Saturday, March 19, 2011

A damn fine loop.

The story goes that Scott and Chad were driving home from the Grand Loop, frustrated at the lack of quality singletrack on that route. I'm not clear how they were surprised by this--the loop has existed for better than a decade, Scott has ridden it before, and it's *never* had much singletrack. Anyhoo, I'm glad they were frustrated, because they spent the bulk of their drive home trying to brainstorm a multi-day bikepacking loop with as much high-quality singletrack as possible.

The end result of their brainstorming, map-geeking, and on-the-ground reconnaissance is the Coconino Loop. Start in Flagstaff, get on dirt right in town, ride to and through Sedona, Cottonwood, Williams, and back to Flag on a heap of high quality trail. A bit over 200 miles in sum. There is a heap of singletrack, quite a bit of doubletrack or forest road, and a quasi-tolerable amount of gravel. Very little pavement, and it happens in short stretches.

Tim Stern, Jeff Oatley and I spent four full days and nights out on the route, camping from roughly dark until dawn, and traveling at a comfortable, even leisurely pace during daylight hours. Naps were taken, as were photos. Snacks and stories were shared. NO ONE was in a hurry--none of us seemed to have any sort of schedule or agenda at all. We rode when it felt right, stopped when that felt right, and just sort of proceeded through each day. It seems the three of us have one main thing in common: Riding and racing on the Iditarod Trail. Thus you can probably guess that when the conversation wasn't lodged firmly on bacon, or bikes, or how much longer 'til we'd be into a town to get some more ice cream, we spent a *lot* of time talking about The Race in Alaska.

And that was really good. I get asked about The Race all the time but it's rare to sit back and hear about it first-hand from the perspectives of two who've been there, at the front, several times.

I really enjoyed this loop. I seem to have arrived at a place in my life (mentally and, um, chronologically) where I haven't the patience nor desire to repeat trails unless they tick all of my boxes. Put simply, the Coconino was the kind of loop that I could happily make into an annual trip.

These pixels might tell the story that my words are failing to approach:


In this day and age 4 days and nights is a lot of time to spend essentially doing one focused thing. If I had to pick one moment, one sensation from that length of time to list as the most memorable...

...hmmm. I guess I can't. My brain goes into overdrive and then brownout when I try. But the hyperspace descent into Williams, with millions of chunky manuals on a dark and hobbitesque trail...

...yeah, that one keeps bubbling to the top.

Cheers gents--thanks for all of the hard work that went into making this a brilliant turnkey bikepacking loop.

MC