Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Springs - The best ride in Utah Valley

Me on the first descent

It is time to introduce my trail rating system. I give a 1 - 5 rating for both work (uphill) and fun (downhill). A trail with a high work number and a low fun number is bunk. A trail with a low work number and a high fun number is nirvana. I know some aerobic junkies that really like to ride up hill and would prefer to skip the downhill. Van and Annette come to mind. Van is about 5'2" and weighs about a buck 20. He frequently wins the Snowbird hill climb in Little Cottonwood Canyon in northern Utah. Annette is about the same height, pure muscle and weighs about 90 pounds. Once on a bike ride in Southern Utah, there was a line of us on a trail with a pine branch overhang. One of the branches was in the way. Because it was thin and light, we all blew through it like it was not there. When Annette got to it, it threw her off her bike. Yet I digress.

The absolute worst trail I have ever ridden is called 'Moore Fun' in Fruita, CO. It is a five on the uphill and a one or less on the downhill. On this ranking, Big Springs is the best ride in Utah County. I give it a 2 on the uphill and a 4 on the downhill. Its only two flaws are that it is short, but you can always do it twice or three times, and it gets congested by other bikers, scouts, hikers and horses. 

You can get there by going up South Fork in Provo Canyon. About three miles up you will get to the Big Springs sign on the left. Turn right at the sign and go to the last parking area past the bathroom facilities. The trail begins on the west, center side of the parking lot. The trial can be ridden year round as I found out this winter. If you ride in the snow, you will have to give snow shoers and cross country skiers a chance to pack the snow down after a storm.

Big Springs parking area. The trailhead is behind the photographer. 

Not the route I take, but directionally correct

You can take most of the single track ride to the top in your middle chain ring until you get to a fork in the trail that forces you to cross a fire road to continue on the single track or to take the fire road farther up. Either way, you will need to use a lower gear at this point. If I am trying for a PR, I will go a little higher and push it. Most of the time, I set it in the granny gear and chat with buddies on my way up. I opt for the fire road option because the other way, although it is single track, is a pure grunt to the top.

Jonathan Johnson riding the upper section

Resting at the water stop

Great views and amazing background at the water stop

My riding and running buddy, Jonathan Johnson on the bridge

Jonathan riding over the bridge

About a half mile up, you will get to a large campground area with porta-potties and a drinking fountain that is fed from the spring. The water is great. You continue south on a double track trail, cross a bridge and continue south ignoring the turn-off to the left. This last section is granny gear worthy and not much talking is going on. At the sign, take a hard left and 20 meters later you are on the trail above and west of the spring. 

Go east on the trail over the spring area until it turns north over a small bridge. At this point you will want to lower your seat for an amazing descent though pines, aspens and meadows.  

There are several turns and forks. I describe my preferred route. At the bottom of the first descent, you can go left, but stay right and climb a short section. After some sweet, fast twists and turns, you will come to a fork. Stay left to go through a short meadow. After entering a wooded area and taking a sharp left, there will be a fork. Take the right fork. After about twenty yards, you will take a hard left and have to climb the most difficult trail section of the day. The short trail section is loose, steep and narrow. It can be ridden by intermediate riders and experts should be able to ride it every time. It will leave you breathing hard. The next section takes you through a meadow on narrow single track. You can rip through this as fast as you want. Some parts of the single track have rather high walls. If you cannot stay in the center, you may end up catching a tire on the track wall and tumbling. Fortunately the falls are pretty soft. 

Through the meadow

At the next fork on the north side of the meadow, turn left. Take the sort section of fire road, cross the larger fire road onto the single track, and at the fork, turn right to head back to the parking lot. You can pretty much let it rip, but you have to watch out for other trail users as this section gets the most pressure. 

There is a lot of wildlife. The coolest thing I have seen is a bull and a calf moose. I about had a heart attack when a grouse suddenly decided to take flight a foot away from me. I have come onto a herd of elk. Fortunately I was wearing my GoPro. See the video below. I have seen wild turkeys, deer, skunks and other critters. 

Film from a couple of rides

The only serious mishap I have ever had came from a sting of some flying thing. I was descending at twilight when something stung my ear. By the time I got in the car I was itching everywhere and starting to swell. I called my wife to get my epi pen (that I should have been carrying) ready. I got home, jabbed myself with the epi pen and headed to the instacare. When I got to the instacare and took my shirt off, the Doc on call looked at me and said, "Wow, we can't stop that here. You will have to go to the hospital." Long story short, the ER gave me an IV concoction of Benadryl, Pepcid and a steroid and 20 minutes later I was cured, but sleepy. 

Trail conditions are perfect by Friday this week, just wet enough to be grippy, but not too muddy. Get out and ride!

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