Jem Trail… Rim Trail… Chinatown Trail… Jem Trail
The Jem Trail (which I am calling the Perfect Jem here) was to be our third ride in the Hurricane area during our spring break. I ended up doing this ride alone as my Utah riding buddy, Jens Jensen, had broken his hand earlier in the week biking Gooseberry Mesa.
As I described on Jem Trail (page 1) I had gone into the pit toilet on the Rim Trail, did my business, and came back out. The guy I had spoken to before entering the bathroom was no longer looking at the map or the trail. I finally located him on the other side of the restroom… laying flat on his back… on the concrete, moaning and groaning. “Are you alright?” I inquired, with fear he was having a heart attack or something. (I thought I was going to find out if all those CPR training rescues of Resusc-a-Annie were anything like the real thing). I was relieved when he finally uttered, “It’s just my back acting up again… I will be alright.”I asked him if he was still going to look for that trail and he said he would have to save it for another day. As I walked back to my bike I tried to figure out what could have happened to his back while I was going to the bathroom. I hadn’t seen any signs of pain before I went in…
I got on my bike and rolled over to a sign near the edge of the canyon, which told about the Hurricane canal. The sign told about the construction of a 7-mile canal down to the Hurricane Mesa. Construction of the canal began in 1893 with 100 volunteers using only picks, shovels, crowbars, and a homemade wheelbarrow. By 1902 there were only 8 men left working. At that point the LDS Church bought $5,000 worth of stock in the project. The new cash provided powder to blast tunnels and the lumber necessary to build flumes. The project was finally completed in 1904. With the water the people in the Hurricane area were able to turn 2,000 acres of dry desert into fertile farmland.
- Below you will find a map for The Rim Trail.
- Click the Green or Red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
Have you ridden in this Perfect Jem before? What did you think of it? Share your story with visitors to this page.
I slowly pedaled past the sign, right to the edge of the precipice, and peered below. I instantly saw the source of my trash truck sounds. A huge tractor was operating on the opposite side of the river, 400 feet below. They seemed to be working on some kind of dam or flume runs.
After thousands of photos and video frames I began to ride the Rim trail again. I was moving at a pretty good clip when I saw a trail sign and slid to a stop. Jens had told me about the Canal Loop, which led down to the river’s edge. He said he had ridden it before and found it to be an interesting trail, but not one he would recommend to someone with only one day to ride. Plus, he said the climb back out of the gorge was a killer. I figured I would do it the next time I was in the area.
A little farther on I crossed a big jigsaw puzzle of cap rock limestone. Limestone, as Cindy has often explained to me, was formed by dead sea creatures falling to the bottom of an ocean or sea for millions of years. With layers on top of layers these sea creatures were compressed by the weight added on top. This pressure caused them to turn into solid rock. How did they get up here, 5,000 feet above sea level? The ocean bottom was lifted by tectonic forces to form this (Colorado) plateau… so I had just ridden across a jigsaw puzzle formed by the skeletons of ancient sea creatures. How cool is that?
Just as I was starting to get clear views of Hurricane below me, the trail turned to the south… away from the river and the town. A few minutes later I came upon a solid rock wash coming down from the south. I looked closely at the composition of this phenomenon, as it almost looked like a concrete drainage ditch. The wash reminded me of the Los Angeles “River”… a 100 yard wide eyesore running through that city toward the Pacific Ocean. Then it came to me, a leading ingredient of cement is lime. This wash was made of cement… nature’s cement.
A hundred yards later I came to the sign for the Chinatown Wash trail. The trail ran right alongside the wash, but I could have just as well biked up the limestone channel.
The Chinatown trail was all singletrack, and seemed to get more and more narrow as I ground up along the banks of the wash… eventually disappearing for short stretches.
The Jem trail looked like a highway compared to the Chinatown Wash trail as I approached. As a matter of fact, the Chinatown Wash branch was nearly invisible from the Jem trail. No signs… either direction, just a small pile of rocks. I could see how a rider, coming quickly down the Jem trail, would never notice the turn-off… much different than the Hurricane Rim trail junction I’d discovered earlier in the day.
As I ground up the Jem Trail I kept continually alternating my focus between the trail right in front of me… and the lower plateau, where I would eventually hit Highway 59 and the trailhead. Once, while looking up I noticed a rider coming at me. He was really flying down, getting air off everything that resembled a ramp. I pulled over and just watched him for awhile… for he looked to be having the time of his life… weaving up and down… left and right… jumping off humps… When he got to me he locked up his rear wheel and slid to a stop, looking right at my face. I asked him how he was doing and he just sat there, straddling his bike, and looked at me. I repeated myself, saying louder, “How are you doing!” He still looked at me. I had begun to think I had come across my first deaf rider when he pulled some plugs from his ears, saying, “Sorry, I was listening to the rest of a song.”
I asked him how he was doing and this time he responded with, “Awesome, dude.” I said, “It looked like you were doing real well… have you ever ridden the Jem Trail before?” He said this was his first time. I asked where he was from, thinking he must be from out of town if he had never been here before. He said he was from, “around here.” I asked, “From Hurricane?” to which he replied, “No, I am Jason and I am from Ivans.” I said, “You mean Evans?” “No! I said I am from Ivans… Ivans, Utah.” I had never heard of Evans or Ivans, Utah, but I promised myself I would look it up.
Note: Using Wikipedia I found Ivins to be a town of about 4,500 people located about 10 miles northwest of Saint George, Utah… named after the Morman Apostle Anthony W. Ivins.
Then I looked at Jason’s bike. He was riding a Trek Fuel bike. I asked if he had experienced any frame cracking (like some of my readers had mentioned to me). He said he had had his bike less than a year and had to return it twice because of a cracked frame. Next he showed me where the cracks had occurred, both in exactly the same place on the swing-arm. I looked at him, sighed, and said. “Wow, twice in less than a year?” He said yes, but he loved riding the bike and as long as the frames were under warranty…
I said goodbye and continued riding up the Jem, eventually entering a canyon. At first the draw presented a gradual uphill, but then got steep when I finally came to a 50 foot ledge with switchbacks… and a fence on top to prevent riders from going over the cliff. I had to hike up this part until I passed through a raised cattle guard, the only break in the fence. A mile or so farther and I reached the Jem Trail parking lot, where I ate my trail mix.
I called Cindy and told her I was at the top of the Jem Trail and I was going to see how fast I could do the downhill. She, of course, said to be careful.
I turned both cameras on, started my stopwatch, and took off! The Jem Trail was my kind of route, long sweeping turns… gradual downhill… no surprises. It took me little time to get to the fence, cross the cattle guard, and slide down switchbacks… pulling hard on the back break but with only one finger of front. I kept the back wheel locked and skidding… the front slightly turning in order to steer. Then I cut loose.
My first stop was on the purple road, only 1.5 miles down. “What a wuss,” I said to myself. I pedaled up all of the slight rises and kept cranking on the gradual downhills. I never did see the Chinatown Wash junction. I didn’t really see anything else but the winding serpent whose back I was speeding down! What a blast!
I did see the Hurricane Rim turn-off. I still don’t see how all 4 of those riders missed it!
As I pulled up to the car I immediately checked my watch… 7 miles in 30 minutes? That’s 14 mph average… even with a few stops to rest the hands! Not bad for an old guy! The Jem Trail… what a blast!