Day 28: Blanding to Fry Canyon UT 55 miles with 3000 feet of climbing
After sleeping poorly and getting up early to get an early start on my desert ride, I was able to stop after only fifty five, rather spectacular, miles. My other options: go on another 23 miles to Lake Powell and wild camp or go on another 72 miles to Hanksville. When I left Blanding this morning, I was not sure that this option existed, so I prepared for riding to Lake Powell. Once I knew that I could, I chose the civilized option of staying at the Fry Canyon Lodge tonight and riding to Hanksville tomorrow. The Fry Canyon Lodge is a long way from anything (see above), and pretty much cut off from the world so I can't upload this report from here (a satellite phone at $2/minute?), but I can work on making web pages from my recent ride reports and I can have a nice supper and I can get a good night's sleep. Sounds like a good deal to me. Oh, and the scenery is quite nice too. I hope the sky is clear tonight - the stars should be beautiful out here!
Platypus in Arkel pannier
Stuff removed from Arkel to make room
Sandals and Dopp Kit
Platypus in Ortlieb pannier
on top of clothing in pannier
I got up at 6 AM (not a big deal to most of you, but very early for me - yawn), got the bike ready with the equivalent of six extra water bottles in two Platypus Water Tanks, and got to the restaurant at 6:45 for breakfast. Service was little slow - they were sleepy too - but the breakfast was excellent. At 7:15 I was on the road heading south and downhill towards UT 95. At the motel, the owner had told me about Fry Canyon Lodge, so, when I turned onto 95 a few miles south of Blanding, I was pleased to see a sign reading 'next services 52 mi.'
I talked to the owner of the Sunset Motel in Blanding about 95 and he said it wasn't very hilly. So what is this 8% grade sign I see a short distance from the start? Whoosh down - with heavy braking since there are sharp curves - and crank up a few hundred feet vertical. Then we get some nice, fairly flat riding, then another long whoosh down and a gradual climb out changing to a steeper climb. This is beginning to feel a bit like the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Then, maybe ten miles in, there is this spectacular cut through a mesa with a 5% slope sign before it. That 5% slope goes on down into a deep canyon for almost two miles! We drop from 5500 feet to 4800 feet at the bottom of Comb Wash. Then we climb, and climb, and climb, for about six miles and over 2000 feet vertically to Salvation Knoll. At this point we've come 25 miles on 95 and climbed 2500 feet, most of it in the last six miles. The scenery is spectacular and the climbing is tiring.
Comb Wash - the site of the above cut - as seen from near Salvation Knoll
After Salvation Knoll, riding is basically downhill, and therefore much easier than it had been, to Fry Canyon. The road surface deteriorates, but riding is still good. There is very little traffic on this road, a vehicle every fifteen minutes or less, so I only ride on the shoulder when I hear someone coming. The road to Natural Bridges is in a flat, boring part of 95, but after UT 276 heads off towards Halls crossing, the scenery improves with great mesas and buttes above really deep canyons. The neatest butte, Cheese Box Butte, is visible for miles.
As I rode west and then north, the clouds that had been blocking the sun dissipated and temperatures climbed into the mid 80s. This was offset by the increasing west wind, but it was still looking to be hot windy riding this afternoon. I rode for about five hours and stopped a bit after 1 PM. I expect riding will be nicer tomorrow morning, but these folks don't start serving breakfast till 7:30, so I guess I'll just have to sleep in. Sigh.