May 5, 2013

Sedona BFL (Redux)

Back in March a series of wicked storms wiped out the annual AES Sedona Big Friggin' Loop (BFL). I was really bummed since I don't get up there as often as I would like. As luck would have it Sedona was having a singletrack celebration the first week of May and some of the locals decided it would be a fine time to give the BFL another crack. Enter Red Rock Chica and Lars, they modified the route just a bit, announced a starting time (then bumped it up another half hour to 6:30a!!) and it was set.

I rounded up Tim to tag along for the carpool and we were off, a bit late, but we were heading to Sedona for some incredible singletrack! We arrived at the meeting spot just before 7a and the group had already departed, but there were only a couple of cars in the lot? Where was everyone we wondered? As it turns out, only 7 of us ventured out for the BFL. Oh well, lots of people missed out on a fantastic beatdown of a route.

Tim was rocking his rigid singlespeed (SS) 29er, dude is hardcore. The fun began at the Adobe Jack trailhead (TH) and did a quick split on the way to the main loop. Once there we continued clockwise onto the Jim Thompson trail. I wasn't quite ready for the rubbly climbing and was all over the place, hiking more than I normally would on trails like this. Soon we came to a cool vantage point overlooking the Midgley bridge.
Midgley bridge over Oak Creek.
A quick rocky descent brought us to the Wilderness boundary before we turned and made our way to the touristy viewpoint at the bridge.
No bikes beyond this point. :(
We made a quick descent to Oak Creek and I tried to navigate across the water flow. I was perched atop an angled rock and as I made my move to the next stepping stone I felt my momentum going the wrong way, the creek way! Oh well, I stepped into the creek up to my knees and walked it out, but I kept the bike dry!!
Tim joined me in the wet feet club, felt kinda nice.
We were just up there!
Stunning views all day long.
Huckaby trail meandering along side Oak Creek towards Schnebly Hill Rd.
I still wasn't getting into a groove and we joked how we were on a 12 hour pace...little did we know. We finally dumped out onto the pavement of Schnebly Hill Rd and bombed down to rte.179. Now we were getting back to some familiar trails to me. We chatted with some 4x4 tourists near the Broken Arrow split, then made the techy climb up to Chicken Point.
Nice overview of Submarine Rock.
The final dip into Chicken Point.
Tim was hassling some 4x4'ers because their jeep was too clean.
The White Line about half-way up is a test of one's fear of heights. POV version. (Looks easy, huh?)
Bell Rock from Chicken Point.
The following stretch of trail is super fun all the way to the Bike & Bean re-supply spot. I had been sucking down the water and was in need of a refill, plus a gatorade, coconut water and chocolate milk were calling out to me!! By this point I was still waiting for my legs to come around, still feeling a bit heavy out there. I also starting having rear tire issues with a slow leak that I just couldn't pinpoint, but it wasn't bad enough to throw in a tube. I'll admit it, Tim suggested I should top off my Stan's sealant as the tire could be dry, but I was stubborn insisting that it wasn't since I had topped it off only 3 weeks prior. Long story short, I should've listened to Tim. I tightened the valve stem a bit & added a 2oz bottle of Stan's essentially ending my tire woes after about 2-3 hours & 8-10 refills with my hand pump!! Smart move there.
We stopped to chat with Wally, a local rider, on Llama trail.
The sign doesn't lie, got it Made in the Shade! Photo by Tim.
Ahh, the postcard views from Highline Trail.
From Highline looking back towards Chicken Point.
Chapel on the rocks from Highline.
More awesomesauce from Highline Trail.
Nearing the drop-off from Highline. Photo by Tim.
Look at that trail!! We're going down there!! Photo by Tim.
We made our way up to Highline Trail and I had totally forgotten the effort required to get up there! Once up on the trail all thoughts of pain & suffering go away as you are rewarded with sprawling views of Sedona. The singletrack demands all of your attention though, one slip up and you could be a goner! We started our descent back to Oak Creek over some fun slickrock areas before HAB'ing down a nasty chute.
Near the bottom, Tim eyeballed this section.
Then blasted it on the rigid SS!!

Heart pumping clean rollout, nicely done!!
We hit bottom at the creek where people were relaxing in the cool waters. I needed another snack break & tire maintenance (I had yet to add the Stan's at this point).
Last water crossing.
We exited onto a short bit of pavement then onto the Old Post Trail. This section started out ok, but soon became more rubbly climbing. I was all over the place, just not feeling it, tire still giving me fits and I was seriously considering bailing to the car at the next road crossing. We were about 30 miles in and still on a 12 hour pace for the day. What is going on, we both wondered. Each time we seemed to get into a rhythm something would cause us to stop for an extended bit, chatting with locals, picture taking, bonking, tires and trail were all culprits on this day. We were still riding our bikes in Sedona so who really cares, right? Right.

This is where I finally heeded Tim's advice and took care of my rear tire for good. Tim: 'I don't want to say I told you so, but...', yeah, yeah. The Old Post Trail crested out and made us almost forget the rough climbing. We dumped out onto 89A and decided to stop for ice at the teal arched McD's in town. I scarfed down my PB&J and a few other morsels before we made our way over to the super fun downhill on Girdner Tr.

Things were finally looking up, my legs started to feel life again and this downhill was a hoot. The multitude of sandy wash crossings at the bottom tried to deter my enthusiasm but I was having none of it. Well, at least not until the 18th crossing or so!

Somewhere in here I checked my phone, I had a message from Red Rock Chica at 4:45p, she had finished at 4pm and was chilling at home waiting for us to complete the route. Jeez, that girl can ride!! We still had grand illusions of finishing around 6:30 and catching some dinner & drinks on this Cinco de Mayo, but little did we know we wouldn't finish until sometime after 8p!!

I knew we were approaching the fun sections of Cockscomb/Aerie/Mescal Mtn and they did not disappoint. This was some of the most fun riding on the route sans a small GPX file gaffe that had us backtracking a few times. We didn't want to stop & take pics through here, the trail is so much fun!!
Almost to the super fun pump track section.
Once again we were dumped onto some pavement, but I knew what was ahead: Thunder Mtn trail. This was more HAB up/down short steep drainages over the next mile or so, but the day was getting long and we were now in a race against sunset. I didn't even think to pack my lights, why would I? The route was going to be shorter, day was longer and we started earlier than last year. What I failed to recall was the slow going nature of me on Sedona trails!!

We came to the switchbacked downhill on Teacup trail as the sun was setting, only thinking we had a mile or two to go, in reality we still had about 5 to go. It was now full-on twilight as we made the turn back onto the Adobe Jack trail which led us to the starting trailhead. This time we'd be taking the left fork on the way 'down'. Surprise, surprise, another HAB hill climb!! Drat. Not that I didn't want to go up there, but I didn't want to go up there NOW, racing against darkness. We crested the top of Ant Hill, my eyes now adjusted to the fading light and began a slow methodical downhill slog. We hooked up with the final out-n-back portion of the trail, but with about a mile to go it was just too dark for me to see anything and ride safely. I made the call to get off and walk it out. Tim had a small camp light to help navigate to the end and about 25 minutes later we reached the road. What's another nighttime AES finish, right?

A quarter mile later we were back at the car, pitch black, 8:18pm. 12hrs 51 minutes later, dang. That was a tough 57 miles. A few minutes later, Red Rock & Lars came by to pick up the sign-in ledger and were pleased to see that we survived. A special thanks to these two for taking the reigns on this ride, I'm glad I made the trip north. For all its punishment, Sedona is a special place to put bike tracks down.

I think my next ride in Sedona is going to be more along the lines of a 20 mile, fun flowy trail only type of ride. I'll save this kind of beatdown for next year's BFL. See you then!!


  1. Great writeup! You guys knocked out a super hard route AND took the time to snap some amazing pics! (...and thx for the kudos but really I think I'm just a faster HABer than pedaler. I was pretty deflated by the time I hit thunder mtn trail.). So cool to get to see ya before ya hauled back down to the valley! Next? :)

  2. Thanks!! It was great to meet the two of you as well. All that running you do must be paying off in HAB speed, I can't compete with that!!

    As for next, it will be the Kaibab Monstercross 130 over Memorial weekend. I'm going to bikepack it so I can take more pics!!

  3. Sedona, Arizona offers a rich mix of jaw dropping scenery, courtesy of the beautiful Red Rocks carefully placed by Mother Nature throughout the Verde Valley that attracts a collection of some of the Southwest's most talented artists; painters, sculpture, writers as well as followers of all things spiritual and metaphysical.

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