St George, UT: I like it here. Also, camping preferences.

On the Zen Trail, Overlooking St George. My campsite is in the basin in the middle distance.
50% (3/6) of my meals on the road so far…

After writing yesterday’s post I ate out for the 6th time (I think) so far on this trip. I went to In-N-Out, again, and it was delicious. I believe 3 of the 6 meals I’ve gone out for have been In-N-Out. I think that’s a great ratio.

From there I went to go find a campsite. It was raining, which made me a little nervous about pulling my trailer around on steep dirt roads. I don’t have good sense of what I can and can’t do (esp with the trailer), and really don’t want to find the limit, so I tend to be somewhat nervous about it. Fortunately, no problems at all. :)

Crossing this, pulling a trailer, with no problems. My AWD earning its keep.
My campsite, shot later in the evening. St George starts on the ridge in the back.

After I found a camping spot I unhooked the trailer so I could have some fun. The place I’m camping is BLM land with a big offroading/ ATV playground with jeep trails going off into the ridges. (It also has great dedicated MTB trails, as well as rock climbing… Basically a giant outdoor playground.) The campsite I found is fairly exposed so I went exploring with my car to see if I could find something better before I unpacked.

Exploring the area.

I didn’t find any better campsites (at least that I felt confident about pulling the trailer to), but I did have fun putting my car’s offroad abilities to use. Besides driving some of the trails I did a decent number of donuts — Er, careful research into low traction sharp cornering abilities — in the general playground area.

When I’d concluded the research (general findings: my car has a lot of traction) I settled into my campsite. I’m still constantly amazed by the whole concept of public land with free dispersed camping. The idea of it being perfectly legals to go camp somewhere without asking anyone’s permission, paying a fee, or where there’s an explicit sign saying it’s allowed is still very weird to me. It’s great though. My current campsite is not only free, but at the trailhead for a great a MTBing trail, and only a 10 minute drive to the nearest cafe. The only tradeoffs are a frequent distant drone of ATVs / dirtbikes (which seems to be limited to daylight hours) and it has minimal privacy. For a free excellent location I can’t say I mind.

I’ve been putting some thought into my preferences in campsites, and what I’ve learned since leaving town. Having camped with a wide range of phone service levels, I will admit that I do find data service really useful on my phone. I spent a lot of time thinking about this at my Moab site, where I had to drive 25 minutes or so (basically into town) to get a data signal. Being able to check the weather forecast, especially out here where it’s extremely variable (Illinois tends to be more predictable, at least over a 7-day time span) is very useful. As is being able to look up information about trail conditions, a place’s hours, etc. I didn’t mind the lack of data in Sedona because I was going to be driving into where there’s service anyway every day to go riding, but camping in Moab where I was at a trailhead and wouldn’t otherwise need to drive it was a bit frustrating.

The other main aspect to campsite preference, besides data service, has been proximity to places with wi-fi / stores / other trail systems. I’ve decided that I like proximity, at least for anywhere I’m staying for more than a night or two. Before when I was in the STG area (camping on Gooseberry Mesa near Hurricane) I was close enough to that trailhead I could ride without driving and had great data service, but it was a 40+ minute drive to go anywhere else (including other MTB trail systems). Not the worst thing in the world, and I wouldn’t mind if I was staying somewhere for only a few days or only wanted to ride that set of trails, but for places that I want to explore that’s not an ideal place to use as a basecamp.

As an illustration, there’s a set of trails I wanted to ride next to Gooseberry but didn’t get around to, partially because they were a 40 minute drive away. Somewhat surprisingly, despite that I’m now camped on the far side of the area, they are still a 40 minute drive.

Roughly the same scale, both 40 minute drives. Gooseberry Mesa campsite left. Near my new campsite right.

All this is to say that I’m very happy with my new campsite. Central location, by the trailhead for a great MTB trail, and half decent data service.

This morning I got a nice ride in on that trail. It’s the Zen Trail, which I rode once a few weeks ago. It’s a great trail. It’s a classic long climb — fun descent with a bit of up and down towards the end and good technical features that are challenging but not grueling. Also, beautiful views.

On the Zen Trail. My campsite can just barely be seen as a few white dots on the right side of the photo (left). And a fun technical part (right).