By Lukas Brinkerhoff
Day 3. Mile 116. My fly is down. I just noticed. Not sure why it’s down or when it got left down. It’s entirely possible that it has been down since we left camp 24 miles ago. I have no idea.
Over the next few miles of pedaling, I formulate a plan to eventually remedy this situation. Said plan has a lot to do with not doing anything until a later point in time. Every 12.2 miles or so, I remember that my fly is down and I remember that I was going to do something about it and then do nothing about it. Normally, a fly down would be something that would need remedying as quickly as possible. In this particular situation, pedaling just shy of 200 miles in 3 days to see a big ditch, it was the least of my worries.
Toroweap, or Tuweap depending on who you are or what sign within the park you are looking at, is a small chunk of the Grand Canyon National Park that sits at the end of a long, bumpy, dirt road. It’s one of the few locations that you can stand on the edge of the canyon and look directly down to the Colorado River which is a stunning thing to witness. It’s also, by my estimation and experimentation, the least visited part of the park. It’s busy when all 12 campsites fill up. I’ve never been there when even half the sites are full.
Not only is Toroweap beautiful and a worthy destination in and of itself, it sits at the edge of the Arizona Strip. The Strip is a large expanse of land north of the Grand Canyon that logically should be part of Utah, but for some reason it got lost in time and isn’t. It’s a no man’s land where some men have gone to get lost and others have been hiding for years. There is literally a place called Bundyville, where there are a bunch of families that kind of live off the grid and raise cattle and stuff. I think you get it, this place is remote.
The plan was originally hatched in 2006 as every employee of Red Rock Bicycle, three of us, huddled around a computer screen as we tried to figure out water sources and a way to ride our bikes from town to Toroweap, camp and then ride back. Some of the crew had driven the road a few weeks prior and now the idea of pedaling was fresh, keen and we were all in.
But as these types of plans go, nothing ever happened.
Day 1. Mile 25.3. We are at the top of the Dugway. The Dugway is one of two significant climbs in the 90+ miles one must pedal to get to the big ditch. We’re all happy to be done with a rather taxing climb but also a bit concerned that we also made it to the top just over three hours in to our ride. We were hoping for a 10-hour day. At this pace, it will be 12 and I’m already not happy about my chamois choice.
The Dugway is kind of the gateway to the Strip. Everything below it feels like it’s still St. George in every way except actual title. The weather is the same. The geography is the same and there are people. Top out on the Dugway and you just entered a western film where tumble weeds are getting blown across a plain covered in sage and a guy hunched over on a horse is riding in to town.
There’s no one there. That tumble weed looks to be your only friend and you have a strange sensation that if you say the wrong thing to the right person, you will end up face down in a cow pond.
We continue pedaling as that is the only way we will reach our campsite. Luckily, the climb up the Dugway puts us on a relatively flat place and we have a tailwind. The miles that were lost in our first three hours begin to click by faster, and faster. Until it’s time for lunch and then we all feel like we are standing still again. We had hoped to make it to the Schoolhouse which would mark the halfway point, give us a table to eat at and is the one landmark we need for navigation. Every knoll feels like it is hiding the school, but then isn’t. As bonking as becomes a serious concern, we finally break down and eat on the side of the road. It’s still another 6 or so miles before we hit the Schoolhouse. At that point, we turn left and climb Mount Trumbull.
Day 2. Mile 92. Rest day. We pedaled from our front door to the Grand Canyon and then spent a day doing nothing more than enjoying the quiet and the scenery. Luckily, Toroweap provides a lot of both. A jaunt or two to the edge to witness the drop to the river or just to see the amazing colors as the sun begins to set are our only big plans for the day. That and spending the evening gazing at the stars that are bright thanks to the lack of any light pollution.
It may have taken me a decade to ride here, but it was certainly worth the wait.
Day 3. Mile 153. Kenny and Heather haven’t been seen for about an hour and we assume they have left us to battle the wind. There’s a fence at an intersection. We stop to grab a snack and take a whiz. I finally remedy the open barn door that I have been meaning to do something about all day. The ProBar tastes amazing. We continue to pedal.
Just as we are rounding the last turn that will put us at the top of the Dugway and signify a big downhill, we see Kenny and Heather waiting. We roll up and Kenny hands us a beer. It’s part celebration and part cheers. Celebration that we are almost done and cheers to what was a great plan, even if it did take a ten years to complete.
To access this small piece of the Grand Canyon, head south on River Road in St. George. Continue south until you come to the Schoolhouse. You’ll recognize it when you get there. Turn left. Climb Mount Trumbull and then cruise into the park. It’s about 90 miles of dirt to the edge.
Water is a big concern; the only publicly available water is on Mount Trumbull. Either carry enough or have water dropped as there is none in the park.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.