Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I've been jonesing to get down to Preskitt and ride with Eric for several years. Trouble is, getting there from here just ain't easy--there's no direct route. Best guess was 10 hours of solid driving, and each time we've looked at heading down the thought of that drive has made us think about heading elsewhere.

But things finally fell into place last week. I loaded Fang, two bikes, and a cooler fulla ice cream into the toaster and hit the road.

The beauty of a 10 hour drive in this part of the world is that there is no shortage of spectacular scenery to appreciate. If you're into that sort of thing...

We stopped to stretch legs, peruse the on-board Scooby Snack department, and empty bladders on occasion.

During our sunset break Fang talked smack to the local 'yote's...

...then hid between my knees.

Eventually we arrived chez Nelson and sacked out almost directly.

Early the next AM we rolled out. I'd warned Eric that I'm a slow starter, and that it'd probably be better if we hit something mellower early on, then worked up to the harder stuff.

And he did *exactly* what I would have done with that info: Took me to the techiest stuff right off the bat. My head was swimming with a lack of sleep, body was reeling from too little rest and half a day in a car, and I simply couldn't embrace all that was happening on these uber-techy moves *and* dig out the camera. So I didn't--I focused on staying upright, not bleeding, and occasionally even walking. So, no pics of that stuff.

Eventually I woke up a little more, coincident with Eric steering us onto some mellower trails. And I began to be able to see what lay all around us.

Rock. Acres and acres of gorgeous, tack-a-rific granite. My college geology and geomorphology are distant enough that I can't be sure, but this stuff seemed closer to granodiorite than actual granite. Whatever you call it, it was *grippy* under bike tires, even where the lichen owned it.

Eric's phone rang for the first of 72 (73?) times right here. While we waited for a late joiner, he gave me the verbal visual tour of the valley. No shortage of opportunities for outdoor activities 'round here.

Then Chris joined us, and what a treat to ride with the guy that personally envisioned, laid out, and oversaw construction of these very trails.

It was educational if not enlightening to hear Chris chime in about how certain sections came to be built or evolved through time, and he made several mentions of how the trails could (gasp!) further evolve as needed, pointing out where work could happen to enhance flow, or incorporate nearby (and very cool) features.

I thought I'd died and gone somewhere heavenly--I'm so used to hearing a thousand-and-one reasons why a certain move/feature/trail/flow line can't/won't/shouldn't happen, before those that are being asked have even digested the question. Chris's vision and dedication to these trails has to be experienced to believed, and I have a hard time imagining a person more suited to his job.

And then we rode some more.

Between a rock and a hard place: A heap of granite in the foreground, Granite Mountain out back.

A gal could, at this point, be forgiven for assuming that the place is rock, rock, nothing but rock. T'weren't so. There were heaps of bugs in evidence, though none of them seemed toothy.

And even more heaps of soft, colored things to draw ones attention.

But invariably (and gleefully) your attention was pulled back to the rock.

Lump-in-throat commitment on this one.

Eric's ride for the day:

My choice:

Bike choice for these trails is an interesting conundrum. Eric has lately been smitten with a full-rigid bike, but has also ridden out here on just about every other incarnation from full-sus to single speed to 27 speed, and many different hardtails with varying levels of travel up front. Pre-ride he bamboozled me a bit by insisting that I wouldn't want a long wheelbase bike--that such a critter would 'punish' me on the incessant tight, slow speed moves. I never did see a place that I wouldn't want the bike I brought (it has the longest wheelbase of any of my bikes), but I came to understand a lot about how this place has shaped his gear preferences. Geometry of the bike is far more important than amount of suspension travel or suspension design. You want low and slack, with high bars, a short rear center, and a drop post. Can you ride here with a bike that is opposite all of that? Of course. But unless you are a superstar rider with catlike reflexes and laser guided focus, you'll bleed (or break, or just walk) a lot sooner than if you rode something low and slack, with high bars, a short rear center, and a drop post.

It is a fantastic place to hone your slow speed rock skills. Which means you need to be able to control speed at all times (and above all else) to far, far below walking pace. And then, still under control, with weight back and body contorted, you need to place your front wheel *right there*. Nope, NOT there. There. Miss that spot, or come in hot, and you've blown the line, period.

Eventually we exhausted ourselves and none too soon--our presence was required for pizza and ice cream back at the ranch.

I came away shellshocked from cramming so much into a single day. After a few days home to process it all, I can't wait to get back and dive in deep. Soon...

Fang and I spent the next few days slowly sauntering our way homeward. We'd drive a bit, get out and hike some, maybe check out lakes, overlooks, even river flows. There was no end-goal to this part of the trip, we just used it as an opportunity to camp our way homeward and hit those backroads that we rarely have time to check in on.

Until now, I'd never realized there was a place on this planet where you'd find natural camouflage for a 90lb red-and-white dog. I'll be damned!
(no photoslop applied nor needed here: Late evening light mixed with iron-rich rock took care of the magic. We just had to be there at the right time...)

Huh. Wonder how those got here, so far from any ocean...

There were a few back-road-revelations along the way.

Future bikerafting missions were scouted. And approved.


...rise and shine.

Fang used his newfound hiddenness to stalk and chase the local lizards. Unsucessfully, from his perspective, but it was great entertainment for me and the lizards.

Further north, almost home now, we stopped to check in on a micro-dune landscape that I'd spotted and noted better than a decade ago.

Channeling Deffeyes, McPhee once quipped that 'wind is the dominant sculptor here'.


Whom passed this way?

Everyone, apparently.

Him too.

One last stop before grudgingly merging onto the interstate.

We rolled back home tired, filthy, disheveled, with mile wide grins inside and out.

Thanks for checkin' in.