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ATV Adventures: A prosperous ride on the Poverty Flats Trail

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jun 1, 2023
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Working our way across a slick rock bench on the Poverty Flats Trail.
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Climbing out on top of the slick rock on the Poverty Flats Trail.
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Working our way through off-camber slick rock on the Poverty Flats Trail.
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Lynn Blamires

The Poverty Flats Trail was one of the ride choices offered at the 2023 Red Rock ATV/UTV Jamboree in Kanab. I was fortunate to be able to land a spot on this ride with Dale Grange as our guide. He is a member of the Tri-State OHV Club and he is very familiar with Southern Utah trails.

This ride is rated “advanced.” I never know what that means until I have been on the ride, but I survived. It involved some steep, slick rock that turned out to be really fun.

We trailered to the drop point, but the beauty of the red rock country added to the ride. We took Highway 89 north out of Kanab to Mount Carmel Junction and turned west on Highway 9. We staged at a beautiful shady campground by the Buffalo Ranch about 10 miles from the junction.

Dale took us on a spur southwest of the staging area to an overlook of the Virgin River Canyon and of the area we would be riding. This is some amazing country.

After backtracking to the campground, the trail took us south into the country we had just seen from the overlook. We began to descend a dugway that was cut right out of the side of the mountain and it was definitely a one-way trail. Because it hugged the side of the mountain, it was anything but straight. It was also a slow descent, which gave us plenty of opportunity to take in the wonderful colors in the rocky scenery. As we descended, we could see the trail far below take off across the canyon floor.

Reaching the floor of that canyon, we took the trail we could see from above. It took us on an arc back on a northwesterly track. That is when we came to the reason for the “advanced” difficulty rating. We came to the base of a steep section of slick rock that required us to climb up out of a wash and then take a sharp left to keep from running over the spotter. It was definitely one of those “woo hoo” moments.

From that point, we were riding some fun slick-rock trails. We had to face the same challenges coming back that we encountered going to the end of the trail — only the ups were downs and the downs were ups because the trail didn’t make a loop.

On the way back, we came to a junction and turned south on another spur that took us down near the bottom of a canyon where the East Fork of the Virgin River flows. Here we took a break for lunch. We were just east of a landmark known as “The Barracks,” a short hike to a panel of pictographs, and a stone’s drop from the Virgin River (we were above the river).

“The Barracks” is a name given to a narrow stretch of the Virgin River that passes between two very steep high cliffs. It takes a serious hike to enjoy it. The pictograph panel features a likeness of Bart Simpson, but you would have to see it to believe it.

In researching what history I could find about Poverty Flats, I learned that there are many places in the country with that name and they seem to all be associated with different kinds of hardships. I found a mine with that name that turned out to be a bust, a section of a city with that label that was the poor side of town, and a place in the west that was hard to grow crops. After making this trip, I could see that this is a place that would be difficult to grow crops and eke out a living. It is a country with a raw and rugged beauty.

Having topped off our tummies, we got back on the trail retracing our tracks back to the trucks. So it was back across the canyon floor and back up the dugway. The one thing I enjoy about in-and-out trails is that you get to experience the same trail from the opposite direction, and the new perspective is like a new trail.

We finished a ride of about 31 miles in 5 ½ hours and as we left the trailhead, we could see the buffalo grazing at the ranch. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and may you have a prosperous ride on the Poverty Flats Trail.

Contact Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.


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