The past couple of months have been a bit crazy for us normally dry desert dwellers as huge storm after huge storm lay waste to our beloved desert trails. The Coco is held in northern AZ and tends to hold up better to unfavorable weather with one exception: sticky taffy-like death mud!! Bleh. Nothing will grind your ride to a halt faster. So, a watchful eye was cast on the local radar the day before the start. We initially thought we dodged a bullet, but in the wee hours almost 3/4" of rain fell on the piece of trail we needed to stay dry. The powers that be granted a detour and the event would start as scheduled.
|A very fitting name to start/end this loop.|
Day 1: Flagstaff to Sedona Overlook
By the time I showed up at The Place, all the riders had departed. I ordered a hearty french toast & bacon breakfast to get me going. Caroline & Carlos appeared briefly, then they too took to the trail.
I think I got rolling around 8:30a under cool sunny skies. A short stint on pavement, then down to the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) and onto the Arizona Trail (AZT). I hadn't reached the Fisher Point junction when I came across Carlos as he was putting a tube in. It would eventually spell the end of his ride, way too early. He's had a tough go of it lately in these bigger events, it'll turn around for him soon.
|A couple miles of forest roads eventually morph into this.|
|One of these days I'm gong to camp in this walled side canyon.|
|It didn't take long for things to get steep.|
|Ray in business mode catching me after a 30 minute head start.|
We briefly considered exiting the trail a bit early because there is a mile swath of mud before some gravel covers the trail into Marshal Lake. There's also some really nice singletrack beforehand, so we pressed on.
|Into the muck we go, trying all the tricks of the trade - front wheel raised here.|
|The trail looked dry, but don't be fooled. It was glue. Front tire blending in well picking up pine cones, sticks & rocks!!|
|The gravel brought relief even if we were pelted by rocks until the clay fell off.|
There were three options to rejoin the route. The consensus was to skip the first intersection based on last year's continued mud slog. There were conflicting reports of the second entry at Wiemer Springs. Devon eventually pulled away from me on the paved climbs and I opted to take the third entry at FR240.
|Devon cruising by Upper Lake Mary.|
|Devon rode by, then Caroline came up as I finished lunch.|
|Jones Tank and a bit of drizzle - which I wasn't planning on. It didn't last luckily.|
It was early so the three of us made a short detour to Munds Park for a re-supply (read: beer). It was interesting riding on the shoulder of I-17 for a bit as big rigs flew by at 75+ mph. At least it's a huge smooth shoulder.
|Plenty of room for a few brews.|
|Munds Canyon from the freeway.|
|A bike legal portion of interstate.|
|Seron & Caroline on Schnebly Hill rd.|
|Fantastic turnout & great group to hang with!! L-R: Phil, Ben, Caroline, Brian, Artec, Jason, Ray(green socks), Nancy, Jeff, Devon, Seron & Brad. Not pictured: Chris, Mike & another Bryan who thru-rode the route.|
|What a view!! We get to camp here, watch the sunset and peer out at camp 2 atop Mingus Mtn in the distance.|
|The sunset delivered.|
|Red Rock Chica even made a visit, but lost her ID on the donkey ride up.|
- A Revelate gas tank, no surprise there, solid quality work just bigger than my other feedbag.
- A pair of goosedown booties for sleeping. My feet always get cold, so on a recommendation from Nancy I bought a pair with 100% over stuffing. They are super light, pack down to nothing and kept my feet comfortable both nights out.
- A new charger for my Garmin Edge 705. A PowerMonkey Explorer battery charger with solar backup.
- A cool little piece of bike bling, a StemCAPtain thermometer.
Day 2: Sedona to Mingus Mtn.
I began stirring before daybreak, but couldn't get going because all my stuff was soaked from the morning dew!! The first rider left camp in the darkness while the others began to stir. I finally got going, packed up my wet sleeping bag (I opted to leave the tent in the car) and was rolling down Munds Wagon trail by 6:30a.
Last time I did this loop we had to adjust the course to start/finish in Sedona which meant for me, a descent in the dark!! This time was much more pleasant. As with most riding in Sedona, you're going to work for it. Plenty of short dismounts, steep grunts up, techy drops, tight twisty turns all surrounded by an otherworldly landscape. It really is a special place to ride, just be prepared to go slower than normal.
|Devon catching me at a Schnebly crossing.|
|Hard to imagine wagons ever going down this trail.|
|Small patches of slickrock to enjoy.|
|The famed exit of Hangover trail, I still need to check that one out!!|
|Early morning rays basking the red rocks.|
The PowerMonkey worked as advertised charging up my GPS. It was now time to test out the solar panels, I'd velcro the flip-phone looking panels to the top of my pack and re-charge the battery during the day while I rode. I would think AZ is a prime location for such a device with our abundance of clear blue skies.
|Broken Arrow trail leads up to Chicken Point, a popular destination for the Pink Jeep Tours.|
|A small Chapel on the Rocks can be seen in the center from the Templeton trail.|
|Up close & personal with Cathedral Rock.|
|Lush valley at Red Rock Crossing.|
|Refreshing waters of Oak Creek.|
|This is the section of trail from the 2012 version.|
I topped off my water & lubed my chain at the visitor center as I prepared for what lie ahead on the Lime Kiln trail.
|The first mile of Lime Kiln is a swift gut punch. A pre-cursor to Mingus.|
|One last view of Sedona from the top.|
|The signs mark the end of the HAB.|
|Looking west. When in doubt, look for the tall cairns to guide the way.|
|A large group of equestrians out for a tour, one rider had been bucked off requiring an airlift out. Bad scene.|
|Fast doubletrack, Mingus not appearing to get any closer.|
|Red cliffs of west Sedona.|
|Fields of gold made finding the trail a bit of a challenge.|
|Another trail that's tough to imagine wagons on.|
|I crossed over this trail twice before finding it hidden in the tall grass.|
|Mingus finally coming into focus and with it the sand deepened.|
|Lime Kiln ends here at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood.|
I also took this opportunity to lay out my wet sleeping bag and clothes. The sun was bright and in the mid 80's. It didn't take more than 15 minutes for everything to dry out. While eating I received a text from Seron, he was bailing due to knee issues, the 'good knee' this time. Dude can't buy a break. The good news was he found Red Rock Chica's ID on Schnebly Hill rd. She was just a bit thrilled!!
|Quality stop on route.|
It was 3:30p when I departed the Maverick station. I was hopeful I would make it up to the singletrack HAB before dark. It's 9 1/2 miles up, 6 1/2 on mostly steep gravel road, then 3 miles of tough singletrack to the summit.
|The first couple of miles went by easily, then the grade kicked up.|
|Ben, Chris & I walking good sections of the road.|
|Just over 2 hrs, 6 1/2 miles up and a FLAT section we can ride!!|
|Onto the singletrack before dark. 'Only' 2.3 miles to the top. Oof.|
|Plenty of this. Photo by Jeff.|
|The summit at last. Cottonwood's lights far below.|
As I was walking out a rider's light came up behind me, it was Chris, who mistakenly took a wrong turn onto trail 106 about a mile from the top!! Talk about the wrong place for a couple of bonus miles. To add to his navigational error, he crashed on the way back to trail 105 banging up his shoulder! We were both very glad to hit the smooth forest roads and cruise downhill to camp 2 where a fire was going and the others cheered us in.
A 14 hour day in the books, I cracked open my chocolate milk and warmed my hands by the fire. It was actually quite pleasant out compared to two years ago when it was in the upper 20's when we arrived. The milk tasted great, but kinda bloated me and I didn't feel like eating any food even though I knew I needed to. I tried waiting it out while I set up camp. I checked on the solar charger and it appeared to re-charge the battery back to 100%, so I plugged in the GPS for the night. Half an hour later I still felt the same and went to bed without eating dinner.
Day 3: Mingus to Williams
Again, the next morning a few riders were out of camp in the darkness. I got up around 6a and still wasn't feeling like a bunch of food. I skipped my oatmeal breakfast in favor of some OJ and that cherry pie. I had to eat at some point, but at least the first half of the day was primarily downhill to the Verde River some 30 miles away.
I powered up the GPS.....1/2 charge?!?! Rut-roh. I didn't bring a backup charger or cue sheets. Hmmm, did I do something wrong with the new setup? Not sure. I was hoping it would last long enough to where I could navigate myself into Williams. I set the solar panels up again planning on giving the GPS a boost during lunch/dinner. This was going to be another long tough day probably finishing in the dark.
|Prescott Valley from trail 533.|
|The Mingus downhill is so good, it almost makes you forget how hard it was to summit. Ok, maybe not, but it sure is fun!!|
|The magic gate closing behind me. Yes, this route has permission to be here.|
|The route firmly pointed north offering views of both Bill Williams mtn on the left and Humphrey's Peak to the right.|
|Beautiful morning for a bike ride.|
|The finish line can almost be seen from here, but that's another day away.|
|Fast, free, easy miles on a 9 mile descent on Perkinsville rd.|
|Crossing the Verde River, low point of the day at 3800'.|
|The initial climb out of the river basin is a bit of work, but the grade flattens nicely.|
|Mingus already becoming a distant memory.|
An older couple came down the road in an ATV and stopped. They mentioned a couple up ahead had been lifted off route and driven into Williams. I tried to get a description thinking it may be Jeff & Nancy, which would be very unlike them. They couldn't confirm, but who else would be out here riding bikepacking rigs? Turns out it was a couple from Ft. Collins touring the route and I had met the guy during the AZT300 a couple years ago, small world. The ATV couple asked me a few times if I had been through the area and was I prepared for the rugged terrain. I think I put them more at ease for my safety when I described the upcoming route. They generously took my trash and offered a splash of water. My temp gauge had been reading around 80º since the Verde.
|Trudging up the HAB section above some mine tailings. FR354 below.|
|Mile after mile of this keeps you busy.|
|One out of three isn't bad, it definitely is Western.|
|Snack break on a retaining wall. Solar panels soaking up the sunshine.|
I tried multiple times & different gear combos to shift the front, but the lever was seized up solid. Nothing seemed to be physically binding the derailleur either. It just wouldn't go and I didn't want to force it and not be able to ride at all.
|Interstate of dirt.|
I stopped for an early lite dinner and was 75% certain at that point about skipping BW mountain. The GPS was on low battery now, so I gave it one last boost from the PowerMonkey. I rejoined Perkinsville rd. for the remaining miles on the day.
|BW mtn doesn't look so daunting from here.|
|A bustling Sunday evening in Williams.|
At the motel I realized I forgot my plug charger for the Garmin at home, so my only option was to fully charge the PowerMonkey and hope I'd wake up sometime during the night to swap it out to charge the GPS. Amazingly, I woke up around 2a and made the switch.
Day 4: Williams to Flagstaff
Caroline was out of the motel early, sometime around 6a. Devon & I left just before 7a, headed over to Circle K to grab some water and a banana. We then bee-lined it to McD's for some breakfast as Jeff & Nancy were heading out. We left McD's at 7:15a and as I left the parking lot a pickup pulled in with the passenger shouting 'Coconino 250!!' I gave 'em a thumbs up as I hit the road.
|For a small town Williams is pretty cool.|
|Devon fueled and ready to rock.|
The toughest part of the morning wasn't the cold, it was the bright sun shining directly in my eyes making the road difficult to see.
|Ahh, Sycamore Canyon, aka Suck-a-more or Sick-of-more Canyon.|
|At least there were some good views.|
|6 miles long, 4 of them fairly frustrating.|
|Just like the Rainbow Rim, just not as dramatic and 10x the suck factor.|
|The backend of the trail was much better.|
|If it wasn't this, it was reminiscent of what we missed on Anderson Mesa - post-holed clay.|
|Cool lillypond before one final HAB to the exit.|
|Wide open cruising, just wished I had my middle ring!|
|Crossing I-40 west of Flagstaff.|
|Look who I found at the Texaco, Devon, Nancy & Jeff.|
|Hunphrey's Peak starting to get closer.|
|Jeff must be glad the really steep stuff is over.|
|Wing mtn moto trail.|
|Enjoying a fantastic day in the pines.|
|This section was a highlight of the trail.|
|The motos know how to maximize their turns, Jeff reaping the rewards.|
|Making my way up FR151. Photo by Jeff.|
|FR151 is a rather nice climb.|
|Entering the golden land of the aspen near our turnoff.|
|Rejoining the AZT. Also the beginning of a 5+ mile downhill.|
|Golden stand near Alfa Fia tank.|
|Rock & tree lined trail on the descent.|
|A long XC approach to the Shultz Creek TH.|
|Final piece of trail.|
|Humphrey's Peak already seems far away.|
|Made it to Flagstaff with daylight to spare.|
|The FUTS had me a bit disorientated in town.|
Check out Ray's recap and Jeff's too, both great reads.
*Official times have been posted*
|My route. CW direction from the upper right.|