|08-25-2014, 08:17 AM||#1|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
East Texans Go West: The Great Arizona Redo
We actually took this trip back in April, but I have been super busy since we got back, writing this report little by little. I quit working on it for a month or so, but discovered that I was quickly forgetting the details, so I finally pushed to finish it, as well as the videos for each day... sort of. Hopefully Scott won't be far behind, but he's studying for a PE exam, so we'll forgive him if he's a while longer... stay tuned for his version though, because he has more photos :
I generally don't use a GPS, so there are no tracks to share (although Scott might have), but I tried to be as descriptive as possible so if you choose, you can follow along on the maps of you choice.
And so it begins...
So one day in January I get this message from Scott [Tourmeister], asking what I thought about another trip to Arizona in the spring... Seven years had passed since our last Arizona adventure, and I didn't even have to think about it; I'm in!
Immediately I began the route obsessing... erm, planning, despite my schedule getting busier and busier. This route would be better than before, even better than the original 2007 route (not the executed one), before circumstance had its way with us. This route would have unknowns; lots of trails and connections that I hadn't fully explored; routes to test Scott's since-accumulated experience, developed skills, and his new bike; routes that would burn in our memories and provide us with stories to tell... What's more, this route would be flexible... elastic, if you will, allowing options and flexibility in the schedule.
The tired old DR has seen better days, but would be ready enough to make the trip, as long as I address a few minor issues and carry some spare seals, etc. It would have to do as-is, as I simply would not have time to mess with it in this short period. Of course, only days before the trip, new issues would present themselves, like mysterious gas in the oil, a disintegrated 15 year old air filter, reduced to chunks and powder inhaled by the carb, and a worrisome clutch with 22k miles of hard trail-riding abuse... I found myself scrambling to correct these issues without time to spare. The aged Dunlop D739 knobby front tire was one that I had laying around for years, and installed last spring at the last minute for some trail riding at a friend's farm, and the new Kenda 270 rear was, well, junk, to put it plainly; quite possibly the worst tire I've ever ridden, dirt or pavement... But they will both have to do.
I was useless Wednesday afternoon, and found myself packing (or repacking) all the way up until Scott [Tourmeister] and Roger [Rsquared] pulled up in my cul de sac at around 8:30 pm. With my bike and gear loaded, we were on our way to what might be my favorite place on earth, on our way to Arizona.
Despite highways lined with deer, the drive was uneventful; good conversation filled the night, and we made good time, arriving in Superior at 11am. With plenty of time to spare before heading into Gilbert to drop the truck and trailer off, we relaxed at the motel, had lunch at a surprisingly good Asian restaurant, then moved on to the valley. The evening brought last minute adjustments to the bikes, and my last night in a bed for the rest of the trip... Roger and I set our clocks for 5:30am.
Whenever I see this scene, I consider myself having arrived.
Day 1: Superior to Globe
A grudge match
I apologize for the lack of photos and videos for the first 2.5 days… unfortunately I used my GoPro as my primary camera, and the card that I used for those days was later damaged (story later in the report), resulting in the loss of all of the videos and photos other than those taken on my old phone. Of course, wouldn’t you know, this would have also been the most impressive and exciting media as well… but unfortunately, $2000 for recovery is out of my budget.
Roger and I met bright and early and headed over to Los Hermanos for their awesome omelettes, while Scott got his beauty sleep and my friend Drew made is way from Mesa for an 8am departure. Drew was right on time, and we made our way south through town to find the start of FR4, aka Telegraph Canyon road.
I chose FR4 as an alternative to the way we entered Box Canyon last time, to save us from starting the day on pavement, plus to add some interest to the route instead of the dirt road we took last time, which I had ridden many times before. I hadn't ridden FR4 since 2000, and then it was in the opposite direction; add to that the tendency for trails to change substantially over time, usually for the "worse" (better in my mind), so I wasn't 100% sure what to expect. Once on track, I led the way. The trail was even more entertaining than I remembered it, and before long we were back on track to make another attempt at the heck I put Scott through 7 years ago. It had to work this time though, because Drew wouldn't be available to bail us out this time, since he was riding with us...
Gila monsters are a rare sight:
This time I didn't miss the casita, hidden by palo verde trees, while racing through the Box Canyon wash, although Scott did since he was leading. I was disappointed that very little remained of the old adobe structure; just a few walls, at least one of which had been braced. The many times I had passed through before, it was complete, with roof, although worse for wear. There's a fence around it now, I assume to help discourage vandalism. After poking around a bit, we were on our way, and found Scott waiting at the turn-off to Martinez Canyon. This is where the challenges step up a level, the rest of the way to the Coke Ovens...
The trail to the Coke Ovens...
Roger and Scott opted for a different, "easier" line:
Video of Scott:
Scott taking the "easy line"
It was getting warm, although not like last time. We didn't spend as much time resting this trip though, and it wasn't long before I found myself churning up the long climb that that finished-off Scott last time... Once at the top, I waited, and watched, as Roger and Scott reached the start of the steep ascent, loose with boulders, fingers crossed. It wasn't long before they both came to a stop. I waited before making my way down the long hill, a conservation effort, because this hill is more difficult to walk on than to ride. I finally started my way down, first stopping within earshot. Roger was able to get moving again, so I paused and waited to observe Scott. It became evident that he was having some sort of issue, so I continued my descent down. I discovered that Scott was having a tough time getting the KTM restarted... It finally fired though, and he was on his way up again. I watched as he disappeared over the crest that did him in 7 years ago, and began my long, exhausting struggle on foot back to the top, pausing frequently to catch my breath and let my legs recover...
Once at the top, I found Roger and Drew waiting, but Scott was long gone, apparently in an effort to keep his bike running. I re-mounted, and got moving again, only to feel a shifty, squirmy rear-end... My back tire was going flat. I caught up to Drew and Roger and told them how to get to the Coke Ovens, and my plan to head down to the river to begin my repair...
I made haste for the shade by the Gila River, riding as quickly, yet as gracefully as possible, milking all I could from what little air remained in my back tire. Tiptoeing down one of the rougher, trickier descents on the trail, doing my best not to damage my tire or rim, I passed Scott lying on his back in the trail... His bike was on the kickstand though, and his body appeared in a resting pose, so I continued to the river.
After a short rest at the infamous campsite from the last trip, I unloaded the beast and began to set up for the dreaded task of changing a tube trailside. It wasn't long before the rest of the crew arrived, and Scott entertained with stories of the site from our last visit, while I tried my best not to pinch the good tube going in.
With the task completed, we began the portion of the loop that threw us off schedule 7 years ago: Battle Axe trail. Despite a somewhat brisk pace, it seemed like forever before we reached the point that we kept turning around at before, the off-camber climb that Scott, still suffering from fatigue and heat exhaustion at the time, refused to climb, especially not being 100% sure that it was the way out (although I was about 95% certain; good enough for me). I attacked the hill, which didn't seem so bad this time, not leaving time for second thought... Once over it, it wasn't long before we were racing through the beautiful canyon that I remembered from an exploratory ride with my friend Dan back in 2001. Before long, we pulled out onto the main Battle Axe Road, and in frustration I thought to myself, "that's it? That was what kept us camping at the river for 2 days?!"
The following are more pics that Drew took from this ride:
Teddy bear cholla, aka jumping cholla... run away!
Another (better) shot of the gila monster
The casita, or what's left of it...
I wish I had the video of this...
Roger, from when he and Drew rode to the coke ovens without me and Scott...
Once at highway 170, we bid farewell to Drew, then made our way to part 2 of the route, Devil's canyon. This was an experiment of sorts; despite countless hours digging and researching the area, I couldn't find anything about this trail, just some fragments on a couple of maps, but aerials showed it going all the way through. Studying the aerials and topography, as well as what I knew from some brief exploring in my 4x4 years ago, I knew that this short 8-9 mile trail held the possibility for some challenges, but also great reward in a surreal landscape. I left it up to the guys though, and once we reached the gate, they opted to give it a try. After a couple of miles of the winding, increasingly rough and steep climbs and descents, we reached a climb hat appeared to step things up in the challenge department... Already fatigued from our day to this point, we had a decision to make, and Roger's wisdom made it easy... So we turned around. Yes, I was disappointed, but I agreed it was the wiser thing to do.
Back on 170, we passed through Superior and made our way up 60 through the beautiful canyon to Globe, when I discovered that the guys were quite a ways behind, so I pulled over to wait, near where we would have exited Devil's Canyon. Once they arrived, we began to move again, and I suddenly realized that I had yet another flat tire... This time we patched it, and resumed our mission to save what remained of the day.
After a quick stop at Walmart, we made our way up the street to Wendy's to indulge on biggie-sized burgers, fries and drinks. As we sat in the corner stuffing our tired, dirty faces, we discussed what remained of the day, where we would camp, how long it would take to get there, etc. The site I had planned was a dramatic location, on big cliffs overlooking Roosevelt Lake. There wasn't much left of the day though, and the guys were tired. I joked about a hotel in town that my wife and I stayed at a couple of years ago that happened to have a hot tub... They didn't think it was too funny though, and pretty much insisted I take them there...
|08-26-2014, 06:49 AM||#2|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
Day 2: Globe to the Mogollon Rim, via Young
Day 2: Globe to the Mogollon Rim, via Young
Hail, Rain and pain
The next morning we got off to a somewhat late start and made haste to 288. Throughout the winding paved ride I was debating in my mind what do do with today's route, as time would be somewhat limited, and there was also a looming possibility of storms. I originally wanted to ride up 288 to FR203, aka Cherry Creek road, then travel south on 203 to optimize the views in one of my favorite areas, Then return north via FR202... But there wouldn't be time for that now. The problem was that the shorter, most direct version, going north on Cherry Creek road from the south end of 288, would have us crossing Cherry Creek at a potentially very deep crossing; I had experienced it well over the bumper of my lifted Isuzu Trooper on 2 occasions. It was also a long ride to that point, and if it was not crossable, we would have a long ride back to the highway, which would most definitely throw a wrench in our day. We convened at the Cherry Creek road intersection for the deciding vote, which was to take our chance with the water crossing.
Cherry Creek road is a long ride on wide, improved dirt; pleasant, but not particularly dramatic or exciting, speeds being kept mild due to the somewhat high probability of on-coming traffic. Before long we reached the first, smaller Coon Creek crossing, which was slightly lower than typical (as I've experienced it), so we continued on. When we finally reached Cherry Creek, I almost didn't realize it, thinking I had forgotten a crossing; vegetation had grown up around it, and water barely trickled across the concrete crossing. I felt relieved, yet disappointed... I guess part of me was hoping for at least a little drama, but this was by far the lowest I had seen this crossing. We thumped on, roughly 2/3 of the way to the "fun" part. Oddly enough, the second Cherry Creek crossing had a little water in it, enough that Roger, after watching me cross first, opted to try an adjacent crossing.
This second crossing is where the magic of the Sierra Ancha begins, as FR203 narrows as it climbs and winds for miles along the Sierra Ancha Wilderness boundary. I made a routine of riding ahead to capture video of Scott and Roger, catching back up to video from behind, then passing ahead again to repeat. At one point, I videoed as they rode by, then returned to the bike only to find... yet another flat rear tire. Of course, they were too far ahead for me to get their attention, so I pumped as much air as I could into it with my mountain bike pump and took off. It didn't take long before it was time for more air, and so it went for miles. I finally got tired of pumping every couple of minutes, and just rode it flat, hoping that I would find them waiting before long... But that wasn't happening, and I began to realize that if I kept this up, I would damage the tire, if I hadn't already. it was shortly after that that i was finally reunited with Scott and Roger, although how is a gray area that we can't seem to remember; I thought I remembered riding up on them waiting, but Scott thinks they turned around to find me... Regardless, we aired up the tire one last time with Roger's bulky, but wonderful electric pump, then after quickly losing the air, we once again went to work removing the rear wheel. As I began what was becoming a routine, thunder rolled; the storms that we had been watching pop up around us finally caught up with us... It rained just enough to make a mess of the job. Once done, we were wet and hungry, and since it was lunch time, we decided to skip FR54 for now and head for Young for lunch at the Antler Cafe.
From the direction we came: The chasm you see to the middle-right contains beautiful waterfalls and some very well-preserved Indian cliff dwellings, in fact, this area has numerous cliff dwellings. The dark clouds are a sign of things to come...
One of the few times where we stopped long enough for me to pull out the camera; looking west, from where we came...
Looking across Cherry Creek; there are cliff dwellings in the mountain to the left...
This is a 100% crop of the image above, the dark spot that is circled contains the cliff dwellings... unfortunately, all I had with me was a wide angle lens.
Once back on 288, the ride was uneventful, until I saw a car pulled over on the side of the road with what appeared to be an elderly couple walking around it with the back hatch open... I moved over in preparation to check on them, only to realize that I hadn't used my back brake since the tire change several miles back, resulting in a very fast approach as I flew up next to them while pumping the brake... Acting as if I meant to do that, I asked if they needed anything, and all was good, although they did have some directional questions, so we finished our ride to Young.
Once in town, I noticed the sign to the Antler, although it was in a different place, in a new metal building that, well, had less character than the old one... which was missing. Inquiring after being seated on the patio, we learned that the old location had burned, as well as changed ownership. The food was still good though, and we lazily loitered as we discussed what to do with what remained of our day. It was decided that we would skip FR54 in favor of finding a campsite on the Mogollon rim, although I still had a "shortcut" in mind, if it exists, and if we could find it...
Scott lounging on the patio of the new Antler...
We rolled out of town, enjoying what remained of the twisty pavement that climbs toward the rim, before turning into wide, droning washboard. Eager to find the fun stuff, I slowed down for every little hint of a drive or trail that turned to the left, only to be disappointed. Then, finally, FR868 appeared, and we playfully attacked it. The trail became more and more difficult to follow, as it faded into the pine needles. It wasn't long though before we came to a stop above what appeared to be a boulder-strewn drainage, with no sign of a trail on the other side. I took off down the hill for a closer look, dismounted, finding myself hiking about, looking for any sign of a trail... And found it! Now to figure out how to get to it, because Scott had already made it clear that he was not crossing the boulders. As we returned to the bikes after scouting an agreeable path, I noticed a trail skirting the side of the hill... Right from where our bikes were parked! At that point, it became evident where it joined the target trail... We had a good chuckle and were on our way. We took one wrong turn but caught it quickly, then found our way on the correct track... As rain began to fall. A little concerned about the slippery effect of water on the rocky climbs, I picked up my pace and was at the trail exit to FR102 in no time. Once Scott and Roger caught up, I let Scott lead the way with his GPS and we didn't waste any time in our search for 512.
Stopped, having briefly lost FR868...
Scott made it clear that he was not going to cross these boulders, especially for a trail that he didn't believe continued beyond this point...
Once on 512, the rain began to fall harder and heavier as I lead the way to highway 260, then suddenly the rain began to hurt, REALLY bad as it hit my nose and lips... Because it wasn't rain at this point but hail... I pressed on, but the stings became unbearable, right about the time I spotted a small roof in the distance through the trees... This became my focus; find a way to this mystery shelter! Rounding the bend I spotted a drive to the right; wasting no time I darted under the info board, which had just enough room to shelter the 3 of us from the hail shower.
Once the storm let up to our satisfaction, we jumped back on 512 and continued our cold, wet quest for a rim campsite. Once we hit 260, we had a short paved drone to the FR300, aka "Rim Road", turnoff. I was soaked, freezing and focused; find a campsite, soon. At the end of the paved section of 300, I stopped to warm my hands on the air cooled motor and wait for Scott and Roger, who had stopped to take photos at one of the overlooks. While waiting, shivering, it occurred to me that it wouldn't be much fun pitching camp in the rain, and less-so packing a wet camp in the morning... In anticipation that the guys would prefer an alternative, I began searching for a signal that would last more than a few seconds, so that I could search for lodge that I came across on the net. Meanwhile, Scott and Roger arrived and confirmed my expectations, so without a dependable cell signal, we went in search of information... There was a sign that suggested a store was 1 mile up the road, so we went in search of this assumingly dry, warm building... After some searching and no sign of such a place, we discovered a federal campground, which was closed, and contained the so-called "store", also closed. It was just as well though, because the said "store" appeared to be a concession stand that once sold firewood, and maybe overpriced cold drinks. The closed campground did, however, have a camp host on duty, so we inquired regarding nearby lodging options. The only motel he knew of was 7 miles up 260; the way from which we came. On the way out we stopped at an overlook that he also suggested sometimes had a good signal. We took some photos as the sun set through the storm clouds, then heard the honk from an RV towing some DS bikes. The RV slowed, then turned into the parking lot for a chat. A wiry, energetic fellow hopped out and came around to meet us. Seems they were taking some down time from racing somewhere in the northeast, or something like that; I wasn't listening very closely, as I was preoccupied with ending our day in an acceptable, warm, dry manner... But then admittedly, I'm always too preoccupied with something to listen to anyone for very long. Anyway, I did catch that he said they were going to try "extreme adventure riding"... with their very fancy RV... and newly purchased KLR (the other bike was more dirt if I remember correctly, probably orange in nature). We got a chuckle out of that later... Once we said our see-yas, we were off to find this motel, hopefully before dark.
The sun setting behind the storm clouds on the Mogollon Rim
We arrived at the motel, just in time to check in, and I recognized the sign as being the one I had seen online. The rooms were dated, but clean enough, so we unpacked and found our places on some benches outside, as we talked and shared some summer sausage. It also became evident that night that I would be dealing with a leaking air mattress on this trip...
|08-26-2014, 08:54 AM||#3|
Joined: May 2010
Location: Phoenix, AZ
nice RR, I enjoyed your videos and got some good info on the forest roads.
'05 BMW R1200GS, '03 H-D Road King Classic, '02 YZ 250 two stroke
Deadhorse, AK 2010, BMWMOA Rally Phx, AZ-Redmond, OR 2010 ,
Chief Joseph Rally Phx, AZ -John Day, OR 2011
Stanley Stomp Rally Phx, AZ - Stanley, ID 2012
Phx, AZ - Torrey, UT 2013
|08-26-2014, 08:56 AM||#4|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
|08-27-2014, 07:27 AM||#5|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
Doing it twice, and good luck... sort of
Day 3: Mogollon Rim to Camp Verde
Doing it twice, and good luck... sort of
The ride on FR300 was scenic, as was expected, and uneventful. At one point, while riding behind to video, I reached the capacity of my first card in the GoPro, so I pulled over to swap cards (not a quick task) and was back on my way. Once I caught up, we finished the fairly well maintained road, and once back on pavement, headed down to Strawberry to gas-up and find some lunch.
FR300, AKA "Rim Road", on the Mogollon Rim:
Scott, taking it in...
FR300, the movie:FR300, the movie:
At the recommendation of a local, we decided to try a little place that serves breakfast all day. While waiting for our food, I discovered that my hip bag was open... The one that held my camera batteries and memory cards... Some of which were missing, including the card that I removed with the first 2.5 days of the trip on it. That pretty much ruined my breakfast-for-lunch. After some discussion, we decided to go back to look for the tiny micro SD card, the size of a fingernail... on about 30 miles of gravel, even though the odds were obviously against us. While suiting-up to leave on our step-retracing mission, I looked down to discover that my front tire was flat...! That'll be the last time I comment about me never getting flats before a trip... I decided to give the slime a chance to work and aired the tire up, then we were off on our return to the rim road.
After running about 2/3 of the rim road, finding nothing but a busted and smashed Nikon battery, we decided to turn around and continue with our trip. I wasn't totally giving up though, and rode along at about a 10 mph pace with Roger following behind. After some time, something caught my eye while scanning the ditch; sliding to a stop, Roger watched doubtingly as I jumped of my bike and ran back to the object... It was a memory card... Not THE memory card, but a much more expensive SD card that is normally part of my work kit. For this, I felt a little better about wasting the time to go back, but also had a renewed optimism. Back on the bikes, Roger took the lead, and I slowed down to a 5mph crawl... It had to be close... After a mile or so of scanning the right side of the road (the pack was on my right hip at the time), I realized while entering a left curve that I would have likely been cutting the insides of curves with sight lines... So I looked toward the center of the road as I entered the curve and saw something... It was! It was the card! :shock: It appeared undamaged, so I stuffed it in my bag, and made up for lost time with a huge grin on my face. Once I caught up with the guys, they looked at me in disbelief as I told the story.
Back on the road, we skipped the side trip on FR9 to Fossil Creek and made a beeline for Camp Verde. The paved ride was scenic, so not all was lost. After a long break in town making phone calls trying to source a countershaft seal for Scott's KTM, we made a dash up I-17 to find our campsite at Beaver Creek and get set up before darkness fell.
My original plan was to stop and set up camp near the beginning of the first trail for the next day, still a few miles ahead, but Scott indicated the need to try the nearby Beaver Creek campground with some sort of "facility". The campground, Lawrence Crossing, was one the we had checked out on the last trip and skipped, vacant then, but this time was quite crowded with noisy twenty-somethings and a drunk redneck family with a dog that barked at everything. Regardless, we were out of time, and at least the creek was up this time.
|08-27-2014, 07:58 PM||#6|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
Day 4: Camp Verde to Sedona
Easter morning we rose, early enough, but slow to move. My mattress was no longer holding air through the night, so I didn't sleep much once I was touching the ground. I got up and took some photos of the creek, and no one was eager to get going.
A pleasant way to start the day...
Today I had planned, after a great deal of research and studying various aerial and topo maps, quite an adventure on a trail that was not complete on any map except the forest MVUM... So at least I knew it existed and is "legal". I expected some sort of long climb on 645A out of Beaver Creek, then a plateau with mild elevation changes to follow, and not many terribly difficult challenges on what I knew as the "92xx" trails. The unmapped portion of the route was short though, about 10 miles, then followed by well mapped forest roads to FR213, then to FR80.
Once loaded we hit the trail north, FR689, to 645A. At 645A I took point on the fun, rolling trail down to the creek crossing. Once I reached the dry, boulder-strewn creek bed, I didn't even pause to pick a line, instead plunging into the boulders, followed by some large, angled roots on the climb out... After bouncing over the last root, it occurred to me that I should probably walk back and be ready to assist if needed. After dismounting I turned to find Scott stopped in the bed, with Roger a few feet behind. I went back to help him up the root ledges. Once in the in the clear, they shut down the KTMs for a rest. Since we were off to a late start, it was getting warm and we were already feeling it some. While they rested in the shade, I decided to explore down the creek in search of some petroglyphs that I knew were in the area.
The creek crossing:
After some bushwacking I found the ancient art, took some photos and made my way back so we could continue our adventure.
Scott and Roger had been studying the climb that rose before us, and after some discussion about its steep, technical appearance, the time of day and Scott's oil issue, we decided that maybe it would be wise to take the alternate route, 689, to 213. I was disappointed for sure, but completely understood their concerns, and considered that this could work to our advantage schedule-wise.
FR689 was pleasant but uneventful. Once on the pavement of 213, I began the watch for FR80... I was a bit concerned about the several closed gates with rattlesnake mating season signs, then Scott stopped to tell me that one of the closed gates we passed was FR80. FR80 is a seasonal trail, but according to the MVUM map, we were in open season... Disappointed again, we continued to watch for some alternates, but according to the map, the only legal way around was to go all the way to Lake Mary Road, and then back over to I-17. Various other maps show other possible options, but they weren't on the official MVUM. The roads over to Lake Mary Road are a little less than exciting, as is Lake Mary Road itself, so we decided to follow Scott's GPS and explore some shortcuts through the pine forests.
The first series of trails were faint and tough to follow, then becoming rolling doubletrack the rest of the way to FR226. Looking on my maps after the fact, it appears we did some combination of FR's 239, 127 and 226. Along the way, my front tire was down to about 5psi or less, so the whole ride was focused on avoiding baby heads and such at speed, and generally keeping any weight off the front as much as possible. Once we arrived at the start of Schnebly Hill Road at I-17, I stopped to pump the front tire one last time for our descent into Sedona.
Rest stop and water refill in the forest...
If you ever visit Sedona, I recommend you experience the descent on FR153, aka "Schnebly Hill Road", either in your own high-clearance bike/vehicle, or via one of the many Jeep tours, like Pink Jeep. In my opinion, it is best experienced at sunrise, but spending the night to do so didn't work out, so we had to settle for mid-afternoon. FR153 descends around 2200' from the intersection at I-17, with awesome views of the red rock country all the way into Sedona proper. I didn't get to take the guys down Schnebly on the '07 trip, so I was happy to at least work it into this one.
After rolling into the busy tourist town, I thought I'd take the guys to a quirky little UFO-themed diner in town called "Red Planet Diner". We chilled at the diner for a while, discussing the rest of the day. After locating a seal at the nearest KTM dealer, Scott decided to ride straight into Flagstaff, get a hotel, have the seal changed as soon as they opened the next morning, then meet Roger and I near our camp site on the canyon rim around noon.
Taking a dip in the cold, healing waters of Oak Creek...
On our way out on 89A, Roger and I stopped for an invigorating dip in the cold Oak Creek. From there, we made our way north on 89A, then turned west on FR535 after topping the rim. I hadn't been on 535 since our '07 trip, and I almost didn't recognize it; much of the forest had been thinned, and the road had been "improved" from it's old, red dirt and rock state, to a white gravel... and suffered a great deal of washboard from the logging traffic. Once we made it to 536, things returned somewhat to normal, or as I remembered it. FR231 south is a pretty fast, smooth gravel road, so we made pretty good time here. I ran up on some elk at one point and stopped in an attempt to keep from scaring them off so Roger would get to see them, but they still made their way to into the trees before he arrived.
Our destination for the evening is one of my favorite places anywhere, and although I had been there many times before, the last time was 7 years ago, and I was a bit foggy on how to get there... For some reason, I felt like there was a left turn from 231, so I found myself looking for something that didn't exist. In reality, it was actually a fork, and while everything clicked when I finally saw it, things did appear a little different; I was disappointed to find that the fun double track fork-left was now a bladed gravel road. It seemed much longer than before, I'm sure due to the much less entertaining nature of the "new" road. About half way in, we came up behind a female hiker, motioning for help. As I remember her story, she was on the last stretch of her hike up the rim, her husband waiting to hear from her to pick her up. The problem was that she was several hours late, and the sun was about to set as we spoke. I don't recall where he was at the time, or where he expected to pick her up, but there was definitely an issue. She was hoping for a ride to the fire tower when she saw us coming, but soon realized that our bikes were loaded. She was prepared however, with food, water, etc., so she thanked us for stopping and sent us on our way. At this point, it was something of a race to find a suitable camp where Scott could find us and get set-up before darkness set in.
We found a good overlook were Scott would be able to find us easily from the main road, and got our camp set up. It happened to be the exact spot where my wife and I once spent our 3rd anniversary, then camping in the back of my Isuzu Trooper trail rig... That trip was a story in itself, one for another time... After "dinner" Roger and I sat and chatted for some time while the sun set across the canyon, and finally looking out over the lights of Sedona in the distance below. I enjoyed very satisfying conversation, about family and numerous other subjects. He turned-in, and I took a seat at the edge of the cliff, while experimenting with my camera. I opted to bring my old Nikon D90 over my equally old D300, mainly as a matter of weight and size, at the expense of a few features that I really didn't expect to need... until tonight. Despite the wind I thought it would be great to capture some star trails, but the D90 doesn't have an intervelometer, so I did manual exposures of 30 seconds. Unfortunately I wasn't very consistent with remembering to restart each exposure... Just as well though, because there was a weird haze and was very windy that night.
Cell phone shot of our view before the sun set, while we were setting up camp:
View from our camp, just after the sun set:
The very poorly executed star trail experiment...
|Yesterday, 03:00 PM||#7|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
Waiting, Sliding and Compromise
Day 5: Sedona to Jerome
Waiting, Sliding and Compromise.
(and lots of video!)
Sun rising on Sedona...
It was a cold morning, if not freezing, near it, and Roger and I rose. He enjoyed some coffee while I took some photos of the sunrise.
We eventually began the task of packing up. We weren't in any hurry, because the KTM shop wouldn't open until 10am, so Scott probably wouldn't arrive until around noon. I decided this would be a good time to tackle the front tire, so we set about the unhurried task of a tube swap. That didn't take long so I decided it would be good to save some time and ride back to the fork, which would save us about 45 minutes from Scott riding all the way to the camp and back.
We arrived at the intersection and began our wait. During conversations about bikes and riding, the occasional motor sound would peek through the forest, as we strained our ears with theories on what each could be; was it Scott? For some time, no... Then, the unmistakable sound of a thumper broke the silence and Scott appeared. With little time for chatting, we made our way for another much anticipated, researched and planned trail, in hopes that this epic theory would be the one that would finally work out...
Waiting for Scott to arrive...
This area was one of my favorite places when living in the state, and I often fantasized and theorized that there had to be a way to descend the scenic rim into the valley below. The maps that I had access to 14 years ago didn't help much, and I didn't live close enough to explore enough to search out every possibility, which at the time was my usual MO. I did have a theory though, about a ridge that separated two wilderness areas, gently descending toward Cottonwood, the perfect place for a connecting road or trail. Once I left, it became buried in the back of my mind, until I started planning for this trip; while researching another trail, I came across a new map called a "motor vehicle use map" (MVUM). They aren't available for all of the forests yet, but MVUM maps will be updated each year with all of the legal roads and trails, as well as their use, seasons opened and closed, etc. The MVUM was available for this area though, so I immediately checked to see if my descent was a possibility... Low and behold, it is, on the very ridge that I suspected! Thus I began re-planning the route to work this in...
We made our way to Trail #8, to see if we could descend the canyon... If not, this would throw a big wrench in our schedule, so our fingers were crossed. The forest road began to follow the powerlines through a burned forest, as the views began to open to the horizon, the road gradually becoming more and more entertaining, until we found ourselves descending along the side of a hill, the terrain becoming quite rocky... Then we spotted a closed gate further down the trail... This is never a good sign, so they stopped while I continued down the rough trail to investigate. At closer inspection, there was a sign with symbols indicating what could, and could not, pass... With motorcycles as a "could"... I waved the guys down and followed the single track trail around the gate. The descent ended at a hairpin curve, followed by a long, narrow, exposed climb... This is where things began to get fun...
FR538 to TR8:
I went first and focused on the top; never look where you don't want to go! And so would be the theme for the next 20 or so miles...
A flat spot for a break on TR8...
The trail followed the ridge, occasionally switching from one side to the other, with stellar, distracting views... climbing, descending... then mostly descending; the loose, steep kind, where if you don't roll, you slide in uncontrollable trajectories, and if you roll, you have no hope of slowing the roll, without sliding into uncontrollable trajectories, bouncing like a pinball between small boulders... and did I mention the consequences? Yes, I spent a lot of time hugging the unexposed line, no matter how technical, looking for the solid slabs, embeded boulders and other immovable sections, usually obstacles, regardless of the size, all for the sake of some sort traction... especially on my overweight pig. After one particularly challenging downhill slide, we regathered to collect ourselves, check our pants, enjoy the views etc. Discussion arose of the final decent, the switchbacks, and what they would be like... agreeing that at this point, it really didn't matter; we would make it down somehow.
TR8, up to the Switchbacks:
View north of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff in the distance...
Finally, the final switchbacked descent arrived, and we paused to prepare, before taking the long, slow, idling, slipping, sliding descent, seemingly foot by foot... at one point Scott stopped at a turn to capture us coming down the mountain, as I slowly began to slide sideways toward the distraction... No harm though, as I managed to regain control, and continued around the bend.
Before long, although it seemed like forever, we reached the "bottom". I quote "bottom"; it's funny how after some time you become adjusted to a certain extreme degree of decline (or incline), to a point where when it breaks into a lesser, but what would normally still feel like a steep decline, you somehow perceive it as flat... We regrouped at the "bottom", then continued on the now relatively straight, still loose, trail... it was messing with my head though, because pulling in the clutch would lead to instant acceleration... things eventually began to level some as we reached the end of the epic Trail #8.
Sliding the switchbacks...
I really didn't have a plan at this point. I had never explored this exact area and wasn't sure what to expect, so I figured we'd just take the most direct route option to Jerome... whatever that would be. To my surprise, though, it turned out to be a fun ride, despite my somewhat fatigued state.
From FR8 to Clarkdale...
After fueling up in Clarkdale, we headed to Jerome for a late lunch/early dinner and to decide what to do next. I had left the plan open for this night, leaving it up to the guys as to whether we stayed in a hotel, or camped, possibly on FR 413, which would be our next adventure. I had read cool things about the haunted Jerome Grande Hotel, which had once been a hospital, so we headed up the hill to check it out. Scott went in to check on room rates, which I had previously read to start around $100/night... Scott returned with a grin, shaking his head, reporting more than double that (I just checked, currently rates are supposed to start at $125, so I suspect that they just aren't dirty dirt biker friendly). We decided to go ahead and eat, and discuss our next move there.
A sight not often seen: a rusting '41 Packard 160 Deluxe convertible, a reminder of a once prosperous mining town...
Late lunch with a view: the "Haunted Hamburger"...
I was hoping to spend the evening hanging around the quirky once-ghost town, but we agreed that we were too tired to take on any of the potentially rough 413 to look for a theoretical camp site that may not exist; 413 is supposed to be a challenging, narrow shelf road, with a wall on one side, and a drop on the other; not exactly sounding camp friendly. In fact, they weren't even sure if they would be up to taking it anyway. Instead, we agreed to head west on 89A, a fun paved ride by itself, and look for a good site around Mingus Mountain.
The ride out 89A from Jerome:
The front tire that I ran 89A on... note the (missing) side knobs :
After a fun run out the 89A twisties, we turned onto FR104 to begin the search for the perfect camp site. We stopped at the first decent clearing and started to pick our tent pads. Roger and I began to unpack, while Scott backtracked to the restrooms back at the highway... However, I just wasn't ready to settle for this site without seeing more, so I jumped on the bike and ran further down the road to see what other options my lay nearby. I went less than a mile before reaching the side of the mountain where the views opened up, with views of Dewey and Humbolt in the distance... excellent. I returned to tell Roger of the promise land, and so we packed back up and left, without Scott... he'll figure it out.
The strategy of this location was that it was on a road that connected to the next day's route on FR132, which would allow us to continue, skipping 413, if we so decided, or we could run the 7 miles back to Jerome to begin the day on 413, which would bring us back, basically to this road... Wait... We could get up, ride 413 without the gear, stop and pack up, then continue our route... Perfect!
Roger turned in, so Scott and I went to sit on a rock outcropping that overlooked the valley, the lights of the small mining towns sparkling in the distance. After some good conversation, we settled in for what was expected to be a cold night.
|Today, 11:40 AM||#8|
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Austin(ish), TX
Day 6: Jerome to the Bradshaw Mountains
...was the plan...
Day broke, and my mattress was deflated. We rose to a cloudy, chilly morning, and it felt good to suit-up and not have to be concerned with packing. Before long we were thumping light back toward Jerome on the twisty 89A. Once in Jerome, we approached 413 via Upper Gulch road, which greets you with a street sign that says, "No thru traffic", "Your GPS is wrong", and "Local traffic only"... Yep, we must be close! The road descends to a hairpin, where we take what appears at first as a driveway. We drive by a house and some old trucks, then pause at the long climb before us.
I go first. The climb is rough, and I stop at the 'top', a bend where it levels out some, to take in the view and wait for the others. Once gathered, I take point again, as the rocky road got rougher, steeper, and narrower. No huge challenges, just consistent, non-stop abuse, loose rocks and constant jagged rock protruding 6-12 inches from the surface in some places... the key here was momentum and a steady, consistent speed, in my case using the low-end torque to keep the 650 moving. This kept up for miles, with high consequences to the left, and little relief... Climbing, bouncing, climbing. Finally, after negotiating a narrow bypass around a giant boulder blocking the road for anything wider than a bike, there was a short stretch of relief as the road entered a picturesque canyon, the perfect stop for a rest. Rolling to a stop, I turned to those behind me to find that they weren't there... normally not a cause for concern, except that in this case I could see a good distance back down the winding shelf road, with no one else to be found, no thumping sounds to be heard echoing about the predominant rock surfaces. I decided to give them a moment before turning back, as it wouldn't surprise me if they stopped for a rest without me. Meanwhile, across the canyon, I observed the road continuing to climb steeply, seemingly endlessly. I walked around the bend ahead to see lay before us, but saw nothing more that more of the same, before another bend.
Note the road in the distance near the bottom of the "V"... this is what I'm watching...
The rising diagonal line across the canyon is where we're going
It had been several minutes, still with no sign of the guys, not even in the distance. I began to debate on how long I should wait, exploring theories in my mind of what might be the hold-up. I had wandered back down the road some distance before deciding it was time to ride back and make sure there wasn't a problem. Returning to my bike, I occasionally turned to seeing if they appeared yet, and behold, just as I was about to re-gear, I saw the flicker of a headlight, bouncing up the road, with another not far behind.
Scott's first words were exactly what I expected; an exhausted, yet animated announcement of how rough and relentless the road was... I assured him that we were through the worst of it, even though I had no idea how much more abuse we had to endure. I do know, however, that choosing to ride light was wise, especially this late in the trip, as fatigue began to become a factor.
I wasn't completely wrong though; the worst was more or less over. There were still some steep, rough sections ahead, but with more stretches of relief between them, then the severity gradually gave way to faster, flowing dirt track as it climbed into forests. Eventually the narrow double track became a wide, somewhat maintained gravel road as it approached FR132.
FR413 south from Jerome:
|Today, 03:02 PM||#9|
Joined: Mar 2014
Location: N.E. Louisiana
2008 Yamaha Road Star
2008 Kawasaki KLR 650
Two lane blacktop isn't a highway, it's an attitude.
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