|Riders inch their way up an old miners trail behind "The Reef" on their way to Muddy Creek.|
On a cold, snowy February day, Mark H. Williams led the last group he would guide through the Muddy River. The new BLM travel plan will close this stretch of the trail after March 5. Through the Muddy Creek Canyon, the trail will close to protect the riparian and watershed resource.
With a group of riders as diverse as the Emery County landscape, Williams met his group of 29 riders at the Hanksville exit on I-70. They traveled together to the Goblin Valley turnoff and proceeded to the unloading point. The riders were from all over the state of Utah, Logan, Spanish Fork, Price, Salina, Richfield and several from Emery County. Four women and 24 men riders all geared up for the day. Most had snowmobile suits and waterproof gear to ward off the winter day.
The ride was underway by 9 a.m. to allow the group plenty of daylight to complete the nearly 60 mile loop. With snow threatening and cold air nipping, the first stop on the ride was to view Temple Mountain. This is where Madam Marie Curie had crews mine for radio-active materials including uranium, polonium and vanadium during the early 1900s. The rock outcrop stands sentinel to the riders on the first leg of the trip.
The group of ATV enthusiasts descended into the craggy canyon and were treated to many rock formations and interesting vistas. Clouds and snow obscured some of the points of interest in the distance along the way. In spite of the cold and snow, all the riders seemed to enjoy and revel in the sights to be seen in Emery County. They all remarked how interesting and challenging the trail was in spots along the canyon edge.
One of the participants was Keven Kesler from Logan. He is the Director of 4-H and youth programs and assistant director of the extension programs in Utah. At the beginning of the ride, he made his way from group to group ensuring that everyone had a garbage bag with which to haul out all the refuse of the day. Kesler expressed his desired to start a 4-H program that deals with ATVs, their responsible and safe use. "Every farm in the state has a 4-wheeler and usually kids that operate them. If we had a 4-H program, we could teach responsible ATV use and safety, along with the impact their use has on the enviroment," said Kesler.
|Mark H. Williams points out historical highlights along the trail.|
As the group made their way along the canyon, they approached an old miners cabin where uranium miners lived during the 50s in the uranium boom. There were still relics lying around the area to explore and reminisce about. From this point on, the trail is closed to anything over 54 inches in width.
The riders continued on the trail, climbing and descending over the rocks and cliffs until they came to a junction into the canyon at the Hidden Splendor Mine. Williams informed the group that during the 50s a man named John Peck hiked up the canyon to the point at which they stood now. Peck's geiger countet went berserk and he immediately began the process to file his claim of the mineral rights. A few years later, Peck received an offer of about $5 million for the rights to the uranium in the area. Peck had almost lost his life exploring the canyon and made a fortune for what he found. At this turn, the group was informed that during this stretch of the trail, they would cross the Muddy Creek numerous times. The walls of the canyon quickly turned to solid rock and were hundreds of feet high. Rain and flood run-off had streaked the red walls with brown and black mineral deposits.
Like a snake, the string of machines made their way through the remote Utah backcountry and experienced a breathtaking part of Emery County. Everyone seemed to be enthralled at the magnificent scenery and riding experience.
When the group emerged from the canyon, the ride was about half over, but the coming miles would go quickly as it was dirt road back around the loop to where the vehicles had parked and unloaded earlier in the day.
After the ATVs were loaded up for the trip home and everyone expressed their jubilation over the trip, everyone said goodbye to Muddy Creek Trail.
They were glad to have been among the last to witness its splendor.
"It's a shame that this trail is to be closed to motorized vehicle use because that eliminates a lot of people from seeing our public lands," said Mike Bass, owner of High Velocity Motor Sports in Huntington. "It's been a great ride and a great day," said Bass.