I first tried to organize this ride back in June, but I couldn't get the necessary time off from work. I re-scheduled it for a weekend in July, but AZ decided to experience a heat wave of our own where even the cool pines of Flagstaff reached 95º!! We called off that attempt as well. Finally, the monsoon flow broke and a weekend presented itself. I kept a keen eye on the forecast and when it looked favorable, sunny & 60's/30's, it was a GO. I reserved a couple of tent sites at the Mather Campground for our group, then packed up my gear to head north Friday afternoon. It was 88º when I left Phoenix at 3:30p.
I stopped in Flagstaff for some dinner & breakfast for the morning as the sun was going down, it was now 52º. I drove around US180 to the FR151 turnoff and began the gradual climb up to FR627 and the Bismarck Lake TH. The sun dipped and set before I made it to the end and with it the temps kept falling. By the time I parked the car it was 34º. I opted to sleep in the car. I made myself comfortable, mostly packed up my bike for the morning when the others began to arrive. Derek, Jeff, Nancy, Caroline & Phil all showed, even with some phone directions!! We weren't sure about Ray, but if he was a go, we'd meet him a couple miles down the trail the next morning.
I slept great for a few hours, then just reclined in the driver's seat until daybreak. It is now hunting season in AZ and they began arriving around 4:30a, a few had to be turned away due to the full parking area by 5:30. Darn mountain bikers!
We started rolling up the trail around 6:30a over the frozen terrain crunching under our tires. According to my Garmin site it was 28º, a far cry from my recent sweat induced desert rides. I don't think any of us could feel our fingers or toes for at least the first hour. We were at least temporarily warmed by the first mile of bumpy trail up to the AZT. A quick re-group and the start of the 20 mile downhill ensued. We were carving the trail down towards FR418, where we may find Ray, when we kept coming across downed trees. Jeff and I moved one off the trail, rode over a couple of others and had to detour into the forest to navigate around a few more. This was the first time I'd ever come across a single downed tree on this piece of trail. There had been high winds in the area a couple of days prior and the ground was saturated from record rainfall this summer.
Somewhere along the descent Jeff discovered his sealant was dry as it wouldn't plug a small hole. This would be the first of many tire issues over the weekend. This one was a quick fix, add sealant and go.
|One of the larger downed aspens.|
|Enjoying the brisk morning down the AZT.|
|Ray made it!! Easy to spot in his lime green recovery socks!|
This part of the AZT is really nice, good flow, steady downhill through the trees. It also brought a rise in temps from the early morning frost.
|Start shedding layers.|
|Caroline enjoying some sweet singletrack. Photo by Jeff.|
|The trees start to thin out as we move away from Humphrey's Peak. Photo by Phil.|
|Nothing like seeing the countryside by bike. Photo by Jeff.|
|Singlespeed power unite! Photo by Caroline.|
|Phil making his first bikepacking ride!|
|Already 25 miles in.|
|Some wild horses on the ranch.|
|Good lookin' bunch. Photo by Phil.|
|Still shedding layers as we ride a faint connector piece.|
|Snack time along a rocky 2-track. Photo by Jeff.|
|We crossed many gates, but this one had us stumped, so we hopped over the barbed wire. Photo by Jeff.|
|Derek & Phil are ready for some prime primitive singletrack!|
|Yeah, there's a trail out in that meadow.|
|Stage Station lunch stop.|
|One of the many gates along the route, this one in Russell Wash.|
|Although this tank says otherwise, it's NOT Russell tank.|
|More new signage.|
|Somewhere past a dry Russell Tank we came upon an active burn area. A bit disturbing since no-one was around and there was light smoke to ride through. Thankfully, it was only a mile or two before leaving it behind. Photo by Jeff.|
|We came around a corner and were greeted with our first view into the Grand Canyon! It was enough to stop all of us in our tracks. Now we're getting close!|
|We saw a sign directing us to a biking detour, huh? Then this sign. Yeah, whatever. Photo by Jeff.|
|Ok, maybe we pushed our bikes a little, but only 5-10 minutes. We've seen worse! Photo by Jeff.|
|Caroline at the Grandview trailhead & fire lookout tower.|
Jeff soon sparked our mantra for the next couple of hours, 'we're burning daylight', let's go. Of course as soon as we departed Grandview I had to stop for some pics as the forest floor was covered in a vibrant fireweed.
|Picture doesn't do it justice.|
At some point during the tire saga I was ahead of the pack and arrived in Tusayan with the sun still hovering fairly high in the sky. There were now only 6 miles to go, we can still make it!! 5 minutes pass, then 10 when Caroline & Nancy show up. Another 5+ minutes elapse when Jeff & Ray get there telling of more tire woes. Now we're up against it, we're burning daylight!!
|Outskirts of Tusayan, AZ.|
|One more short HAB.|
|Here they come!|
We checked in with the camp host and found our side-by-side sites. Barely 5 minutes later Derek & Phil rolled up! It was a relief to know they were there and already fed. They ended up popping out on the park road north of Grandview and hitching a ride in a carcass free bed of a park service truck, nice!
The rest of us made our way over to the cafeteria and ordered up a few 10 minute cheeseburgers, I mean, really, 10 minutes to cook a cheesburger!! At least it was good. Back at camp I downed a cold one I shlepped all the way from Flagstaff and hit the sack.
The Return Ride:We tried to get going early the next morning, but the cold air and more tire fixin' made our departure closer to 7:30a.
|Nancy's tire was not cooperating.|
Before we left the two of them, they offered up a couple of spare tubes and other supplies we may need in light of the tire struggles on Sat. It was a kind gesture and gave our group peace of mind knowing that we had enough spares to handle a few mishaps on the way back if needed. Thanks fellas!
We finally got to pedaling and made our way over to the S. Kaibab trailhead via the paved bike route inside the park. It's a really nice pathway and once it turns to the east it hugs the rim for jaw dropping views. I think this was my first time at the S. Rim shortly after sunrise and it was magnificent! Almost as good as the North Rim views.
|Early morning light on a clear day.|
|Plateau Point trail visible in the foreground.|
|Cool place to ride a bike!|
|The gang all smiles at the S. Kaibab trailhead.|
|The route only needed minor tweaking. Photo by Caroline.|
|All fueled and ready to go!|
|This is where we altered our route, staying on FR301.|
|Proof!! Good thing he snagged tubes from Derek & Phil.|
|That's more like it!! Plus, our first sighting of Humphrey's Peak.|
|Ahh, lunch by the lake....well, sort of.|
|This dirt road led us out to US180 for a 13 mile pavement spin.|
|Onward, towards the FR151 turnoff.|
|The snow is now gone, but Humphrey's Peak is getting close.|
|We had a surprise visit from Derek, he SPOT tracked us and was offering us goodies like a can of Pepsi!! Photo by Derek.|
|Big open views, leaves beginning to change at the higher elevations. Photo by Jeff.|
|Ray at the FR151 turnoff.|
|Only a few miles to go!|
|Making the final push up the last climb on FR151, I felt really good on the pavement, but was starting to feel it on the last couple of grunt climbs. Photo by Jeff.|
|FR627 & the final 1/2 mile to Bismarck Lake.|
|That's honey all over my frame....and shorts.....legs.....and even on Caroline's bike!!|
Here are the rest of the pics: