Everything was giving me the impression that riding in Sedona at this time of year is ridiculously hot, so I was up before six this morning for the hour long drive south & down (a big drop in elevation) to get my first taste of legendary Sedona singletrack. The drive down the Oak Creek canyon was stunning, if slow, as the sun was still rising. Parking at a trailhead in town (avoiding the Red Rock recreation fees), I was soon out on the trail following another GPS track pilfered off Garmin Connect. This one included both the Templeton Trail that came highly recommended the previous day & the Highland Trail that was supposed to be a fun downhill.
It was starting to warm up a bit by the time eight o’clock rolled on, but the first part of climbing along the Ridge Trail was not much of a hassle. There were some beautiful desert plants around, & also many more (small) trees than I was expecting.
True to name, all the ground was very red-brown. The trail marking was great with signs at all the main intersections, map boards at the trail heads & these massive cairns.
After a steeper down hill, I was carrying my bike over stepping stones across the Oak Creek looking up towards Cathedral Rock.
I started to have a few mechanical issues with my rear derailleur slipping, but I eventually sorted those after a couple of stops. On to the Templeton Trail beside the creek, not long after softening my forks I managed a great OTB (over-the-bars) dismount when my front wheel just stopped against a big rock. I managed somehow to jump over the bars, land on my feet on the trail & catch my bike before it hit & injured me again. Luckily this was all out of sight of the small group of hikers that came by – they all commented that I must be crazy riding these rocks, I was inclined to agree with them. As the creek was so nice, they obliged & took a photo of me.
The Templeton Trail then climbed quite steeply & technically – I got the idea I was doing a downhill trail in reverse – before leveling out & skirting around the base of Cathedral Rock. I got many different views of this stunning outcrop during the morning, here are some of my favourites.
As I continued climbing, the breeze picked up & was a great cooling system. I missed an unsigned turnoff to a minor trail that my GPS track was giving me, but after backtracking a little I found the Made in the Shade Trail just past a big intersection – this climbed nicely up a wash before a final steeper climb up a gully put me on the Highland Trail that skirted the side of the mesa I’d been tracking around for a while. This wasn’t too exposed, but there were times I had to take my eyes off the view & make sure I didn’t go off the edge into some sort of pointy vegetation.
At the end of the mesa, the trail plunged off steeply & I was a bit annoyed that I couldn’t ride more of it. But still conscious of being alone & my confidence for big rocky drops not really there, I managed the almost-as-hazardous walk down. Down on the saddle behind Cathedral Rock there was a bit of slick rock riding. A lesser used trail, navigation became trickier – I was glad to have the GPS.
Spot the trail
I cruised back down to the Red Rock crossing of the creek & then slowly climbed back up the Ridge Trail. Maybe it was the sun & the wind taking it out of me, but this was the biggest riding struggle of the trip yet. Nevermind, I made it back to the car still enjoying myself & the gorgeous scenery. Sedona fully deserves its reputation – I only rode a few trails, they were excellent & there are many, many more.
We had a quick look around the rather touristy town of Sedona, mostly at some little complex made to look like a traditional Mexican village filled with galleries of various kinds. It was nice, but I’m not sure my biking get-up was the best. With the sun high in the sky, the drive home was completely different – not quite as nice. The wind was really getting strong in places & would continue to increase in intensity as we has a lazy hour back at the motel cleaning up before heading half an hour east on the freeway.
As we drove into Flagstaff from Nevada Valerie had noticed a sign for a Meteor Crater – as it wasn’t far away we decided to go & check it out. This was a completely different “big hole in the ground” that we have grown accustomed to seeing over the last few weeks. The 1.2 km diameter & 170 m deep crater was made when an iron-nickel meteor only about 50 m across came crashing into the Arizona high desert (very flat all around). It was insanely windy out on the viewing decks (I got blown into a handrail at one stage), but worth it to see one of the best examples of meteor impact on earth. The recent history of it is quite interesting too – NASA used the crater floor to train astronauts in geology & also for testing Apollo spacesuits. There’s a good panorama of the crater part way down the linked page above, but here are a couple of my shots.