Green River, UT to Black Dragon Wash, UT – Naomi: 32.8 miles – Katie: 196.7 miles
I woke up this morning excited to make some solid miles after a goose egg yesterday. We walked to the coffee spot and I ordered a giant latte and a repeat breakfast that I would have eaten here or there, I would have eaten anywhere. Just happened to be Utah.
We loaded up and headed out into the desert with cool temperatures and a sky full of puffy clouds. The sandy road took us into canyons with tall cliffs all around us. They had rocky tops and debris fields of rubble at their bases from where large boulders and small rocks had tumbled down.
In a couple of places the towers of rock looked as though they had pushed themselves out of the earth leaving a sand pile in their wake. Cones of sand a hundred feet tall sat close by and I wondered if towers were buried underneath just waiting to be discovered.
The riding was pretty easy except for very deep sand in places, until we came to a sign announcing our approach to Black Dragon Wash. The trail became very rocky with many different routes you could choose. Picking a path was like a game if eeny meeny miney moe with disastrous consequences if you got the tiger’s toe.
After a particularly difficult climb, Naomi’s bike flashed an overheating light. We were all feeling like we needed that indicator as the desert temps were climbing at a staggering rate. Naomi found some rare shade and we all took a breather. A few minutes later she started her mount and told it to go, but it refused. She did some troubleshooting and used a lifeline hoping for good news. Unfortunately, calls to both Fred Hink and Jordan Anglin said her clutch had a fecal incident in its sleeping quarters.
Cell service was extremely hard to get, but after many tries we got through to our helpful friends in Helper to see if they had a clutch pack for our use. They said they could have it first thing in the morning or we could ride the extra miles to Payson and grab the parts at their warehouse. We weighed our options between camping in the Wash and waiting for tomorrow, trying to call a wrecker for the broken bike and going back to Green River, or me riding to Payson for parts and Naomi staying with the Dragon. We decided I’d make the run with just barely enough time to get there before a 6 pm closing time.
I unloaded my bike to be more streamlined and made my way back to the highway. My destination was plugged into my Garmin and I took a right on the paved road. With a headwind that wanted to blow my helmet off, a bike with only 250cc, and climbs through the Utah mountains, I had a hard time maintaining 60 mph much less the posted 80 at which semis and cars were flying past.
About 10 miles down the road I realized Garmin had steered me wrong and was taking me around my elbow to get to my clutch pack. There was nowhere to turn around since I was going through the mountains and the next cut through, much less exit, was 20 miles away. Just then my gas light had a premature emanation due to the added speed and strain of the highway. I limped my bike to the next exit and an additional 15 miles to the nearest gas pump in Emery. Realizing that a 6 pm arrival wasn’t going to happen, I called the shop in Helper and arranged a pickup in the morning.
Cell reception in Black Dragon Wash was still nonexistent to spotty depending on the wind direction, but Naomi was able to get a call through and we decided I would head back to her with a stash of water and beer to camp for the night. I jumped on the green route (easy trail option) and raced the setting sun along gravel roads that transformed into deep rutted sand with my precious cargo. The green route ended up being twice as long and frustrating as any other option I could have chosen, but the view of red cliffs to my left and rolling dunes to my right added a good distraction.
I rode back into the wash just after all light left this part of the world and was amazed at the work Naomi had done. She marked the road back to camp with cairns to indicate the easy route, had set up the tent, laid out sleeping bags, and dug a fire pit. I parked the bike and immediately had a mild breakdown from mental and physical exhaustion of nearly 200 miles of wasted and fruitless efforts. After I recovered, I realized that I would never have another opportunity to camp in this amazing canyon and watch the moon rise over the cliffs. Hell, it might even be a great spot for the sunrise.
Today’s lesson: A day is never actually fruitless when it ends with wheat, barley, and a hint of orange.