Forest Tales

A fuel stop at one of the loneliest petrol stations I've encountered, in the middle of nowhere.

Looking at the dirt ahead, I donned my somewhat soggy leather trousers, a mite uncomfortable at first, but in the Utah heat they were like having built-in air-conditioning

I tried recreating my Sahara Desert picture, but the sand just isn't the same in America.

Ascending up through the trees, in search of cooler temperatures.

I'm riding through the Manti La Sal National Forest in southern Utah. It's stunningly beautiful with a great range of dirt tracks- I later found out it features in the Back Country Routes DVD from Touratech. I rode through dirt, gravel, rock, sand and mud before realising that maybe I should check my direction, I hadn't managed to get a very detailed map of the forest and there seemed to be many more trails than I was expecting. There is a definitely a lack of people in these parts, I discovered someone camping in the middle of nowhere who very clearly had come up here to get away from it all and did NOT want to be disturbed by anyone. However, needs must, I took a deep breath and approached, noticing as I did so that his pick-up truck had a large sticker on it bearing the legend "Pissing off the world one person at a time" good grief I thought that's all I need. As I walked closer, helmet off, smile plastered on face, I could feel the hostility radiating off him. In my best British accent I told him I was lost and needed to check my route. Luckily he didn't shoot me, (he definitely had a gun in his truck) looked surprised at my accent and gruffly gave me directions, also pointing out to me how the forest tracks are numbered. I quickly said my thanks and retreated back to Thelma. As I was about to ride off, he approached (I flinched) and he offered me some stew, I claimed a dinner date and headed off down the trail. Who was I kidding about a dinner date in this remote bit of forestry?!

The views became more and more spectacular, as I came over the top of the mountain and was descending a trail that hugged the edge of the steep slope. No room for mistakes as I would have gone hurtling down the vertical drop which was several hundred feet. After talking to him I didn't see anyone else the rest of that day except two quad bikes who passed me in the opposite direction.

I was getting tired and making silly mistakes, I realised I wasn't going to get anywhere near Moab tonight, let alone down to the valley floor at the bottom. I had no idea how much further the trail went.

As the sun was setting, I rode on, keeping my eyes open for anywhere suitable for my tent.

Eventually I had to ride off the trail up a steep slope through soft earth, cactus and shrubs, finally stopping to park Thelma behind a bush as I set up the tent next to another one and settled down to eat my peanut butter sandwiches and enjoy a cup of tea. In the cactus next to me was Flat Stanley, a school project piece from a friend's daughter whom I'm supposed to be taking with me and photographing in different locations.