Zen On Dirt

Lockhard Basin+: How to blow one of two turns on a route

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I’ve had Lockhart Basin on my radar for a few years now. Maybe it got there from when Gypsy By Trade rode it on their southward migration before staying with us in Tucson, and then solidified when Scott Pauker took the same route on his way to visit us (and keep going south). Anyway, it looked like an amazing stretch of road connecting the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab to Moab, paralleling the eastern side of White Rim on the other side of the Colorado River. 60-some odd miles, there was no good way to loop it on a day trip or a bikepack. And setting up a shuttle would have entailed 100+ extra miles of driving. Yuck.

Scott and I hatched a plan. He’d ride from Moab southward. I’d drive to Needles, leave the car and ride northward. Scott would pick up the car and drive it to Milts, where we’d meet up for malts, tots, and burgers. We convinced Julie to come along, as the road had been on her List of Shit to Do in Moab as well, and this method of shuttling took much of the hassle out of riding the route.

It was already light when alarms went off at 5:30. We dropped Scott off in town and pointed the van south, riding by 8am.


The first major obstacle was a raging Indian Creek. Not really. But we did take our shoes off to avoid wet tootsies for the day.


The riding was divine. We had the trending downwards direction, getting to lose 1,000 feet by the time we got to Moab, and the road surface was smooth and fast.


Things were going seamlessly until we got to this sign.


From the angle we approached it, the straight arrow looked to be pointing to the road on the left. Julie saw Hurrah Pass 33 and the straight arrow, interpreted as pointing to the left, and decided in her head that we should go left. I saw Lockhart Canyon left, and since the route was called Lockhart Basin, I decided that we had to go left. We both ignored the Colorado River part.

We stopped to look at the GPS, Yep, we’ve gone 19 miles. And went left.

And since we’d stopped at a giant sign, I didn’t bother to pull the GPS out again to make sure we were on the track.


6 (very) sandy miles passed. Beautiful miles, but sandy. I spend the time pondering how to break it to Scott that he was going to have to climb many miles of potentially unrideable sand on his southward traversal.

Then we saw a sign that said ‘Entering Canyonlands National Park’. I thought ‘How odd.’

Then there were tamarisk trees, only found directly on water. ‘That’s strange,’ I thought. ‘There’s no water on this route. How are there tamarisks here?’

Then we dead-ended into the Colorado River.

There were two turns on this route that we had to make. Two. And we’d managed to blow one of them. We paid for it with the 6 mile sand slog back to the intersection, befuddled about how both of us could have screwed it up.


But we did. Whoops? Bonus miles?


We kept pedaling, because really, that’s all that we could do. Eventually, we ran into Scott coming the other direction, wondering what was taking us so long. I admitted to our mistake. He laughed. I’m generally not the navigator on our trips, and I hadn’t put in the effort to put a GPS mount on my bike for this trip so that I could keep an eye on the track. ‘There are two turns, we’ll be fine!’ I’d said the night before.

I’d love to say I learned a lesson, but that’s probably a lie.


Unfortunately, we both burnt a lot of energy points fighting the sand, and more importantly, dawdled away the cooler part of the day. I was sure that Julie would never want to come adventure with me again, but I did feel a little better about the fact that it was a mutual decision to turn left instead of right.


We could tell we were getting closer to Moab when the moto traffic increased. Motorcycles, jeeps, idiots, kids, families. Everyone and their mother was out on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Scott had told us of riding by countless camps of sleeping people through the Kane Creek Valley, now they were all awake and driving motorized vehicles somewhat out of control.


Hurrah Pass was a bit of a junk show and I was happy to get up and over it. From there, just ten more miles (with one major-ish) climb back to town. Down Kane Creek filled with the moto rally participants, the air filled with camp fire smoke and dust.


Erosion is pretty amazing

I did get to see a Blackheaded Grosbeak down by the river, which is a cool bird!


Finally, back. Several hours after our planned arrival, thanks to our detour, giggling at the extra adventure.

We noted, a day later, that it wouldn’t have been fitting to do a ride that big and not have something go wrong and create an extra element of adventure. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten lost.  I think I need to do it more often.



One thought on “Lockhard Basin+: How to blow one of two turns on a route

  1. Lovely! So glad y’all rode that awesome stretch. I obviously did it North to South, but remember those signs, despite how few, to be a bit confusing. I def confirmed GPS along the way! Big hugs from the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route!

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