December 20, 2015

King Me

A couple of months ago I was invited to attend the Kingman Rattler race at Monolith Gardens, but I already had bikepacking plans that particular weekend. I had heard good things about the trails in Kingman, so we made arrangements for another weekend.. We set a target date of Dec. 19th for a tour of the Kingman area trails. I decided to make it an overnight stay so I could ride down in Lake Havasu as well.

I bolted my place early on Sat. for the 3 1/2 hour drive to the NW part of the state. I met up with Denise (she couldn't ride due to a foot injury), John (my tour guide for the day) and Scott. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, cool & clear with a light breeze. The guys were checking out my bike and wondering if my hardtail 29er was going to be a good fit. It had to be, it's my only ride. Over the years I've found there are seldom times I wish I had full suspension.

We drove over to the Monolith Gardens TH just off US93 immediately north of gas station alley. I had never noticed the turnoff before on all my pass-throughs over the years! My only goal for the day, ride and see as much of the trail system as time allows. John was more than up for the task.
View from the trailhead.
At first glance Monolith Gardens reminded me of a scaled down version of Monument Valley. The trails intertwined around almost all of the rock outcroppings. The first 1/2 mile or so of trail was a bit on the bumpy side, but things soon smoothed out over the undulating terrain. We made our way around the rocks visible from the trailhead and crossed under US93.

We immediately began climbing on a new trail, Coyote. I was warned that the trail was not quite finished as there was about 0.3 miles of flagged trail linking the two sides. This trail climbed like a dream. Well contoured, bike friendly grading and a surprising lack of rocks considering we were riding through hillsides choked in lava rock - the ultimate tire shredder!!
Climb, climb, climb away.
The Lunar has landed!!
Look closely, the trail traverses high across this ridge.
Overlooking Golden Valley. Badger trail contours up the mountain to the right.
Nearing the end of the first section.
We rounded the corner below the mesa in the above picture to find the trail's end. Time to push through the lava field.
The HAB wasn't too bad, just had to watch the footing and the camouflaged cacti.
The north side brought vegetation and snow!
One thing is certain, this trail is going to be incredible when it's complete. I already informed John & Denise to put me on speed dial when its linked up. The pristine trail continued and soon we dropped down into a valley below Castle Rock. The trail ends here morphing into a jeep road. Plans are in place to link it up with either Badger trail and/or Castle Rock trail.
Pretty stoked to be on new dirt! Badger trail is behind me on the mountain.
Towering above US93 & Golden Valley.
The hills seem endless up here.
A splash of vegetation.
Switchback attack!!
The jeep road at the bottom of Coyote dumped us out onto US93. We rode the large shoulder up & over Coyote Pass while vehicles zoomed by. Just past the summit we veered onto a dirt road that linked us back into the Monolith Gardens trails.

John did a really nice job routing the day's ride as we hardly doubled up on anything. We made our way over to an out-n-back spin on Tech Ridge. Word is, not many people ride this trail. I put my tires to it and can't understand why people aren't in love with this trail. Whatevs.
Back on the twisty trails of Monolith Gardens.
The rock formations help keep you orientated while riding around.
Plenty of shelter available if needed.
John cleaning a techy switchback move.
Tech Ridge return.
This vista reminded me of Moab.
Huge sweeping views along Tech Ridge.
Back on the main trails, we came to a small freeride area. The rocks grip like sandpaper and the runouts are steep. Fun area to play around on for a bit.
John showing the way.
Getting my climb on.
Runout from the top.
One of a few arches we spotted during the day.
Yes, the trails are rocky, but nothing compared to the surrounding terrain. Yikes!
A scaled down version of Monument Valley.
Back at the trailhead.
Denise was waiting for us at the trailhead with sandwiches and drinks!! Very cool, thanks Denise! We made short work of lunch, Scott called it a day due to some cramping issues. John and I were ready to head back out for another lap, this time taking the longer outer loop.
More contouring climbing bliss.
This was a rippin' fast section into the canyon.
Plenty of climbing, but none of it was very taxing.
Looking south towards I-40.
Petroglyphs near the trailhead.
We rolled back into the trailhead finishing off a stellar 28 mile route. Our plan was to grab some drinks at the Chevron, then head over to Badger trail to finish off the day's riding. Let's go!

Our pitstop was quick and the Badger trailhead was just on the north side of Coyote Pass only a few feet off the road.

As we were getting ready to go we watched another rider come down the trail. Turns out he was passing through the area from Oregon and saw this trail on mtbproject and decided to check it out. He also is involved with the BLM & IMBA up in Oregon. Pretty cool to run into another passionate trail ambassador.
3.2 miles of climbing. Outstanding.
Look at it!! Awesome.
3-way split at the top. Left spur goes to a lookout, right leads back into town.
Golden Valley far below.
Put this one on your 'must ride' list.
Somewhere around halfway up Badger, my legs became a bit heavy and I lost my ability to simply ride a bike. I couldn't pick a good line to save my life. I was getting a bit frustrated, as I knew I could ride everything this climb was dishing out, just not on this day. I'll have to give it another whirl with fresh legs and see how I do. It was still a blast and I was looking forward to our return ride down to the car.

But first, we continued out Castle Rock trail for a couple of miles. We reached a gate, had a quick snack, then pointed our bikes back towards Badger trail. By now the sun was getting low on the horizon and I knew we'd be finishing with lights. Well, I'd be finishing with lights, John forgot his!!
Our turnaround point on Castle Rock trail.
The BLM may be open to more trails in this area. Sweet.
Haulapai Peak in the distance.
Sky painters giving us a treat.
My legs found their second wind and we made quick work getting back to the 3-way split. I figured we didn't have time to ride out to the overlook spur, but John didn't hesitate and we went for it. I'm glad we did as it was yet another fun trail carved into the mountainside. We even had some snow to ride through.
Heading out on the spur in the waning light.
John took off down Badger hootin' & hollerin' while trying to stay ahead of the impending darkness. I picked my way down slowly as my night vision isn't the greatest.
Fantastic views for the final mile or so.
This second ride brought our total for the day up to 41 miles. We didn't skip much, hopefully next time there will be a few more options near Coyote, Castle Rock & Badger. Those were probably my favorite trails today. So much potential in those hills.

Afterwards, we got cleaned up, went out for a burger, then crashed out back at the casa. Such a fun day. 

I was keeping my eye on the forecast, rain was expected during the night, but not much predicted for Lake Havasu. Sure enough, sometime around 3am I woke to the sound of pouring rain. By 5:30a it had stopped and I got packed up and hit the road shortly after 6a under the cover of darkness.

I wanted to be down in Havasu by sunrise as I only had a few hours to ride. I grabbed some eats, found the trailhead next to the rodeo grounds and was spinning before 8a.

From what I could tell, SARA Park is the place to ride in Lake Havasu. The online resources though, leave a lot to be desired. Not a ton of information out there regarding the trails.

John told me to check out the Friendly Fair loop next to the trailhead before going into SARA Park, so I did just that. It was a great warmup, gentle climbing followed by roller coaster swooping downhills repeated 3-4 times. My only snafu was having the trail abruptly end down in a wash. It was easy enough to get back on track since there's practically zero vegetation out there. Felt like riding on the moon. Sure was fun!!
Early morning glow on Friendly Fair.
A rare glimpse of Lake Havasu to the north.
High speed turns await.
Medieval looking buttresses.
I stopped by the car, ditched my jacket, and crossed the road into SARA Park. The trailmap was primitive at best. The trails were marked as: Yellow trail, blue trail, green trail, etc. I did see some carsonite signs as I rode away from the kiosk, but there were so many spider trails it was too easy to get off route. I'd find myself on the Yellow...then Red...then Blue...back to Yellow, but not really seeing much in the way of trails. Kinda strange. The Yellow trail eventually turned into a sandy wash as it approached 'The Crack'. I could see plenty of HAB in my near future, so I flipped it around and hoped I could locate more singletrack.
Time to turn around.
I was beginning to have NoPho flashbacks!!
Some semblance of singletrack, but what trail am I on??
Incredible terrain.
Back near the trailhead I found more potential for singletrack. I jumped on a trail peeling off to the right and it led me to another trailhead and trailmap kiosk. This one was a little better.
At least this one made more sense.
I opted for the Water Shed Loop in the CW direction, turns out, that was a proper life decision. The trail starts out on a jeep road, but rode like singletrack most of the way. At the far left/upper end of the loop the jeep road portion ended and the swooping singletrack began.
That's the jeep road on the right, see, it rides like singletrack!!
More moonscape riding.
A few really fast rippin' downhills.
A few punchy climbs were tucked in the terrain to keep you honest.
Any more red and I'd swear it was Mars.
Again, I was surprised how well contoured the trail was. Plenty of social trails in this area as well.
I had this feeling I was riding in Death Valley, only this time with trail instead of dirt roads.
I mad a quick out-n-back on Beer Bottle trail, another fun one bisecting the Water Shed Loop. I had printed out an aerial Strava Heatmap to guide me along. It really helped having that as a reference, but it also showed me how many more trails were tucked into the surrounding canyons. Based on what I saw & rode I could easily spend an entire weekend exploring the area and probably not ride everything out there. I'll be back for sure.
Of course my loop finished by dumping me back into a sandy side canyon. I think there was another more bike friendly option, but I missed it. 
I had a few minutes before I needed to hit the road, so I went back for a second lap on Friendly Fair, this time trying to avoid the dead-end trail. I found the turn in question and sure enough my second pass through the twists & turns flowed really well. Great finish to the weekend.
I went back into town to grab some lunch and decided to take the Voodoo over to London Bridge. I still find it odd that the iconic bridge is in Lake Havasu, but it is and it's cool.
Padlocks covering the first section of railing.
It's been here as long as I've been around.
Decked out for the holidays.
Replica of a boundary dragon used to mark the city of London boundaries.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality riding in both locations. If you get the chance, hit the trails in the NW corner of Arizona, well worth the stop.

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog Post, I will have to check out NW part of AZ.. I like your "A few punchy climbs were tucked in the terrain to keep you honest." Vegan and I use "to keep you honest" to describe technical sections of a trail :)