ON THE BRINK
A recent exploratory bike ride near St. George reminded me that there are always new jaw- dropping views and intriguing adventures to discover close to home if you’re willing to spend some time studying maps and Google Earth’s virtual globe.
Looking south from popular trails near Green Valley, a massive tilted plateau can be seen rising steadily southward until breaking away to, well, I never could place what exactly lies beyond that horizon.
Maps reveal that this hulking mass does have a name-Blake’s Lambing Grounds-and what lies beyond is an impressive vertical drop of nearly 2,500 feet straight down to the floor of the winding Virgin River Gorge.
I imagined the view from this precipitous brink and plotted out a 13-mile long route of dirt roads that would lead me and my trusty two-wheeled steed there. Turns out, my imagination didn’t give the view justice.
Start the ride in Bloomington, where the western extension of Navajo Drive crosses a cattle guard and turns to dirt. Plenty of space near the flood-control pond allows you to park and unload your bike.
The colorful rocks enveloping the route, including the striped badlands of the Triassic-age Moenkopi Formation, tell a fascinating story of what southwestern Utah was like more than 200 million years ago. Instead of the majestic mountains, iconic plateaus and deep canyons seen today, southwestern Utah was a flat-as-a-pancake coastal plain positioned near the equator on the western edge of the supercontinent Pangea. Sea level would alternately rise, inundating much of Utah with shallow tropical waters, and then fall, placing the shoreline far off to the west.
From the parking area, pedal west on the main graded dirt road, ignoring numerous sidetracks, and wind across a couple of low drainages before dropping into the larger Curly Hollow.
Light-gray Moenkopi siltstone adjacent to the road was deposited by shallow mineral-laden sea water that also left behind an abundance of the mineral gypsum that gives the rock its chalky appearance.