Thursday, March 27, 2014


I forgot to mention two stories from Tuesday. Shortly after I popped out on pavement at the bottom of Milagrosa, I heard a commotion in the desert to my right. An instant later, I'm knocked clear across the road trying to stay upright. Dust devil. Fortunately I was on a low traffic road and no cars where coming just then. The force very nearly slammed me to the pavement. Gravel the size of peas was flying through the air and hurt like hell. I was sweaty with sunscreen on. The dust devil left my looking like a powdered donut.

A couple hours later en route to Sedona, Cathy and I were heading into what looked like a thunderstorm. As we got closer, we realized the darkness was going up from the ground, not coming down from the sky. Uh-oh, that doesn't look good. It was wicked windy out. Just then a eardrum piercing screeching sound goes off in the car. We both about went through the roof. It was the emergency broadcasting system alarm tone. At first we thought the rental car did it, but no. It was my iPhone. Has that ever happened to anybody?

A message indicated a dust storm was brewing and to stay off the roads. Remember my drive over to Tucson Saturday night on I-10? I just can't win on that piece of highway. Traffic slowed to a crawl and the sun blackened out. I've never experienced a full-fledged dust storm before. Visibility was akin to blizzard conditions in Michigan. Just nuts. Tumbleweeds as big as small cars were aloft high in the sky. Other debris was blowing across the highway too. Eventually we drove through it, and just like a light switch, we went from dark brown sky to crystal clear blue sky.

It was even windier on Wednesday for my big ride in Prescott. No open farmland or flats around here, so the dust wasn't too bad. Just had to dodge tumble weeds on Rt 89 coming back from Prescott to Sedona.

I pulled a bunch of Strava tracks from guys and gals that do long rides in Prescott. I searched for 30 and 40+ mile loops. You tend to get more quality tracks that way, folks serious about doing long rides. I loaded the tracks into DeLorme Topo so I could see where there was the most overlap and which direction most people rode sections. From this, I cut and spliced GPX segments together to make a 40+ mile loop with some serious climbing.

It is a lot colder here than in Tucson. Prescott sits about a mile high. Driving over Mingus Mountain, the temp display in car dropped to 44F. And it was wicked windy. I did not throw any long layers in the car. Plus, I planned to climb even higher than the Rt 89A pass. I was just going to have to ride harder to stay warm.

I parked downtown. There was five miles of urban jungle before I hit the first singletrack. The trail was good, heading out towards Lynx Lake. Well maintained, nice flow, not too rocky nor too easy. I needed that after being punished on Milagrosa the day before.

Then the climbing started on Smith Ravine trail heading up Spruce Mtn. Doable, but why was I breathing so hard? Oh yeah, I'm at 6500ft. When you spend 99% of your life below 500ft, 6500ft feels like you're taking another 30 pounds up the mountain with you.

Then the grade got not only steeper, but loose. I had to drop tire pressure to keep from flinging large rocks out from under my rear tire. It seemed every time I looked at the GPS, it said 15% grade or higher. Sometimes over 20%. That was good for tired legs.

I managed to reach the fire tower up top without having to put on my light wind shell. I had the mountain to myself if seemed. Nice view from a rocky outcropping there.

The Prescott Valley from Spruce Mtn summit. Dusty haze in the air.

Peering over into the abyss. Was shivering by the time I headed down.

From the summit, I headed south along a ridgeline. It rolled some, losing just a little vertical. The surface was mostly chunder. As the trail dropped off the ridgeline, it became all chunder. Some readers may ask, what exactly is chunder? It is this.

Steep as heck and tires wanted nothing to do with staying under you.

It's nice to get a return on your vertical investment. But the initial descent was almost as painfully slow as the climb. When I reached the lower flanks, the trail cleaned up nicely. Despite the chunder, extensive maintenance was evident. It's just what the terrain consists of on Spruce Mtn.

Connecting over to Wolverton Mtn was some sweet, buffed out contouring material, Trail 396. You could really haul on it if you wanted. Sections were as smooth and hard as pavement. The Wolverton Trail was a much more manageable grade for tired legs. It appeared to meander through an area that may have burned many years ago, as there were no mature ponderosa pines there.

Wolverton on outskirts of town

Higher up on Wolverton

The initial plummet off Wolverton was doubletrack. Nice return on climbing investment here. Just had be careful to not overcook a turn. The descending continued on mint singletrack. I reached my connection back into town and was bummed. The singletrack continued, and I did't really want to "waste" the remaining vertical on gravel and paved roads back into town. But I was cooked and needed to get back to Sedona.

SPF-50 and still getting burned

I finished with 43.5mi in 4.9hrs riding time and 6600ft vertical on the Garmin. The wheel sensor died, so distance is short. Due to the punchy nature of climbing in this loop, I was pretty thoroughly destroyed. Have to reassess what to do on Thursday now. This ride was a tiny sampling of what is available in Prescott. I suspect there are as many miles of singletrack around Prescott as there are around Durango. I'd love to spend more time riding here on another trip.

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