Monday, July 5, 2010

Wasatch you talkin about?

I can't believe I visited my sister's house sans bike all those years. Last year I showed you my trips to the Alpine Loop and Mt. Nebo. This year I decided I would try something else since I was going to be bringing my commuter up as I would be getting picked up from work.  I decided I would start the trip out with a loop up Hobble Creek Canyon and down Diamond Creek.  I previously had not done this as there is around 8 miles of dirt road but since I had 28's on the commuter I decided I'd give it a go.  The fact Hobble Creek canyon is less than 2 miles from my Sister's house makes things very convenient I must confesss.

My original plan was to wake up at 4 and ride but I didn't get my contacts out until after 11 and I have to leave them in the fluid for 6 hours so alas, I wasn't on the road until after 5:30  (the fact someone ate one of my moon pies and put the others in a different place didn't help me get out any quicker either).  The bright side (no pun intended) was I didn't need any lights (it was around 4:30 for y'all that have enough daylight and don't need to save it).

Right Fork of Hobble Creek just before dawn.

It was a little chilly, but that was mostly due to the wind.  The canyons of the Wasatch front seem to always have stiff winds coming out of them in the morning.  It was a little annoying I must admit but the further I got up the canyon the less winds there were.

I had been part way up the right fork before but not too far.  I found myself pedalling alongside a mountain stream under an oak cannopy.  The road "stair stepped" a bit as I climbed up the canyon and I was jealously eyeing the mountains above me as the first rays of sunlight hit them.  Still,  it was quite pleasant climbing the canyon past campgrounds with folks still fast asleep and the occasional green clearing among the trees when the canyon widened.

Rock formations in Hobble creek

I knew there was dirt road up there somewhere but it seemed like the pavement just kept going up the hill (which I didn't mind really as I really needed to be back by 9).  Soon I was riding among fir trees and the canyon narrowed significantly which was amazing as it had been narrow before.  Now there was only room for the road and the stream.

Bridge at the beginning of the dirt.

The dirt wasn't too bad when I got to it.  It had an amazingly firm surface and I can safely say I have ridden paved roads rougher than that road.  Best of all was the ability to stand and pedal without slipping despite the grade being around 8-10%.   The road reminded me a lot of the alpine loop without pavement as it meandered up the hillsides and switchbacked up the mountain.  Several times it looked like I was approaching the top but found more hill to climb around the corner.  I actually managed to get out of the shade of the mountains a few times and warmed up slightly.

Hobble Creek

The views once I got up onto the mountainside were incredible.  Off to the north there was a beautiful mountain range.   To the south I was getting up into forests and would even go through an aspen grove or two before I reached the pass.  Above me in a green alpine meadow smoke hung in the air from a campfire which I couldn't see.  The valley below me was lit up in the morning sun and the grades were starting to let up and I could see light through the trees.

Mountains along the Wasatch front.

The top was a very welcome sight even if there wasn't a whole lot of Pomp and Circumstance such as a sign marking my accomplishment like there is on the Alpine Loop or Mt. Nebo.  There was just a dirt road that took off up the hillside.  As I was running short on time and I was cold I opted to ride over the pass and get on with the descent which I thought was mostly paved but to my chagrin it was still dirt over the pass!

The Pass

I love to descend dirt as much as the next guy but that is with a mountain bike.  On a road type bike you have to be a lot more careful and take it slower.  I would descend a good 4 miles of dirt before I finally came to the road junction that marked the edge of the pavement.  in that 4 miles despite the slower speeds I did manage to freeze my fingers to the point I almost could grip the brakes.  Even that wasn't as nice as expected as there was a headwind blowing up it. 

Pastoral scene

In the upper portions of Diamond Fork I spotted a bunch of cows (of whom our poor desert cows are probably quite jealous) and a group of deer.  So it was freezing cold (in the 30's)  but at least it was scenic. 

As I worked my way down the dirt road I passed several people out for a walk wearing coats.  I had to look quite the spectacle bouncing along in a shortseeve jersey and shorts on a skinny tired bike.  I must say I eyed their jackets covetously.  One of these years I'll remember a wind breaker and long fingered gloves.  It's tough to remember those things for a trip when it is 110 degrees outside though.

Oh Deer!

At long last I arrived at the pavement!  The creek on the left was now a river and jostled along next to me as my speeds picked up and I shot down the road at or a bit above the speed limit of 25 mph.  Humorously enough I didn't get my top speed until I'd left the canyons.  Being a canyon open to the north there were not as many evergreens but the interesting rock formations made up for it.  I had to break the descent a few times to snap pictures.

Ah, pavement at last!

About midway down the road and creek wandered into a narrow canyon with towering cliffs on either side.  At one spot the road went snug right up against the cliff as there wasn't any more room for a creek and a road together.  Just below here the rock started to get red and reminded me a lot of the area above Sedona.

Against the cliff.

Soon I was out of the narrow canyon and wandering among green hillsides warming in the summer morning sun.  There may not be as many trees on the Diamond Fork side but the hillsides were quite beautiful.

Yours truly

Soon I was down at the main highway just below the unfortunate townsite of Thistle.  Back in the early 80's a particulary wet winter caused a landslide in this canyon during spring thaw.  The landslide became a very effective dam and the town of Thistle was submerged in a new lake.  Last time I was up there the water had receded enough you could see some buildings out in the water but it will likely never be inhabited again. 

Heading down the canyon I am forced in and out of construction zones and onto the shoulders and even some dirt.  Still it goes quick and I would get to the bottom of the canyon fairly quickly.  At the bottom of the canyon there is a windfarm which stands as a testament of the windy nature of these canyons.  The wind which had robbed me of much of my descent but now was at my back.

Spanish Fork wind farm

Dropping out of the canyon down to Mapleton I hit 40 mph.  I had never thought it was that steep but apparently it is.  After that I meandered across the farm covered foothills to Springville and climbed back up to my Sister's house to arrive at 9:30.   A little later than normal but still not bad considering I got off an hour and a half late.  I think the route is a keeper.

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