Outdoor Adventure: Exploring Southern Utah with Burke Swindlehurst

Photo: Todd Leeds

Burke Swindlehurst is the ultimate outdoorsman. As a Southern Utah native, Burke has spent his life hiking and climbing around the National Parks of Zion and Bryce Canyon, fly fishing in secret lakes, and essentially doing anything else that gets him outdoors and into the wild. After spending a decade as a professional cyclist, his current day job includes being a private guide in Southern Utah for all the aforementioned activities, in addition to putting on one of the most revered gravel races in the country called Crusher in the Tushar, which Bonk Breaker is a proud supporter of.

Here’s a look at what keeps Burke busy on any given day in his Cedar City neighborhood.

“With my cycling and hiking adventures, I spend a lot of time scouring topo maps and Google Earth for out-of-the-way places in Utah where solitude is the main attraction. Nine times out of 10 the exploratory missions with my flyrod don’t yield more than a cool day of exploring in the woods (which is rewarding enough), but sometimes you hit the jackpot. This day I was rewarded with some exceptionally beautiful Bonneville Cutthroat Trout in a remote area of Central Utah at an elevation near 10,000 feet. The ice had recently come off the water, so the trout were extra hungry after a winter trapped under ice.”

“As much as I love exploring Utah aboard a bike, there are some places that the ‘rubber on the wheel’ can’t get you where the ‘rubber on the heel’ can. These pics were taken while hiking North Guardian Angel, a peak located in the Northwestern boundary of Zion National Park.” Photo: Todd Leeds

“It’s not a particularly long hike at under 7 miles round-trip, but it does require some scrambling. Luckily for me, my friend Todd Leeds is as good with his rope work and route-finding as he is with his camera. We made it to the top of the Angel without remark and were rewarded with stunning views overlooking Zion and it’s labyrinth of canyons and colorful spires.” Photo: Todd Leeds

“This is a 100+ foot rappel into the Mystery Canyon, one of Zion’s many slot canyons. Canyoneering is my favorite way to explore Zion because it gets you off the beaten track and into places that see very little traffic. I also really enjoy the technical aspects involved in navigating these canyons. There’s a lot of research on the front-end before undertaking of one of these trips, such as how much rope is needed and setting up the shuttle between the starting and end points. There are often some very cold swims involved as well, so often you need to change into neoprene to keep from becoming hypothermic. Keeping a very close eye on the weather is also critical because the last place you want to find yourself if there’s rain in the forecast is in one of these canyons. A flash-flood is not something you ever want to have an up-close and personal experience with!”

“This is my cousin Nicholas indulging in some spinal decompression on a jaunt we took to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, southeast of Zion National Park near Kanab, Utah. It was an unusually warm January day with temperatures in the mid-60s and we had a riot racing up the large dunes and then taking giant, running steps down them after making some obligatory sand angels.”

“The bike has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember and after spending the better part of 25 years racing on the road, my preference for riding now tends toward dirt and gravel. Partly to get away from cars, but to a larger extent to find the sort of places that pavement generally won’t take you. Again, solitude is paramount and a sweeping vista is the icing on the cake. This is an area about 20 miles West of my home in Cedar City where there’s a multitude of old gravel roads that were built back in the late 1800s to provide access to iron-ore mines in the vicinity, some of which are still in use.”

You can find Burke on Instagram at @tushrcrusher or reach him by email at roadirt@msn.com

by bonkbreaker

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