Day 7: Friday, May 20, 2011
Route: Torrey, UT to Capitol Reef (via Burr Trail) and back
Distance: 137 miles
The weather forecast for the day looked cold and likely wet in most directions. Judging from the radar, the most promising outlook was to the south, so Shawn and I ran UT12 over Boulder Mountain, destined for the Burr Trail.
Depending on who you talk to before you ride, the paved portion of the trail starting from Boulder is either 10 or 20 miles long. If you actually ride it though, you discover that the pavement lasts a full 30 miles before you run into the edge of Capitol Reef National Park, where the road turns to gravel.
The first ten miles crosses open territory, with minor twists and turns that travel past some really unique rock formations; the middle ten miles squiggles through a narrow canyon; and the last ten miles hustle across open, slightly hilly terrain. After all that, at the gravel/pavement juncture, there’s a turnout where you can park and wander out into the scrub. Searching for a high vantage point, we actually ended up a fair distance from the bikes:
Shawn is seen here leaving Bigfoot tracks to be fossilized for future cryptozoologists:
Our high ground:
Don’t worry, we’re standing upright; it’s just that the camera was positioned by a drunken, fluorescent monkey.
If you’re curious about the local geology/history, I took pictures of the roadside plaques here.
On the way back up the trail to Boulder, we stopped at a few spots in the canyon for pics. Here at the first stop, Shawn accidentally dug a muddy trench with his rear tire (his front tire did some of the digging as well)
At a stop further up the canyon, we saw a massive arch in its formative stage (Shawn nailed the best photo of it )
Yes, those are full-sized trees beneath it; it’s a big arch. Come back to this spot in a few millennia, and we may have a fully formed arch to look at.
After climbing out of the canyon, we stopped for one more batch of photos:(click on image to open a larger panoramic view – in a new window – that can be scrolled left and right)
In the above photo, you can see how narrow the canyon is in comparison to the road.
A close-up of the peculiar texture on a rock I saw at that overlook:
For scale, those little divots are each approximately 1/4" across. Strange.
At the end of the trail in Boulder, we stopped for lunch at the Burr Trail Grill.
For me, a pulled pork sandwich topped with fennel jam and stewed tomatoes. Severely good food, and a cozy dining room with big windows that afford a great view of the area; I heartily endorse the BTG for anyone passing through Boulder around lunchtime.
After lunch I was hoping to ride further down UT12 to Escalante, but Shawn and I both agreed that the clouds over Boulder Mountain looked like they might be dropping a load of snow on our return route very soon, so we decided to head straight back to Torrey. Once we got up on the mountain proper, we could see that the weather was probably going to cooperate, so we stopped at a couple of overlooks:
Interesting to learn that the 37-mile stretch of UT12 north of Boulder was unpaved until 1977 – and after that, it took fully eight years
to complete the work:(click on image to open a full-size, hi-resolution version – in a new window – that can be scrolled left and right)
This was a significant achievement. The original mud/gravel road was only open from late May to early November; the rest of the year, travelers had to detour a whopping 200 miles
through Panguitch to get from Boulder to Torrey. Clem Church was the Utah transportation commissioner who oversaw the project; when he died in 1989 – just four years after its completion – officials renamed this stretch of road
the “Clem Church Memorial Highway.” Earlier in his career had had also helped develop UT95.
Next time you’re leaning into a curve on one of these incredible roads, take a moment to give Clem a silent “thank you.”
A later stop at another overlook, this time with the Henry Mountains behind us:
We shoulda left our helmets on for this one, cuz man, it was getting COLD out there.
We arrived back at the Chuckwagon in late afternoon, and spent the rest of the day chatting with folks and relaxing, alternating between beer (to stay happy)
and coffee (to stay warm)
A fine beer for the great state of Utah:
The cigar aficionados were present in large numbers. A representative few:
I don’t like smoking cigars, but I like the smell of other
people nearby smoking cigars. Weird.
Chilling, quite literally, outside the general store:
A local resident stopped by with a dog carrier on his quad, making new friends:
Wurty and I get our clothes done by the same tailor:
Are you a girl? Do you ride like one? Then this license plate frame is for you (digits censored to protect the guilty party, but you know who you are…)
Step 1: open cabin door.
Step 2: snap photo.
Step 3: close cabin door.
That’s about enough fun for one day.