A desert adventure on the Low Mountain Trail

Lynn Blamires
ATV Adventures
(LYNN BLAMIRES courtesy photo)
Riders on the way to the top of Low Mountain.
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The Low Mountain Lookout Trail was offered in this year’s Tri-State ATV Jamboree in Hurricane. I was attracted to this ride by its unusual name. Exactly what is a low mountain and how far can you see from the top of one? Well, my curiosity was peaked.

We unloaded at the Black Rock exit which is a few miles south of St. George on I-15. We started by following a power line road south then turning right to cross Dinner Flat near the mouth of Little Purgatory Canyon. Being March, it didn’t feel like Purgatory but I bet it would in August.

We were at less than 4,000 feet in elevation when we began to see barrel cactus. We saw only a few at first then many of these unique desert plants dotted the canyon walls. Sometime in December or January the cactus turn bright red showing up like rubies on the desert floor.

Passing through Maple Canyon, I thought, “I don’t see anything Maple about this canyon.” Then we passed Maple Spring and Maple Reservoir and I thought maybe the guy’s wife was named Maple, who knows? The more I learn about names of features in the back country, the more I think that the reasons for the names died with the authors.

Climbing in elevation, we passed through “maple” country and noticed a change of foliage. We left the cactus country behind for forests of juniper trees and cooler temperatures. Topping out at about 7,000 feet in a forest of ponderosa pines, we stopped for lunch.

Leaving the ponderosa forest we passed Low Mountain. The only reason I can see for its name is that it is lower than the other mountains around it and if you didn’t have a map, you would miss it. The place we stopped for lunch was higher than this mount.

Continuing on the trail, we descended about a 1000 feet. Off to our right and down another 1400 feet into the canyon was Atkin Spring. I smiled to think about the Atkins diet and wondered if the spring had diet water. Diet water??

Turning onto a side trail we reached the edge of the Virgin River Gorge. Taking time to enjoy the spectacular view was a highlight of the trip. We could see I-15 winding its way through the gorge 3300 feet below. The traffic on I-15 looked tiny as it moved along. The rugged red-rock cliffs made a stark contrast to the bright blue sky.

Backtracking to the turnoff, we continued our descent back into Little Purgatory Canyon. A notable feature of this part of the ride was a craggy black-rock gorge called The Dives. Looking at this country through the eyes of a pioneer, I could see what a nightmare it would be to cross.

We soon found ourselves back in the barrel cactus and took time to get a closer look. These stubby fingered plants protrude from the rock ledges in unlikely places. I was fascinated to see where these plants rooted themselves.

Arriving back at the trucks, we had finished a loop of 51 miles. The differences in foliage at changing elevations made this trip memorable.

Occasionally I get to test new products on a ride. This trip I tested an American Trails rack bag made especially for two-rider machines. Called a two-up, the ATV is designed to handle a passenger behind the rider by lengthening the frame for better stability. This design took up much of the rack space on the back of the machine making it difficult to pack all the stuff you need for the trail. The only solutions offered had zipper closures which clog up in dusty conditions.

I like this bag. It offers adequate storage space in three compartments with no zippers. It comes in three compartments joined by Velcro straps that wrap around the back of the seat. It is water proof and the domed lids on the side boxes are sturdy enough to make good arm rests. When you go, take a camera, plenty of water, and keep the rubber-side down.

You may reach Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

Lynn Blamires

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