Looking for one more good ATV adventure to round out the year, I was watching the weather in Southern Utah. The temperatures in Kane County were registering in the mid 50s. I talked six other riders into a trip the first week of December. We planned to meet a guide from the Tri-State Jamboree at Mt. Carmel Junction; the turn-off to Zion National Park.
As the time approached for the trip, the weather began to deteriorate in the north, but we were confident that conditions would be good in Kane County. Leaving in good spirits, we watched the gauge measuring outside temperature on my Suburban as we made our way south. Hoots of nervous laughter rang out as we went over the pass at Scipio and the gauge read 12 degrees and again over the pass near Beaver when the temperature dropped to 10. It got very quiet at the summit traveling on Highway 20 to Panguitch when the gauge dropped to -3 degrees. Our combined hope could not raise the reading past 17 degrees by the time we reached our destination.
In the morning we had breakfast in the restaurant, delaying our departure to give the sun every opportunity to warm things up. We were so bundled up as we headed for the trailhead, we were afraid to drop something for fear we wouldn't be able to bend over and pick it up.
We met our guide at a staging area in the river bottom just a little south of the junction and began our ride. Following a trail near Highway 89, we traveled southeast into Yellow Jacket Canyon. Turning right, we hugged the base of the mountains until we came to a finger of the Canyon that extended off to our right. We traveled through the narrow gorge to an overhang.
The cliff dropped hundreds of feet straight down into a huge box canyon. We saw evidence where water from heavy rains had eroded the edge as it shot over this cliff into the box canyon and down into the East Fork of the Virgin River. We were reminded of the destruction of homes along the banks of the Virgin River in St. George several years ago.
The day was warming up and we began to take off some layers of clothing. We felt more comfortable as we regained some of our flexibility.
We came back out of the gorge and continued through the main canyon. Climbing out of the valley to the top of the 6,500 foot high table-top of Harris Mountain, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the distant views.
Moving down the mountain, we skirted Ham's point and headed for the East Fork of the Virgin River Canyon. Steep red-rock cliffs rose on both sides of the gorge, brightly illuminated by the afternoon sun. We stopped to watch several bald eagles soaring across the cliff face in inspirational sweeps as they searched for prey.
As we came down to the stream, I noticed a thick layer of ice extending out from the banks on both sides while the river flowed freely in the middle. I watched with fascination as the first rider started to cross. He slipped a little on top of the ice before the weight of his machine broke through. His tires grabbed the bottom and then he had to break through the ice on the other side before climbing out. We followed with raised feet, icy water coming up over the axels as we made our passage. I counted 23 more crossings on the way back to the trucks, each one deep enough to get our feet wet. The next morning I happened to notice that Mike Arbon's Suzuki King Quad was still carrying thick slabs of ice just in front of his forward axel. We figured that it had been a cold night.
When you go, watch the weather. We had a great time, but when you ride with the wind, it is nice to have a smile on your face and not a grimace. Take plenty of water, tread lightly, and keep the rubber side down.