Magic in the trails above Manti

Thursday , October 12, 2017 - 5:00 AM

LYNN R. BLAMIRES, special to the Standard-Examiner

Situated on the west side of the Arapeen ATV Trail System, Manti is a favorite place to stay when riding these trails. There is magic in the labyrinth of trails that lace the Manti-La Sal Mountains rising over 5,000 feet above the town.

Famous for ATV trails and fishing holes, the Arapeen Trails can also be accessed from Mount Pleasant, Spring City, Ephraim, Sterling, and Mayfield on the west and Huntington, Castle Dale, Clawson, Ferron, Moore, and Emery on the east. With so many access points, there is an amazing amount of variety in the 550 miles of trail to ride in this system.

We were on the second day of a two-day riding and fishing trip. Having been out-fished by 11-year old Elsie Smith, we left her with her dad to fish while we explored the magic of these trails.

At the top of these mountains runs a fascinating stretch of trail that runs north to Highway 31 and south using the Gooseberry ATV Trails to connect with Interstate 70. I call it fascinating because it runs for some 58 miles and never drops below 10,000 feet in elevation.

Being that high, as you ride, much of the time you are looking down into beautiful valleys and across ranks of mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. Being so high, there is nothing above you but the sky. At that altitude the deep azure blue of the sky in contrast to the stark white clouds is captivating. At least white is what I prefer to see. Unfortunately, I have been caught out in situations where the clouds are of a different color.

These trails connect Manti with the Skyline Trail at the top of the La Sals at four points. Trail No. 3 takes a route on the north around Elks Knoll to connect near Jet Fox Reservoir. Trail No. 33 also connects at Jet Fox, while the main Manti Canyon Road connects at the same point as the Sheep Trail toward the south.

The magic is in the maze of trails between Manti and the Skyline. As I said, we left the fisher people in our party and took the north leg of the Patton Trail (No. 3). Before it ran its course around Elks Knoll, we turned off onto No. 33 and entered the world of fall colors and narrow trails that are anything but straight.

When we were negotiating these trails the problems we deal with every day just seem to melt away. We found ourselves caught up in the world as it appears in its basic simplicity. The trails are just challenging enough to be fun, the kind that ATVs were made to handle. There had been rain in the days before so there was no dust and the colors seemed brighter because of it.

You can’t even get lost in this maze. When you come to an intersection it doesn’t matter which way you turn. If you are going down, you will end up in Manti and if you are going up, you will find yourself on the Skyline and that is as high as you can go. The next trail you take west will take you down.

We turned off No. 33 onto No. 32 and then No. 31 took us back to No. 3. We headed back down to Yearns Reservoir, where Elsie was still catching fish. On this day the sky had those clouds of a different color. The kind that will descend upon you and make you wet.

However, I have found that the weather forecasters are getting uncannily good. We looked at the hourly forecast for Manti and noted that rain was scheduled for 2 p.m. so we scurried off the mountain. Loaded up for the trip home, we were driving out of town at 1:50 p.m. and at 2 o’clock. sharp, the rain hit. Now to me there is just something wrong with that, but I am not quite sure what it is.

When you go take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and take time to enjoy the magic of the backcountry.

You can email Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

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