Nothing about the trailhead or the name of the trail gave any indication about what might be discovered by experiencing it. It was the Orange Trail and the trailhead was unremarkable. So why was I riding it? I know Dale Bartholomew with State Parks who was leading the ride and if he liked this trail, I wanted to know why.
It didn’t take long to get the answer. The beauty of this area is both wild and terrible. I thought I had been dropped onto another world. We wound our way over fractured rock ridges and colorful valleys strewn with enormous boulders. I knew I was in strange country when we passed a large boulder with what appeared to be a huge dead rat sprawled on top.
I was curious to know how the trail got its name. Noting that the trail markers were all marked with large orange dots, I decided that it is the Orange Trail because that is what it is. Maybe I was going too fast to see any details.
We continued to work our way through this land of desolation to Dee Pass and stopped for lunch. We were in the midst of an abandoned uranium mining operation. It didn’t look inviting as a place to live but I think getting in touch with the past adds to our sense of being. We ate our meal in the shade of a massive rock.
Leaving the pass, we rode to the edge of a bluff for a view of the White Wash Sand Dunes. I wondered why these red dunes had a white name. As we dropped down out of the rocky desert, I learned that while the dunes are red, the sand in the wash is white and there is a clear line marking the separation of the two colors.
The dunes are bordered by White Wash, which arcs around the east side. Following the wash, we came into a giant sandstone bowl with walls rising high above us on all sides. Backtracking out of the bowl, we took a trail that put us on top looking down into the bowl. If you held a family reunion there, the bowl would be a good place for a picture from the top. The trick would be to set the timer on the camera so that you would have enough time to get back down into the bowl to be in the picture.
Traveling away from the lip of the bowl, we moved into another box canyon and stopped. I learned that it didn’t stop but climbed into a rock canyon. The trail ascended a steep slickrock ramp. Knowing it was a trail, I fired up my machine and headed up the ramp. I thought it was steep going up, but it seemed steeper coming down. I left that section wanting to come back and explore another day.
Climbing out of the dunes, we followed another wash through more mining country. The evidence of mining here is a series of cold water geysers. Some of them are hard to find, but the trail we were on took us by two of them. The first was Soda Geyser. In the 1940’s, exploration holes were drilled through dense layers of rock into an aquifer rich in carbon dioxide. The difference in CO2 pressure beneath and the atmospheric pressure above brings cold water spewing out of the ground, but not on a regular basis.
We moved on to the largest and most famous of these, which is called Crystal Geyser. Located on the banks of the Green River, the geyser shoots cold water from a large pipe some 100 feet into the air. I learned that some people have camped more than 12 hours to see the show. We still had a long trip home, so we decided to see it from someone else’s pictures.
This is a fascinating and mystical country. The best time to ride here is early spring or late fall. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and good luck seeing the show at Crystal Geyser.
You may reach Lynn Blamires at email@example.com.