Saturday, April 5, 2008

Arizona Day 4: Sedona Trail Riding

Munds-Huckaby-Jim Thompson Loop
30.0 miles, 4300ft vert, 4:05hrs
Sunny, 60's to 70's

Was really itching to try some new trails today. When I came to Sedona in March '07 with Dave P., we spent one day here and I immediately recognized I would have to come back soon. My legs were in a major funk from the two huge riding days earlier this week (13hrs, 20,000ft climbing) and yesterday's big hike into the Grand Canyon. My calves were in knots and knees were extremely tender. I think it was from stepping down hundreds, if not thousands, of big steps on the South Kaibab trail. I think my wife and mom had less trouble than I did.

The morning started rough. My rear tubeless tire was flat. Seems the Cholla I clipped two days earlier did a real number on the sidewall. I put a spare, nearly bald, 1.9" UST tire on the rim and could not get the bead to seat to begin inflation. I had to go to service station and fuss with schrader nozzle on presta valve to blast enough air into the tube to get the bead to seat. This tire would later prove to be woefully inadequate for the terrain I was about to encounter.

Top of Schnebly Hill overlooking Sedona

Plan today was to repeat a climb Dave and I did last year, then on the descent pick up new stuff we did not get too. The climb up Schnebly Hill Rd went well, but I didn't push the pace. Strangely, the road was gated half way up to the scenic vista that hundreds of tour Jeeps drive up to daily. Don't know why. Was nice, as I had the upper portion of the road to myself. The road was much rougher than when Dave and I did it last year. This was a sign of more things to come.

Huckaby in Oak Creek gorge

Rather than stop at the scenic vista where the Jeeps turn around (and lazy tourists don't even get out of the Jeep to shoot photos), I continued higher along the rim. I wanted to see what was up there. The trail at this point was not maintained in any sense. It was brutally rocky and loose, barely rideable. This went on for a long time. The view was worth it though. The additional hundreds of feet of climbing brought much more of Sedona into view.

I opted to return down to singletrack at this point rather than explore further up on the high plateau land. I picked up Munds Wagon Trail, as Dave and I did last year. It was rocky last year, but much worse this year. Seems to have been very dry lately, and the trail was essentially a V-groove filled with large, loose, sharp rocks. They would constantly flip into spokes, feet, frame and slide out from under you when braking or pedalling. Very frustrating. I reached a point where I had enough and popped back out on the Jeep road to finish the descent.

Jordan or maybe Jim Thompson

Huckaby Trail was next. I thought this would be mostly downhill to Oak Creek crossing and buff. It was NOT. It was heinously steep up and down, requiring many dismounts and hike-a-bikes. When I got down to Oak Creek, the trail completely disappeared. I stumbled around for what seemed like an eternity over car sized rocks looking for a way out of the hundreds of feet deep gorge I was in. Eventually I found it, crossing under the Rt 89A bridge. I thought that surely must be the end of hike-a-biking.

Finding the Jim Thompson trail head proved challenging. The old two track/single track followed a stream bed and kind of disappeared and reappeared a few times. When I found Jim Thompson, I was greeted with more hike-a-bike, the really loose, steep kind that was even hard to walk on. The bald tire I had on back did not hook up with this loose-as-marbles stuff. Plus, I really needed about 6" travel front and back to properly ride this stuff. My hardtail has steep head angle and made the bony descents dicy. Jim Thompson eventually tames a bit and presented some fantastic secenery, stuff I hadn't seen last time.

Portion of ride: Schnebly climb, Munds descent, Huckaby in lower center, and start of Jim Thompson on left of image

The Jordan Trail was next, mostly rideable, but some dismounts required. I was getting tired at this point, having been on the trail for over 4hrs without a break. I hadn't yet seen another mountain biker either. Just hikers.

The final trail I rode was Tea Cup. It was the least technical trail of the day, and the only time I saw other riders. I still had to dismount a few times on this one, once after I spun my bald tire out on a steep dusty incline that caused me to bash a knee into the stem. I was ready to quit while I was still intact. My water was long gone, and I was only two miles from hotel by road. So I popped off trail and went back, a little ahead of planned rendezvous time with the women, who were shopping.

Tea Cup trail

The best part of this ride was the scenery. The climb was nice, but the trails were more challenging than I like. Of the four hours I was moving, I'd say at least one hour of that was off the bike. My brand new $400 Sidi shoes are nearly destroyed. The carbon soles are chewed up, the replaceable treads will have to be replaced. This ride was no Otis AFB ride. Not sure what's on tap for Sunday yet. Could be a road-ish Mingus Mtn climb in nearby Cottonwood, or maybe hitting more Sedona trails I haven't explored yet. When I do hit the trails, I'll be sure to hit some of the stuff Dave and I did last year, like Llama and Broken Arrow.

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