Stage 5 of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route was the greenest of them all, through the Uinta Mountains.
It took us longer to find a lunch spot than we expected, swarms of mosquitoes attacking us as soon as we ventured into the shade along the side of Currant Creek. While the pesky little buggers didn't seem to phase the deet-drenched RVers, we prefer almost anything else - wind, rain, and cold - over those damn blood suckers, and so we pushed on to higher ground before breaking out the sandwiches that @mrs.turbodb has prepped before leaving camp just before sunrise.
Snow still lingered in the hot summer afternoon as we enjoyed sammies above Currant Creek Reservoir.
Our bellies no longer grumbling, we wound our way along well-graded forest service roads that ebbed and flowed through the tall trees and high mountain meadows. It was hot here at 8,000 feet - in the upper 80s °F - but the green grass and bright wildflowers suggested that this was a new phenomenon. Only days earlier, spring had not yet given way to summer.
Sweeping turns are easily taken at speed.
Through dense groves of aspen, this must be a sight to behold for those running the route in the fall.
Even the clouds were cooperating.
Chiming bells (Mertensia paniculata)
The driving here was nothing like we expected from a state that we generally associate with slickrock and desert mesas. Gone were the ruins and rock art, snow and rambling streams decorating the hillsides. Only the license plates of those tucked into the trees and nestled into shady nooks reminded us that this wasn't Wyoming or Colorado.
We continued to climb.
At 9,500 feet, we surfed the ridges.
By 10,000 snow supplanted trees; winter trying to hold on in the heat of summer.
As we neared Soapstone Mountain we had a decision to make. It was 3:30pm and we'd covered about half the stage since lunch. While we could - likely, if we pushed into the evening - cover the remaining 70 miles or so before sunset, we knew that camping above 9,500 feet would be significantly more pleasant than baking in the oppressive heat at lower elevations near the end of the stage. Still, we figured that we'd take a slight detour - one that @mrs.turbodb had found - to the top of Soapstone Mountain, and then we'd find camp somewhere a bit further along the route as we climbed even higher through Bald Mountain Pass.
But of course, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Unlike all the roads that had allowed us to cover half a stage in a quarter of a day, the road to Soapstone Mountain was slow going. Nothing difficult, it was simply narrow, uneven, a little bit muddy, and just technical enough to keep the weekend warriors from toting their trailers and hauling their UTVs the couple of miles to the top.
Well, that's quite the view.
What we discovered at the top threw a wrench into our plans. It was way too early to stop for the day, but how could we not stop when we found a place - at the end of a road - where the generators, SxSs, and constant parade of RVs could not be heard?
It was, we decided, time to slow down. It was time for a nap. And then dinner. And then sleeping. First though, we admired nature's garden that flourished around us.
We didn't see many of these Hairy Clematis, but the few we did were very vibrant.
Fields and fields of Forget-Me-Nots reached up towards the sun.
Gathering up our Kindles and opening the tent as wide as could be - every screen called into action - we lay with a gentle breeze blowing through the doors, whisking away the heat of the afternoon sun. I read for a full five minutes before the weight of my eyelids was too much to resist; @mrs.turbodb only a little longer.
Ninety minutes before sunset seemed like a good time to make dinner, my alarm chiming gently a few minutes before that. Like us, the mosquitoes - thick here in the water-rich environment - were in search of nourishment, forcing us into the cab for a delicious pasta salad as we watched the clouds roll by.
As the sun raced towards the horizon, its rays shown through the haze hovering over the hills.
As they'd been all afternoon, the clouds put on a show to rival the best fireworks display.
Just as the sun set to the west, we climbed up the ladder for the final time. It'd been a lazy evening, completely out of the ordinary. And it'd been fantastic - a reminder that slowing down and enjoying those special places is worth so much more than speeding to the next destination.
Our favorite camp.
The Following Morning...
My favorite sound when I'm sleeping in the CVT tent is the pitter patter of rain on the fly, especially when I know that the storm will pass in the night, a breeze moving it along and drying the tent by the time I need to put it away in the morning. It's also nice - in a slightly different way - to hear mosquitoes buzzing around while knowing that it's perfectly safe on "this side" of the netting.
It was midnight or later when I finally pulled the covers over my body, the refreshing breeze making for an even more pleasant sleep. And with no alarm, we didn't wake again until well after sunrise.
After packing up, it was through fields of flowers that we descended from Soapstone Mountain.
We - or at least, I - hadn't realized it the afternoon before, but a reasonably long stint of pavement began only a few miles further along the BDR. Winding through a high-mountain pass under the watchful eye of Bald Mountain, the place was buzzing with people, even at 7:30am in the morning.
Had we tried to find a spot to camp here, we most certainly would have been disappointed - but having enjoyed our own private peak, our spirits were high as we pulled into the Provo Falls parking area for breakfast.
The Provo Falls have several levels, the upper-most flowing gracefully over terraced granite.
The middle falls roaring over mossy rockery.
A side chute below the middle falls.
Swatting mosquitoes as we shoveled cereal into our mouths, we hung around just long enough after eating for a few photos. In that time, five vehicles carrying 17 people cycled in and out of the parking area, each of them spending even less time than us, as they hurried along their way.
Soon enough, we did the same.
Stopped in our tracks at the sight of Mt. Watson.
Here, we were travelling the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway - a stretch of pavement that reminded us of our time in the Snowy Mountains exactly a year earlier as we explored the Wyoming BDR. With high peaks - at 11,943 feet, Bald Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the western Uinta Mountains - and glassy lakes, there was much to admire, and we didn't hesitate to get out and look around.
Mt. Watson (left) and Notch Mountain (right) were enjoying their morning reflections on Teapot Lake.
Where there are people, it seems there are crows. Easy pickings, likely.
Yellow lilies were sprinkled like salt over the hillsides.
Soon enough we were back on dirt for a short alternate section of the route designated as "expert." Certainly more technical than pavement, it was mostly just a bit bumpy, though an 18" deep water crossing might be more difficult for a dual-sport bike than for a four-wheeled machine. Regardless of the difficulty, the route was - once again - full of fantastic views - as we followed the meandering trail.
Another aspen tunnel. Brilliant green now, surely spectacular later.
Away from the blacktop, we had the place to ourselves.
The best kind of roads lead to...
Once the Whitney Ranger Station, this cabin is open year-round and stocked with plenty of firewood.
Well-kept by respectful visitors.
Now nearly through the Uintas, @mrs.turbodb raised an issue that she'd been thinking about - and frankly, mentioned a few times - since she'd gotten her first look at the route and each of the stages: for some reason, the Utah BDR was about to, not only enter Wyoming, but end (and then start) a stage there.
Certainly seems a bit fishy to me.
However, we'd have plenty of time to dwell on the question of whether we were running the final segment of the WYBDR when we actually got there; for now we had a few more miles of mountains to cover. Albeit, not as quickly as we expected.
The last of the Uintas.
As we crested the final ridge, I spotted a wagon-looking-trailer-camp tucked away in an adjacent meadow. "A sheepherder's hut." I mentioned nonchalantly to my copilot, and something she didn't pay much attention to.
Until, that is, we were stopped in our tracks.
Anyone else love lamb chops?
Driven by herders with the help of their dogs, we'd eventually discover that these tasty snacks were dropped off more than 30 miles - and 2,500 feet lower - than their preset position. No idea how long it took to drive them that far, but at least there's plenty of meat for dinner. We proceeded cautiously.
Did I hit any tasty ones?
We didn't get dinner, but it was certainly an experience being in the middle of a herd that size, and though I joke, I was glad to get through without running over a lamb or starting a stampede into the Tacoma. Certainly the herders seemed glad that we proceeded so slowly through their flock.
Now picking up speed, we lost elevation quickly as we dropped down through the Thousand Peaks Ranch, sheep shit whizzing up onto the wheel wells as I tried to avoid the worst of it. Still, we were lucky, not everyone riding the road today had wheel wells to catch the crap.
The only two-wheeled BDR rider we'd see in the entirety of Utah. And this guy was almost in Wyoming.
A few minutes later, we entered Wyoming. The roads here were wider, and we couldn't quite put our finger on what was different... until we could.
Lots of skinny pedal along East Chalk Creek Road.
Ah yes, that's the Wyoming we know. Black gold!
Evanston, the end of the stage - and the spot where we were fixing to have lunch after suffering through all those tasty kabobs and chops and meatballs that had teased us on the road - was only ten miles away and with wide roads giving way to pavement, we covered that ground quickly.
A little late with the signage, Wyoming.
After filling up with fuel and popping into the local grocer for a few supplies we'd exhausted over the first five days, we found some grassy shade near the high school and pulled out the camp chairs. As I munched on Fritos, @mrs.turbodb assembled turkey-and-salami sandwiches and we pondered the final leg of our journey!
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