By Lukas Brinkerhoff – As all good things go, it started as an idea. It was one that when it was in my head, I thought, this is one of those “good” ideas people always talk about. One that there was no possible way for us to fail. It would be easy. There was a good chance burritos would be involved and I couldn’t fathom a reason I would end up sleeping in a culvert hoping it didn’t flood. And to be honest, I was sheepish about this idea. I mean I’ve had lots of bad ideas that ended up being good ideas, but the problem with good ideas is that they come with the expectation that they will be good. You don’t have anything to fall back on if things do, for one reason or another, go south.
The crew gathered at Red Rock Bicycle at 5 pm, or at least most of the crew, ok 75% of the crew was there. The other ¼ was to be picked up en route to the burritos. We did the typical pre-trip double and triple checks, filled the flasks with the whiskey that was bought last minute, pulled on a few compression straps and started the pedal out of town.
The day was overcast with some ominous looking clouds hovering right over our destination. The forecast had called for scattered chances of thunder storms. We all had rain jackets and Joey Sparkles had at least 1/3 of his tent. Based on those two things, we didn’t see any reason to reconsider our choices and we headed toward a dark cloud and into the head wind.
If we back up to when this became an idea in my head, we would end up in Morgan Hill, California. Joey and I were there for the Specialized product launch and had been invited to participate in a “bikepacking” thing. Basically, the idea was to load the clothes we would need for the evening into a couple of bags that were on borrowed bikes and ride to a campground about 17 miles away where there would be burritos, firewood and stuff to sleep in waiting for us. It sounded pretty iffy on the fun scale, but in comparison to spending a night in a clean hotel, it sounded awesome. I have a pretty strong dislike for sleeping in hotels. They always make me feel cheap and dirty.
The ride over was a spirited ride with plenty of regroups, sprints into trails unknown on bikes not made for dirt, paceline speedbike riding, backroad let’s take this whole lane while we chat for a few soft pedaling, all followed by a steep climb up to the campground. The firewood, burritos and sleeping stuff was there as promised. A quick tent setup and we were left with nothing else to do but sit around the campfire eating burritos while I lamented the state of the bicycle industry.
The next morning everything was done in reverse and as we ended up back at the Specialized Headquarters, I lamented that we didn’t have any campgrounds in Washington County that such a ride would be feasible because it was fun, easy and something we could do almost every weekend. It took me about a week to realize that what I was lamenting was about the dumbest thing that had ever come out of my mouth. Ten miles from the shop is Snow Canyon State Park. A park that people from all over the world come to visit and it has camping. I never looked for bikepacking spots so close to home, but once I changed the parameters, my eyes were opened. There were easily a dozen such spots, all with world class views.
This good idea of mine was to start checking those spots off the list and the first one was to hit the most obvious, Snow Canyon.
Our first objective was the burritos. We had two choices for said food items on our course and settled on the least sketchy one, La Cocina. Only Joey had eaten there, but assured us that the food was good and the salsa bar was not to be rivaled. We were happy he was right. The food was fresh, didn’t have the typical greasy texture of inexpensive Mexican and the salsa bar was top shelf. We got the burritos to go and whilst stuffing them into our packs we felt the first rain drops start to fall. It was hard to say if these were drips signaling that the rest of the storm was about to come down on us or if the storm was just edging past.
Undeterred, we continued toward the canyon.
The ride over is about 10 miles of flat. From Red Rock Bicycle, you can get there entirely by bike lanes and paved bike paths. These all lead us straight toward that cloud I mentioned. The head wind wasn’t bad enough to damp our spirits, but it was felt. The rain failed to ever come down. We would get sprinkled on for a few minutes, just long enough to start considering stopping to put on that rain jacket and then it would stop. By the time we hit the mouth of the canyon, we could tell the clouds were moving away from us.
A rainbow exploded out of the top of the cliffs just as we rolled into camp. We quickly set about devouring our burritos and high fiving ourselves on having such a rad idea. The sky darkened just as our fire wood was lovingly delivered by Mrs. Sparkles. There was nothing else left to do other than enjoy the fading light, a few sips of whiskey, the warmth of the fire and the folks sitting around it.
We chose to start the next morning with a 10-mile jaunt up West Canyon which is a dirt road accessed canyon off of the main route. In my opinion, it’s even more beautiful than the main canyon and there’s lots less people. This turned into a photo shoot of epic proportions as the colors popped and our eyes feasted on our surroundings. And then we pedaled up the canyon to make our ride home a little harder.
In total, we rode about 30 miles. Not what you would put down as an epic bikepacking trip. However, the quick overnighter was exactly what we all needed, a quick escape and a night under the stars. We finished the ride with high fives and vows to do it all again soon.
Nuts and Bolts
Snow Canyon State Park is located just outside of St. George and offers hiking, cycling and camping. http://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/snow-canyon/
The campground fills up pretty much all year. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. http://www.reserveamerica.com/camping/snow-canyon-state-park/r/facilityDetails.do?contractCode=UT&parkId=345781
#s24O – Sub 24 Overnighter referring to quick bikepacking trips that are less than 24 hours long.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.