The original plan was to start in Ogden, ride to Logan, then up Logan Canyon to Bear Lake, and from there head south through Evanston, Wyoming and up over the Mirror Lake Highway to Heber Valley and down Provo Canyon to home. But after the first day, we began modifying our plans. I had a Plan B just in case it proved too difficult for my 13 year old son on his first loaded bike tour.
This year there were three of us, 13 year old Lars, and my second son Niels, 21, who recently moved back to Utah from New Jersey where he was a missionary for our church. He missed the last two summer bike tours and was really anxious to ride this year. Lars was also really excited to finally be riding with us. He has been watching us leave each year for the past 4 years.
Day One: Ogden Train Station to Logan Canyon
We left our house on Monday morning July 28th. We rode the almost 4 miles to the Frontrunner train station in Provo and took the 7:50 am train to Ogden, the end of the line.
By the time we arrived in Ogden it was already pretty warm.
We headed north on Highway 89, which is really just a busy road through various towns. We stopped in Perry at a fruit stand and bought a basket of fresh blackberries and some apricots. Nothing quite beats fresh fruit.
When we reached Brigham City we had two options—one, to head up Sardine Canyon, or two, continue north to the small town of Collingston and head around the mountains rather than over them. This second route would add about 10 miles but would be far less hilly. We decided to take Sardine Canyon as it would cut 10 miles and I was a bit worried about the saddle time for Lars. Sardine Canyon was not terribly hard, but it was quite hot. The climb was about 1300′ in 13 miles or so. As Niels had surged ahead, Lars and I stopped at Mantua Reservoir and wet our bandannas and tied them around our necks to cool us off a bit. We were really glad to arrive in Logan, hot and tired. Lars claimed that it was the hardest ride he had ever done.
We stopped at a Carls Jr. to eat, hydrate, and rest. We spent about 1 1/2 hours there resting up.
Our plan was to head up Logan Canyon to one of the campgrounds for the night. We stopped at a grocery store on our way out of town to buy some snacks and food for dinner. We typically will carry a couple of freeze-dried dinners for when we are in the mountains, but rely on grocery stores and gas stations to buy food so we don’t have to carry so much.
Just as we were passing Utah State University in Logan, it began to rain. Not hard rain, but a steady drizzle. We put on our rain jackets and continued on up the canyon. We rode about 7 miles up the canyon to Guinavah-Malibu Campground. It was still raining when we arrived. We found a campsite that was fairly well protected and right along the Logan River and set up camp.
It continued to rain all night long soaking the outside of our tent. We were using a single wall, silnylon floorless pyramid tent. We stayed dry all night, but the tent was soaked the next morning.
I was really pleased that Lars did so well. It was his longest ride ever and he did well. His longest training ride was 50 miles.
10.9 mph average
41.5 mph max speed
5:19 time in the saddle
Day Two: Logan Canyon to Bear Lake
When we woke up the next morning, it was still drizzling. The tent was quite wet and weighed about 4 times more than it usually does. There was not much we could do about it. We decided not to cook anything for breakfast and instead ate some energy bars and dried fruit for breakfast.
We then headed up the canyon in the rain. Logan Canyon is really beautiful and the rain and mist provided a nice atmosphere. The higher we climbed the cooler it got. Originally we rode without rain gear as it was too warm, even though it was wet. But as we ascended the canyon we began to get cold so we donned our rain jackets. Logan Canyon begins at about 4700′ and tops out at about 7700′ so we had a 3000′ climb in about 25+ miles.
From our campground it was about 20 miles to the summit. It was a slow, steady grind. The rain and wind sapped our enthusiasm a bit. By the time we reached the summit, it was quite cold, probably in the low 50’s with a steady wind, rain, and mist. We were really cold and put on all our clothes, which consisted of bike jerseys, arm warmers, fleece jackets, rain jackets, and either a fleece beanie or a hood.
The descent down into Bear Lake was quite chilly, though it warmed as we descended. We were really looking forward to a nice fast descent, but because it was so wet, we had to take it easy.
I had never been to Bear Lake before so didn’t quite know what to expect. I didn’t know how developed it would be. I was secretly hoping there would be a cheap motel as I was not too keen on setting up a sopping wet tent in the rain. We were also pretty wet and I really wanted to find a place where we could dry out all our gear. As we were rolling down into the outskirts of Garden City, we saw a Chevron Station. A good sign. We stopped there to wait for Lars and chatted with the teenage kids that worked there. They assured us that Garden City was a real small town with restaurants and a motel. I normally prefer to camp out, but after riding all day in the rain, my will was weak and we checked into the only motel in town. It was a pretty crummy room and it was overpriced, but it allowed us to get out of the rain and dry out all our clothes and gear. It was quite comfortable.
We went to a Mexican cafe for dinner and had famous Bear Lake raspberry shakes for dessert. Though our mileage for the day was pretty low, it was a challenging day because of the rain and cold. Not quite what we expected for midsummer in Utah.
9.1 mph average
33.9 mph max speed
3:36 time in the saddle
Day Three: Bear Lake to Monte Cristo Campground
It rained all night again in Bear Lake. I’m glad we were indoors. When we left Garden City it was overcast but finally not raining. We were really hoping for clear weather. Not that I don’t like rain, and we surely need it in Utah, but it does put a damper on things when you are out in it all day.
We ate oatmeal for breakfast, but Niels convinced us that we needed to get something more to eat, so we stopped at LeBeau’s Drive-in and ate another, surprisingly good breakfast before heading out of town.
We made a brief stop at Rendevous Beach on the south end of Bear Lake. It seemed that all the beaches were flooded and muddy so we didn’t even get very close to the water.
The small farming community of Laketown sits at the southern end of Bear Lake, and Old Laketown Canyon climbs 1200′ in about 5 miles up and out of the basin.
On the other side it was all sagebrush and wide open views of the Crawford Mountains on the other side of the valley.
We enjoyed a nice descent down to Sage Creek Junction where we turned south for the two small ranching communities of Randolph and Woodruff.
At Randolph we stopped at the gas station/convenience store for lunch. It’s seems to be the only place in town where people hang out. We chatted with an old cattle rancher there. He had seven daughters, all grown up and moved away except one. He says he does most of the work with one daughter and a grandson now. He said things were much harder in his younger days working the ranch with his brothers, but now most things are mechanized and one person can do a job that took 14 people in the past.
We took one more short break in Woodruff, ten miles from Randolph. We chatted with another rancher at the small store in town. Just as we were leaving town on Highway 39, the Monte Cristo road, it began to rain again. It was cool enough that we once again donned our rain jackets.
We had 21 miles of climbing up this canyon to get to the campground near the top. It was a beautiful ride. My son Finn and I rode this two years ago on our bike tour. Low down, outside town, the valley is wide with numerous ranches and cattle. It was very pastoral and beautiful. As we climbed higher the steeper the grade became. Near the top, before the campground, the grade got as steep as 9%. We took our last break about 3 miles from the campground.
The boys left before me and really took off; I couldn’t catch them. From Woodruff we ascended almost 2500′. Niels said they were feeling really good and just cranked out the last few miles. Lars felt strong as well. Usually about 3-4 days into a bike tour is when you hit your stride and begin feeling quite strong. I was pretty tired by the time we got to the campground. By this time it was getting cold again. The clouds hung low and the rain was off and on, but mostly it was cold. Niels and Lars both mentioned that they’d both been wearing their arm warmers for two straight days.
We ate quite a bit of food that night, and drank several cups of hot chocolate. We felt satisfied. In the past we have done 6 day bike tours, but Niels had a new job and had to be home to work on Friday afternoon, so we had decided this would be a short, 4 day tour. I thought this would be appropriate for Lars as well since this was his first bike tour. We also had not trained as well as we should have for a ride like this and we were all feeling it in our quads. Riding up Laketown Canyon Lars began complaining about a sore knee. He said his left knee was pretty painful. I’m sure it was an overuse injury as we had not put in the miles in training. I gave him some ibuprofen and we carried on. It hurt him off and on the rest of the day, but he was pretty game and carried on like a champion.
It was really nice climbing into the tent that night after being out in the cold and rain for hours again. Inside, the tent was nice, warm, and dry, and our down sleeping bags were a welcome refuge. The book I selected to bring on this trip was the beat poet Gary Snyder’s collection of poetry called Left out in the Rain. It was certainly appropriate for this tour. Niels brought Steinbeck’s East of Eden which he read each night, long past Lars and I slept.
9.9 mph average
29 mph max speed
6:35 saddle time
Day Four: Monte Cristo Campground to Farmington, UT
We had not seen the sun since day one, back in Logan, and were anxious to feel its warmth again. When I woke up on Thursday morning I could see the early morning rays of the sun shining on the tent canopy, a very welcome sight. We also had a hard time getting out of bed as it was so nice and cozy. In fact, after breakfast we all crawled back into our sleeping bags for a little nap. We were not too anxious to head down 20+ miles of fast downhill while it was still cold.
As I was preparing breakfast the boys went over into the road in front of our campsite and sat down in the sun. It felt really good after being in the cold for two days.
We could have ended the tour back in Ogden and taken the train home, but we decided to add a few more miles and ride to Farmington and stay the night with my sister. She planned to cook us dinner and put us up for the night.
We had about 3-4 more miles of climbing before we topped out. By this time it was getting warmer, but knowing we had a long descent I left my arm warmers and my rain shell on to cut the wind. This is a great descent of about 22 miles.
The grade is not so steep that you need to brake, but it’s steep enough you don’t have to pedal either. We all thoroughly enjoyed racing down the canyon with the increasingly warm wind in our faces. I especially like the downhills because it is about the only time I can go faster than my older boys. Niels tried so hard to keep up with me on the downhills. He would be pedaling furiously and I would coast right by him not even pedaling, a smile on my face. It’s a weight advantage.
By the time we got to just above the turn off to Causey Reservoir it was quite warm and we shed our layers down to our bike jerseys. The ride down to Pineview Reservoir was peaceful and enjoyable. Though Ogden Canyon is very narrow with quite a bit of traffic, it is really beautiful and we enjoyed the ride down to Ogden.
From here is where things turned ugly, the riding that is. We headed south on Riverdale Rd. linking up with other main roads all the way through Roy, Sunset, Clearfield, Layton, and Kaysville, before finally arriving in Farmington. Through much of this section I was feeling really good and could not hold back, leaving the boys behind me. I averaged 21 miles per hour all the way through Roy, Sunset, Clearfield, and Layton. It felt good to push it through this section. We all finished together in Farmington. Lars had been lagging behind a bit and when he finally caught up to us in Farmington he was really tired and said he had been out of water for the past 6-7 miles. Good thing we were almost done.
We had a pleasant evening with my sister who cooked us New York steaks ( a tribute to my daughter who desperately wanted to go on this tour with us, but now lives in NYC) on the grill with baked potatoes and corn on the cob. It was pretty fabulous. It was the perfect end to a nice bike tour. The next morning we took the train home back to Provo.
15.9 mph average
41.1 mph max speed
4:08 saddle time
Tour Total: 222.6 miles
Conclusion: This was certainly not our most exotic tour (that would be Yellowstone), and it was not the longest (that was Flaming Gorge), but nevertheless we had a good time. We had some challenging weather, which surprised me. The weather here in Utah is typically very dry. It is common to have afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains, and on all of our bike tours we have had brief rain showers, but never sustained rain like we had on this tour. This kind of rain takes a toll on your motivation and will power. I was really pleased with Lars’ performance. He did really well for his first tour and proved that he is a very solid cyclist with great potential. Niels was strong throughout; to be expected for an athletic 21 year old. I fared well myself, though I could have used a few more training rides. It was a nice route with enough climbing and descents to keep it interesting with beautiful scenery. I had brought a small backpacking fly rod hoping to do some fishing along the Logan River but with the weather it really wasn’t much of an option. Maybe next time. It was a great week spent with two of my kids.