Hop #1: Kolob Reservoir Road
After a morning walk, a great breakfast to-go from Deep Creek Coffee Co., and finishing up my notes from yesterday, I was rolling away from the Zion traffic shortly after 10:00. At the gas station, I learned that I'd been very lucky to arrive last night, as that big tunnel in Zion was reportedly closed for most of the day due to a rockslide. That really would have wreaked havoc with my wallet!
Just before Virgin, I hung a right on the well-marked Kolob Terrace Road, which was marked on Butler's map as a winning shortcut. The first 40 km was one of the best stretches of road I've ever been on, a quiet, paved country road, with jaw-dropping Zion mountain scenery in the background, and some of the most heart-stopping vistas of a road winding through wilderness as the foreground..
At the reservoir, the road turned to rutted gravel, then good gravel, then lightly mudded dirt, and finally back to chipseal. The eastern stretch of the road was more ranchlands than I expected, and had just enough traffic to feel secure. I had no trouble finding the optimal exit from the KRR to the northeast -- even trusty Garmin had it right -- and I dumped out onto the 14 eastbound. My plan to shoot north up the 148 past Cedar Breaks was ruined by a "Road Closed" gate (nice mid-May opening, UTDOT) so instead I, with many others, continued east on the 14 to north on the 89. Tragically, this meant no sandwich in Panguitch.
Hop #2: Highway 12, the Scenic Byway, an All-American Road (TM)
Lots of traffic here. Mostly motorcycles and RVs! It was an enjoyable ride east, through Bryce, Tropic, and Escalante, much more rural than I expected. This road truly does deserve its fanfare, with multiple stretches which I can only describe as stunning. As I watched ahead to the east, blue rain clouds caused me concern for the passibility of Hop #3, so I didn't waste too much time. The last stretch approaching Boulder was a jaw-dropping stretch of road, though due to construction and rain, I missed another photo at its pinnacle, the "hogback." This road makes #6 on Lonely Planet's list of Top 10 American Motorcycle Roads, and on all sorts of Most Scenic Roads lists.
Hop #3: Burr Trail (all of it!)
As I arrived at Boulder, I'd checked my alternate route to get to Bullfrog in the Burr Trail wasn't passable due to the rain clouds. (About an extra 120 km.) I'd phoned the recorded BLM road conditions hotline last night, where I learned that the road was in fine 2WD condition... as of last Monday. Hm. I decided to go for it, knowing that the worst case was having to turn around and ride a stretch of Butler G1 road twice. (The best sections of road are highlighted on their maps according to a grading scale: G3 = good motorcycle road; G2 = great; G1 = life-altering.)
The locals, hunters, RVers and miners wanted it paved, and for mostly one reason: the Burr Trail mud. Just out of the north end of Long Canyon there is a layer of orange clay, a layer that, when wet, becomes the stickiest and slipperiest natural substance known. I'm told by an old acquaintance who as a youth herded cattle through the area that not even shod horses could stand on the wet clay. [source: a website with the word Science in the URL.]
I had read this last night, so naturally was anxious all the way, but my hunch turned out to be a good one, as the road was bone dry and dusty at its worst. Oh, and did I mention -- a totally life-altering way to spend a Sunday evening, dude:
Day total: 465 km, 8h40m
Trip total: 5,838 km
Start: Springdale, UT. End: Bullfrog, UT.
Soundtrack: Mo' shuffle. Wind in trees at most scenery stops.