Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sedona Mountain Biking II: Fruition

I just got off the trails here in Sedona and it's just shocking what has happened since I last wrote about the Sedona trails system and what I thought was on the horizon.  Check out what I wrote over two years ago:

Sedona Mountain Biking: A New Hope

All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I thought the future of Sedona mountain biking was about to blossom into a special resource; the likes of which the mountain bike community hadn't seen.  Boy was I….RIGHT.  To be fair, it didn't take the Amazing Kreskin to see what was happening.  I guess it's just the pessimistic mountain bike advocate in me that assumed it wouldn't really happen.

As I buzzed off the red tracks of the "Hogs" system of trails today, the latest and greatest of the once great illegal "social" trail system to be brought into the system, it dawned on me that the reality of what Sedona mountain biking has become is almost better than the hope it once was.

Sedona is now a world-class destination…period.  Moab, Durango, Fruita, St. George/Hurricane, Crested Butte, Salida - all great/classic mountain bike havens, but they have a new member in the club: Sedona.  It's just that damn good.

Big thanks to the Verde Valley Cyclist Coalition, the Red Rock Ranger District of Coconino National Forest and the scores of locals who have made this all happen.  We collectively "owe you one".

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A season on the Arizona Trail in pictures

As many of you know our Arizona Trail self-guided trip is one of our newest and most exciting trips. Cutting through the Sonoran Desert; this desert is teaming with life: cactus, flowers, lizards, Gila Monsters, tortoises and snakes. It's a special place to ride a mountain bike.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Arizona Trail: Gila Monsters, Tortoises and a whole lotta sweet singletrack

I've been working on constructing a new self-guided tour on the Arizona Trail in southern Arizona between Oracle and Superior, AZ for going on a year now. I've been fortunate to have maybe the most qualified person on earth helping me - Scott Morris from Topofusion.com. Scott knows pretty much every inch of the Arizona Trail in this region and also owns a GPS software mapping company! On top of that he's just a great guy and someone who I feel fortunate to have met.

My good friend Kevin Waterbury of Knolly Bikes and I had just finished up a week in Sedona with Dirt Rag Magazine for their spring bike test, so the timing was great to take a few days to scout out the AZ Trail with Scott. Scott had just finished the Sedona BFL and was tired, but I managed to coerce him with cold beer and food. I get paid to guide why shouldn't he?

We met up early in the morning with Scott in Oracle where we immediately realized Kevin and I weren't very prepared. Honestly it was a little embarrassing for a professional mountain bike guide, but hey, we all make mistakes. We were without latex/slime tubes and heading into some of the thorniest, rugged country there is. Brilliant! Live and learn....and poach shit from Scott who was nice enough to oblige.

The trail out of Oracle is defined by lots of ups and downs along narrow, rugged singletrack. It's nowhere near "cruise" level - it demands your attention on the ups and the downs. Scott pointed out a very distant reddish-colored ancient volcano, Antelope Peak, as our destination by lunchtime. He mocked, "it will be frustrating how it never seems to get closer for a while." Hahaha!

Kevin soon had his first of a few flats (see: unprepared Matt and Kev) and we chilled while we debated the merits of the Blackburn Mammoth pump. Scott would occasionally vanish into the brush with his camera in hand to capture some spring flowers blooming or a cool perspective on us changing a flat (above). Flat fixed and we kept on rolling.

By the way, these pix are horribly out of order, so just try and enjoy them.

We hit the AZT water cache behind Antelope Peak and had a relaxing break before continuing on into the "Boulders" section of the AZT - fun, flowy section of trail that trends downhill. Scott pointed out the jagged ridge line in the distance as the Gila Canyons area - our day 2 terrain.

Scott - ever the photog!

Deep into day one Kevin and I were pretty whipped and the desert rat Scott Morris looked fresh as a daisy! He pointed out a distant unnamed peak with switchbacks scored across its face...the AZT as it turns out. Keep in mind we were well into what will be day 2 of a designed 4 day trip...all on day one. Maybe in the past, or further along in the season I would be a little stronger and this would seem like cake, but I was dragging.

The singletrack climb up what I was now calling the Prickly Nipple was beautiful. I was definitely fatigued, but I was suddenly climbing pretty well with a good attitude as my surroundings were pretty inspiring. What a special place! I didn't even mind that much when I realized I had a flat (my first and only surprisingly). I pulled over to fix it and felt very at peace with the evening light settling onto us. I didn't break any records finishing the climb, but I had a stupid smile the entire time. Just one of those moments.

The reward for the climb up the Prickly Nipple was the best descent of the whole route down to the little 'burg of Kelvin. I'll be very interested to go back and ride this section a little fresher as it is one of the more epic descents I've ridden anywhere. I can picture it even now as I write this with snow falling outside here in Durango.

We hit the Florence Kelvin Rd and found the trailer very nearby. We immediately cracked some cold beers and I got dinner started - honey mustard chicken and leftover Mediterranean quinoa salad! There wasn't a ton of chatter as we were all tired on some level and looking forward to some sack time. I didn't even do the dishes - I stuffed them into a garbage bag to be done at home.

We rose to a chilly morning on day two and ate up some granola and yogurt and got ourselves packed up to roll. I didn't sleep all that well, but enough to say I rested and recovered to an extent. The riding on day two continued on gorgeous bench cut singletrack; contouring around a ridge toward the Gila River corridor. I took a weird spill in the first mile of riding on some loose rock in a turn that hurt like hell. I sort of super-compressed my arms in and the resulting pain in my elbows left a bit to be desired. I would survive of course, but it wasn't really how I had hoped to start the day quite frankly.

The first half of day two was all about well-built singletrack along the Gila River. I love seeing new trail built at sensible grades with some nice flow in mind. It was taking some time for me to warm up, but I was happy enough just to enjoy the views and the great Arizona Trail singletrack. Huge hats off to the Arizona Trail Association and the work they've spearheaded. Well done. Every time I caught up to Scott our conversation kept circling back to, "Isn't this trail amazing?"

As we neared midday, Kevin was struggling a bit with the heat, so we stopped at our last chance on the Gila River and had a soak and did our best to treat some water through my shirt and some purification tablets. The river water was cold; what a great relief and a great way to bring the core temp down! We had some lunch and took in the peacefulness of the riverside oasis.

Lunchtime lounging was over - it was time for the big climb up through the Gila Canyons. I'll say now that we'll be calling it an end to day 3 before this climb as it's a lot to tackle in the second half of the day. In a 4 day trip I think it makes more sense for folks to recover and start the climb in the cooler morning temps. It means a sizable final day, but I really feel it's the best course of action.

I gotta say I was feeling good chugging up the trail into the Gila Canyons. A big part of it was the excitement of my surroundings. This section of the Arizona Trail through the Gila Canyons is nothing short of surreal. Simply stated, it's an honor to get to ride my bike here. Scott and I rounded a corner and found a desert tortoise chilling in the middle of the trail. So cool! I was definitely getting the tourism brochure version of the Arizona Trail - a gila monster on day one and then a desert tortoise on day two. Sonoran Desert I love thee.

The climb to the "summit" is no joke. I say "summit" as there are a few false ones that reveal themselves as new canyons to conquer. No matter - this guy will just enjoy the trail clinging to the side of the mountainside. I had definitely returned to a pretty fatigued state, but my mind and attitude were so positive and happy. I was talking to myself out loud (happy or delirious?) and really enjoying the "queen's stage" of the trip.

We finished up the Gila Canyons and bailed out on the F4 Rd instead of finishing the last handful of miles into Superior. It was getting late and we had a lot of shuttling of vehicles around left to accomplish. Scott baited us with how good the final stretch was, but we just didn't have the energy or time. I'll leave it be with the idea that I still have a bit of new sweet singletrack to discover. :)

My final thoughts - as a mountain biker I think the Arizona Trail is a top five to top ten resource for those who appreciate the joy of backcountry travel and exploration. It's phenomenal. I simply can't wait to get back out there. In this day and age I think adventure and an escape from the daily minutia can be hard to come by - I cherish places like this.

As the Hermosa Tours guy I think we have a very unique and stunning trip for experienced mountain bikers to enjoy. We'll be offering this as a self-guided tour starting this fall 2012 for around $375 per person as a 4-day, 3-night trip. This trip has been a long time coming and I can't wait to share it with others.

Finally, a huge thanks again to Scott Morris and his company Topofusion. Couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sedona Mountain Biking

"Things are gonna change, I can feel it." Was Beck talking about Sedona? Probably not, but things ARE changing in Sedona and we like what we're seeing down in that thar red rock country.

Before "we" go any further let's change it to "I", Matt the Janitor-in-Chief of Hermosa Tours. I'm making this distinction because I'm excited about Sedona as a mountain biker first. I also want to be very careful as some of the things happening are certainly on the fringe of legal trail building and I don't want anyone (namely the Forest Service) to get the wrong idea that Hermosa Tours is condoning or participating - so let's call this a friendly PSA between me and you. :)

OK, so disclaimer noted. The Sedona mountain biking scene is going OFF! I've always considered Sedona an "OK" mountain biking destination, but slowly over the last 5 or so years I've heard whispers of an entire system of user-built trails taking shape. I like that term, "User-Built". I had a chance to talk to one of the famous builders while I was in Sedona and he used this term. Interesting twist! Anyway, there are probably more user-built mountain bike trails in Sedona than there are Forest Service system trails. The great part? They're really really well built and designed. The best part? It appears the Forest Service agrees and they have slowly been adopting many of these user-built trails.

This doesn't happen very often. More often we hear of trails being closed for Wilderness, closed to perceived user conflicts or closed to development or resource extraction. But not here - it seems the trail system is growing by leaps and bounds and what still hasn't been brought into the system isn't being patrolled by snipers with infrared goggles. Generally it's casual.

The other thing I noted about the Sedona mountain bike trail system is the connectivity. I think it's potentially a great model for how a trail system should be designed. You can ride for hours and hours, right out of and next to town, and barely touch pavement. It's JUST SO COOL!

So as a mountain biker let me say - make a plan to get to Sedona for a riding vacation this year. Patronize the local shops and they'll be more than happy to help you find the user-built system and the recently-adopted system trails. You'll be glad you made the effort!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Self-Guided Mountain Bike Tours

We just might be on to something. This year Hermosa Tours launched our self-guided mountain bike tours and the turnout and response has been spectacular. It is our belief that the majority of serious mountain bikers are a "do-it-yourself" species, so why not create a product to match?

142 miles of remote singletrack, doubletrack, jeep road and forest service road between Fruita and Moab. Hanging views of the Colorado River, steep sandstone canyons and the distant backdrop of the La Sal Mountains. Season: April, May, September, October

We'd challenge you to show us 75 miles of high alpine singletrack that compare to this segment of the Colorado Trail. Soaring peaks, shoulder-high wildflowers and roaring creeks punctuate the landscape. Make sure this is on your bucket list. Season: July, August, September.

Arizona Trail: Self-Guided (coming soon)

Every year the Arizona Trail gets more singletrack and more connected. We're putting the finishing touches on a 110-mile route in the southern part of Arizona for Spring 2012. We don't want to give away too much, but get ready for one of the newest landmark rides every mountain biker must do! Season: Late February, March, April, November

(Photo courtesy of Topofusion.com)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hermosa Tours NW Sponsors Hood River Super-D

Hermosa Tours NW is a proud sponsor of the the Oregon Super-D Series for the 2011 season. We're providing shuttle support for the races, held once a month through September across the region. Last weekend's 3rd Annual Hood River Super-D kicked off the series, and set the bar high! It was a super fun event, with well over 200 racers showing up to ride one of the steepest and fun Super-D courses in the country, serving up 3,000' of vertical drop in 7 miles, and 400' of climbing. Riders came from all over the West, and as far away as France.
Post Canyon Shuttle, in action!
The course was muddy due to heavy rain the last half of the week prior to the race, but partly cloudy skies and a good Gorge wind dried out the trails in no time, creating the dreamy conditions we locals wait for all year long. It was a perfect day of racing on Sunday afternoon.

Sweet and Tacky! Photo Credit, Ki Kopkau

See more photos from the race on Vital MTB.

Practice day shuttles. Photo by Mike Estes, taken from our shuttle van.
This year's expanded race venue included camping and a shuttle staging/parking area adjacent to the finish line. A special thanks to the property owner for offering such a convenience! It helped reduce traffic congestion along Post Canyon Drive, and made loading shuttle vans much easier. Plus, it was a really fun place to hang out in between shuttles.
Loading one of three vans providing shuttle support for the Dirty Fingers Post and Pint pre-race practice run.
Hermosa Tours NW Guides Jessica Robinson and myself were two of 41 (Yeah ladies!!) women to compete on Sunday. We both finished strong in separate combined Cat. 1/2 classes, and I have to say, we're doing a proper job of carrying on the Durango Hermosa Tours tradition of riding in costume for the race. The Hermosa Hotties represented, no doubt about it!

Pre-race Hotties. (We're looking for other sponsors...!)
Check out the race results here. The next race is scheduled for July 3 in Bend, Oregon, so start training! The word on the streets is that this course is more pedal-ly, but far less technical than Post, and for us lowlanders, is at 'altitude' at 5,500'ASL.

Next weekend, June 10-11, we'll also be providing shuttle support for the Dog River Enduro, part of the Northwest Cup race series (formerly the Fluidride Cup), sponsored by Dirty Fingers Bicycle Repair in Hood River, Mt. Hood Skibowl, Hurricane Racing, and others. We're stoked to be part of the local race scene to promote mountain biking in our community!

Lindsey Voreis ripping it to take third in the Women's Pro Class. Photo Credit Ki Kopkau.
The Hermosa Tours NW Post Canyon Shuttle runs every weekend from 10 am to 6:00 pm, and on-call on weekdays. A minimum of 4 riders or $60 sends the van. Save gas and time, and ride the shuttle to the top for just $15 per rider, or buy-2-get-1-free, same day use. We donate $2 from every shuttle rider, every run, to local trail advocacy efforts, including ongoing work in Post Canyon, and the movement to Save the Syncline in Bingen, Washington, where closures of some of our favorite trails are imminent.

To learn more about Hermosa Tours NW and the Post Canyon Shuttle, visit our website.

Ready to Roll!