The three inch wide tires on my Salsa Fargo glided over the sand as if I were on a hard packed trail. It’s likely there was only an inch layer of sand blown over the hard packed dirt road but a few weeks prior the conditions forced us to turn around when we explored this same road on our gravel bikes with only 40 mm wide tires. I returned to the Smoke Creek Desert to explore the roads that loop around the southern and eastern borders with the Terraced Hills and Fox Range.
An early goal for 2017 was to bike around as many Wilderness Study Areas as I could. I learned a bit about WSA’s after riding around Kumiva Peak and noticing Mt Limbo WSA. My understanding is WSA’s are roadless tracts of land over 5000 acres in size with the attributes of wilderness. Land mangers, such as the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, suggest these areas for consideration by Congress to become protected wilderness. During this period they are managed similarly to wilderness. “Non-Impairment” to “naturalness” and opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation are key bits of language in the guidelines for WSA management.
One of the major attributes of wilderness that I seek on my rides is solitude. The Smoke Creek Desert is surrounded by WSA’s. On this trip I rode along the Pole Creek WSA to the southern edge of the Fox Range WSA. The solitude was refreshing. I rolled along sagebrush and expanding playa with no other disturbance. The dune system and immenseness of the Smoke Creek Desert gave the area a coastal feel. Further along the eroded clay substrate pocked with black basalt rock gave the area a not-of-this-world feel. The remains of our wettest winter on record were washed out roads and in some spots treacherous ruts across the roads.
The Fox Range is enticing but only a few roads give access from its western slope. I rode to the entrance of Wild Horse Canyon but I will have to return to explore it further. Mullen’s Canyon is just to the south and also deserves exploration.
Sulfur springs dot the Smoke Creek Desert. There are two noted on the maps around southern edge of the playa. They provide a significant source of water year round. The spike in biodiversity is notable from microbes, plants, insects, and wildlife. To many the marshy habitat may not immediately seem beautiful but I encourage all to seek wonder in these spots. I was intrigued by the numerous dragonflies in paired nuptial flight.
The out-and-back route started and ended at this dry water trough. In past trips I hoped it would be a source I could recommend to fill water bottles. But it will also be a starting point for exploring the Dry Valley Rim WSA. My next plan to ride this area will be to ride south from the north end of Smoke Creek Desert at Godeys Gap.