Written by Kirk Turner Monday, 27 April 2015 16:54
Some things in life just seem to happen: you are in the right place at the right time, you overhear a conversation, or you know a guy who knows a guy etc, but other things you have to plan for, prepare for, and devote time and effort to making them happen. A month spent mountain biking across the west falls into the latter category, but let me back up a little bit. Back in the end of June, after thousands of hours of work, I finally graduated with a degree in Industrial/Product Design from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I had lived in Washington for the last five years or so and it is a fantastic place, but I was itching for some new horizons.In the winter I made a tough decision to pack almost all of my belongings into a 5x13ft storage unit and strike out on the road for a few months after graduation. The trip got broken into a few segments: the first chunk would be rock climbing across California and up into British Columbia, then to Montana to visit with my girlfriend and finally, I convinced my dad to make a giant loop and explore the southwest with mountain bikes. We met in Salt Lake City and laid out tentative plans for an itinerary to hit Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Northern New Mexico, and finally Southern Colorado. We rode so many places, I will try to just hit some of the highlights and classics.
We tied up some loose ends at the cabin and built a new sleeping and organizational platform in the back of the Honda Element before loading up and heading south to St. George. The first day, we checked out the ever classic Hurricane Rim, Gould's, and J.E.M. Link up. The next day we stuffed our faces with pizza and moved camp to Gooseberry Mesa. The riding was pretty sweet, but it definitely has its own characteristics. It is not so much about flow and the occasional trials move is useful for navigating some pretty technical sections, but the rock landscape is bizarre and beautiful. We checked out the Zen network that is used for the senior Huntsman's, which was nothing to write home about and then we packed up and headed to Arizona.
I have heard about Flagstaff for years, but had never made it, until now. All I can say is it was worth the wait. We camped north of town and it was below freezing at night, but at 7,000ft of elevation it’s not hard to guess why. We picked the newly created Arizona trail for the day and it was fantastic! 25 miles north until you decide to stop riding or your legs explode we called it a day and turned around for a 50 mile day. Rolling hills, pleasant temps (once the sun was out), beautiful views, and buff single track what more could you ask for!?
Oh, I should mention that if you are into cycling and you have a smartphone, you need to download MTBproject. This is a free app that works with Google maps and provides real time data on your elevation, your location, and all the trails surrounding you! GPS is great, but to have a real-time display that can tell you that you missed a right turn 300ft behind you is invaluable. Additionally, all the data is user supplied so it appears that many popular trails and sections have been uploaded by locals. The following day we went to Walnut Canyon and finally the airport loop trails, but the northern trails and around Mt. Elden were the ticket. A little climbing in an also very historic spot called “the Snake Pit” and we were on our way to Sedona.
The short drive is surprisingly exciting as you drop down into a dry, but lush slot canyon surrounded by sandstone monoliths. It is easy to see why an outlaw or natives could hide and go about their lives in peace, however a rainstorm means serious danger. The canyon has a flash flood warning system for just that reason. As we pulled into town it was quickly apparent that as well as a riding mecca, this place was also ritzy and a tourist destination. We simply continued on and found a nice quite forest service road outside to camp at in relative peace. We linked up a significant chunk of the west Sedona trails including Aerie, Chuckwagon, and Fat Tire to name a few. It is pretty fantastic mix of flow with some sandstone slick-rock, and obstacles here and there to keep things interesting. Its no wonder it is a world class destination. We checked out the Dead Horse Ranch State park for an afternoon, which was pretty good, but some of the trails are recently built. It is worth a stop and exciting to see the areas that are still building and creating. Too often it seems access is going the other direction, the ruins are also not to be missed
The weather changed for the worst and a big series of thunderstorms headed our way so our stay got cut short and we moved on to New Mexico. Driving is a reasonable way to pass time while trails dry. We stopped in Gallup NM, but the trails were still questionable. With clouds on the horizon we opted for a quick trail run which turned out to be pour-ly timed and we got soaked, so it was back into the car and North in the Hope of harder trails and dryer weather!
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