Monday, June 29, 2009

Coconino Loop

After the Grand Loop race in late May, Scott and I began to talk about making our own loop with as much singletrack as possible, fun singletrack. The fewer dirt roads the better. My theory is that a dirt road should only be used as a connector, not as an entire race. The double track during the Grand Loop was incredibly steep and often unrideable. We chatted about some routes on the way home from the Grand Junction, northern Arizona was the likely candidate.

We got the base loop down that I posted last week and from there we went out on a mission to ride it. I was very familiar with the first part of the route as it was basically two of the Arizona Endurance Series races spliced and combined (CDC and SBFL).

Scott, Lee and I started on the Flagstaff Urban Loop and made our way to the Arizona Trail. The trail to Mormon Lake seemed to be in the best shape that I have ever seen, plenty of scenery



Photos courtesy of Scott/Scott's camera



Near Mormon Lake we filled up some water courtesy of the Knights of Columbus camp and continued on forest roads toward Sedona.


Camping on Hot Loop Trail gave us some spectacular evening and morning views.





The next morning, we woke up and headed to Circle K for a mandatory refuel stop. Loading up our bladders with ice seemed appropriate given the 94 degree high that was predicted. We bathed in Red Rock Crossing and headed toward the Lime Klin Trail.



Unknown to any of us, a local named Billy gave us some beta about the singletrack/doubletrack, old wagon route.



The trail was great, especially toward the end near Dead Horse State Park.

After a quick refueling at Hog Wild and Maverick, we slowly began the climb up Mingus Mountain, toward Trail 106.



It was hot enough that Lee rode up helmet-less



Some pretty steep forest roads insued



Views of Cottonwood, Verde Valley, Kachina Peaks, and Sedona were at every turn.

Riding up Trail 106 seemed perfect for the first mile or so, then it quickly shifted to a hike-a-bike. Towards the middle of the trail, we are able to ride some sections, but for the most part, the trail was pretty unfuntastic. We are looking at different options to not use this route for the loop, namely Black Canyon.



We got to the top of Mingus this second day and had another amazing camping spot, as you can see in Scott's picture from the next morning.



We woke up the next morning in search of water, until we realized there was a ranger station at the bottom of Yaeger Canyon. We descended down the wonderful trail #28. Simply stunning views of Prescott and some great, technical singletrack.



We got down to the "ranger station" to find just a old, empty road. Bummer. We continued to ride along, dropping down to the hotter, lower Prescott Valley area. We managed to find some water in a stock tank. Not the best looking water, but it worked for emergency uses.



We got some water at the Verde River and headed up the road to one of my favorite sections of the route, Bill Williams. This is the part of the ride that Lee found his wings again; he left Scot and I behind as he powered up the very scenic road.

The singletrack is almost all rideable on the way up, and on the way down, well, let's just say I was surprised.



The rain started approaching while we were getting to the top of the mountain. Riding into town to get a hotel seemed like the best approach. The first few hotels were booked, but finally we managed to find one that was in our budget that had a vacancy. We ordered 3 medium pizzas and headed to bed early.

The next morning, the sun came out as we pulled out of the parking lot. Good times. It was nice to sleep on a bed, but the top of the mountain would have been nice also. Imagine sleeping on all three high points of the race, oh well.

We headed on some dirt roads



to some more singletrack, Sycamore Rim Trail. Very good stuff.



if the technical singletrack does not inspire you, then the views will certainly...



After the Rim Trail, we headed back to Flagstaff with another storm approaching. We got a little wet, but it was the perfect ending to one of the best loops I have ever ridden.



Thanks Scott and Lee, and Scott for the pictures and letting me borrow the camera from time to time. As usual, it is not so much about the route as the people you ride with, both Lee and Scott are some of the best riders around, and they invoke some pretty interesting conversation.



The entire route in 3D courtesy of Topofusion


and the aerial view of the new route that we have, more stuff has been added and it is now a race





Final stats from the route per Scott's track: 216 miles, 24,000′ elevation gain

The new race is slated for October 9, 2009. There is a 250-mile and 350-mile option, 32k and 38k of climbing respectively.

The official thread is on bikepacking.net
The race site is on Arizona Endurance Series

Thanks to Dave C, Billy B, Mike H, Troy M, Nathan F, the guys at Pay n Take/Pines to Mines crew for making this route possible. While the idea to make this route started from our conversation, these guys helped develop/inspired the route.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kaibab-Coconino

The idea to do a bikepacking trip in northern Arizona was tossed around by Scott and I after the Grand Loop. "One big loop" was the goal and I quickly got to it this past weekend. I merged tracks, added new tracks on forest roads, and asked friends for beta on some areas I have never been.

A 450-mile ride was the final version, from which we narrowed it down to this base loop:



The loop can very immensely, but Flagstaff is always the hub of the loop. There are three areas that are bound to be a must-hammer section (depending on direction): Bill Williams, Casner Mountain, and Mingus.

Highlights of the route:
  • AZT goodness
  • Grand Canyon views
  • Casner Mountain with some killer views of Sedona and Sycamore Canyon
  • Mingus Mountain
  • Prescott Loop on about 80% singletrack
  • Bill Williams
I would estimate about 60% of the route is singletrack/doubletrack.

To put the route to the test, Scott, Lee and I are going to start riding from Flagstaff tomorrow for 3-4 days.... It should be good.

Make sure to check out this thread by Mike about the recent trip to the North Rim. Stunning pictures, simply stunning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nicaragua


Looks like Nicaragua and Costa Rica are going to have to wait some weeks. A confusion with the tickets has forced us to push the trip back 3 weeks. No big deal, right? Looks like I will be able to enjoy some of the cool weather, some rest for the hand (still a little numb), and possibly pick up a few shifts.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kaibab

I showed up early to the Kaibab National Forest on Thursday night to start a fast tour of the Kaibab Monstercross 200. As its name suggests, it is a big route with some huge amount of climbing, 35k in fact.

Dave Kirk and I rolled out at 5:30 on Friday morning, bikes ready for a 2-day trip of the Kaibab plateau. The route heads north on the Arizona Trail before reaching the state line. There was plenty of singletrack until it dropped down to House Rock Road.


200 ounces of water seemed appropriate for the ~75 miles of desert riding. The back drop of the Vermillion Cliffs was the perfect back drop for this last section of singletrack.


The House Rock continued for 19 miles before we rode a brief section of Highway 89A.




The East Side Game Road connected the highway with the next section of Arizona Trail. The 29-mile dirt road was pretty steep and narrow to say the least. After a few minutes of riding, Dave was not in sight. He had warned me that he would fall back when we started to climb. I continued to ride up and up.

I arrived to the singletrack at about 4:30; plans had not gone as I had hoped. I had estimated that I would be able to ride the route faster. More importantly, I did not have any desire to ride into the night as this was a fast tour after all. I ate a freeze dried meal and rested while deciding my next move. The GPS showed the Highway 67 was pretty close. Thoughts of bailout went through my head. My legs felt good and I was completely thinking straight when I decided to bail. The reasons were not due to suffering rather fun factor. I was not really enjoying riding solo and knew that I would have to pick up the pace and ride into the night if I wanted to finish before the gathering on Saturday. 77 miles into the route, I bailed.

Abort, abort, abort....

When I got back to camp, I saw long time friend Dave Chenault among the other great friends. It was a good move as the next day we rode the Arizona Trail at a leisurely pace. Pictures ensued. Plenty of rest stops. The ride to rest ratio was about 1:1.

Dave was riding strong as usual. He and I have always had a very similar pace.



The theme of the day was good riding with plenty of jokes and laughter. On occasion, I looked over to Dave and commented how happy I was that I bailed. It was good to go for a group ride on the Arizona Trail. Plenty of great areas.

Mr. Curiak also had his camera out, snapping as we went. He won my heart with his ice cream and he continues to amaze me with his witty humor.


Good views, good conversation, good friends..... it was an epic day.

Aspen riding is one of my favorite types of singletrack.


22 miles of sweet Arizona singletrack

The next day we went to the North Rim, ordered some pizza and did this


before continuing on toward the Rainbow Rim singletrack and more great views.


The numbness in the hands came back a little bit despite riding the Leviathan. The result was a big saddle sore during this weekend, causing me to scale back riding on the Rainbow Rim. The next 3 weeks is going to be break as I backpack down in Central America. I might be renting a bike for pure pleasure during the trip, otherwise it is back to doing some running. Look for another posting sometime in early July.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vistas

Recovery was in order, and what better way than to ride dirty century ride from Flagstaff to Sedona.

Plenty of interesting points along the ride, Sycamore Canyon probably being the highlight of the ride. The ride veers southwest of Flagstaff, riding through meadows. Touring pace was the goal.



As with any dirty century, the secret is to just continue to pedal. I was in no rush today, just needed to ride the route. I tried to make my cockpit something resembling his, but alas I only had a watch, GPS, and bell. One day. The watch was there to remind me that it was in fact a touring pace.



The forest road meandered for about 20 miles before turning into the best powerline road I have ever ridden. The views were stunning to say the least. Sycamore Canyon, Sedona, Cottonwood Valley, Jerome and the San Francisco Peaks in the background....it was 360 degrees of goodness. The pictures can boast

Looking toward Cottonwood



Steep sections are plentiful



but pale in comparison to the reward


Isn't creation a thing to marvel?


I had lunch here before pressing on to Sedona



and later Munds and Schnebly Hill. The singletrack was in the perfect section of the race, the middle. I thoroughly enjoyed it, largely due to the cool weather we are having in Arizona right now.



Flowers are plentiful, you just need to slow down a little bit. I call today's pace a fast tour.





The ride from Munds to Flagstaff was a bit slower. A brief stop at Woody's Food Market and I was off to ride some double track into Flagstaff.

100+ miles in 11 hours 13 minutes. Not too shabby.
More to come from the Kaibab as I venture to the North Rim today....

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Grand Loop Race Part 2

The next morning we woke up after a nice 8 hour sleep, headed to the infamous Bedrock Store. Scott and I had argued a little bit about the opening time of the store, it was either 8 or 9am. We opted to just hope that it was at 8am and just head down from the mesa in order to make it to the store on time. 8am it was


We stocked up on some much needed food before heading out toward Carpenter Ridge. It was going to take a descent amount of effort to get on top of the ridge.

We were making good time on this section of the trail. It was nice to be back up high again.



Scott had mentioned that we had to climb to 9800 feet and we were tottering at 7500 for awhile before making the slow, gradual climb up to the high point of the entire route. Rain clouds were all around us.


The drops came first. Then there was the sound of the onslaught behind us. We thought we could out run the storm. Big, big mistake. The hail came down as we were trying to out bike the storm. After about 1/2 mile, we took cover again. Our hands were cold, we were cold. In a matter of 5 minutes, it went from clear, blue sky to hail.

We pushed on in the storm. The roads became one big stream. The front tire began to swerve on its own. A glimmer of hope appeared in the distance, a house! Shelter! Wooo hoooo!

As the trail turned, I realized that the house we saw was pretty far off course. I looked back, Scott was not in sight. We were in a big meadow, rain was falling down with the occasional hail moment. I kept riding/pushing my bike up the hills to get to the top of the meadow. Success at last, it seemed flat for awhile. Then the rain stopped.



We had to push our bike across the meadow or in what stream that there was, otherwise our bikes would instantly get peanut butter-like clay on the tires and would be completely stop.

After a few minutes of slogging, we saw a mountain biker on the other side of the meadow and he was RIDING. It turned out it was Marshall. We chatted for a bit before parting ways. About 10 minutes had passed, when we saw another cyclist on the meadow. Dumbfounded, I thought it was my imagination. I think it was Scott who recognized Dave first, crying out "It is Dave Harris!" Amazing. Soggy, wet, and tired, Dave and I instantly went for a big hug, laughing uncontrollably at the fact that we were suffering together. Epic indeed. We exchanged beta before continuing on toward Kokopelli.

More pushing in the mud, carrying the bike, cleaning the bike continued for about 2 hours before we finally were able to ride. It was a welcome relief, but our goal in finishing in other 3 days seemed unattainable. I think it was here that I began to slow down to a crawl on some sections of the course. The camera stayed in the bag for most of this section of the trail, for obvious reasons. I was tired and cold.



We kept riding though the night, dragging on. Scott pulled for most of the night Kokopelli riding. I just tried to ride what I could. At Dewey Bridge, we pulled out our camping gear and finally went to bed at 3am.

At 5am, we started packing our gear when Jefe pulled up. We completed packing our gear, exchanging beta, and made our way toward the Yellowjacket.



The sleep was good and it propelled us for about half the day. At Westwater, a fellow mountain biker asked us if we needed some food or beer. I think we managed to score about 50 calories in food and one of these....

Scott even had a sip. "It is cold, give it to me," he replied when I asked if he wanted a drink. Thadda boy Scottie.

The last 3-4 hours was hard, probably the hardest of the entire trip. With not a cloud in the sky, it had turned to a bake fest. Two guys from Arizona complaining about the heat, really?! Yes, it was very hot. At one point, we had to hid under an overhang just to continue moving.

Things got a little more peachier as we continued toward the end of the trail or maybe that was just in my mind. Without a working GPS, I was often clueless on exactly how far we had until the finish line. The best sign that you are on your third day of an endurance ride, Scott commenting "I am not getting down on the ground to take a picture of the flowers." I guess it was my turn.



We finally made it to the trailhead, 3 days and 11 hours after we had started. With 48,000 feet of climbing, it is a beast of a ride. Endurance riding is best done with friends...thanks Scott. Well done senior.

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