Utah Cycling Tour—Provo to Cedar City: Part 2

Day 3: Salina to Piute State Park (reservoir)

The camp in Salina was pretty nice and we enjoyed our evening. The evenings would consist of bathing, washing out our cycling clothes, cooking and eating dinner, and sitting around talking.

We rode the one mile back to Salina then headed West and South towards Richfield. At Salina Highway 89 actually merges with I-80, so we headed on State Route 24 then Route 118 South through the little farming communities of Vermillion, Kema, and Gramse. It was a nice morning ride through green, lush farmland. We passed quite a few corn fields in this area.

Richfield is quite a bit bigger than most of the towns in this part of Utah. We got a bit lost winding through town and ended up riding through some residential areas before we got back on the highway heading South out of town. We rode through the small towns of Nibley and Elsinore, then finally rolled into Joseph a bit before lunchtime. As we were riding down the one main street of Joseph we passed one of the few businesses and noticed a sign out front advertising fresh baked cookies, only on Wednesdays. It was Wednesday and we made an abrupt stop. It was a small antiques shop/cafe. It smelled heavenly inside. We ordered a couple dozen cookies, several different varieties and they were absolutely delicious. The best were the home baked ginger snaps. They were so good, we waited about 20 minutes for the next batch to come out of the oven and bought another dozen to take on the road with us. The bakery was run by two middle-aged women. They also served lunch, sandwiches and so on, but the cookies were enough for us. After a nice break eating cookies I packed the fresh baked ginger snaps on my bike and we headed out of town.

Fresh baked ginger snaps

Just on the edge of town we encountered a dedicated bike path. We were delighted to get off the highway and have our own road.

Bike path between Joseph and Big Rock Candy Mountain

This nice, smooth bike path went for about 12 miles from Joseph up into Marysvale Canyon to Big Rock Candy Mountain. The trail climbed a bit at the mouth of the canyon, then followed the Sevier River all the way to Big Rock Candy Mountain. It began to get very hot so we were glad to have some shade from the many trees along the river. We occasionally saw river rafters floating by in the river.

Bike path along the Sevier River in Marysvale Canyon

The kids were wondering about Big Rock Candy Mountain. I told them it was a big resort with condos, volleyball courts, shops, and hordes of people. They believed me until we rolled in and they were sorely disappointed to find an overpriced restaurant, a gas station and convenience store, and a river rafting rental place. They were grumbling about what a dump the place was.

The famous Big Rock Candy Mountain

By the time we reached the “resort” we were really hot and tired. We should have had a proper lunch, but instead we loaded up on ice cream and cold drinks. The kids were anxious to move on, so we headed out. This next section of the trip would turn out to be the crux of the whole week.

The highway had just been re-tarred and was hot, black, and very unpleasant in the 100+ degree heat of the afternoon. We planned on staying the night at Piute Reservoir but I was not exactly sure how far it was. I had checked out our entire route with mapmyride.com, but did not take very careful notes, other than planning where we would stop each night. I had a general idea how far each days’ mileage was, but was not too clear on distances between places. Okay, I admit, I wasn’t even always clear about how many miles we would ride each day, though I did have pretty good maps. The kids later joked about how clueless I was about how far we had to go each day to get to our camp.

The road climbed gently up through Marysvale Canyon to the town of Marysvale. We stopped at a convenience store and bought more cold drinks and refilled our bottles. We all had bandannas that we would soak in cold water and drape around our necks. This really helped but only lasted less than an hour before they were bone dry again. The road out of Marysvale continued to climb gently then would descend and climb again. It was really hot and we were all feeling it. Niels and Finn were way ahead of me and Natalie was a few minutes behind me. Riding up a long, slow hill I spotted a small creek off the side of the road, so I stopped and soaked my bandanna in the cold water. A few minutes later I caught up to Niels and Finn. Niels was bonking. He is very skinny and has a really high metabolism. He simply had not had enough to eat. We inadvertently skipped lunch because it was so hot and all we could think about was cold drinks. He had a headache and did not feel too well. I began to worry a bit because the highway seemed to stretch on forever, it was very hot, and we were all very tired. To make matters worse each of us only had a tiny bit of hot water left in our bottles. I knew we needed to find some water or things would get pretty serious. I suppose we could have flagged down a passing car, but what are the chances they would have a big jug of water. The kids asked how much farther to the reservoir, and I told them I thought we were very close. (They rolled their eyes, not very confident in my guess). We continued on slowly. Then off to the left I saw what looked like a small lake. We pulled off the road, and literally ran down a dirt road and found ourselves on the banks of a large pond fed by run-off coming down out of the mountains. It was clear this was used for irrigation or watering livestock. On the far side of the pond we found a concrete ditch that channeled the water into the pond. I pulled out my water filter and we spent about an hour and a half filtering water, drinking, and dunking our heads in the cool, refreshing water. It was literally like an oasis in the desert and we were all feeling very fortunate and refreshed.

Oasis in the desert
Filtering water

After we all cooled off and drink lots of cold water, we felt refreshed enough to continue on. The highway began climbing again for about a mile. At the top of the rise we could see the reservoir in the distance. After another mile or so we turned off the highway and descended a steep road for another mile to the State Park. We first took off on a dirt road to the nearest spot along the shores of the reservoir. It was not encouraging. It was very dry and dusty and no water. We got back on the road and rode another half mile where we found the park headquarters which consisted of a boat ramp, bathrooms, a few picnic tables, and the camp host with his large RV. To our dismay there was no water of any kind (except for the reservoir). We were again low on water so I asked the camp host where we could get some water. He ended up filling all our bottles as well as our cooking pots with water from his RV. The campsite was nothing more than a picnic table and a gravelly beach where we pitched our tent. We were just glad to stop for the day. After dinner we waded out into the reservoir for a swim and to rinse out our cycling shorts.

Eating dinner at Piute Reservoir
Camp at Piute Reservoir

I felt very relieved that we found the reservoir when we did. It’s one thing to be off with a group of adult friends, but it is quite different when you have responsibility for your kids and they are relying on you for their safety. I went to sleep feeling grateful we made it this far safely.

Day 3 Totals: 62.1 miles; Time in saddle: 5:26; Total time: ~12 hours



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