June 7, 2015

Ride Rehab Route

To quote Yogi Berra, 'It's like deja-vu, all over again'. I found myself heading north to Flagstaff and a stay at Ray's for another weekend of riding. All three rides were the same, yet different. The first ride would again start from the Raymond Community Park, but head north. The second would include a large chunk of the Flagstaff Loop Trail, but this time add in some AZT miles south of town. I'd hit up Sedona on my way home again, this time checking out some new red dirt on the opposite side of town. This state of Arizona is loaded with rad places to ride, any time of the year. It's always prime riding season somewhere - usually out my front door or within a 2 hour drive. It's hard to beat. Anywhere.
Highland Trail.
We've been having a bit of an odd weather month here in the desert southwest. Typically sometime around mid-April the skies dry up and we're lucky if we see a cloud until July. Not this year. Seems every couple of weeks another storm system was moving through dropping sizable rain totals (at least for here). June is the stereotypical month of the 'it's a dry heat' mantra, but on this weekend in early June it had been raining most of the day as I prepared to head north. Rain is so rare this time of year that a weather stat began floating around that Friday. In the 100+ years since rainfall data has been tabulated, it had never rained on June 5th in Phoenix. That's 0-100+. Needless to say, we set a record this year.

I kept a watchful eye on the radar as I pulled into Mountainaire. I was on the cusp of the storm system, I could see clearing skies to the west and ominous dark clouds to the east, but it wasn't raining at Raymond County Park. Let's ride. Of course as I was getting my stuff together I realized I forgot my rain jacket at home, as long as it didn't pour I'd be fine.

I left the park and rode north on the frontage road for a short bit, dipped between a couple of homes and landed on some trail. A short bit later I intersected with the Highland trail. This would take me to Ft. Tuthill providing me with another link to my ever growing Flagstaff trail database. The Highland trail was fantastic. A well contoured trail on mostly fast forested singletrack.

A light rain began to fall as I approached Ft. Tuthill. I planned on knocking out a quick loop through the park then back on the Highland trail completing a small loop on the Highland just south of Tuthill. I had put together a track for my ride, but stopped it at Tuthill. Not sure why I did that.

Inside of Tuthill I hopped on a trail I had yet to ride, Bridge trail. This was another fun one, complete with rocky tech bits along the way.
Bridge trail at Ft. Tuthill.
The Bridge trail dumped me onto the outer Tuthill loop, Soldiers trail. I did a quick glance at the posted trailmap sign - turn left and follow around to the Highland trail. Easy. Well, for some reason I wasn't expecting to see the Flagstaff Loop trail when I did. I then figured the FLT would be a shortcut back to the Highland trail, not realizing I was envisioning the FLT on the north side of the park, not the south!! This mistake sent me in the opposite direction, but at least the trail was incredible.

The rain had picked up and I was now pretty much drenched and not fully aware of my navigational error. I exited onto FR523 then I saw Woody Mountain rd and it sunk in. Oops. My quick 9 mile loop was turning into a Gilligan's Island 3 hour tour. I scoped out the GPS and saw my error, then proceeded to do an unnecessary loop through a neighborhood before finally being put back on track.

Eventually I made it back to the Highland trail and I knew I'd be pushing sunset. At least I have my dynamo light setup dialed in, so lighting wasn't a concern. I veered onto the west side loop of the Highland trail and soon found my tires in sticky deathmud!! Are you kidding me? The entire ride was great in the wet weather and this 50' section of trail brought me to a halt and was wrecking havoc on my drivetrain.
Trail conditions improved, the rain stopped and I hoped I could begin to dry out by the time I reached the car. Most of the mud fell off the bike while riding, but with the fading light and my return to pavement the skies opened up one more time for the final mile. At least my light worked great in the downpour!

My 9 mile ride turned out to be 17+ and over 3 hours!! It was raining so hard in the parking lot I couldn't get in the car to grab my dry change of clothes. I waited it out for 15 minutes before attempting a change. I try to keep the car a 'little' clean on occasion! Thank goodness Ray has a dryer!! The only item still damp for the ride on Sat. were my shoes.

That night we all kept a keen eye on the local radar as the rain kept falling.We debated about calling off the AES race, but ultimately opted to wait until morning at the gathering location for the final word. As luck would have it, the skies began to clear out and the trails up north handle moisture very well except for known areas of clay-based soil, aka: Deathmud!! The AES route was safe from that, but I decided to alter my route slightly to avoid any chance of running into trail peanut butter.

The AES crowd began filling the Safeway parking lot, 25 in all for a fantastic turnout considering the weather and last minute course changes. Caroline joined me on our easier route as she's been doing more trail running these days. We departed the group as Ray was spreading the race day stoke.
Riders came from near & far for this one.
We knocked out some quick miles on the FUTS over to the FLT at Observatory Mesa. There are some really fun fast singletrack miles through there. We then did the section of the FLT where I had gone astray the day before. Still a rad trail, even better in drier conditions. We passed by the Ft. Tuthill bike park, too damp to put tires on. Drat.
Lonely jumps.
We ran into a minor trail snag exiting Ft. Tuthill as there was a bunch of construction on the frontage road. The trail parallels the road here and sections were roped off, so we did our best guess as to how to connect the dots. A few minutes later we were back on course and about to tackle our only real hitch in our giddy-up on the day.
I-17 culvert in massive need of better drainage!!
We started under I-17 into a box culvert. I was following Caroline and watched her tires sink deeper & deeper into the water...then the mud hit. Ruh-roh. We both tried to pedal it out, but the muck was too deep, almost up to our hubs. Down went our feet and gone were our dry shoes.

The skies began to clear out as we dodged only a handful of puddles on the trail. Conditions were turning into a perfect riding day, nice breeze to boot.
Blue skies & sun on the FLT.
We only stopped once or twice on our way across the FLT towards Campbell Mesa, the trail was begging for G-turns. We crossed over the AZT, where we'd later ride heading north, it was still a bit muddy so we officially made the call to skip the section of AZT to the east of Campbell Mesa that leads towards Walnut Canyon. Instead, we'd exit Campbell Mesa to the south taking a bit of a shortcut to the southern leg of the AZT just before it dives into Walnut Canyon.
We weren't racing, so we took a few spur trails to overlook points. Climbing fence ladders in the process.
Walnut Canyon overlook.
An abrupt dropoff in some locations.
AZT overlook at Fisher Point.
A couple of punchy climbs along Walnut Canyon really get the blood pumping. Back on top of the mesa the work doesn't end as the trail seems to undulate over rocky terrain for a bunch of miles. It sure is fun riding though, rocky, but not too rocky - mountain biking!! After our visit to the Fisher Point overlook we were about to join the trail at the bottom of our vantage point. Super enduro downhill time!!
Scientific proof: mountain biking is fun.
We didn't have too much trail left, we rode the AZT back to the FLT crossing - now all dried out, then proceeded back into town and over to Safeway to see the fast AES riders had just finished about 20 minutes before us. We still tallied a respectable 55 miles on our 'easy' ride and by far my biggest test on my wrist. Successful on that front as well.

I still had one more ride to go, but with time restrictions!! K wanted me home by her lunch hour, not my lunch hour. This meant I needed to be off the trail by 10a in Sedona to be home before 1p. That also meant an early rise time and I was out on the road around 6a.

I parked at the Broken Arrow TH off of Morgan rd.so I could go Hog Wild and explore all the Hog trails. I just hoped I had the time to sample them. One thing I've learned about Sedona riding is that the miles usually come slow due to the technical nature of the trails and my propensity to snap too many pics!
Good signage and maps!!
Empty trails on an early Sunday morning.
Linked up to Mystic trail.
Sunday service fully underway.
I left my short detour from the Chapel back to Mystic and ripped down towards Peccary trail. This was a rare flowy XC trail tucked unto the challenges of the Hogs. I completed my first loop through the area with a little over an hour left to ride.
Quite the contrast in color.
Pure Hogwash!!
From dirt, to forest, to slickrock, Sedona delivers.
Time to get moving, I made my way up Broken Arrow to the High on the Hog split. Double Black diamond rating, hmmm. Ride what I can, walk what I can't. GO!
Time to get gnarly.
Some steep rollers, followed by huge rock armored banked berms.
I was able to ride most of the trail and it went by fairly quick. Next up was Hog Heaven, same double black rating and only a few more walking bits for me. Super cool trails though. I did get a bit off trail right before re-joining Hogwash as most of the tire tracks led to the right, when in fact the trail spiraled down a rockface.
Hog Heaven.
My last trail to check out was Pig Tail. Man, what a hoot!!. It's essentially Sedona's red rock downhill run. A few steep rollers get things started then the banked turns, jumps and gravity defying undulations take over. Before you know it, it's over and Peccary awaits.

I was done snapping pics as time was running short. One more stint on Hogwash brought me back to Broken Arrow and the trailhead. It was 9:58a. Perfect. Trifecta of rides complete. Again. I even made my 1p curfew down in the Valley.

I can start thinking about doing the big rides once again, bikepacking too. I continue to regain range of motion in my wrist, but more importantly, I'm not feeling much discomfort at all while riding.

The routes:

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