Let me start by saying, Google Maps is dangerous. If you’ve ever used this seemingly innocent app, you may be lured in by the helpful features. Heed my warning—User beware! Google Maps may ease the transition into a new area, but there is a dark side to this spell binding tool. The “Interface of Endless Possibilities”, will leave one hypnotized and off adventuring before you even knew what hit you.
That’s what happened to me on my weekend getaway to Yant Flat.
While viewing that pretty little flat, green screen with my feet propped up in the comfort of my van, I thought to myself, “15 miles is a breeze”. Eleven hours later, my cockiness and nonchalant attitude turned into an uphill sweat fest that left my heart pounding and my dimples gleaming.
For the entirety of the weekend, my eyes were dazzled by various shades of red, orange, and green as my legs pressed onward and upward (sometimes mere inches at a time). The sights, smells, silence—-it was too beautiful to even describe.
But, as always, I’m going to give it a go. Without further ado, here is the story of Yant Flat.
What a Co-inky-dink
Long story short. I met this guy Pete (a 100% bike commuter and super rad dude) at the gym. Since we were the only two crazies in the place who ride our bikes everywhere, we naturally hit it off. Pete mentioned he was going to ride up to Yant Flat and maybe do a camp out with his 4-year-old son. I was like, what a coincidence, I planned to ride up there as well! That was all it took—We had a plan! With no idea about phone reception, when we’d meet, where we’d find each other (we were coming from completely different directions), or any really specific detail, we set out for our weekend adventure that next morning morning.
Technically, I had worked up a pretty impressive sweat before ever setting butt on bike. Yeah, attaching these little bags and filling them with the bare essentials is NOT as easy as it sounds. It took roughly an hour to get the bike set up to my liking which was quicker than the first time I ever attempted this feat. With a heavy grunt, I spun my ~50-60 pound, fully loaded bike around to face the direction of adventure. I took a deep breath, then went over that imaginary list of necessities in my head. Sure that I had everything I could possibly need, I locked the van door, hopped on my bike, and set out into the great unknown.
Almost instantly, I was climbing a major hill on a road with no shoulder. That was fun. I was grateful it was early and traffic was minimal! It always takes a good 5-10 minutes to get really comfortable on the bike, especially when it’s weighted down. The landscape of the area doesn’t always cooperate with flat runs and easy to navigate terrain. That’s part of the fun!
After the big hill, it was a fairly easy warm up with more subtle elevation changes for the next 5 miles. I rolled through Leeds, hit Silver Reef Road where I viewed beautiful homes in the hills and before I knew it, I was entering the Dixie National Forest.
At this point, my legs were a little fatigued from all of the uphill climbing with the weight of all my gear. It had been over a year since Eric and I did our Idaho bikepacking trip (Sept, 2018) and I could feel it. No matter how much you ride, prepare, or work out—it’s never the same as the real deal. Little did I know, this was just the beginning.
The Dixie National Forest sign marked the spot. Yes, the spot. This is where the road smirked at the ease of which it lured me deeper and deeper into the forest. The expansive, colorful views and unfamiliar but tantalizing shapes of the red rock that surrounded me drew me in willingly and without worry. It crept up on me without warning—the road—as it crew steeper and steeper.
On and upward I went.
After about an hour of uphill bliss, I met a lightweight roadie with absolutely no gear, cruising by quite effortlessly it appeared. Obviously, he was fit and had legs that looked like his muscles had muscles. After passing and taking a triple look, the guy slowed to my pace for a friendly chat. He asked if I’d ever ridden this route before. Of course, my answer was, “no”.
Knowing what I know now, the guy was likely measuring my gumption, stamina, or level of insanity. I’d like to think it was all three! Huffing and puffing throughout the conversation, the cyclist warned me about the upcoming “hill”. I was thinking, “Buddy, this IS a hill”. I’m sure he could see the painful joy in my eyes, so he followed the blow with a promise of gentle rolling hills for desert if I was able press onward towards Yant Flat. I thanked him and just like that he was gone. It happened so quickly, I almost thought I was hallucinating.
Then I saw it.
Hill? Ha. He meant mountain!
Now, keep in mind, I’m just in story telling mode. This was exactly the type of adventure and challenge I was looking for! If I wanted an easy ride, I would have went to fu-fu land and hired a shuttle bus to take me up so that I could ride downhill like a princess.
The views were beyond amazing. With a shift of the eyes, the terrain looked different in all directions. To the left was richly colored red rock while the right side offered a clear view of Signal Peak. Straight ahead, of course, an endless sea of dusty gravel that went upward like a never ending tidal wave. To the rear: plateaus and Zion-esque rock formations for as far as the eye could see. I’m sure I looked like a less scary version of the girl from the Exorcist, with my head spinning in every direction as I lugged myself up that mighty mountain.
The road was a complete tease (as seen in the photo above). I would ride, breathe, push, and grunt my way to the top, only it wasn’t really the top. After reaching the horizon, the road would shift, as if confronting me in the most aggressive of ways; my grit and resilience in question.
Somehow, weary legs and all, I managed to push on.
At one point, a very nice girl in a spunky little Subaru rolled by; a voice calling out from the partially lowered glass. I lowered my head to escape the bright sun when a bright white smile emerged from the shadows. Despite my inner calm, my face was apparently screaming a cry of help. The girl leaned towards me like the Cheshire Cat and said, “Is everything OK or is it just the hill?”. My brain quickly forced my lips to curve upward into a grin and I gave a convincing “All is well” to ensure her I was OK and it was definitely just the hill. I faintly heard a, “just checking” as the window rolled back up and the blue dot disappeared in a cloud of dust—a distant memory.
After nearly 2 hours of wondering if this beautiful yet unrelenting mountain climb would ever end, I reached the top!
It sure doesn’t look like much in this photo, but it was over 2,000 feet of climbing in about 3-4 miles. At this point, I still had about 6 miles to go to reach my final destination and I was a bit exhausted. I was banking on the fact that the mirage-like cyclist from earlier was truthful in his assurance that the next section would be easier in comparison.
The Decent (sort of)
After looking at the road ahead, I admit, I had my doubts as the road seemed to go on for miles and miles. Plus, I knew I had another 8-900 feet of climbing to go so I wouldn’t call it “easy” riding.
With a simultaneous tear and grin, I sped down the other side of the mountain as fast as I could safely go. It’s always difficult to enjoy the downhills as the sacrificial sweat bomb is devoured by the gods of evaporation with seemingly little appreciation for the effort it took to produce. Perhaps to some, the race downward is the true reward. Personally, I prefer the peaceful uphill struggle in comparison; masochistic I know.
They say there is no true downhill in Idaho. I would say that Utah is much of the same. The bottom appeared much quicker than expected and before I knew it, I hit the rollers. These slight ups and downs were a nice change of pace. If I switched gears properly, letting momentum replace effort, I was able to cruise fairly easily to the tops of each consecutive hill—energy conservation at its finest.
A few stops for photos and an hour later, I made it to the Yant Flat Trailhead. There were roughly 8-9 cars and it honestly didn’t look like much. The area was covered in a fine powder of red clay and short, stubby trees were scattered about. I started thinking, where in the world am I going to camp!?!
By this time, it was around 3pm. I needed to stake out a place to put my tent. Thankfully, I spotted 3 forest service roads that looked like promising places to call home for the night. I put my phone in my pocket, looked up, and saw that familiar smile from earlier as it called out, “That’s so impressive. You made it!”. We exchanged some friendly words as she congratulated me on my efforts. Then, again, that bright blue dot disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Renewed by a short rest, I peddled on. The first road didn’t pan out. It was up a very steep, rocky road that turned out to be a dead end. At first, disappointment flooded my weary heart.
I climbed back down, hands on breaks the entire way to keep my bike from getting away from me. Cruising down another 1/2 mile, I found the next road and it looked promising. Slowly but eagerly I walked among the dense tree lined road. Fine red sand found its way into my my shoes making my legs heavier with each passing step, but I didn’t care, I was focused. Then, the area opened up and a gigantic smile swept across my face.
In one instant, I was rejuvinated!
The space was more than I could have ever dreamed of with plenty of room if Pete and his son showed. I was on autopilot at this point and before I knew it, the tent was up, dinner in hand. Standing on the edge of the world, watching the sun go down over the canyon, I soaked in the stillness of the mountain. It was happiness in its purest form.
It then occurred to me that Pete may not get the text of my whereabouts. I walked back down to the bottom of the road to ensure that he got my message—in a more creative way.
Just before dark, I heard two voices; one big, one small. PETE! They made it. Then, not long after, a flashing light and another friend, Gabriel from Montreal, Canada showed. Just like that, one became four. We had a fantastic evening chatting while the boys made dinner and set up their tents.
The starts were out in full force. We called it a night fairly early as we were all exhausted from the day’s journey. I couldn’t help rising for one last look at the night’s sky around midnight. There was a peaceful calm in the air as I stood looking up at those twinkling lights. In that moment, I felt lucky to be alive.
Then of course, I took a picture 🙂
It was a crisp, cold night and despite not sleeping well, I was up at first light.
After a full morning of playing “pretend” with my new buddy Felix (Pete’s son), I was worn out! Four is a great age. I know I play hardcore anti-kiddo, but in reality, I’m a big softy. My weakness lingered in the air and like a wolf hunting his next meal—the kid attacked. Within 5 minutes (or less) Felix had me tossing him in the air, spinning circles, and playing with imaginary friends. We laughed and entertained one another four hours while the guys made coffee, breakfast, and packed up.
Since we were unable to hike the day before, we made it a point to check out Yant Flat before parting ways. I’m so glad we did!
Here are some photos from the hike:
After the hike, we went back to our bikes. I shared trail mix, Pete shared a bit of water; I went right, they went left.
Only 850 feet stood in my way of a long downhill swoosh back to the van. It was a cinch compared to the previous day! Instead of climbing 3,000 feet I was descending 3,000 feet and descend I did! The way to Yant Flat took 5 gruesome but amazing hours; the return home was barely two. I was flyin’!
Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happenDoe Zamtamata
It may seem silly, but I conquered a lot of fears on this trip. The fear of the unknown, animals that could eat me (oh, I forgot to mention the hundreds of mountain lion tracks), the uncertainty that I would encounter tarantulas (which in my mind was worse than mountain lions), camping alone, and did I mention, tarantulas? No kidding, I have one heck of an imagination!
How many of you are crippled by the fear of something? A fear that maybe keeps you from doing what you want to do in life?
Fear can be debilitating. It can hold us back, stunt our growth, even squash our dreams.
While I realize that I wasn’t completely alone, I set out on an adventure not knowing if anyone would show. There was no turning back. For that, I’m proud of my efforts to get one step closer to where I want to be.
False Evidence Appearing Real.
In the words of Charlie Day, “You don’t have to be fearless, just don’t let the fear stop you”.
Cheers to realizing your dreams and conquering your fears one baby step at a time!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time friends…..