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Clay Hills Pass


When you ride to Glen Canyon and the Colorado River, it is downhill all the way, right ? How else would all that water get there before it evaporates ? Almost - between Natural Bridges National Monument and Father's Crossing there is an actual named pass. But the top of the pass is still more than 500 feet lower than the eastern end of Ut276. That point is shown on the right side of the map below, not outlined in yellow. Clay Hills Pass is the opposite from a high alpine climb. But it brings an interesting variation to this dessert ride, both in the scenery and in the workout.
 

click on profile for more detail
1.(4690ft,mile00) START-END EAST: low point on Ut276
2.(4730ft,mile) left turnoff dirt road: Clay Hills Crossing
3.(5290ft,mile) Clay Hills Divide
4.(5570ft,mile) TOP
5.(5370ft,mile) Green Water Spring
6.(3630ft,mile) START-END WEST: Halls Crossing - Marina


Approaches

From East. The profile begins after a long, slight downhill on Ut276 from its junction with Ut95. The road curves slightly to the right and heads up into red cliffs. To the right in the distance you can make out the buttes of Monument Valley, without having to endure the traffic and road conditions in the Navajo Reservation. Instead, here there is peace without cars and good pavement. With a little altitude gain the road reaches the "Moenkopi munchkins" sitting on the "Chinle elephant feet". Early evening light makes them shine especially gloriously. Next comes a modestly small monument, sitting on a monumentally large parking area, extolling the virtues of proselytizing mormon missionaries, who came this way and did their thing in the Hole in the Rocks area. The sign calls this divide "Clay Hills Pass". Most maps seem to label it Clay Hills Divide. The road keeps on climbing past the divide, quite steeply in the end, and reaches a high point that also marks a temporary change in scenery.


From West. (described downwards) A more gradual downhill leads through a small canyon, filled with small Cottonwood trees and lots of Tamarisk, carved by Castle Creek. All of sudden you think you've seen something imaginary, maybe a unreal reflection in the heat of the day (even if it's already late October). Wasn't that a lake of green water ? Well, lake is an exaggeration, a pond perhaps, definitely bigger than a puddle, and in this dessert context you might as well call it a lake. And it was definitely green. The map verifies the existence of "Green Water Spring". This may explain why the handful of forlorn cows, I encountered along the way, were still alive, although they did look very parched.


The road keeps on dropping past the psychedelic spring. When it reaches a second, minor high point, it is back in the dessert. The Henry Mountains to the north are now the only show in town. The foreground is played by the crossbedding of the imperturbable Navajo formation. There are signs that the unreal seeming, manmade sea is near, when stored houseboats start appearing on the bare rocks. A sign reads "airport". But to me it looked like a storage area for boats. Many are stored in individual tents, giving the whole scene the appearance of a deserted refugee camp. The road keeps on dropping ever so slightly and you can see the final destination, clear as a pencil drawing, as you roll nearer ever so slowly, the blue sea of Glen Canyon contained by white rock walls. To roll the last mile down to the water, one must invest in a 7 dollar entrance fee for a bicycle, collected either at an entrance station or a self service station. It does seem a little high, compared with 10 dollars for a motor vehicle with unlimited occupants (to put it mildly). To the left the small, geometrically spaced trees of the campground give the appearance of a very small Spanish fruit orchard. To the right a spacious gas station with attached, extremely small store sells canned goods and returns the visitor to reality. The attendant was also very happy to help with some electrical tape to fix a broken electronic part on my bike in a jiffy. To get to the ferry requires a couple more miles of riding. By the way, if the ferry is not operating, there is usually a road sign indicating this back at the junction of Ut95 and Ut276, west of Natural Bridges National Monument.

 

Dayrides with this point a summit:

COMPLETELY PAVED:

Clay Hills Pass x 2 : out and back: jct Ut276-Ut95 west of Natural Bridges NM <> Ut276 <> Clay Hills Pass <> Hall's Crossing Marina: 95.0miles with 4380ft of climbing in 6:31hours (Vetta 100A r2:11.10.21).


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