Hard To Fathom Tour – Part Four

The concluding chapter of the Hard To Fathom Tour.

The conclusion of Salsa sponsored rider Brett Davis' account of the Hard To Fathom Tour. -Kid

Click here to read Part One.

Click here to read Part Two.

Click here to read Part Three.

With renewed determination, we pushed, pulled, hoisted, and bushwhacked our Salsa Blackborow fatbikes through the final bends of the canyon. Crossing the Escalante River, we found our next canyon to be relatively dry and void of vegetation. We could ride with no threat of sinking into the depths. By late afternoon we were standing on the brink of Capital Reef National Park and looking at the western side of the Henry Mountains. We had made it across the Waterpocket Fold! When we had last seen the Henrys, they were an unfeatured silhouette in the distance. Now, they were in our faces with their colors and features prominent. The sight of these mountains and their proximity renewed our hope that we could finish the tour in our remaining time. 

Crossing the Escalante River was a milestone in our journey…

More superb riding that was void of any quick sand…

Motoring on a gravel road through the national park and on into the foothills of the Henrys, we encountered little to deter us from our path. After a long climb on the flanks of Mt. Hillers, we descended to pavement and another potentially crucial decision. We could follow the highway north and then east across the top of Lake Powell. This route would be long and circuitous, but would get us to the truck on time. Or, we could keep to the original plan, tempt fate, and drop into another unknown canyon that emptied into the lake. If the canyon was navigable by bike, we would then be set up for a three-to-five mile crossing of the lake and a short gravel road ride back to the truck. Likewise, if the canyon collapsed into a slot canyon, we would have to backtrack to the pavement having lost time and possibly our chances of getting Travis back to work when needed.

Taking it all in and enjoying the backside view of the Henrys…

Looking down into the unknown with its alluring sandstone walls and cobbled bottom, we opted to roll the dice and push our luck. The start of the canyon was brilliant. In places, its walls were less than five feet apart. Its bottom fluctuated between rideable gravel and slick rock to giant boulders. With our food stores about depleted, our bikes were the lightest of the trip which aided us in making the necessary moves to ride the canyon. The accumulative fatigue of a week’s worth of work dissipated with each corner. We were doing it!

The lead-in to our canyon was tight but rideable…

Travis utilizing the rubber of the Blackborow’s five-inch tires…

After one last problem, which involved negotiating a pool of chest deep water, we made it to what was once the water line of Lake Powell. With continual drought and increased water demands by the major population centers of the west, the lake is slowly draining. It is currently estimated that in the next 15 to 20 years, the lake will be dry. Under fading daylight, we searched for the shimmer of water on the horizon. Only sand, rock, and tamarisk could be found. Falling asleep on what used to be the bottom of the lake, we knew we had another early morning in store for us. We needed to find the lake as early as possible and get across it before the winds came up. The previous two days had been extremely windy. Getting caught out on the lake with winds gusting to 40 mph would be disastrous in packrafts. 

One last challenge…

At 5 a.m. the earth was calm. Our luck was holding. With our attention focused on the dazzling sunrise, we rode unimpeded to a lake of glass. The air was completely still with not a whisper of movement. Not waiting for the wind machine to turn on, we transitioned quickly and were soon paddling east. About two miles into the crossing, the first wisps of wind started to be felt. Looking south, I could see the surface of the water starting to form small choppy waves. With focus, we hastened our pace and made the final push across open water to a wind protected arm of the lake. We had done it.

We awoke early and began once again the search for Lake Powell…

After some easy pedaling, its waters finally revealed themselves to us…

Under silent skies we quickly prepped for the final crossing of the lake.  Photo courtesy of Travis Anderson

With loud “wahoo’s” reverberating through the desert air, we took our final pedal strokes to the truck. The Hard to Fathom Tour was in the books. Several times throughout the tour, the outcome was uncertain. It is the modern age after all, where a call for help can easily be made when in dire straits. In the 1880s, the pioneers had no choice but to soldier on and deal with whatever came their way. Through strong leadership, grit, and tenacity, a path was forged through an unforgiving landscape. Having experienced it firsthand, I can only shake my head in wonder and amazement.

The crossing was complete and the Hard to Fathom Tour was in the books…

Tipping back our flask we sipped the final traces of the whiskey we had carried for the past 250 miles. As in the Wyoming tradition, I drank with high elbows to Travis. His first bike packing tour was one I am sure he will always remember. Most people start with a simple overnight. Travis, on the other hand, took on and successfully completed an endeavor that few would consider fun or worth doing. He relished in it and by taking one pedal stroke and footstep at a time, he reduced the hard to comprehend adventure into a completed journey. Wahoo! High elbows, brother!

Wahoo!

---------------------------------------------------------

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply