Snow Run - Baker Reservoir to Pine Valley to Pinto

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - February 2, 2016

Snow Run - Baker Reservoir, Pine Valley, Pinto

Sometimes a person wonders how a day could be any more sparkling than this day. It was crisp and chilly, 24 degrees at the church in Diamond Valley where we started the run. This was almost balmy compared to the temperature reached later this day, about 15 degrees. This fun and challenging trail ride was led by Gil Meacham in his little go (almost) anywhere Geo Tracker.

As was discovered later in the run, it's a great advantage to air down to very low pressures in soft snow. It was well demonstrated that tire pressures as low as 6 PSI greatly aided traction. Below the gang of 17 vehicles prepare to deflate their tires.

After departing Diamond Valley and passing through Veyo, our first turn off Highway 18 was at Baker Dam and Reservoir.

"Built in 1953, the reservoir area offers slightly cooler temperatures and a quick getaway from St. George and other lower elevation communities. The reservoir is managed by the Baker Dam Reservoir Association. Stocked with trout on a regular basis by the State Division of Wildlife Resources, the reservoir is a popular fishing site. While spring and fall provide the best fishing opportunities, Baker Dam Recreation Area is open year-round."

After traveling a few miles on plowed roads, we turned off onto untracked snow. At the highest elevations the snow depth reached 16-18 inches.

Throughout the morning the radio was active with adjectives such as; "Awesome, winter wonderland, sparkling, gorgeous" and as the morning progressed likely some adjectives that weren't uttered over the radio.

Upper reaches of the Santa Clara River in the ravine.

At times a light breeze would blow the soft, fluffy snow off the pine and juniper branches as we passed by, creating a magical "fairy dust" effect.

Jeeps queued up and waiting for vehicles that were "challenged" up ahead to get towed and unstuck.

Kathryn and Menlo Smith take the opportunity to enjoy the winter splendor.

More vehicles lined up, enjoying the sunshine and winter scenery.

The little car that could had its challenges on this run. Initially, Gil was leading the run, breaking trail. However, as elevation increased and when the snow got too deep and was pushing up to his bumper, taller vehicles had to take over.

Below, Chad Burn tugs Gil out of a tough spot.  

Gil wasn't the only one who had trouble. Here Jim and Carolyn Ward get assistance out of what could have become a tricky situation. It was at this time that the importance of lowering the air pressure was really driven home.

Chad gives Jim a tow out of his precarious spot. 

At this point, Chad and his Cherokee took over the trail breaking duties. However, not having differential lockers proved to be a problem in this snow. So, the third trail leader of the day took over. Bill Draney with his Rubicon, lockers and oversized tires aired down to 6 PSI took over and broke trail over the mountain and down into Pine Valley. 

Coming down into the village of Pine Valley, Utah 

Entering the main street of summer-bustling, winter-ghost town Pine Valley. Several residents do live there year round. 

Kathy Lillywhite and Kathryn Smith. 

"The Pine Valley Ward Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints designed by shipbuilder Ebenezer Bryce in 1868 using the scheme of an upside-down boat. Pine Valley Chapel is the oldest Mormon chapel in continuous use.” 

Ebenezer Bryce is the great-great grandfather of Ron Bryce, a member of the St. George Jeepers Group, in the yellow vest, below. Fortunately, his Toyota FJ made it through with minimal assistance. 

Leaving Pine Valley 

After departing Pine Valley we took the Grass Valley Road toward Pinto. Upon arriving in Pinto the group decided that due to the delays on the trail we would not take the originally planned trail ride over the mountain to New Harmony and I-15. In Pinto we turned west and headed back in the direction of highway 18. 

At one point the group attempted to take a trail north toward Newcastle Reservoir. Below, some vehicles return to the road after testing the snow and difficulty of continuing. However, considering the lateness in the afternoon and the depth of the snow it was decided to end the day and "head for the barn." 

One of the benefits of living in southwest Utah is that traveling 45 minutes from St. George will put you into the mountains with cool summers and snowy winters. Thanks to Jim Lillywhite for his contribution of several photos for this report. And thanks to Gil, Chad and Bill for breaking trail and Joan and Phil Hayes for tail gunning. 

Submitted by Bud Sanders