The final stage of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route. Doesn't start in Utah; doesn't reach the Idaho border.
It was a balmy 83°F as we wrapped up lunch under a shady tree in Evanston, Wyoming, ready to start the last stage of the Utah BDR. As we did, a rider on a dual sport BMW rode by, his head on a swivel as he saw the Tacoma and pulled into the lot.
"I live just up the road, you guys are welcome to come over for dinner and a shower if you'd like," he said.
We politely declined, but still spent more than 15 minutes chatting, yet another friendly soul we met on this trail. He'd never heard of the BDRs, but - in addition to his bike - was a Tacoma owner who knew the area well, giving us several suggestions of amazing camp sites and fishing holes.
We headed out a few minutes later, the beginning of the final stage - like so many other BDRs - rich with pavement. I don't know the real reason for this increase in pavement as a BDR comes to a close, but we often joke about it and wonder if the folks on bikes are just ready to be done after days of exposure and rough trail.
We crossed back into Utah - still on pavement - just before 2:00pm.
Definitely in Utah.
Twenty-five minutes later, guess who's following the double yellow line?
Headed almost due west on UT-39, we eventually turned north into the fringes of the Monte Cristo Mountains. Part of the Wasatch Range - the range running north-south just east of the greater Salt Lake City area - we quickly climbed back to 9,000 feet and the familiar green mountain meadows we'd experienced over the last 36 hours.
@mrs.turbodb informed me that as I snapped this photo, I was standing next to a No Parking sign. I never even noticed it, and wouldn't have cared anyway.
Nearly every tree here was the perfect Christmas tree, and the clouds were looking fantastic.
Winding our way along ridges - when we weren't plunging down, then back up the other side of a canyon - the views up here actually felt monotonous. Certainly, that was due to the proximity of this stage to the last - had they been separated by the red rock of southern Utah, the glorious green hillsides would have allowed the perfect respite from the scorching sandstone.
All alone, again.
This beaver was busy - the entire creek over the course of about three miles, one dam after the other.
One benefit of the familiar views and well-graded roads was our ability to make great time through this final stage; after just more than 90 minutes we'd completed three-quarters of the stage. So, when my navigator mentioned that a short side trip she'd discovered to the top of Temple Peak, there wasn't really anything to do but check it out!
Unlike the rest of the route, this road - and its loose-rock, 35-degree incline - finally gave us a bit of excitement.
A nice camp site along the way.
The Balsalm arrowroot were vibrant and in full bloom as we reached the top.
Looking south, over the land we'd just traversed.
An hour later, the end was imminent as we reached pavement at US-89. We'd take this pavement to the finish line in Garden City, but not before crossing under the highway for a final 1.6 miles of dirt.
It's not often we find ourselves driving under the freeway.
Frankly, the end was a little underwhelming, and not just because of the pavement we'd endured for nearly half of the shortest stage on the route. For us, finishing the route in Utah - rather than across the border in Idaho - seemed like a pretty big miss given the main goal of a BDR: traversing backroads from one border to another.
We couldn't let it stand, and I hope most BDR riders find themselves feeling the same. After nearly 900 miles, we were fewer than two short. We headed north.
One of the coolest state markers we've seen.
We'd made it. From Monument Valley to Fish Haven - or officially from Mexican Hat to Garden City - we'd completed the Utah BDR, even running both versions of stage 2, in six days on the trail. I'm not sure if it was our fastest route - Washington may have been similar - but it certainly wasn't our slowest.
And that presented a problem. We weren't due back in Las Vegas - to drop off the Tacoma and hop on our flight home - for another four days. Sure, the drive back would take a long day, but even adopting a leisurely pace, that'd still leave us with three full days to fill along the way. In triple digit temps.
Or, we realized, we could drive home. It'd add five hours of driving over the trip back to Vegas, but we'd essentially manufacture three days of doing whatever we desired once we got home.
It was no contest, really. And it was time to air up!
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