TRUCKS X TRAILS
I squinted towards the neon lights of the Robber’s Roost motel as we rolled into town. It was only 8:30pm, but you’d think it 2am given the tranquility of small-town Green River, Utah – not a soul in sight. After cruising the strip in search of food, we settled on a little spot called Ray’s Tavern; choices are easy when you’ve only got one.
We snuck in just before closing – anything is good after 13 hours of driving but that cook whipped up some mean patties. You could tell it was a local’s hang out; well-worn furniture and a bar edge polished by years of elbows almost begged to share stories.
This was our last stop in civilization before heading into the unknown. After paying the bill, we rolled out of town and hit the dirt. Our first campsite pin was tucked in a narrow canyon surrounded by towering orange cliffs. The dirt roads leading to our site were rutted, the low spots filled with dried mud flows testament to the previous week’s heavy rains. The road wound through the canyon as I pitched the truck around the turns eventually revealing the perfect spot. The temperature falling fast, we made quick work of setting up shelter. Our friend, Austin, was driving separately and supposed to be rolling in soon; we decided to hit the sack and hoped he’d find us in the dark.
It’s hard to sleep when you’re cold, even with a decent sleeping bag and a down comforter, I was shivering in my tent and rest seemed like a pipe-dream. My ringtone broke the silence amidst my fruitless attempt to sleep. It was Austin, expected hours earlier – “Did you get my text? Not sure I’m going to make it tonight… or at all,” he said.
I looked at my phone and saw a photo of his truck on the side of the road resting on the front brake rotor, his fender was smashed upward into the door. “You lost your wheel?” I asked. “No, I found it,” Austin said. “It went through a ditch and into a horse corral near the highway. I’m getting towed a few hundred miles away from you to a Ram dealer. My wheel passed me while going 80 down the highway… I’ll call you in the morning and we can figure things out.” Suffice is to say this wasn’t how the trip was supposed to start.
The rising sun awoke us from our frozen slumber; we emerged from our icy tents to convene in the warmth of the morning glow. The grey soil bathed in the warm light. Looking around, I could already see the lines. From the initial review of our surroundings, we were in for a treat.
My excitement was quickly hampered in remembering the 3am phone call.
“Where’s Austin?” asked Sammy. I brought Sammy and Tommy up to speed on Austin’s situation. Naturally, things became more complicated given Austin had all of our food, two bikes and our cooking supplies. We decided to call him to figure out what to do next. On the other end of the phone, a clearly exhausted Austin reported that he had spent the night in his truck, beached on three wheels, in the service lot by the tow truck – afraid someone would steal his stuff while he slept, he spent the entire night awake.
The dealer had the Hubs and Brakes in stock to get his truck rolling again but he was bummed. “I’m just going to drive home after I sleep a bit; come meet me and get the food,” his voice crackled in the phone. That meant a 5-hour detour south and away from the staked camp site and riding zone and an entire day of the trip lost. After talking with the crew, we had no choice… if Austin didn’t want to come, we had to drive south and meet him. In our discussion, we decided our goal of the detour would be to rally Austin to rejoin the trip. Without him, we’d be a one-truck show that started as three; we’d lost our buddy Cody before we even left LA!
We drove to his GPS pin and found him asleep in his tent in a dirt lot. His truck was mangled, but still drivable despite the tire smashed fender. After a sandwich, some sleep and a bit of peer pressure, we had Austin’s mood turned around. With a bunch of high fives, and freshly filled tanks we headed north back to Green River, Utah.
We decided to check out a different spot, Blue Castle, on the advice of local MTB ripper, Erik Hendrickson. The satellite imagery revealed it to be a bit more extensive than the previous campsite; we rolled the dice and set the coordinates. Our pin led us down a farm road that meandered away from a little town back into the hills. The flat farmland began to elevate and the soil transformed to the familiar grey. Good visibility meant we could make up some time in the dirt. Austin and I weaved back and forth in each other’s dust, flying along at 40-50mph. Even loaded with gear, the trucks stayed composed and didn’t skip a beat. As we hammered along, we could see the riding zone from the satellite maps emerging in the distance.
Our eyes lit up and Tommy and I instantly started pointing out lines. Our group decided to set up camp then explore. The zone was a wonderland of lines. It was like nothing any of us had ever seen or ridden before.
At the center was a towering formation with steep chute lines that branched into finger-like ridges at the bottom. Jumps and previous hits from bike movies I grew up watching traced the landscape. It was surreal to ride a place normally reserved for the pros as an average Joe. By the time we finished scouting, dusk fell and we headed back to the trucks to fire up the Skottle to cook dinner. The trip south to grab Austin proved worth the effort when he unveiled a cornucopia of good eats for the group. With full bellies, we crawled into our sleeping bags.
The next morning, it was game on. We geared up anxious to get some shots in the bag while riding dream lines. We’ve watched enough videos to know you don’t just drop in here. Everything is bigger and way gnarlier than it seems at first glance. Features that looked small as we walked around the day before were actually 20-30 foot gaps and many lines that appeared rideable from a distance boarded suicidal.
On the way up the spire, I scouted a steep side-chute and decided it to be our first victim. It’s one of the steepest lines we’ve ridden, but manageable once we broke into the soft soil under the crust. I rolled up to the chute and dropped in only to immediately rethink my game plan. The soft soil I’d hoped for wasn’t as soft under the tires – the braking traction just wasn’t there. Normally I wouldn’t mind opening it up, but the line had a five foot drop part way through. At speed, that five feet could quickly turn into a whole lot more. When in doubt, throttle out, right? Again, the decision was easy with only one option as there’s no stopping on stuff this steep. After a white-knuckle ride down the face I made it onto the lower ridge at break neck speed. Of all the places I’ve ridden my bike, none have ever been as exhilarating as Green River.
The next morning, Austin treated us to some burritos. We cooked chorizo, eggs and hash browns and topped it all with salsa and guac. Pro tip: if you ever do a camping trip, invite a friend that has a portable fridge set up! With Tommy left to lounge at camp after an injury the day before, Sammy, Austin and I took to the hills in search of more lines.
After a few days on the front terrain, it was time to explore the back. Though we had only seen them from afar, there were several promising ridgelines that grew from a steep central face under a bright orange cliff. As was becoming a theme in the Green River zone, the terrain looks more ridable the further you are from it. Once you’ve called out a line, there’s no going back. A double drop line had been haunting me all week. I knew it would be gnarly, but wanted to push myself. Sammy cued up the drone, there was no turning back.
After taking more chicken runs than I’d like to admit, I told myself I’d send it on the next one. There’s always an odd feeling when you push yourself to do something you know is toeing the line on the wrong side of your comfort zone. In 30 seconds time, you can either be in a world of hurt or at the bottom celebrating with your friends. Taking a deep breath, I rolled in – my mind forcing my body. I don’t think I took another breath until my victory yell as the high fives went around. With a massive sigh of relief, we headed back to the trucks for a final dinner before heading out. There’s no better feeling then leaving a riding spot knowing you hit every line you wanted to send and successfully pushed yourself in the process. To say it’s exhilarating wouldn’t do it justice. This was the coolest terrain I have ever put my tires on.
With the riding in Green River checked off the list, we set our sights for the next camp spot – a waterfall near Zion National Park. Austin had been before sharing tales of its picturesque serenity. The drive in was said to be miles of rough roads with plenty of opportunities to stretch the trucks’ legs. This was our chance to really get after it in the trucks as we were hankering for some solid seat time.
We fueled up in town, replenished the firewood and headed back out. Austin led as we climbed the road up to the falls. Pavement turned to dirt and we felt right at home. The rocky soil made for a rough, cobbled road full of square edges and rock slabs. It’s the kind of place that would put you in a world of hurt driving in a stock vehicle at anything above a crawl. The beginning was rocky and technical from the recent rains erosion of the surface. Getting ample chance to stuff the 37’s into our fenders, we climbed further up the trail, tires clawing for grip on the rock slabs. Following the climb, the road opened into sweeping corners along a steep hill that were the perfect width to let the trucks run at 40mph+ as they trailed massive clouds of red dust. While all our gear didn’t appreciate the roller coaster, we were all smiles as we carved the dirt canyons.
Behind us, a perfect sunset lit up our dust and made for some incredible views. The road dropped downward and the shrubs grew denser. As we emerged from a cluster of trees, the sight of a picture-perfect waterfall greeted us. The best part? There wasn’t a soul in sight!
We made quick work to pop out the roof top tents and took a beeline for the falls. After not showering for a week, a dip in the creek sounded perfect. We basked in the 70-degree temps in an attempt to forget the low 30’s to which we were subjected in Green River. Utopia comes to mind.
We whipped up a spaghetti and meatballs feast on the skottle and discussed the plan for the following morning. Sitting around the campfire, we planned out our last big breakfast – everything left in the fridge – and a day spent hanging out in the sun by the falls. Though we had planned to leave in the morning to head home a group decision postponed the departure to the afternoon for a little more time at the falls. We all hopped in our tents lulled to sleep by the Mother Nature’s white-noise courtesy of the falls. This was set to be our best night yet.
Seem too perfect? Shortly after falling asleep, my whole truck was shaking violently from side to side. The rain fly on my tent whipped around. I stuck my head out the zippered door and was smacked with freezing wind and clouds of dust. I could barely make out Sammy’s sleeping bag flying sideways with him in it. In a mater of minutes, our tranquil scene was shattered by an intense windstorm. The forecast had warned about winds but we figured we’d be safe this deep in the canyon. The night dragged on forever as the winds howled and tore through camp. Morning came and we recounted our cumulative 30 minutes of sleep. Covered in dust and yelling over the wind and flying dirt, we all agreed to hightail it to town for a warm breakfast inside anywhere with walls.
A small hole in the wall breakfast joint answered the call as the steaming food and coffee lifted our spirits. Bedraggled from the miserable night, we shook off our negativity opting to make the most of the day; off to Sand Hollow for some fun in the trucks!
Having just finished my Dominator suspension build, I was excited to give it a proper high-speed break in on some sand. Austin had also recently installed some new parts and was itching for some wide open sending.
Utah’s incredible landscape once again blew us away when we saw the bright red sands of Sand Hollow Park. Miles of sandy double track roads and dunes boarder a lake at the center of the park. With no itinerary, we set out for a little fourth vs third gen shake down. Both trucks soaked up whoops and chatter like nothing – the faster we went, the better they handled. It was my first time really driving on sand, I am hooked. The sensation of floating while throwing the trucks sideways was controlled chaos but strangely comfortable. The howling wind wasn’t a bother inside the cabs; conversely made for one hell of a roost show!
After miles of aimless driving, we found the perfect curved dune and took turns throwing the trucks into the massive banked corner. Coming down the straight away at full throttle, we’d carve up and onto the dune as sand flew over the roof of the trucks. We ran repeats to see who could get the biggest spray of sand roosted up. After spending most of the day in our trucks shoveling and compacting the red sand, we decided it was time to head back to home.
With sore bodies, a hurt ankle, a busted truck, and a million good memories packed in the quiver, we hit the road. Few things on the trip had gone according to plan – sometimes you have to scrap the playbook and embrace the adventure. Everyone agree, it was one hell of a time. It’s always a bit daunting trying to organize an adventure that far from home; with the help of a few friends that share your wanderlust ability to adapt, the cards are stacked in favor of an awesome trip. As we drove south towards SoCal, radio chatter quickly turned to plans for the next trip. I guess we didn’t get enough. Then again, that’s probably why we do all this in the first place.
We want to say a massive thank you to everyone that made this trip possible, including Erik Hendrickson and Austin French for the invaluable advice and location guidance.