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The CommUtah - An 8 Day Epic through Utah's Wasatch Mountains to Moab

Whyte USA Marketing and Sales manager made history last week, riding over 450 miles of trail from Salt Lake City, Utah to Moab. Justin and his crew (the commute crew) were the first Mt bikers to ever complete this route. They covered trails like Wasatch Crest, Great Western Trail, 5th Water, Center Trail, Skyline Drive, Reeder Canyon, Rock Canyon, Good Water Rim Trail, Buckhorn Wash, Black Dragon Wash and the Magnificent 7, CommUtah covered some of the most diverse and awe striking terrain in North America.

Justin completed the route on Whyte's 29-C  carbon hardtail, a perfect bike for the long epic journey through the Wasatch Mountains. Light and stiff for the long climbs, yet slack enough to tackle the rough terrain. Below you will find the route and description of the CommUtah day by day. Enjoy!

CommUtah Day 1 – 32 miles and 5600 feet of climbing

Words - Kurt Gensheimer  Photos- James Adamson

Before embarking on our 430-mile journey from Salt Lake City to Moab, friends warned us the first few miles up Mill Creek Canyon might involve a moose encounter, but the only encounters we had today were with fellow humans and canines. Clearly Utah takes their outdoor recreation seriously, because on a sunny and warm Friday morning, throngs of hikers and their furry friends took to the trails up Mill Creek Canyon.Right from the first pedal strokes of CommUtah our legs and lungs seared with stinging pain, thanks to the relentlessly steep half-mile climb up Rattlesnake Trail to access Pipeline Trail. After recovering from bloody lung, the ride up Pipeline was rather enjoyable. We soon reached the Big Water Trailhead and encountered our first dilemma of the trip. Turns out there is an even-odd day access rule in this area,and on this odd day, mountain bikes were verboten;hikers and dogs only. We were miffed, as turning around at this point was not an option, so we pressed on, walking our bikes up the trail to minimize the potential stink-eye from non-bike trail users.Only a couple hundred meters up the trail, a woman was carrying what looked to be a 75-pound dog down the trail. She told us the dog had cut its belly open on a rock. James offered to carry the dog back to the car for her and she happily obliged. Justin and I were hoping this would be the good karma we needed to avoid receiving a ticket for being unintentional scofflaws, and it was. Everyone we encountered was exceedingly friendly.

We climbed the Great Western Trail to the Wasatch Crest and headed south towards Park City a midst an awe striking array of aspen groves and their yellows, oranges and reds. After reaching 10,000 feet elevation, we railed down world-class Park City singletracks like Shadow Lake, Keystone and Two Step For dessert, we finished with the tight and technical John’s Trail to Sweeny’s Switchbacks.

Thanks to the generosity of Rhonda Sideris of Park City Lodging,we had a beautiful four-bedroom home waiting for us only a couple hundred yards from where we popped out into town. It was an incredible finish to a beautiful and rather mellow first day of CommUtah. Tomorrow will be much more difficult, climbing out of Park City to Brighton, then along Ridge Trail all the way to Sundance Resort for a total of about 50 miles and 7,500 feet of climbing.

https://www.strava.com/activities/400137220

Day 2

Words - Kurt Gensheimer  Photos- James Adamson

After a restful night’s sleep, James, Justin and I began the day with a rather enjoyable yet long 10-mile climb leaving Park City, riding up Armstrong to Pinecone Ridge trail. Upon reaching nearly 10,000 feet elevation, I was amazed to see how many mountain bikers surrounded us at the top of Puke Hill. Folks of all ages, out for a beautiful late September ride.

We dropped down Puke Hill and eventually into Brighton before taking on the extremely steep and rocky Catherine’s Pass Trail, which was the first stretch of several long hike-a-bikes to come. When we were able to ride short sections of the trail, dozens of hikers cheered and clapped, inspiring us to push a little harder. We pushed our way up and over boulder fields to 10,000 feet and were rewarded with the first descent of the day; Dry Fork.

In a word, Dry Fork was rowdy. An extremely steep, sandy, loose and rocky moto trail descent, Dry Fork had us surfing our bikes more than actually riding them. The plus size tires really came in handy on this brake-burner of a descent, making the terrain easier to manage. Once we reached the bottom, the three of us were ecstatic, not so much because the trail was awesome, but more because nobody suffered a compound fracture.

An extremely disagreeable hike-a-bike up the Great Western Trail had us cursing a storm, until we met our good friend Scott House at the top. Scott is a backcountry guide for White Pine Touring, and the man responsible for laying out the first three days of trails for us. His route so far had been amazing, but we had no idea what we were in for with him on Ridge Trail.

Quite simply, Ridge Trail provided some of the most incredible singletrack descents I’ve ever experienced anywhere. Once the short, stabbing uphills ended, this moto-legal trail absolutely let loose, sending us downhill so fast that hoots and hollers suddenly erupted from all four of us. The beauty of the terrain in the shadow of Mount Timpanogos was seriously testing my lexicon of superlatives. And just when I didn’t think it could get better, we rounded a corner to find a hunter with a rifle and what looked to be his brother dragging a dead buck along the trail. That was a first for me.

After a few painful uphill stabs, the rip-roaring descent continued, careening down Lame Horse trail all the way into Sundance. More descending. This time down pavement, topping 50 mph, blasting past cars down into Provo Canyon. We climbed up to Deer Creek Lake State Park and found my girlfriend, Elisabeth waiting for us with a campground and a pasta dinner. It was an incredibly tough yet rewarding day that could have only been better if Utah didn’t have such weak beer.

 Day 3

CommUtah Day 3

Words - Kurt Gensheimer  Photos- James Adamson

Today we attacked Strawberry Ridge, covering 51 miles and 7,100 feet of some brutal climbing between the town of Wallsburg and 5th Water Hot Spring. The day started out mellow, with a nice eight-mile cruise along pavement from Deer Creek Lake State Park where we camped, through Wallsburg and up to Little Valley, where we were greeted by a flock of sheep. The climbing continued until we reached a turnoff for Strawberry Ridge, where the ascent suddenly turned mental. The ATV road was a seemingly never ending rock-strewn hike-a-bike about as fun as a spike in the eye. At least the electric yellows, reds and oranges of the aspens temporarily helped quell my tempest of expletives.

 

After a lunch break and a stop at a spring at the top, a hunter on an ATV came upon us and exclaimed, “Are them push bikes?! Thunder and lightning! I ain’t never seen nobody up here with those. You legs must be harder than rocks.” Not sure about that, but our heads definitely are. The hundreds of cattle and sheep we encountered were equally as curious as the hunter. Clearly these parts don’t see much mountain bike traffic.

The commanding views of Strawberry Reservoir and Spanish Fork Canyon on either side of the ridge were absolutely stunning, almost making the painful slog worthwhile. The terrain coming off the ridge was treacherous, a mix of jeep and ATV roads riddled with rocks, man-eating ruts and powdery dirt that covered us all in a layer of red silt. The trails were so dusty that after following Justin and me downhill, James proclaimed, “I think I just swallowed a sandcastle.”

The highlight of the day by far was the last 10 miles of ripping downhill on 5th Water Ridge Trail, a singletrack that flows with remarkable speed and fun hip jumps, descending 3,000 feet into a canyon lined with maple trees showing off their vibrant red fall colors. With only two miles left in the ride, we stopped at the beautiful 5th Water Hot Spring for a quick soak. The muscles are sore, but the three of us are hanging tough after two challenging 50-mile days in a row. Tomorrow looks to be about the same.

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Justin Schwartz
Justin Schwartz

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