Sitting off of hwy 89 in the Adobe Jack parking lot, I sent a semi-sarcastic text to my dad, “Highs in the low sixties today and about to hit the trails, yay!” He wrote back almost immediately, “Perfect temps for riding.” I guffawed at his response, perplexed how his California blood would think that low sixties was perfect riding weather, but it was without a doubt the best I could have asked of Arizona in the middle of December.
The previous week, my travel buddy and I planned a last minute hair brained trip to Arizona for our Winter Holiday. We looked at the temps and saw that 75 was the everyday average, but as the days closed in on our departure date, the temps fell and fell. We worried, but shrugged our shoulders and vowed to enjoy ourselves anyways with a trunk full of cold weather clothes.
We stopped at the local bike shop that created the videos I’d been drooling over, called Over the Edge to receive some trail beta and maps and were told, “Adobe Jack is an excellent place to bike, a little ledgy in some parts, but you can always walk if you’re uncomfortable.” As we excitedly walked back the car, simultaneously the words, “What does ledgy mean?” came out of our mouths, and our eyes got real big.
After being on the trail system for 5 minutes, we realized that our map purchase was a little superfluous as the trails were incredibly well marked, so much so that it would have been impossible to get lost. Quickly too, we discerned what ledgy meant, and walked some sections that my gut deemed a little too risky.
After a five mile loop we were both exhausted through and through. I don’t know if it was the 12 hour trip in the car the previous day, the elevation at nearly 5,000 feet, the new challenging terrain that presented rocky stair cases to climb, or the fact that we both had next to nothing for breakfast, but we were done.
The second day we scoured the map and decided to head down 179 and park at Little Horse Trail Head for a scenic ride out to the Courthouse Butte, and Bell Rock. An 11 miles we found fairly easy loop that offered jaw dropping views of two iconic … rocks?
While the trail was more crowded than the day previous, it was designated as National Lands which made parking with a National Park pass easy. During the ride, we found the use of a cowbell dangling from the saddle as useful tool for warning unknowing pedestrians of our presence. While I forgot mine, my buddy riding sweep parted the seas with the constant clanging.
Upon our return the the car, we circled back on two riders we we’d seen earlier, and I was later told one commented with a smile, “You again, Tinkerbell?”
No sleep, no sleep, no sleep: Our drive to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and The Grand Canyon was haunted by the human element of stupidity. At our campsite, the previous night, a couple arrived at 10 pm only to leave their car running, with the lights on to guide their process of putting up a tent, which they proceeded to try and hammer into rock for the next two hours.
I silently kept rolling my eyes in the comfort of my down sleeping bag in the below freezing temps, but heard my tent mate groan, “I’m going to kiiilllll whoever is running a generator.” We specifically chose Manzanita Campground, because generators were not permitted. She hustled her way out of the tent and politely asked them to turn off the car, which we’d thought was a generator. The lights remained on, and the clicking of hammer, to tent stake, to rock continued on and she laughed, “Isn’t the definition of insanity trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?” I refrained from shouting at them.
This was also the day of wild life galore as we encountered a coyote crossing the street near Antelope Canyon and a Javelina crossing the road from out campsite. I had grown to think they were a joke as the town has many statues of them decorated in many colors and Christmas wreaths, but the fanged pigs are real apparently and so was the mallet I slept with next to my sleeping bag in case of some unwanted Javelina attention.
With snow in the forecast, and going on day 5 of no shower, we decided to head up to Flagstaff and get a hotel room. Greeted by a light dusting of snow from Trailhead Tea we booked it out of Sedona and headed to Flagstaff where we shivered in the sub 20 degree weather.
We decided to walk into a local bike shop, Flagstaff Bike Revolution wherein I was fascinated by the gear and trails, and my riding buddy was fascinated by the attentions of the bike mechanic. It was fun to watch, but we got our map, cleaning supplies to get rid of the red Sedona dust, and trail info and left to explore the town which was at a cool 20 degrees that night.
The high predicted for that day was 35 and we laughed as we contemplated not riding, but ended up packing up our gear at around 10:30 to head to the Arizona Trail Head.
At the top of a very long fire road named Schultz Creek Pass, we found the parking lot and trail which had a light crust of snow in some parts. With fleece lined riding pants, wool socks, a necker, and a puffy, I was as warm as I would have been in California. The trail was flowy and smooth and by far my favorite of the trip. We spent 19 miles on the bike that day looping down through Rocky Moto, Fort Valley, Flue Trail, and Shultz Creek Trail which we eventually left for the fire road because of all the climbing we had left.
On the ride we noticed that car campers were far and few between on the BLM sections, but would probably present more of a population if temperatures were more friendly. Definitely a place that I would go back to visit, and camp for free.