Off-roaders escape it all at Little Sahara

Recreation » It can be good family fun, but cops are on the lookout for the 'crazy' element.
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If there's a recession going on, it's not obvious here.

As of Friday morning, 14,000 people had already made their way to Little Sahara to climb the dunes with sand rails, ATVs and motor bikes. For some, it's also a chance to leave the cares of the world behind for at least a weekend.

"It's like taking off a backpack and losing all that weight on your shoulders," said K.C. Shafer, of Clinton, relaxing with friends at a campsite near Sand Mountain about 23 miles south of Eureka in Juab County. "This is the most relaxed I've been in two weeks."

But the weekend will not be relaxing for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which runs the 60,000-acre Little Sahara, or the numerous police agencies that come to make sure that what eventually could be 32,000 off-roaders play safe and obey the law.

Among the agencies helping keep the peace in this temporary city are the sheriff's offices of Juab, Utah and Davis counties, Utah State Parks rangers, the Utah Highway Patrol, the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles, the state Department of Natural Resources, West Juab Ambulance and AirMed, which is keeping a helicopter available for emergency evacuation.

So far on opening day, Lisa Reid, BLM spokeswoman said, one person was taken away in an ambulance, another by helicopter and several others were driven to the hospital with injuries. The only thing that can put a damper on the weekend would be rain, Reid said.

Clinton resident Shafer said Little Sahara's reputation as an anything-goes lost weekend is undeserved. While there is a wild element, he estimates they represent about 5 percent of those who come out. The rest? People who only want to do some off-roading during the day and socialize at night.

Some also like to mix a bit of business and pleasure.

Chris Harris comes not only to get in some riding but to promote his business, Hellrazor Sandcars. Harris, of Ogden, has been building sand rails for the past three years. He was hoping that riding his 220-horsepower rig would help drum up some business.

"The market went south, and so did everyone else," Harris said.

But that didn't stop him from making runs to the top of 700-foot-high Sand Mountain. Like many others there, he does it for the adrenaline rush.

"It's fun," said Cherie Moses, of Salt Lake City, who was waiting at the base of the mountain. "It's just like a playground."

But there were others who were content with the smaller hills.

Chevy Hastings, of Spanish Fork, was with members of a group seeing how high they could launch their utility ATVs off the top of a sand dune. Hastings was easily catching three feet of air with his stock Yamaha.

"I love it out here," Hastings said.

Karri Finlinson came up from Price with her three kids to spend time with her parents at the hill. It was her first time at Little Sahara at Easter, and she thought things were "a little crazy."