Bikepacking Adventure Part 1: Uinta Flat to Navajo Lake

posted in: Bikepacking, Utah | 6

My first ever completely solo bikepacking adventure from Uinta Flat to Navajo Lake was a huge success!

After a brief period of sulking following the decision to cancel our epic bike adventure, click here for details, my mind started racing. How could we manage to do some big, fun trips on our previously planned route all while waiting for Grizz to heal up? Aha, one word—Solo.

Where there is a will there is a way. Since we were van lifeing pretty close to the Plateau Passage Route, I thought, why not plan a trip of my own. And, well, that’s exactly what I did. That idea materialized pretty quickly and with Eric willing to stay behind to watch our baby boy, Momma took off on a wee little adventure to lay down some tracks.

Here’s the story of my adventure.

Day 1: Uinta Flat to Virgin River Rim Trail

Van to Valley

The first day was an absolute delight. Initially, I saw 2 OHVs and a truck, but a few miles in, I didn’t see another soul for (nearly) the remainder of the day—All 21 more miles of it! I did however see a ton of white tail deer gracefully gallup, prance, and leap through the forest at the sight of me.

My first long downhill into the lush green valley below
Another look at the valley from above
Riding through the valley

There were lots of gradual uphill climbs, but I was able to ride roughly 95% of the day. Most of the route followed along either 4×4 roads or OHV trails as I made my way towards the Harris Rim.

But first, a few steep climbs like this one! These are the ones that you have to get off the bike for fear of tipping backwards with the upward exertion. It’s basically push, brake, step, heave, push, brake, step…you get the idea. It was nearly vertical and I had to watch my footing due to the slippery, marble-like rocks. The picture just doesn’t do this climb justice. Thankfully, it was really short.

After this mega climb, I was home free—well, for now!

Harris Rim

After descending into the valley and hitting the Harris Rim, I was back to rolling hills, long but well graded climbs, and eventually the start of some expansive views.

Long rolling hills
Riding along Harris Rim
Views from the top of one of many hills I climbed that day.

After climbing one of the steeper hills, the end of the decent led me to this stunning view and my first experience seeing what they call, Hoodoos. These amazing rock formations are pretty common to the High Plateau region and what Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for (there are millions of them there!)

Hoodoos!

After a short rest in some much needed shade and a carby snack, I saddled up and moved on.

The sun was scorching and the shade trees were few and far between. I peddled my way up several hills and one small pass tearing through the miles and fast as I could. Little by little the forest became green again and the burn areas slowly dissipated.

The small mountain pass doesn’t always feel so small when you’re riding up it!
At some point during the climb, the rocks turned from white to red.
Reprieve from the sun

Of course, all that riding and I needed another small snack. So I took some respite under the large shade trees and had lunch. When on trips like this, I force myself to eat a bite here and a bite there to avoid bonking or crashing. It seems to work really well. Most the time, I find I’m not hungry at all so it’s a lot easier to take in a small amount of calories often rather than a large amount all at once.

Water Scare

Um. Yeah. I was NOT climbing down THAT steep mountain to the pond.

After climbing and descending the small pass, the route had marked 3 potential water stops. I brought a total of 6 litres of water and a filter. I was banking on being able to get water at either the pond, spring, or creek in order to continue onward. Unfortunately, all three were bone dry! I started feeling pretty bummed that I was going to have to bail out that next morning. But, no water equals no adventure.

Creek—DRY.

No pond, no creek. I had to stop and think about what I wanted to do next. Knowing I wanted to keep going, I went .6 miles out of my way down a long, gradual hill to the last potential water marker.

Spring—Dry!

Yep. Dry.

Needless to say, I was disappointed to the extreme. No water equals no trip. At this point, I had about 3L of water left. I had been hydrating really well up until this point because, well, it was super hot and I thought that there would be plenty of water. It’s May! Can someone say, “Where did all the snow melt go?”. Apparently, underground. I guess it was a really dry year almost everywhere.

So, I stood under the shade tree checking mileage, maps, and wishing I had some internet. Eventually, I said to myself, “Self, the trail will either provide or tomorrow you’ll make your way to the van”. I hopped on the bike and climbed back up that hill like a champ.

The Final Climb

Even steeper than it looks.

Now THIS was a climb. A complete hike-a-bike in every way. Steep. Long. Brutal. And come to find out, not the most arduous section of the journey. But we’ll save those stories for later. After a 20+ mile day, this was the icing on the cake.

Me with my right hand on the brake AND the left handle bar pushing into my side to keep the bike from rolling downhill.

I had to laugh. Then, I had to push—lots and lots of pushing. And, at about 8120 feet, the air felt a bit thin. There was lots of huffing and puffing. And then two dirt bikes dusted me out. Well, I was on this ridiculous OHV trail after all.

Perhaps this perspective, a side view, does a better job and displaying the angle of climb? It was insane, but fun! I love being able to push (literally) through a challenge—and a challenge this was!

Here are a few pics of the climb. It’s always easier when it’s this beautiful!

Looking back from where I had came.
Up and Up
Almost there…
A false summit. Noooooo!

May as well have a rest in the shade while enjoying the views from the sort-of-top.

I had to admit, after about an hour of climbing, the laugh turned to a faint smile. I didn’t have the energy for the full thing!

It was one switchback after another mixed with some vertical uphill climbs.

It was difficult no doubt, but I was loving it!

The final push to the top…well, the top of this section.

After I made it to my connecting road, I took a short break and got severely dusted by two OHVs barreling through. At that point, I was SO thankful that I brought my buff. Not wanting to waste any time, I quickly made my way up to the Virgin River Rim Trailhead. I made it!!!!

The Virgin River Rim

Well, almost.

It was nearly 4pm and I had been on the go for nearly 8 hours. I wasn’t sure what lay ahead, but I knew I was close to a big downhill which led to a small neighborhood-esque area of cabins. So, I set off down the road to connect with the trail and hopefully find a spot for the night.

Trail. Check.

After a short but steep descent I spotted two very important things to note.

  1. SNOW!
  2. DUST. Wait…what? Where did that dust come from?

I think I had my first encounter with a CAT. Apparently I scared something sunning in the area circled in the photo above. All I saw was a dark shadow walking across the downed tree that very much resembled a cat that was slightly smaller than Grizz (so maybe 25-30 lbs). Yikes.

My guess is that because the OHV road was just above where I was, it had possibly mistaken my noise for road noise and when it saw me it freaked out (as did I).

Thankfully, it took off and was never to be seen again! But, I’m not going to lie, I looked over my shoulder most of the evening just in case. I felt like a skittish deer in the wilds, but where I would gracefully gallup off to if the cat came back—well, I had no idea!

Making Camp

As I mentioned earlier, water was scarce so when I spotted a small patch of snow, I knew I needed to make camp somewhere nearby. As luck would have it, after weeding through a thicket of thorny bushes, limbs, and small trees I found a clearing as well as the dead end of an unmarked gravel road with a perfectly positioned downed tree. The area was extremely rocky, full of ants, and sloped. It wasn’t much, but it was enough and I was grateful to avoid plummeting into the valley and trying to stealth camp near people’s homes. Or worse, having to climb the next mountain in the dark.

Sunbathing water—another first for me!

So, after scoping out a spot, the very first thing I did was begin the painfully slow task of stuffing ice into a water bladder hole the size of a quarter and a filter bag with a half inch opening. Let’s just say it took about two hours, with a few rest breaks to thaw my fingers, but I was able to replenish my entire water supply! I give much thanks to the sun for quickly warming my frigid digits and helping to melt the ice so that it could be filtered the next morning!

After the water situation was taken care of, I made camp for the night in a small space tucked between a large deadwood and two unruly pines. The tent JUST fit.

I’ll leave this blog here for now with part 2 to follow! Here are a few more photos and blurbs about my first evening alone!

The dead end road (I found 2 more downed trees farther up the road so I knew it should be traffic free).
Views from camp
The surrounding forest
More views from camp
A (much more orange than pictured) rock outcropping in the distance.
Another view from camp as the sun was setting.
Picturesque
Relaxing after chores and dinner with a good book.

Day 1 Stats

For you data nerds 🙂

Miles: 23.49, Total Time: 7:41:42 (Moving: 4:39:03), Elevation Gain: 2,247, Elevation Loss: 1,621, Max Elevation 8,766 ft.

The route, broken down into segments, can be found here for those interested (I did a portion of segment 2).

Reflection

Bikepacking (well any back country adventure really) teaches you about life and what is truly important. Survival is always the main goal—water, shelter, food. What we really need in order to live is quite simple. It’s times like this that make me think. I find it funny to sit back and recognize how much I’ve over-complicated life throughout the years with my own selfish wants, desires, things, consumption—mostly things. All that stuff that made me so very unhappy. Not just unhappy but also stuck in a life I thought I had to build—was expected to build. The stuff that was a sign of success, happiness—the epitome of adulthood. It’s not bad to have or to want and I’m not knocking any particular lifestyle. It just feels so good to be free and to finally find a life that I was designed to live!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 2 soon!

Until next time friends…

6 Responses

  1. Debbie

    Oh my gosh! Just reading this made me tired! Those hills never seemed to end! And don’t you just hate those false summits!! What an adventure Jenni! I’m loving seeing you thrive as you adventure! Thanks for bringing us along with you in spirit!

    • Jenni

      <3 You're welcome to come along any time all from the comfort of home! Sometimes those adventures are fun too. I know I love seeing all of your adventures as well, plus some of the folks I follow on YouTube. There is something about rooting for folks who attempt to do what they love that both inspires me and makes me feel a little less alone in this world for being a little "different" from the status quo. Thanks for following friend!

  2. Heather

    I can tell those hills are steep for sure! Any slight incline and I’m dying! Really pretty a lot of the photos remind me of Idaho

    • Jenni

      Idaho <3 lol Yeah, honestly, except for the hoodoos, the area reminded me of "home" as well.

  3. Momma Sue

    You are an inspiration to me. You show such courage and I love your sharing with those that follow you. Keep up the stories. They are wonderful to read and your photo’s are spectacular!

    • Jenni

      Thank you. I’m glad you’re feeling inspired and enjoying our silly, wonderous, and sometimes crazy adventures. It’s fun to share stories and listen to others stories as well! We have met many adventurers on our travels. It’s been very cool!

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