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Don’t let careful planning get in the way of a good time 

Words By Logan Phipps

It’s been said the most important step in planning a great ocean sailing journey is to set the departure date. Once you’ve set the date and committed to it, the rest of the planning usually falls into place. With this in mind and a busy personal schedule full of travel and commitments I was feeling frustrated with having gone a few months without getting into the wilderness on a bikepacking trip. I was feeling down, so I opened my calendar, looked for an opening a few weeks in the future and entered “bikepacking trip.”  

At the time I had no idea where I would be going, what type of bike I’d be riding, and what the weather would be like. It didn’t matter. Just having the date on the calendar was soothing. 

A few days before the planned ride I had only worked out that I wanted to explore West of St. George on an easy overnighter. is a great resource for quickly creating a plan based on the research of others. By searching routes based on distance and location, it’s easy to find rides that someone else has done the route planning. After a little searching on the site, I landed on riding a route titled “Beaver Dam NCA dirt (shorter)” that starts from Gunlock Reservoir in Southern Utah, heads West into Nevada and then loops through the Beaver Dam National Conservation Area before returning to Gunlock.  

A few days before the ride, I find packing of the bike to be a great pleasure of the experience. Deciding what to bring and what to leave behind and the always most challenging decision of how much water to bring. That life sustaining fluid that also happens to be the heaviest thing to be carried.  

My friend Dave who agreed to join me could teach a master class on the art of packing a bike. He plans to the calorie and carefully risk assesses each provision added. My form is a sporadic pattern of just strapping on the bags, loading the sleeping gear, and filling whatever the remaining space is with food. 

The planned loop crosses the Beaver Dam Wash in a couple of locations and Google Earth images showed green vegetation, so I took a little risk and planned on water being available on the route. This proved to work well as both crossings had plentiful water. 

  The route starts North of Gunlock Reservoir and enters beautiful red rock canyons before joining Magnese Wash Road.  This first few miles required both hike-a-bike up and down through steep and technical terrain. From there we joined Motoqua Road westbound with perfect gravel for cruising and eating up the miles. As the route enters Nevada and bends southbound rolling hills become the norm with lots of small climbs and descents.  


The route then joins Bull Valley Road and begins a long descent into Beaver Dam Wash. Just downstream of the road crossing of the wash is the lowest point in the state of Utah at 2350’. At the creek crossing we elected to camp near the banks. The surrounding cottonwoods provided a nice change in the scenery.  


Waking the next morning the sun lit up the surrounding cliffs and frost glazed our bikes. We broke camp and began a long climb out of the wash. Reaching the top of the climb we were rewarded by a forest of Joshua Trees within the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area. The website for the conservation area reads, “At this time, there are no developed recreation facilities in the NCA.” Perfect. The area is wonderfully absent of any structures that would infringe on the wonder of the space. From there we chewed through the miles and made it back to the truck and made it home it time to get back to the responsibilities of the day. 


As I reflected on our la
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