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After the weather did not cooperate with us in the White Mountains we beat feet for Flagstaff and better weather. We made fairly good time out of the White Mountains and both the flora and fauna of the route to be pretty nice with numerous elk and antelope sightings along the way. I am not remotely proficient at snapping shots of wildlife while going done the road so I often found myself with the lens cap on or camera setup all wrong when I spotted some wildlife.
|Since we left the White Mountains earlier in the day than planned we arrived at the RV Park on the outskirts of Flagstaff with a few hours of daylight left. We quickly parked the RV and headed out for a quick spin from town. Flagstaff has a network of wide gravel or dirt paths separated from the roads called the Flagstaff Urban Trail which connects many of the single tracks near town as well as Mount Elden and areas beyond. We took the urban trail a few miles out to the Soldier trail in Fort Tuthill county park. While this is a pretty short trail (five miles) it is still a fun non-technical singletrack that was just what the doctor ordered after an aborted ride and a bit of driving. The trail rolled up and down through a pine forest with one long section of gradual downhill that was quite a fun section. There is a more difficult trail that cuts through the Soldier loop called the Bridge trail but being short on time we skipped it. We had just enough daylight to make it back into town, where we opted to check out a local brewpub for some exceptional brews and grub.|
Today was a phenomenal day of mountain biking. We leisurely started the day and were at the trailhead at the base of Mt Elden at 10:30AM. We started off my climbing the Mt Elden lookout road which starts off as pavement but turns to dirt after about a mile. The road is quite a significant climb as you start at 7,150 feet and climb for 7.1 miles to the top of Mt Elden at 9,170 feet. The weather was quite exceptional with temperatures in the 70's and puffy clouds marching across a fantastically blue sky.
|About two miles from the trailhead you pass by a trail that cuts across the road. Off to the left is the Rocky Ridge trail and off to the right side of the road is the East Oldham trail. (These trails are not on my map, but if you pick up a map in town these trails should be on those maps)|
At around 2.7 miles you pass by another trail crossing the road. Going off to your left is the top of the Rocky Ridge trail. Off to your right, the Oldham trail passes close by the road and there is a 20-yard long connector onto the trail. If you are one of the quicker climbers in the group here is an option for you. Continue up the fire road and in about 1/4th of a mile you will pass another trail crossing the road. Coming in from the left is the Brookbank trail and on your right is the Oldham trail (It maybe labeled Upper Oldham at this point) is once again close by the road. You can hang a right and take Oldham back downhill to the last junction. Hopefully your buddies are close by and you can get off their anti-social billy-goat climber list for a few minutes.
Beyond this point you will not see any more trails crossing the road and you will climb, climb, climb. The This climb by no means gets boring as the views just keep getting better. Somewhere around the five mile mark the grade kicks up just a bit but it is only for about a quarter mile or so before the grade gets back to what you have been dealing with earlier in the climb.
At around 6.5 miles you come up to Sunset Park on your left. You are done with the brunt of the climbing at this point and following the fire road just a little further you will come out onto an open area at the top of the mountain. The Sunset trail is off to your left and the top of the Upper Oldham trail is off to your right.
We had lunch at the top and it was actually a little bit chilly particularly since we all pushed out some sweat on the climb. "The sun is out and I'm cold in Arizona in August! What the hell is going on here?" My sterotypes of Arizona were pretty much gone at this point as I struggled to extract a wrinkled-up ball of a windbreaker from the bottom of my pack.
From the general area of peak we picked up the Sunrise trail which over the first 3/4ths of a mile has a couple of sections commonly known as “The Catwalk” and “Organ Donor”. There are some pretty good rock sections in this upper portion to navigate as the trail does a few small undulations.
Soon the trail gets extremely picturesque as it chisels its way slightly downhill along an extremely steep mountainside with expansive views of Little Elden Mountain directly ahead and a large valley below. The Sunset trail soon splits off to the left. Do not take the Heart trail that splits off to the right, it will get you off the mountain but on the wrong side. For the next .8 miles the Sunset gets really fast with some large round rock technical sections thrown in the mix that offer plenty of "Pick a line, any line" kinds of moments through the rocks.
|Your next turn will be when you roll out onto what is almost a meadow and the junction of the Little Bear trail on your right. Hang a left and travel uphill .3 miles to the Brookbank trail junction. Turn to your right, which is almost a switchback turn as you approach the junction, and continue uphill for another 1/4th of a mile until you reach peak out on a saddle.|
|The saddle is a good spot to regroup because for the most part is a ludicrous speed single track rip fest from this point on. You should notice that my picture-per-mile ratio in this review drops drastically as this point. I was having way too much fun on the downhill section. I did however shoot some video that I hope to have put together in the coming weeks. For the next 1.4 miles I experienced awesome buff downhill bliss. We rolled out into a flat trailhead area of some kind and shot straight through it onto the Shultz Creek trail.|
The next 4.5 miles that followed was one of the most awesome bits of buff single track I have ever ridden. It is virtually impossible to get lost on and at the speeds you can go, you should not care until you have turn the pedals more than a few strokes to get up a couple of the incidental rises in the trail. The singletrack will take you back down to the trailhead at the corner of Schultz Pass Road and Mount Elden Lookout Road.
|Here is the video I shot during the ride that day. Right click on the image to the left to download the Mo-Bigger Formatted 5 minute video that is 50MB.|
|After the ride we checked out one of the local bikes shops for mostly S&Gs before heading back for an afternoon of lounging and shooting the breeze. The weather that evening was absolutely awesome so Cris setup the RVQ (A new term for me - A BBQ Grill that hooks to the side of the RV) and pulled out some truly massive steaks that Heath grilled up. Later on, over the course of mowing down the steaks, we started doing some time, distance, and speed word problems and soon had devised a plan for tomorrow's activities.|