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ATV Adventures: The Buckmaster Trail – Another ride at the Watermelon Crawl

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Apr 11, 2024
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One of the many ghost mines that dot the area west of Green River.
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This is rugged country, not a pretty mountain trail, but so interesting to explore.
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The dugway we rode down into the valley on the Green River Watermelon Crawl.
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Lynn Blamires

The Buckmaster Trail is the one I chose for the second day of the Green River Watermelon Crawl after deciding that my little single-seat Polaris Ace would not do so well on the trail I first chose. It was a great choice.

The Buckmaster is a trail I have ridden before, but the route we took on this ride made it new for me. The road I thought was the Buckmaster turned out to be a county road that connects with Buckmaster Road further north. This route began in Green River.

My grandson, Mark, and I fell in line as the group headed west from Green River on 100 South. Mark rides behind me to keep me from getting lost.

We followed along the Denver and Rio Grande Western tracks on the north side for a while and then crossed over and followed the tracks on the south side. There were no trains to race so it was not as exciting as it could have been.

This is not a ride with a lot of beautiful green scenery. It was March and one of the first rides of the year. At the opening of the riding season, we were just glad to be riding on any trail.

The countryside here is rugged. The Buckmaster Trail touches a lot of uranium mining history. There are ghost mines everywhere.

We turned on County Road 1029 (the Four Corners Mine Road) and crossed over U.S. 191, which comes down from Wellington. We continued on the mining road traveling on the north side of the interstate until we turned northwest and crossed Buckmaster Road. A little over a mile later, we turned north and stopped at one of the abandoned mining operations.

It consisted of a supply shack across the trail from the entrance to a mining adit. It wasn’t a vertical shaft, but a gradual slope down into a nearly horizontal passage from the surface into the mine. The entrance was partially closed, but to see into the dark was intriguing.

This mine is just northeast of a low mountain. The map refers to it as Camp Vinero. It is an odd name for an unremarkable mountain that stands at 4,570 feet in a valley with an elevation of 4,400 feet.

We continued on a track that wound through moonscape-like features. Crossing over a ridge, we dropped down the other side on a dugway that was cut out of the side of that ridge.

We came out into the valley on a sandy track that took us close to the San Rafael River near a point called Tidwell Draw. We continued north on this sandy trail for about 5 miles to a junction where we met Cottonwood Wash Road and Smith Camp Road. The place is called Lost Creek and we stopped for lunch.

The homestead of the Smith family is located here. My first thought was how far away they were from anywhere.

The Smiths eked out a living in this small house in the 1920s for several years. Just inside the door on the concrete floor is the handprint of little 8-year-old Ana Smith. Ana was the oldest resident of Green River until she died nine years ago at the age of 98.

To further appreciate their circumstances, their only source of potable water was a well topped by an old-fashioned pump handle 3.5 miles away. I can’t imagine what it would be like living so far away from any neighbors.

Finished with lunch, we packed up and headed southeast on Smith Camp Road until we finally connected with Buckmaster Road. We came down by the unremarkable Camp Vinero Peak and further south to Buckmaster Reservoir.

We passed through two concrete culverts that took us under Interstate 70. Reverting to my childhood, I honked my horn in both tunnels. I was riding in my single-seat Polaris Ace alone, so I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone.

We turned east on Old Highway 24 for 1.5 miles. It was a challenge to dodge the potholes on the unmaintained asphalt highway. Turning onto a county road, we rode under I-70 and onto the back streets of Green River.

We finished a ride of about 50 miles through some interesting country. I always like to ride in the area of the San Rafael Swell. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and consider the trails of Green River when you plan your ride calendar for 2024.

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


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