Day 1: Sedona to Mingus MountainThis all started Friday morning out of the Basha's parking lot in west Sedona. We opted to change the start location for this stage race format from Flagstaff to Sedona. A weather system moved into the area Thursday afternoon and the high probability of encountering 'death mud' up on the Arizona Trail (AZT) south of Flagstaff brought back awful memories from my AZT300 attempt in April. A few posts were made, people contacted, and the switch was made.
We met up at the NY Bagel shop around 6:30am on Friday to a steady rain. I had just driven through a massive downpour in Oak Creek, so bad that I couldn't see Bell Rock as I drove right next to it!! We all decided to wait it out for a bit since the storm was about to move along. We were 5 strong to start: myself, Evan (from San Diego), Steve (from Tempe), Tom (from Boulder, CO) and Kip (from Dallas, TX). We readied ourselves at the Basha's and finally got rolling around 9am.
|Ready to roll out!|
|Kip & Tom.|
|The first trail of the route.|
While we wondered what happened to Kip, Tom kept going and we wouldn't see him again until camp. The top of Broken Arrow is Chicken Point, a fantastic overlook of Sedona. We started down from the overlook and Steve pulled away from Evan and I, we wouldn't see him again until the next morning. Evan and I have very similar riding skills & fitness so we ended up riding most of the route together. We cruised through Sedona on the Templeton & Baldwin trails, both new to me which was nice. We paid our $3 to transverse through Red Rock State Park, stopping to clean off & re-lube my chain, and begin our journey over towards Cottonwood on the Lime Kiln Trail.
|It sprinkled on & off, but the mud was minimal. Photo by Evan (EV henceforth)|
|No matter the conditions Sedona is always a good photo.|
|Evan riding some ledges along the Templeton Trail.|
|I'm pretty sure I rode down that. EV|
|Skies are clearing. EV|
|The first ridgeline of Lime Kiln. EV|
|Fantastic views of Sedona, we came from the red rocks in the distant left.|
|Yes, it was dry.|
|Evan rode farther than I, but we still HAB'd it to the top.|
|Sure glad we didn't start in Flagstaff today!! EV|
|The tall grass made for a sweet riding scene as we neared Cottonwood, Mingus Mtn looming.|
|I love this shot, a synopsis of the route: stunning beauty & incredible singletrack on one hand and a dark sinister side full of postholes, softball sized rocks & steep unrelenting HAB on the other!!|
|Closing a gate never looked so good.|
|The sandy dirt compacted quite nice after the rains moved through. EV|
|The last couple of miles down into Cottonwood were a hoot! EV|
|Exiting Dead Horse Ranch State Park, what else did you think you'd see? EV|
|Goin' Hog Wild!!|
|We are HERE. Mingus Mtn is the next rise, to our campsite. The following day we'd ride down to the Verde River then all the way up & over the next peak (Bill WIlliams Mtn.) into Williams, AZ. EV|
|Last rays of light over Mingus Mtn.|
|One of the sketchier sections for footing near the top.|
I was fixated on the GPS track so we wouldn't blow by the turn when Evan yelled out that something large just ran across the road and was staring at us from the woods. 'It's just an elk or deer' I said as we motored on. Evan's reply, 'that thing had a big tail!!' Oh. Hmmm, must have been a mountain lion and just our luck we were less than 1 mile from camp. Sweet dreams.
At camp we found Tom still awake, but no sign of Steve. I had to stand around for a bit until I could regain feeling in my fingers from the cold ride down the FR. We heated up a warm meal, sorry Ray, but I was very glad to have my stove!! Cracked open a cold one that I lugged up from Cottonwood and set up my tent. This turned out to be a comedy of errors. First mistake, when entering a 1-man tent be sure to enter in the direction you plan to be in. Inside the tent, facing the wrong way, I tried to maneuver myself so I could get into my sleeping bag, but my hamstrings wanted to cramp!! Doh! After about 5 minutes of squirming around, I accidentally knocked my one pole support down. At least I was facing the right direction! I couldn't get the pole to stand back up & I wasn't about to get out of the tent to do it. So, I climbed into my sleeping bag with the roof of my tent just above my nose - how comfy. This only became an issue during the middle of the night when I moved, hitting the tent, causing the built up condensation to rain down on my face and arms!!! Holy crap was that COLD!! My other issue was exiting the tent in a timely fashion, better not wait until an emergency, because I couldn't tell where the zippers were!! I ended up not having any issues, but did continue to sleep without the support of the pole. I actually felt pretty well rested the next morning believe it or not.
Day 2: Mingus Mountain to Williams
We began stirring just before sunrise, heard some noise coming from behind a row of bushes and found Steve had camped about 100 ft before our campsite.
|Mingus Mountain campsite.|
|Fast descent through the forest. EV|
|Steve on Little Yaeger. EV|
|Goat head free riding!! EV|
|We were being watched. EV|
|Easy miles. EV|
|Must've been a popular target. EV|
|Our first view of Humphrey's Peak!! First snow of the season to boot.|
|Flyin' down Perkinsville Rd made it difficult to keep your eyes on the road. EV|
|It's all uphill from here!! Crossing the Verde River.|
I made my way over to the riverbank and fiddled with the Steripen coarse filter setup, that was a chore putting it together!! After scooping out 1 liter of river water the bottle was ready for a blast of UV. On top of the riverbank I heard a man yell down to me, 'are you filtering water?' I confirmed and he insisted that I get my water supply from him, since he had 15 gallons or so for his family that afternoon. Back to the river my 1 liter bottle went and I gladly filled up with fresh water. Next, I was offered a chorizo and bean burrito on homemade tortillas!! Duh, of course I'll take one!! They proceeded to offer me a seat, a soda and a second burrito from freshly deep-fried chicken!! Trail angels for sure. I had to pass on the second burrito, I was feeling a bit bloated and knew eating more would not go well on the upcoming 5,000' climb towards Williams. The family let me dump my trash from my pack, I paid my utmost gratitude for the food & drink then made my way over to the bridge.
|Thanks to their kindness, I was fueled & ready to go.|
|Thanks for the tip on the water spot Ray!!|
As I found out later, both Evan and Steve made this wrong turn costing them 6 miles. Steve was running low on water, so he decided to keep going into Williams playing it safe and securing a room for the night.
|A short HAB section on the jeep road was a welcomed change of pace.|
|Climbing past an old mining operation, Mingus Mtn in the background getting smaller.|
|Back in the pines, just in time for the golden hour.|
|Trail #38, 4 1/2 miles to the top, huh. Turns out we only needed about 3.8 to the downhill. EV|
I'm sure this trail can be fun to ride on a bike not loaded down with bikepacking gear, but on this night, I had no intentions of trying to pedal much of anything. The few spots where the trail crosses the dirt road are agonizingly steep and loose. At one of the crossings a 4x4 loaded with youngin's stopped and asked me if I was enjoying my 'hike', 'yes' was the answer and I kept moving.
We finally topped out just shy of 4 miles into the trail and I was more than ready for some downhill & this day to be over. Ray had warned me about the stairstep-like drops near the bottom, so let's have some fun getting there! Right away I knew getting there would be a bit more daunting than I had hoped, the trail was fairly steep & the turns were awkwardly setup. An approach to a sharp turn would lead you off the trail into a drainage. The turn had to be negotiated by getting the front wheel over a 90º rock water bar before continuing on. Strange. After the first few I began to get accustomed to the goofy turns. I was cruising on a stretch between turns when out of nowhere I crossed up my bars BMX style and faceplanted hard!! What the....seems I clipped a rather large boulder with my front tire - never saw the darn thing!! A quick body/bike check revealed no damage, only my pschye. Once again, I decided to play it safe and began to HAB down Bill Williams Mtn. There were too many iffy spots that I just didn't feel good about, the sleep monster was creeping in as it was now after 11pm. I walked for a while, then the trail mellowed and I began riding once more.
I caught up to Evan when he stopped to let a skunk have the right-of-way on the trail. We tried to shoo it off the route but the skunk wanted to lead us down the mountain for a bit. It added a bit of humor to our evening of suffering. We made it to the stairstep section, walking most of it, then finally hit the last bit of trail leading into town. That section was fun, but seemed to go on forever. We finally dumped out onto the streets of Williams to stop our stage timer at 12:10am!! Now what's still open??? Pizza? Closed. Mexican? Closed. Ah yes, good 'ol reliable, Circle K!! We grabbed some food for the night & next morning, sent Steve a text to find out what room he was in, took a much needed shower and finally hit the sack near 2am.
Completing this stage, in my opinion, put the toughest part of the route behind us. I was totally cooked, but knew I could complete the route. Nothing left could compare to our struggles up Mingus & Bill Williams Mtns, right?
Day 3: Williams to Flagstaff
The next morning was cool & crisp, not cold, but that was more likely due to us rolling out around 9am instead of 6am. Williams is a cool little town right on historic Route 66, probably more known these days for the Grand Canyon Railroad.
|Deluxe travel options galore in Williams.|
|Warming up on our way to Sycamore Canyon, we'd be on Humphrey's Peak in the distance near day's end. EV|
|I'd like to return to check out some of the other trails in the area.|
|The rim trail had some tight spots for my 29" clown wheels. EV|
|This must be an incredible spot when the water is flowing, not too shabby dry either. EV|
|One of the faster sections. EV|
|Evan taking it in.|
|Snack break at the end of the canyon.|
|This is big sky country, AZ style. EV|
|The change of seasons was all encompassing.|
|Humphrey's Peak is getting closer! EV|
|The cows were reluctant to move, we were on their turf. EV|
|Saw a bunch of tarantulas on route.|
We were now on the lower flanks of Wing Mtn. getting oh so close to the final climb of the day up FR151 towards the über fun downhill on the Arizona Trail (AZT). My GPS decided to cycle power for no apparent reason, I stopped & reset it, resuming the course and moved on. Didn't think too much about it, my GoMadic external charger had been powering it most of the ride without issue. The track was loaded, timer ticking away with the miles. Up Wing Mtn. we went.
We crested the mountain after a short but steep HAB, then it was on to the Wing Mtn. Moto trails. Moto trails can be a real mixed bag of tricks sometimes. This section of trail happened to be really good. There were just enough whoop-de-doos to keep it fun, but not make you nauseous. Throw in some G-force banked turns and a little bit of climbing and this was getting real fun!!
|On the Wing Mtn. moto trails. EV|
|Couldn't pass on this photo op. EV|
|We caught up with Steve when he detoured for lunch, then he returned the favor as we closed in on Humphrey's Peak.|
|Heading up FR9215B at dusk. EV|
|Junction of FR9215B & the AZT, time to turn on the lights & rip! EV|
We had one more connector trail that sliced through a forested neighborhood. Evan and I were cruising along when BAM! I crossed up my bars again BMX style and took a hard digger into the trail. Once again I failed to pick up a rather large rock in my lightbeam and squared it up with my front tire. Drat. All body parts checked out, bike was ok, let's get to the stage stop already - I'm cooked.
We finished the day at 8:37pm, finally a day under 12 hours!! My GPS started getting all wonky, constantly cycling power over and over. I just figured the batteries were getting old or too cold so I turned it off. We jumped on the paved urban path and met back up with Steve then decided to split a hotel room once again. All checked in, it was time to walk over to Beaver St. Brewery for a delicious Oatmeal Stout & burger, how devine.
|3 adults & 3 bikepacking rigs in a very small room, Evan was nice enough to sleep under the table next to the TV!!|
I slept really well, it's amazing what total exhaustion does to you. We got up & moving fairly early, making our way over to 'The Place', the official start of the stage race. Steve took right to the trail, so we wished him well and turned our focus towards a hearty breakfast. We found a bikepacking rig leaning against the wall as we entered, it was Tom, who we hadn't seen since camp on Mingus Mtn. We chatted with him for a bit, then he too took to the trail. By the time we finished breakfast & made our gas station re-supply it was near 9am. So much for an early start, but what else was new?
We soon dropped down onto the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) and it almost has an underground feel to it. It's a wide gravel path following a drainage through the city, but you feel like civilization is miles away. Flagstaff has a really cool thing going on there.
|Rolling along the FUTS. EV|
|We took a slight photo op detour so Evan could see Fisher Point.|
|Ride the AZT via bonfire!! EV|
|I love this spot, but soon we'd begin the climb to Anderson Mesa. EV|
|Near the start of Anderson Mesa.|
|Marshall Lake TH. EV|
|A rare smooth'er' section of trail. EV|
|Cool view of Lake Mary. EV|
|Humphrey's Peak in the rear view mirror.|
|It's 'only' 6 miles or so of this.|
|Finally dumping out onto a less bumpy jeep road. Good riddance Anderson Mesa, you're #1. EV|
|8" diameter trees now grow on the old railroad bed in spots, the forest is reclaiming what was hers.|
|The remnants of an old railroad bed and a good place for a snack break.|
We were finally ticking off fast miles, but we had one more turnoff near Munds Park, for one final short climb up a secondary forest road. We were really hustling now, trying to make the Sedona overlook & hopefully some of the final descent before darkness settled in. While we were making good time on the forest road, Evan gapped me on a short ciimb & he was gone. All of a sudden the turnoff appeared on my GPS, no Evan. I was ready for one last snack before the final push, so I kicked back for a few minutes in hopes that he just blew by the turn, found his error & would return. Evan had been doing the whole route solely by the cue sheets and when we were together, my GPS. I was just about ready to move on when he rolled up. He only went about a 1/2 mile past the turn before figuring it out.
|One final snack before heading up the last climb.|
|Sun setting behind Mingus Mtn.|
|I was a little bummed we missed this as our Day 1 camping spot with the staggered start.|
We accepted the fact that we'd be finishing yet another day in the dark. I was a bit concerned about my light battery. I had been using my second battery for a lot of the night riding, but it was still showing 50% power. We readied for the descent down the Munds Wagon trail and took off.
|Sedona from the top of Munds Wagon trail. EV|
|Fun slickrock areas. EV|
|Evan all smiles, great riding with you!! Well done!!|
|Somewhere in there I'm exhilarated. EV|
A few other notes from the event.
- I was on & off my bike so many times I perfected the 'Viscacha dismount', even the Russian judge gave me high scores!!
- Thanks to Chad and Scott for putting together such an incredibly challenging yet rewarding course, this really is the crown jewel of the Arizona Endurance Series.
- Ray, thanks for all your trail intel from the week prior, I used almost all of your advice - except the part about starting early everyday!!
- Definitely a huge thanks to my wife, for putting up with my silly riding obsession. Your support means everything to me!!
- As of this writing, it appears my light battery that konked out on me during the Bill Williams HAB actually is dead. Time for a replacement.
- It's now been 11 days since finishing, I almost have all my feeling back in my toes. They didn't bother me during the ride, but starting the day after the ride my toes had a slight numbness / tingly sensation. I've since adjusted my cleats on my shoes to change the pressure points on my feet.
- No mechanicals, only a dirty chain from the bit of mud early on in Sedona.
- Gear worked great, just need to fine tune & lock down my sleeping bag position. Slight gear casualty, my compression sack has a small tear in it most likely from one of the two crashes.
- My Garmin Edge 705 that was cycling power near Wing Mtn ended up having a file glitch. The stats were all recorded, appear to be correct, but the track straight-lined from the spot where the power cycled to the next spot riding into Flagstaff. Weird.
22,446 feet of elevation gained
Official time: 52:37 (hh:mm) good for the lantern rouge!!
Thanks for reading & checking out the blog. Until 2013, ride long, ride strong.
|AES - Coconino 250 Stage Race route.|