Yesterday was a long day at work, but it was worth it for the bike ride in the evening. I woke up just after 6:00 AM and was at work in Orem at a little after 8:00. Eight hours later I was on my way home, but with my bike in the car so I could take a little detour up Sheep Creek Road (or Ray’s Valley Road) to ride the Fifth Water Loop. I got to the trailhead and started riding at 6:00 PM. It was still hot outside, and there were a lot of deer flies down low at the trailhead. The first two miles of trail was fairly easy, with a gentle incline and nothing technical. After two miles, the trail forked, and I took the left fork and began climbing up to Fifth Water Ridge. At first the trail followed the creek (and at one point was in the creek) and wasn’t too steep, but eventually it became very steep and stayed that way for several miles.
During all that relentless climbing, most of which I walked the bike along, I kept worrying that it was getting later and later and I still hadn’t reached the halfway point of the loop. I kept an eye on the time, knowing that the second half of the loop would go very quickly since it was all downhill, but still thinking that I ought to turn around and head back to the car in order to avoid riding in the dark. When I was almost to the top of Fifth Water Ridge, a guy on a KTM motorcycle came up behind me and we chatted briefly, then he was gone in a small cloud of dust and I was alone again. I finally reached the end of the singletrack at the top of Fifth Water Ridge, and began following a graded dirt road that led to Strawberry Ridge, which was roughly the halfway point. That part seemed to go more slowly than the climb up the singletrack for some reason, but just as the sun was touching the horizon, I finally topped out on Strawberry Ridge. I could see Strawberry Reservoir from there, and the views into Fifth Water were great as well.
I only spent a brief time there, long enough to take a few photos and call Traci letting her know I was running much later than expected. I began the descent down the road, then took a slight right turn onto the singletrack again right after passing a family on ATVs that was parked off the road enjoying the sunset. The downhill went very quickly. I was surprised how cool it was along Fifth Water Creek. There were some pockets of very cold air, and since it was all downhill my body wasn’t working very hard and I got a little chilly. I was worried about coming up quickly on unsuspecting deer (or, worse, bears), so I loudly whistled a tune for most of the ride down. There were a lot of creek crossings, most of them shallow enough to ride through, but some of them I had to carry my bike across. At one point I did spook a large animal. I heard it thrashing to get away from me through the thick trees and brush, but it was too dark for me to see it. It scared me, too, and I ran off the trail while trying to catch a glimpse of it through the trees. I’m going to continue thinking it was a deer. 🙂
It eventually got dark enough that my prescription sunglasses did me more harm than good, and I removed them so I could see better in the dark, at the expense of not being able to see quite as clearly. I was probably going entirely too fast for the lighting conditions, and a few times I almost wiped out because of it, but I didn’t want to be riding by moonlight alone. I finally made it back to the car, and what had taken me two and a half hours to ride up took less than an hour to ride back down. It was a great mid-week adventure, and it made the trek in to the office well worth it.
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)