February 25, 2017

Sedona: BFL DNF X3

Jeff & Nancy were heading up to Sedona to give my modified AES BFL route a go, so I promptly invited myself to tag along. The last two times I was up there to scout for the ride I was unable to finish due to broken cranks & shortness of time. I was eager to see how the dialed in course rode as a whole.

We arrived in Village of Oak Creek (VOC) for a 7:30a meetup. What we didn't expect were temps in the upper 20's!! Cold for us desert dwellers. Break out the layers. We also knew that we'd be peeling them off soon enough as the beginning of the route climbs up to Hiline trail.
Up on Hiline, check you fear of heights at the entrance.
This overlook of Red Rock Crossing marks the high point of Hiline. 
Did someone say slickrock with views?
Old man Mingus far across the Verde Valley.
Nancy keeping her distance from the spiny bits.

Hiline is one of my favorite trails in Sedona. It has it all, technical climbing, exposure, flow, incredible views, slickrock, gnarly descents and plenty of reward for all the effort. Even though I walk the chute drop-in, it's well worth it.

Jeff fielded a quick work call and shot back a red walled canyon shot: 'Out of office!'

We were cruising down the dips on Baldwin trail when I came in a bit hot to a series of small step-like formations on an embedded outcropping. Momentum is your friend here, but I guess I had a bit too much and pssssstt went my Ikon rear tire. Drat. I quickly found the hole. It was barely a pinhole right on the tread and sealant was bubbling out, but wouldn't clog. I figured since it was a new-ish tire there wasn't quite enough sealant to get the job done. I added a bottle and the leak stopped instantly. Cool. Barely 50 feel later...pssssssttt. More sealant spewing from the hole. Argh. Time for a tire plug. That did the trick, ride on.

I had been poking around the Oak Creek stream gauge data the day prior and saw the creek was flowing at 80 CFS and a gauge height just below 3 feet. The normal range is 30 CFS and 2 1/2 feet. So, not much higher, but the more than double the flow. We assumed we wouldn't be able to cross the creek where we normally ford it, but still wanted to check it out. Sure enough it was a strong flow that we may or may not have been able to cross without get knocked over in the frigid water.
Jeff making a quick pit-stop to tighten a loose cleat.
A swift and deep Oak Creek.

I pointed out a few clumps of leaves hanging in the nearby trees about eye level. Based on the historical flow data, Oak Creek had peaked at 4000 CFS and 8 feet sometime around Christmas!! That must've been quite a sight to see and I bet the homeowners in the above pic were a little nervous.

There was a nearby bridge that we thought we 'may' be able to use to get across. We also heard rumblings of no access as well. One way to find out.
Here's our answer. 
We backtracked a bit and made our way over to Red Rock State Park, our old crossing in years past. It's now $4 to ride through the park. We made quick work of it and climbed up & over a nearby hill to rejoin the track barely 100 yards from where we left off. The detour through the park added about 3 miles.
Sedona stereotypes abound here.
We linked up with Ridge trail and 5 HAB minutes later were high above the river basin.
The aptly named Sketch trail.
Eventually we'll be on the other side of town near the far rock formations.

Up to this point our pace had been woefully slow mostly due to tire issues and the Oak Creek detour. Things picked up as we wound our way around Carroll Canyon, Old Post and Skywalker. It took 3 1/2 hours, but we finally ran into our first mountain bikers of the day!! After crossing US89A it was mostly downhill to Dry Creek....
Not so dry in Dry Creek.
It was neat to see so much water flowing in Dry Creek and I was extra glad we weren't riding Girdner trail!!

I was surprised to see a bit of running water in this side canyon on Last Frontier.
We made quick work connecting over to Cockscomb via Western Civilization to one of the more fun sections of the route: Aerie & Mescal Mtn.
This rock bench doubles as Aerie.
We started to get a steady flow of uphill riders on Aerie, most were of the tourist variety. How could we tell? Perhaps it was the two dudes on commuter bikes, just a guess. I'm sure it's a nice climb if you have the legs/lungs for it, but most of these riders clearly seemed in over their head. Plus, Aerie just rides better leading into Mescal Mtn IMO.

I was expecting to see a ton of hiker traffic after we rolled through Deadman's Pass, but there really weren't too many.
Ginormous cliffs and two tiny riders along Mescal Mtn trail.
The miles were finally ticking off at a faster clip, but we still had about 25 miles or so to go and we were about to jump onto the convoluted Chuck Wagon trail.

As we climbed higher I could hear rushing water down below. We were back above Dry Creek, but this time it was a bit trickier to navigate without getting wet.
A very wet Dry Creek.
We were about halfway through Chuck Wagon, Jeff & Nancy had gotten a bit ahead of me when my rear tire began to hiss again. This time I was on flat, smooth trail. WTF?!? Once again, the leak wouldn't seal well enough to let me ride. I tried pumping the tire up a few times before throwing in the towel on the ride. I was done messing with it, it just wasn't worth the aggravation. I really didn't want to throw a tube in either, it was going to be a mess anyway. I figured I was close to the Devil's Bridge trailhead, I'd just walk out to there, put in a tube and ride the pavement back to VOC and my car.

A fellow rider offered me a lift in his pickup, but he was parked at a trailhead a bit farther away, so I turned it down. I sent Jeff a text & voicemail to tell them to keep going and I'd meet them back at the cars.

Out of the trails, the road was a rugged jeep trail. Hikers were walking up the road to Devil's Bridge. I had no idea the access road was this rough. I pulled off my tire and thankfully didn't dump my sealant out. I say this, because as I tested my tube it was littered with holes!! Gah! Now I was wishing I took the pickup offer earlier. I put the tire back on, with almost all the sealant and somehow the stupid thing inflated with my hand pump on the first try. Go figure.
Walk of shame.
I still didn't trust the tire on the rocky road so I kept walking. I was hoping to land a lift back to VOC from someone at the trailhead up the road. The rocks smoothed out so I tried Fred Flinstoning the bike along, it worked for about 200 yards...pssssstttt.

The first vehicle I came to was an SUV where a couple was packing up from their hike. 'Everything ok' the fella asked. 'Nope', he then asked if I needed a ride!! 'Yes I do!' They just happened to be headed to VOC too and when I asked if they knew where the IGA was located, they said 'that's where we're headed'. Perfect, my car is in the parking lot there!! They were a nice couple in town from BC enjoying the warm weather. It really couldn't have worked out better.

Twenty minutes after arriving at the car, Jeff rolled up. He got my message after waiting for a bit. They decided to cut the ride short when they realized neither one of them had lights. We had a nice Thai meal for dinner, then made our way back down to the Valley.

Third time on this modified loop wasn't a charm, but I still think it'll be good to go for April. As for the Maxxis Ikon tires, I'm done futzing with them. Back to the tried & true Ardents for me.

Route flyover


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