When riding an ATV in the backcountry, you are at the mercy of the elements. You can do your best to plan a ride in good weather, but sometimes your preparation is tested by rapid changes that can happen.
A 30% chance of rain on a ride out of Levan left us facing a flash flood on Chicken Creek a few years ago. I backed out of a ride in the San Rafael Swell where the chance of rain was 40%. Those who went had a great time on dry trails.
Trail conditions and weather were against us on a ride out of Mount Pleasant in 2013. Eight riders planned to ride the Skyline Trail south on a round trip to Salina. We named it “The Iron Man” because it was going to be a long ride.
We were facing a 40% chance of rain, but we had rain gear and thought we were prepared. I learned that a 40% chance in the valley is a 100% chance in the mountains.
Leaving the Mount Pleasant City Park in a light rain, we began our climb to the Skyline. At the top, the rain was heavy and the trail was rutted and muddy. The rain at 10,000 feet was much colder than it was at 6,000 feet.
The ruts and pot holes were filled with water and there was no way to avoid them or to tell how deep they were. Our progress was slow and as much sideways as it was forward as we worked our way out of the ruts. The mud was also building up on our machines.
It is a good idea to take a cellphone when riding in the backcountry. I had mine tucked safely in the pocket of my waterproof rain pants. When I reached for it, I was shocked to find my pocket full of water. My wet cellphone was dead.
We picked up speed as the trail smoothed out. That was good and bad, but I can’t think of what the good part is. My gloves weren’t waterproof and the wind chill cut right through them. The wind had also shredded the flimsy rain ponchos of some of the riders. If I haven’t painted a miserable enough picture, go back to the paragraph that begins with “Trail conditions and weather” and read it again.
We were so miserable that by the time we got to the junction with the trail that goes down to Ephraim, we took it, made it back to our trucks and went home. We ended up changing the name of our ride from “Iron Man” to “Iron Oxide Man” or the “Rusty Man Ride.”
Weather was also a factor on a ride out of Circleville on the Paiute ATV Trail. We had come into town from Koosharem and dark clouds were gathering rapidly. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I suggested getting a room at the Butch Cassidy Motel.
I was outvoted and we continued our ride. Heading up Wade’s Canyon, we were about a half an hour out from Circleville when the storm hit.
Lightning and thunder claps were so close together that some in the back of the line dove into low spots to be less of a lightning rod. In front, I was trying to decide if it was going to blow over or if I needed to put on rain gear.
I finally decided that it was time. When I pulled out my slicker, I learned about one size fits all.
The top was large enough to fit comfortably, but the pants were about two sizes smaller. I could have won a dance contest with the contortions I performed to get them on.
Finally, I was protected from the rain which had now reached the heavy stage. As I flung my leg over the seat of my ATV, the crotch of my rain pants ripped out completely. The seat of my ATV effectively channeled the pouring rain into a pool of water in which I was sitting, unprotected. I was grateful to find a room in Marysvale wherein I could get out of my wet jeans.
You may think that those rides were terrible — they were — but sometimes that is the best way to learn. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and if you get caught in bad weather, figure out a way to be safe.