A few others were interested in the ride as well including the Red Rock Chica (RRC). I asked her if she was really up for the full 88 miler after the 50 BCT miles a couple weeks ago. We traded texts hashing out a kinder shorter version involving a shuttle of some sort.
I was up and out of the house long before the first hint of light, arriving in Sedona around 7am. We loaded up the urban assault vehicle and made our way up the Oak Creek Canyon switchbacks where we'd ditch the truck. A little behind schedule we were able to track Ray down at Kachina Village where he, Mark & Josiah were patiently waiting for us. Mark hasn't been riding a whole bunch, he's actually using his time to get smarter, grad school takes away bike time. Josiah, Mark's friend from OK, was in for a visit and ready to stomp out some AZ miles in the mountains after riding non-stop gravel grinders in the plains.
Our plan was to check out a short sweet piece of singletrack through Kelly Pocket, new to all of us except Ray. We started up the dirt road from Kachina Village and before we knew it Ray & Josiah were off the front as we entered the singletrack split. The three of us wouldn't see them again all day.
|Singletrack of Kelly Pocket, oh so fun!!|
We rejoined the forest roads riding by the truck and hopped on the pavement for a short downhill to our next turn. What goes down, must go up. I got a little ahead of the other two on the climb, passing by a few campsites here & there. I came up to a camper next to the road, dog barking inside as I peddled by, then a second dog came running out, owner in tow yelling at it to come back. I put the hammer down as this nutty dog nipped at my heels for a quarter mile it seemed. Thankfully, it never made a real attempt to get me, but it sure elevated my heart rate!
|A train of storm clouds brew over Humphrey's Peak.|
|Big skies to the west.|
|Mark & RRC chillin' in the cool mountain air.|
|Searching for our turn. Photo by RRC.|
I really enjoy riding the remote forest roads, the occasional wildlife sightings, fresh air, simply knowing that very few people take the time to truly 'get away'. Throw in good camaraderie and you're all set. I found out Mark is also throwing his hat into the AZTR750 next year, he's a fantastic person to share in the suffering that will be the Highline trail & the Grand Canyon portage.
|RRC's rolling selfie.|
Mark started to fade back as I'm sure his legs/lungs were feeling the effects from being off the bike. The route began to show a glimpse or two into the surrounding Wilderness areas. The fast forest roads were beginning to give way to more rubble and steeper descents. We were about to ride a 15' right-of-way between two Wilderness areas: Red Rock/Secret & Sycamore Canyon. It gives you a rare peek high above the red rocks of west Sedona. A truly magical place to ride.
|We crossed this hiking trail as we began the powerline climbs.|
|Bill Williams Mtn off on the horizon.|
|RRC finding her climbing legs....ZOOM!!|
|The trees part and unveil this.|
|The red rocks the tourists flock to are over that ridge.|
|We'll take in the West Sedona red rock views and no pink jeeps.|
|Our legal path through.|
|Some riding before the HAB bits. Photo by RRC.|
|RRC dropping down the switchbacks of Casner Mtn.|
|Storm clouds rolling in....|
|Glad to be off the mountain.|
|Casner Mtn. switchbacks.|
|Trying to stay in front of the rain as the storm rolls over Black Mtn. Photo by RRC.|
It was a good thing I was in the company of the RRC, she knows all the backroads in these parts. Her backyard of sorts, fantastic!! I followed her lead when we detoured off Ray's route, skipped a wash-boarded dirt road in favor of babyhead riding!! Hey, wait a minute, I thought this was going to be better!! Perhaps she was getting me back for that BCT river crossing, but the babyheads disappeared quickly and my bike handling skills returned as well.
Our new route took us past the Honanki Heritage site. Very well preserved Native American dwellings tucked under the red rocks. I'll be sure to bring K back here for a hike! We then passed the turnoff to the Palatki ruins, another fine place to re-visit.
|A rare shot without a 4x4!! Photo by RRC.|
RRC asked me which way I wanted to go, up or down? Down on Aerie, right? You don't want to climb some chunky trail now, do you? I asked her. Nah, not really. Besides, who's going to pass up a downhill spin on Aerie? Once on Aerie, it was hard enough to convince her to slow down for a pic or two!! It's cool to follow someone on their local trails, just rippin' it!! After a few pics on Aerie, we connected to Cockscomb then onto Dawa. WOW!! That's the stuff tourism boards put on their brochures & infomercials. Stellar.
|Blast off, don't blink, she's fast!!|
|Eyes on the trail, eyes on the trail.....|
|Sorry RRC, no fast Strava times today!! Photo by RRC.|
|I don't know if this natural feature on Aerie has a name, if not, it should!!|
|RRC diggin' the G-force!!|
Thanks for getting me up north Ray, even if I only saw you for 5 minutes!! RRC still doesn't know what you look like. The northern tiers of the state are beginning to thaw out as the deserts start simmering. It's always prime riding season in Arizona...somewhere nearby. Get out there!