Sedona or Bust
A Spring Break Adventure in Search of Red Rock & Sunshine
The pre-adventure jitters are to be best described as that uneasy feeling occuring in the pit of your stomach right before you do something stupid or dangerous; where the sudden temptation strikes to abort the upcoming mission in favor of staying home and re-watching Game of Thrones all hazy-minded on the couch. However, it’s the trips that cause the most jitters that end up being the most rewarding. Where despite our parents best attempts at raising us right, we take refuge under the stars, play with fire, run naked through rivers, talk to strangers, and ride entirely too fast on our bicycles thwarting gravity whenever opportunity affords. Perhaps it’s true that some never grow old, but simply learn how to behave in public. That at almost 30 years old, I still get my kicks from getting lost outdoors equipped with only a trusted companion, my bicycle, and my dog.
Much anxiety, can arise around selecting the perfect camp site. However, truth be told, in all my nights spent under the stars, I can’t think of ever having a bad spot, as each comes with it’s own unique circumstance and setting. Nevertheless, the pressure to find the best available option for watching the sun both set and rise in peace and quite presents a set of challenges critical to the camping experience. Not one for amenities, we tend to seek out the more “primitive” in camp sites. Often these are best found on BLM and public lands, and while mostly a combination of one-part luck, one-part planning/awareness, and two-parts local insight, as long as you steer clear of the local KOA, follow the red dirt road, and look for a relatively flat and rock free patch of land, you’re bound to find the so-called perfect spot.
After being treated, to a spectacular sunset over Red Canyon’s famous hoodoo’s, and clear star-filled yet somewhat chilly night’s sleep, we awoke to snow flurries. After toughing it out as long as we could next to the campfire, we packed camp and continued our journey south down HWY 89 skirting Bryce to the east and Zion to the west. Marvelous road-side scenery that can only be described as God’s Country abounds. Shortly after crossing the state line we travel 700′ in the air above the mighty Colorado aboard one of the most controversial dams in America. Glen Canyon Dam, while responsible for retaining the upper basin’s water supply thus forming Lake Powell, has large ecological impacts for the lower Colorado, which in recent years, has ran out of water well short of the Pacific. For more on the environmental impact of dams, I’d recommend the film Damnation. Continuing on, we pause briefly for a quick hike to photo-opp at the famed Horseshoe Bend. Amid overdressed tourist clothed in full cowboy costume and furs (no joke), we make the three-quarter mile hike in, snap our photo and hike back out to finish the journey to Sedona.
Acquring the local lay of the land is key to getting the most out of any destination. Though this can be a tricky proposition and must be handled with finesse. Approaching any native asking “where do the locals such and such” is a surefire way to get marked a tourist and be immediately shutdown. If you put in a little research before-hand you’re much more likely to find someone willing to assist you in your travels. A great place to ask such questions and gather local intel is the bike shop. However, like record stores, bike shops tend to attract that rare breed of bourgeoisie snobbery making it equally important to present yourself in a manner as to indicate that you’re indeed members of the same tribe. Think of it as the industry equivalent of wearing your favorite Tom Waits t-shirt to the music shop in attempt to solicit the approval of the thick-rimmed, shaggy-headed clerk behind the counter. In these situations, it’s better to be approached than the approacher, so hang back and admire some of the wares before getting antsy with the questions. However, on this particular morning, we must have been too hasty in revealing our tourist status, or perhaps the glassy-eyed bro behind the counter had simply pulled one-too-many tubes that morning. Nevertheless, we departed the shop with no more insight than we had upon arrival and made our way to the Slim Shady trail for our first ride in Sedona.
After an awesome morning of riding Slim Shady via a route we had discovered online, we tried our chances with another area bike shop. Sedona’s Bike & Bean is a community staple, and after a few minutes chatting with Dennis, it’s clear to see why. After equipping us with a map, Dennis gave us expert advice on where to camp, eat, and drink, etc… Big thanks to Sedona Bike & Bean and if you’re ever in the area be sure to stop by the shop and ask for Dennis.
Day 3 was the sort of day you live for. Two majestic rides separated by a leisurely afternoon spent bathing in the Arizona sun, followed by giant margaritas and Tex-Mex (thanks Dennis) leaving us bleary-eyed and ready to pass out underneath a blanket of stars with giant smiles on our faces from a day well-lived. Surely this is the emotional state from which they derived the term “happy camper”.
Sedona is home to endless miles of world-class singletrack. While we were only able to sample a fraction of the goods, we rode everything from high-speed flowy slickrock wash’s to ledgy, exposed tech-trails. Pictured is Kassie shredding on a Sedona classic, Chuckwagon.
Sedona rocks, figuratively and literally. After one last ride on the famed Highline Trail, we refueled, payed our debts to Bike & Bean, and hit the road already plotting our return to Sedona before reaching the city limits. The last leg of the trip took us to Moab by way of Monument Valley on HWY 163 with an unplanned detour through the Navajo Nation for good measure. Racing through the desert along red rock spires, buttes, and plateaus with the radio on 11, it’s hard to help but feeling like an outlaw who’s got the Union Pacific schedule in his back pocket.
With any adventure, the last day is bittersweet. As the hours of exemption dwindle you’re suddenly faced with the fact that tomorrow it’s back to reality. There’s no better way to escape this feeling than to go balls out on a bike on the most famous mountain bike trail in the world. Epic is an adjective overused, however any other word would fail to describe the thrills that Porcupine dishes out on a continual basis. With my brain bursting with endorphins, and some calorie replenishment therapy courtesy Milt’s, Day 5 came to an end as did the trip leaving me once again feeling like one helluva happy camper.
Locations: Red Canyon, UT – Sedona, AZ – Moab, UT
Date: March 21 – 26, 2014