Monday, July 27, 2015

Coconino 250 "Lite" May 2015

by Sarita

Miles: 230.6

Elevation gain:

Days in the saddle: 5

Season: Spring and Fall 

Trip Dates: May 30 - June 3, 2015

Wow factor: high

Resources:  Arizona Endurance Series Coconino Stage Bikepack page (maps, cue sheet)

The Coconino 250 is a stage bikepacking race route done as part of the Arizona Endurance Series.  As in New Mexico, these are grassroots endurance races sponsored by local riders: no fees, no permits, no support except course maps and cue sheets.  The Coconino 250 is typically done in 4 stages/ 4 days, with stage stops where the clock stops ticking for racers.  From the C250 race page: “The 250-mile route has about 40-50% singletrack, some of which is pretty darn technical, and about 33k of climbing. The route is: Flagstaff-Sedona-Mingus Mountain-Williams-Flagstaff. Those that have never ridden in this area, you are in for a treat!”  Yum.

This is the full Coconino 250 route
On paper, the Coconino 250 is a bikepacking route that I might not have chosen for myself.  The elevation gain alone would have scared me off- luckily I have braver friends... While our early summer plans to bikepack and explore the singletrack around Ketchum, ID were being swallowed by a sea of rain, my friend Lindsay was posting pics of her trip on the C250.  It looked awesome.  The cool Ketchum weather translated into desert dream temps.  In a quick about face, Dan and I started
our summer road trip in Flagstaff, on a route that promised to push our limits and blow our minds.    

Leaving from Mary and Chris' house high above Flagstaff.

Mingus Bipass
Our goal was to do the route in 5 days, breaking up the Mingus Mountain to Williams stage into 2 days.  We also made some route modifications: we rode the "Mingus Bypass," which added mileage but eliminated a steep hike-a-bike (“HAB”) on upper  Mingus Mountain;  we skipped the Bill Williams Peak trails, and instead took the pavement into Williams; we took the Schnebly Hill Rd into Sedona instead of the Munds Wagon Trail; and cut out some of the singletrack above Flagstaff due to where our friends live and the high mileage of our first day- we instead took the pavement into Flag from their place.  Our route ended up being 230.6 miles, with a little less singletrack.

We left our friends’ house on the flanks of Flagstaff Mountain and cruised into town, where we connected with the Arizona Trail.  Lots of singletrack, high lakes from spring snowmelt, and long moderate climbs were the name of the game….

navigating the lakes edge to get some water- great water on day 1

Some of the riding on the first day was along an old railroad grade that allowed for some easier miles.

Our ViewRanger app was better than the cue sheets, and we also carried hard copies of the gpx on Caltopo

 As sunset approached we reached our destination: the Schnebly Hill overlook.  61.8 miles.
Closing in on camp "Oh yeah"
The largest alligator juniper I've ever seen was pleasantly placed to stave off the hot afternoon sun
views of Bear Wallow Canyon and Sedona from camp

Day Two promised temps in the 90’s so we started riding at dawn.  Our plan was to make it to the town of Cottonwood before the heat of the day, siesta, and head up Mingus when the sun went down.  All went according to plan except for that getting into Cottonwood before the heat of the day part….

loverly morning shade
Chicken Point, Sedona
Sedona singletrack

Deep Shade under Route 89 in what we later found out to be 100 degree weather.
Coffe creek area

Sheepshead Creek area is one giant sand trap, miles of it.

We were super stoked to spend some time napping in the shade next to the lagoons at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood.  We soon found out temperatures that day reached 100 degrees.  Wah. 

Delirium had long set in by the time we reached our camp on the slopes of Mingus Mtn.  We crawled into our sleeping bags at about midnight, confident that our goal of pushing our limits was being realized.  

Days 3 and 4 promised lower mileage (39 mi. and 34.3 mi.), but the Mingus Bipass took longer than we anticipated.  The high elevations made for cool temps and beautiful views as we contoured around Mingus Mtn toward more sweet singletrack, clean springs and, finally, the 7 miles downhill to Verde River.

Big smiles on the Mingus bypass.  If you find a flip flop on the bypass, let us know...

Just when we thought the bypass would never end, we hit the road going up to the summit and were back on route.  Singletrack led us down to contour east of the Precott Valley and over to the Verde.

Psyched for the downhill to the Verde!
Day 4 was my hardest, winding up the Great Western Trail toward Williams.  We could see Williams Peak off in the distance the day before, so I knew we had a long way to go and a lot of elevation to climb… luckily, areas like Pine Flats provided our legs with some easier cruising and we were able to find water from recent rains.  After climbing all day, I would have been hard pressed to turn off the pavement to ride/ HAB up and over Bill Williams Peak.  This was the moment when my respect for the C250 racers grew into awe- to imagine riding from the Mingus to Williams in a day and finishing on Bill Williams Peak literally blew my mind…
starting early for a long climb up to Williams
We quickly left the main road to Williams and got on the Great Western Trail, which wandered through interesting canyons
Pine Flats- the delightful word being flats- a nice break for the legs and lots of rainwater
Showers and a real bed in Williams was equally as mind blowing

I was a little sad on our last day (48.1 mi.),  as our great adventure was coming to an end. We found our way back over to Flagstaff through high meadows and ponderosa forests, past Paradise Forks, and even managed to find some ice cream.  So delish.  
Sycamore Canyon selfie
Mandatory head dunk, Paradise Forks
Parks snack break
hells yeah
Closing in on Flagstaff: San Francisco Peaks 
Ski fence! Brannigan Park
Our mantra: Please! Close the gate
Final singletrack

We ended on the flowy singletrack above Ft. Valley, giddy as we sped toward Mary and Chris’ house.  We felt a little bad cutting out the singletrack above Flag, but not for long… beer, steaks, mac and cheese, friends’ company and creature comforts beckoned a couple hundred feet off the route… and we happily gave in.  The tone for our summer trip was set: spending time in the mountains together, with friends, and pushing ourselves in new ways.  

Magically, when we finished the C250, the clouds parted in Idaho! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Socorro Mountain Biking: Quebradas Backcountry Byway

57 miles
2600 gain/loss

Season: fall, winter, spring

Socorro Fat Tire Website
BLM Quebradas Backcountry Byway page (with map link)

Quebradas Backcountry Byway:

This dirt road winds its way through some lonesome desert in central New Mexico.  Just east of Socorro, this ride first came to our attention when looking for larger loops for winter riding in New Mexico.

It's not 'mountain biking' per se, and would be perfect for a 'gravel' touring type bike with a front shock.  I rode it on my Fargo, and Sarah rejoiced in riding it with her suspension bike.  Both had their pluses and minuses on this ride.

Typically done from the town plaza in downtown Socorro, it starts and ends along the farm roads (paved and dirt) of the Rio Grande valley.  Indeed, this ride is a great way to see both the surrounding desert and the farming areas along the Rio Grande.  Of particular interest is the crazy exposed geology of the Loma de las Cañas range that the road rides along and finally crosses (see the map below), and the desert flora, like Ocotillo.

Definitely worth contemplating if you're looking for some easier miles without the pavement.

The ride with the green start point being the plaza in Socorro.

The ride within the greater Southwest context.

The high point pass has a tank the will most likely NOT have water

Farm Market Road, with no traffic becomes the 'ditch' road which is gravel.
Highway 380 heading west down into San Antonito

1. NO WATER SOURCES: Bring enough water for the entire 57 mile route, although you could possibly bum water off a local resident once back along the Rio Grande.

2. Backcountry riding gear is required: first aid, repair, etc.