I recently embarked on a trip to the White Mountains near Show Low, AZ to get away from the heat in the valley and scratch the itch for the need to be in a bike saddle. A mountain bike saddle to be specific. I also had the itch to do some night riding. I had not attempted to do this in the White Mountains yet so this was our mission objective.
We are well into the monsoon season in AZ so the threat of rain has been imminent and even delayed our foray into the dark dark mountains. We set a date and off we went. Rain or shine. We ride.
Our first ride was the Country Club ride. Darkness had set in so we set out to tackle it. Upon arriving at the trail head, we geared up with light sources and pushed out. We decided to ride the counter clock direction for kicks but soon discovered the trail was quite muddy and slippery. So much that we turned back to the trail head after perhaps only 300 feet. After pedaling around in circles a few times we decided to try the clockwise direction. It didn’t look at bad. Indeed, it was not as back. We forged on, and on, and on. Several times we debated turning back however, our spirit of adventure grabbed us with a half Nelson and demanded we continue. Biking in the deep night of the forest can get creepy and your mind wants to play tricks. Lightning was still flashing (albeit in the distance and not an immediate threat) and briefly lit up the few patches of sky above the Ponderosa canopy. It was a surreal experience.
Surprisingly, the portion of the trail that was the worst was the portion we started out on but turned back to try it the other way. After 3+ miles of mud we certainly picked up our share and brought it back with us on our bikes and ourselves. Still, we had a great time and we are no strangers to mud rides. 20 years ago it was an annual event. I cannot recall though a time when I’ve had more mud on my bike than I’ve had this trip.
Our 2nd ride the next day was much less muddy. In fact, we didn’t encounter any mud. We rode the Land of the Pioneers #629 taking the 7 mile loop option. Here’s the ride data:
The third ride on our final day was a loop of connecting trails we’ve talked about for several months. Starting at the Panorama trail riding in a clockwise direction then taking the shortcut bypassing a few miles of the trail, we continued to ride the Panorama to the Saw Mill connector. Here we took the Saw Mill connector to the Timber Mesa trail, then our plan was to take the Flume connector back to the Panorama and finish. In all, it should have been about 16-17 miles. Note – I said plan and should. We experienced a few sprinkles on the Saw Mill connector but about 1/2 mile before the Flume connector it dumped on us. The trail was nearly unrideable and the mud was the worst yet. It was much like a wet clay and tended to pick up every pine needle in our path. Our night ride picked up a lot of mud but miraculously our bikes kept going. Not this time. The mud piled up so thick that we were forced to stop and claw away at the mud built up on our tires. So thick was the mud that it stopped out wheels from rotating. I.E. Unrideable. Rather than take the Flume connector (it looked like it was washed out) we opted to ride/port out bikes another mile to the Timber Mesa trailhead and use the road to get back to our vehicle. When I hit the trailhead parking lot , I gave a few cranks then head a very audible snap and came to a dead stop. Hopping off the bike, I immediately noticed my rear derailer sheared straight off its hanger and jammed opposite where it should be. Stunned and shocked, it was a KO. I was out of commission. Fortunately my buddy’s bike was still running strong so he made the trek up the road to fetch the car.
(After some repairs and a tune-up, the bike is better than when it started out. Happy bikes.)
No one was hurt. We had an adventure. All in all, it was a good trip. The itch was satisfied until next time. I call that a success.