Bunker Creek … Left Fork … In the Middle of a Thunderstorm!
Bunker Creek? First we had to get there. The drive on Highway-14 from Cedar City to Brian Head was gorgeous and eventful. Less than a mile up from town we were winding around turns in the bottom of a canyon with towering cliffs. Then we came to a landslide, where dirt and rock must have covered the highway the day before. Workers in huge tractors had one lane of the highway cleared each way and were still working on the muddy residue.
Then we saw the deer … a large doe lying dead on the side of the road. We drove up and down Highway-14 for 7 days and that deer was still there. We are not used to seeing dead deer on the side of the road in Southern California.
A half-mile farther we came to a scenic pullout … which provided a hazy view of Zion National Park about 15 miles to the south.
The turn-off to Brian Head (Highway 148) came at the top of the canyon, in a wide open meadow. A little over 3 miles past this junction we came to a sign for Cedar Breaks National Monument. We passed right by, getting a few glimpses of the red rock cliffs, and promising each other we would come back later in the week.
About 4 miles further we came to the Highway 143 junction. We kept going straight north toward Brian Head for 2 more miles and turned right onto a dirt road heading up to Brian Head Peak. The Bunker Creek ride starts about 2 miles up this dirt road.
There is a big parking area, a pit toilet, and the trailhead is across the road and well marked … but we didn’t stop. We kept driving up the road (less than a mile) to reach the lookout station at the very top of Brian Head Peak (11,307 feet in elevation).
The lookout is a large rock building that provides a panoramic view in all directions. We were looking mostly west … looking mostly at the large thunderheads to the west. They were headed our direction … fast.
We hustled back to the car and quickly drove back down to the trailhead. I really wanted to do this ride and I didn’t want to get rained on … so I needed to hurry. Cindy helped me get everything ready … my camera, video camera, fanny pack, video remote, helmet, gloves, GPS, and … oh yeah, my bike. As we were doing all this a white van pulled up with 3 bikes mounted on a trailer.
Three kids (teenagers?) got out of the right side while the driver, a bald man of probably 30, exited the left side of the van and met them at the trailer. He began to un-strap the bikes while the kids (2 boys and a girl) got on their gloves and helmets. “Take the Sidney Peaks Trail … then take the Left Fork of Bunker Creek Trail, which will be the one on your right,” the driver was telling the kids. “Turn left when you reach the highway … I will be waiting at the store.” The part about turning right to take the Left Fork of Bunker Creek bothered me, so I asked him, “So I make a right turn to take the Left Fork of Bunker Creek?” He replied, “That is exactly correct.”
Brian Head Trail Parking
I said thanks and started to walk over to the trailhead with Cindy. In the meantime the three kids had jumped on their bikes, crossed the road, and headed up the trail. It took me a few minutes to get my new Garmin 60 csx GPS dialed in before I was ready to go. I said bye to Cindy, told her I’d meet her at the store, and started up the trail.
The first 50 yards turned out to be the hardest part of the whole 11-mile trek. The trail rose a good 6% and looked as if someone had taken a whole truck load of shoe-box size rocks and dumped them all along … some landing on top of each other and the rest spread out. I pedaled as hard as I could, trying to keep up enough momentum to carry me through that mine field. There was no way I was going to stop … I did not want Cindy or anyone else to think I was some kind of wuss.
Trail Flattened on Top
After those 50 yards the trail flattened out across the top of the hill and provided a nice view to the north. I stopped to “take some photos”, or at least that was the excuse I gave myself at the time. The real reason was the fact that I was gasping for air! Just 50 yards into the ride and I was gassed!
Following the photo shoot I wound my way down a fun, somewhat rocky trail. Every 25 yards the trail would pass over and down a little clump of rocks. I had a lot of success finding a ramped rock I could use to launch me over the rest of the clump … landing on the next clear segment of trail. As a middle aged man I still love flying through the air … as long as I have a nice landing strip!
Interstate Junction? Off Ramps?
I was about a mile when I came to the Dark Hollow Trail junction. There were all kinds of signs there to keep me from getting lost. More signs are better than no signs! Bunker Creek was straight ahead.
Just past there I looked up from the trail and saw a large, flat, grass valley stretched out below. I also spotted the 3 kids, who were slowly walking their bikes up the trail on the far side. It took me less then two minutes to speed down the near side of the valley, cross the flat, and catch up with them as the gradual climb began. They graciously pulled their bikes off the trail and let me pass. The girl and the smaller boy seemed to be having more trouble than the older boy.
The Last Rider on this Trail?
Less than 3 car lengths ahead of them I came across the spine. Yes, it was a real spine … most likely from a small cow or some other animal. I took a picture, then pointed it out to the kids as they worked their way past me. I made some dumb comment like, “I hope this isn’t the last rider who tried this trail.” Not a chuckle out of any of them! Guess their thoughts were focused just on getting up the “steep” hill.
Once over the rise the trail began a smooth gradual decline. I raced down a good quarter mile before I slid to a stop. I decided I was going to wait here and take pictures of the kids as they came down. I knew I’d be waiting a few minutes as they still had a couple hundred feet of gradual climb to escape the valley.
It was at this time that I decided to take my first drink. I would wait for the kids, drink some water, look at the lake over the next ridge to the north, and … as I bent down to take a bottle out of my rack … there was no water to drink! I looked at my bottle holder in my fanny pack … no water. Opening my fanny pack I looked inside and found … no water. Going on an 11-mile Bunker Creek ride with no water? Real smart!
So I just looked at the lake, then periodically checking back up the hill for the kids. It was while looking up that I noticed how dark the sky was getting. Within a couple of minutes I could hear the low rumbling of thunder back to the west. Then I spotted the kids scooting down the hill from that direction.
I turned on my video and took several still photos as they approached. The largest kid slid to a stop, looking at my cameras. At that moment I asked him if he wanted to be on my website. His response? “Yeah, I would love to.”
As the others pulled up I asked the older one, “Are these guys your brother and sister?” He said, “No, … she (pointing to the girl) is my wife, and that’s her little brother.” I thought to myself, “Your wife?” as I looked at her … trying to decide how old she was. I thought maybe I didn’t hear him correctly. I finally was able to move onto another thought.
Photos In Website?
“So you all want to be in my website?” They responded at the exact same time, “YEAH!” Then the girl wisely said. “Wait, what kind of website is it?” I told her the name and promised her it was not some porno site. She laughed and said okay.
I took some photos and video of them posing in front of the distant lake. Then I made sure my video was recording then asked them their names (my memory for names is so bad I would have forgotten them the instant I left. John (the oldest) told me his name first. Then the girl (wife) said, “My name is Maren.” I questioned, “Marim?” to which she quickly corrected saying, “No, Maren, just like Karen, only with an M.” I said “Oh, okay, now I’ve got it.” Finally the little brother spoke up saying he was Nick. Getting ready to leave I pointed out, “Hey, we’d better get moving or we’re gonna get real wet.”
To find out how wet we got onto Bunker Creek please click Bunker Left Fork (page 2).
Click Brian Head Mountain Biking to see an overview of all the rides in this area.