This weekend we decided to test out both the sport and utilitarian value of our new Ford Explorer. New is figurative as it is new to us with over 150k miles. No matter that the AWD is broken and the door handles sometimes need persuasion, for what we paid for it, it was a sweet deal. The AWD transfer case will be swapped out for an 4x4 transfer case from an F-150 in the near future. This will allow 4hi and 4lo for snow and dirt, as well as a urban behaving 2wd all connected with a nice manual shifter. This will solve some of the recurring issues with the AWD system. Anyway, back to this weekend.
First we went camping at Dry Canyon campground in Diamond Fork Canyon. It is a really nice tent-site campground replete with bathrooms and running water. The water of course runs down the creek adjacent to the camp sites. It is only potable (by which I assume that it meets the requirements to be placed in a pot) after filtering it. This gave us a great opportunity to test our the Katydyn water filter Alexandria's parents got us for Christmas. It worked well. Pure mountain spring water bottled at the source. This trip allowed us to test many things besides the truck and the water filter. It was the first time we've been camping together after the time we met on the ward campout. We finally used some of the gifts we got as wedding presents. During the experience we were able to identify other things that we may need as gifts to make camping a more pleasant experience. Below is a picture of the campground
The coordinates of the campground are N 40 04.831' W 111 21.792' as provided by Sam and lead you directly to the bathroom of the campground.
We stayed the night and it was really great. The weather was really nice as the sun was out and the predicted rain did not fall. Due to rain earlier in the week, the humidity was low and the canyon was about 65 F. That night it probably dropped to the 40s. The next morning we got up and ate pop-tarts. We packed up camp and I snapped a few pictures.
We drove up Diamond Fork Road for about a mile and arrived at the Three forks trail head. There were several guys gearing up to take dirt bikes out on another trail. We packed our backpacks with our freshly filtered water and changed into our swimsuits. We started hiking to the Fifth Water Hot springs. It is about a 2.5 mile hike to get to the springs. There are several warnings along the trail advising hikers that nude bathers might be present. There were none, in fact, we saw about five families hiking the trail that morning. The springs are located adjacent to a mountain creek right after a water fall. The springs and a portion of the creek flow into pools to create a nice warm pool. In all there are three hot springs pools along the creek.
You could smell the sulfur on the way up the trail but the springs themselves were quite bearable. We hiked back down the trail and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Alexandria also used this break to apply some deodorant.
After lunch we got in the Explorer and drove about 10 miles to the Wardsworth Trailhead. The first few miles were on a narrow paved road but then we left the pavement for a dirt and gravel road that wound through the mountain between groves of Aspen and Birch trees. Apparently our GPS prefers paved roads as it estimated our arrival time as an hour and a half later. After defying the sound advice of the British lady giving directions several times, I was surprised to learn that the outdated NavTeq maps loaded in the system actually had the off-road trail we used to get to the bike trail. Once the GPS realized that we were stubborn enough to descend the face of the mountain on gravel switchbacks, the arrival time was set for only a few minutes later. We got to the trail head and could smell our brakes. Once we add the 4wd transfer case, we'll be able to put the truck in 4lo and have a controlled descent without toasting the brake pads. We arrived at N 40 11.735' W 111 23.505' Alt=6050' and unloaded our bikes. We intended to bike up the mountain about 3 miles, turn around, and head back down. The ride up for the most part was uneventful, as was the downhill portion back to the car. It was the middle section that turned hairy as our 6-mile ride turned into an 11 mile adventure.
As we neared the top, we met another group of novice bikers who were also riding the trail for the first time. We thought they were experience bikers as each was on an expensive bike, it turned out that they had walked most of their uphill climb. We were about to turn around and head back down the way we came but instead decided to follow them on another trail around the mountain back to the car. It was supposed to be longer but a much more mild downhill ride back to the main road. The owner of all the bikes, and an avid mountain biker of two-years, looked at the map I had brought and decided that we should turn left on an ATV trail to cut across the mountain. Mind you, we were on a clearly blazed trail at the time, but we followed thinking that the biker was somewhat experienced. As we were faster than their group, we went on ahead on the smooth ATV trail. After two miles, we realized that the trail looped back on itself and led nowhere. Now lost and not wanting to retrace our ride up the hill, we found a narrower trail cutting across the ridge with obvious horseshoe prints. The trail was shared by bikers, hikers, and equestrians, so we figured it would lead somewhere good. It did not. The trail dissipated, the bushes overgrew the way, and we scratched ourselves up trying to follow through the bush. I finally decided it was time to turn around when we got to the very end of the ridge and it just dropped off. Judging by the rapid branching of the trail and the abundance of cow poop I suspected that the trail we had followed was carved by a herd of cattle grazing. My suspicions were confirmed as we encountered a puzzled herd of cows on our way back. Although I didn't tell Alexandria, there were times when I had to stop and look for our own tire tracks to get back. She would have freaked out even more if she had known.
The cow trail, perhaps sometimes used by the rancher lead back the other way across the ridge the same way we had come on the ATV trail. There was a stock pond used for the cattle at the place we were going to turn around. We figured that the cattle would most likely go to the pond to drink and that this trail would lead us back there. We followed it and in fact were able to return to pond where we had started our adventure. From there we turned down the trail we came up. In the end, the downhill trail was not that bad. Certainly not bad enough for us to chance taking another way down. Fortunately, the weather stayed cool durning our entire ride and we didn't run out of water. Below is a picture of the proposed trail and the way we actually went. The difference should be clear. We were quite tired by the time we got home and had done all of that in less than 24 hours. It was a fun trip though and we would definitely camp at Dry Canyon again, bike this trail again, and make the hike to the springs again. The off-road adventure may be put on hold as they are planning some road construction soon. I really hope they don't pave the roads up there, as that would be no fun.