we gassed up and took time for breakfast.
TOP OF THE WORLD
Climbing out of Marysvale, the path angles up the east face of the Tusher Mountains, topping out at 11,500 feet near Mt. Belknap. This is one of the most spectacular points on the Paiute. Up here you feel like you are literally on top of the world. What an adventure!
After that, we passed through Big John?s Flat along the Saw Mill Ridge, around the Tusher Ridge, and over to Puffer Lake. We then headed down into Wades Canyon, known for 11 steep switchbacks to negotiate before reaching Circleville. Everyone made it OK but it did get tense when a hub locked up on one of the machines and tipped the rider up on two wheels to the downhill side.
We went into Circleville to Butch Cassidy?s Hide Out for dinner. As we ate our dinner, we took stock. We had taken two days to get to Circleville, on the south end of the trail, which left a day to get back to Aurora. I thought we would be able to make better time on the East Side of the Paiute.
Much of this section winds through the sagebrush and up through the hills. We crossed over state highway 62, which heads up the East Fork of the Sevier River to Otter Creek Reservoir. The trail soon dropped into a sand wash and really got fun. We ran the wash for several miles and when we came out, we regrouped.
We climbed over Forshea Mountain passing several places to camp, but there was too much daylight to stop. We finally made camp at the junction of Tibadore Canyon, which drains west, and Pine Canyon draining to the east. We dubbed a grove of aspen trees in the area “Cow Pie” campground because the cows had made it there before we did. We were glad there was still enough light to choose pie-less spots for our sleeping bags and enough room to roll over with out putting our faces into one.
It was a full moon that night. I have never seen full moon that bright. We attributed the brilliance to the altitude (just over 9100 feet). It was like sleeping in a room with the light on. The reflection off the white bark of the aspen grove made it even brighter.
297 MILES OF ADVENTURE
We were surprised at how pretty this part of the trail is, especially in the morning as the sun hit the meadows and cast shortening shadows through the trees. We saw lots of deer and some elk. We broke out onto a rise on the way to Manning Meadow Reservoir and stopped to take in the view. We could see directly across the valley to the Tusher Mountain pass we had crossed the day before.
We stayed on the main trail toward Salina until we turned off on the 52 through Lost Creek Canyon. The water crossings through this section were a lot of fun. Some of us were surprised as we turned the corner into Aurora and saw that we were actually back at the trucks. As we headed home, we talked about our experience?297 miles of pure adventure. All agreed to do it again next year!
DEC 23–UTAH’S BEST RIDING
By Lynn R. Blamires