The road to the Black Canyon Trail

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By now, we’re off on the Black Canyon Trail, a recently refurbished, reimagined, 79 mile multi-use trail through central Arizona, running along the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, through a corridor from the northern Arizona grasslands down to the prickly Sonoran desert.  

Leaving Flagstaff for the last time, we shoot for the northern terminus of the trail, near a little town called Mayer.  Between here and there is a whole big slice of northern Arizona.  From Sedonan spirituality, to public service signage in Mayer that reads, “There’s life after meth.”, this chunk of rural country has it all.  While we’re here for the AZT and the BCT, amongst other routes and trails, sometimes it is the roads between that capture our attention most.

Above: The last bit of the Lime Kiln Trail, connecting Sedona to Cottonwood, AZ.  Mingus Mountain looms in the background, under stirring skies.

Below: Riding from Flagstaff back to Sedona– this, our second time– we descend Schnebly Hill.  I could make this ride a hundred more times without losing interest.

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By the time we near town, we stop for some of Arizona’s best.

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For another few days, we make loops around town.  From our preferred grocery in town, it’s a quick five minute ride back onto trails, connecting with the Ridge Trail down to the gravelly beach along Oak Creek.  

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Across the Chavez Ranch, to Oak Creek.  We wade across the creek at sunset on this night.

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To ride the Templeton Trail– again, a third or fifth time– in the dark. 

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To a camp spot scouted on a previous ride, on a hilltop near the intersection of Slim Shadey and Templeton.

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Awake, to this.

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Towards the Village of Oak Creek, the blue-collar town south of Sedona, home to the IGA, $49 motel rooms, and a scattering of outlet shops.

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A second broken Salsa Anything Cage in one summer means it is time for another solution.  I’ll miss the 64 oz. bottle.

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New shoes for Lael.  Which look better?  She has nearly worn holes through the packable Merrels that she has been using all summer.  Rocky trails hurt her feet through thin soles.  Let’s go shopping for discount kicks at the Famous Footwear!  Historically, Alaskans would always go shopping when “going outside”, to pick up brands unavailable up north.  Alaskans love Arizona.  

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Then, meet and ride with another Alaskan– a transplant like the rest of them– on a loop including Templeton and Llama, two of my favorite trails in Sedona.  

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By evening, time to navigate out of Sedona.

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Onto the Lime Kiln Trail, which is included as part of the Coconino Loop route.  It is a bit prickly out of Sedona, crossing Highway 89, but the trail quality picks up steam towards Cottonwood.  

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A rainy night in Arizona.  Part of the reason we’ve chosen to squeeze the BCT into these few days is to avoid some weather coming through.  Back to the AZT after the BCT.

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Morning ride into Cottonwood.

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Into a diverse blue-collar town at the junction of the Verde Valley, and the mountains above.

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A fat sack of Mexican pastries for the climb.  Good tortillas and a panaderia are perks of visiting working communities in the southwest.

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Up Mingus Mountain.  

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From the Coconino Loop route info, we choose the bypass route around Mingus Mountain, avoiding a hike-a-bike over the top.  On a blustery rainy day, the top of the mountain looks uninviting.  The sun suggests we have made the right choice.

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Since leaving Sedona, I haven’t slept a night without the sound of gunshots nearby.  Arizonans love their guns.

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Thankfully, the roads are not not too tacky, with the help of pine needles and gravel.

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Descending the backside of Mingus, towards the pavement.

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The paved pass over the mountains, an alternate route from Cottonwood through Jerome, is seen in the distance.

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Down to the Prescott Valley, where the sun is shining.  Freshly constructed Bible churches are bursting at the seams on this beautiful Sunday morning in the valley.  Prescott Valley is a rapidly growing community, largely due to cheap land.  Houses are seemingly glued together; many are currently for sale, yet the area is growing.  The next Phoenix?

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Gas station coffee.  Lots of big pick-up trucks.    

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Some agriculture is left in the area.  Cattle graze the remnants of the Halloween harvest.

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A new bottle and cage under the down tube, and a once daily ‘clean and lube’.

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Almost ghost town, AZ.

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A bit after noon, it’s beer :30, en route to the BCT trailhead.  For this stretch, we stick to the pavement. One of the routes we had planned was signed as a private road, with a locked gate.  Thus, the detour into the city of Prescott Valley, and down through Dewey-Humboldt.  There are better ways to connect Mingus Mountain with Mayer, off-pavement.

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Into the town of Mayer.

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Which hosts a failing local grocery, a Family Dollar, and a Circle K gas station.  Between these stores, you can buy canned foods and chips at three places.  We found a fine assortment of food for a day on the trail, including a few apples.

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Just off the side of paved Highway 69, between the halves of Mayer (several miles apart), we spot a sign for the BCT.

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I know it goes under the road, but the trail is hard to spot.  A gravel parking area, to serve as a future trailhead, is nearby, but gated and locked.  

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A newer cattle gate is a good sign.

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And a pile of rocks suggests some well-meaning trail volunteers.

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It leads to a beautiful ribbon of trail over the hill, and off into an Arizonan dreamscape.

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Should be a great ride!  Back in a few days, when we’ll shoot back north to connect with the AZT near Mormom Lake.

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14 thoughts on “The road to the Black Canyon Trail

  1. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure the Anything Cage just got redesigned because so many of them broke. The center bolt section looks like one big piece now. They are back in stock in QBP so it’s worth a look.

  2. Awesome stuff. I’m saving all your posts for when I eventually reach those trails you’ve been riding. One day. Salsa have just released an upgraded version of the Anything Cage…with mounts full welded to the length of the bottle cage. Hopefully a bit burlier…

  3. Nicholas, as you may know I was lucky enough to have Lloyd Khan pick up on a piece of fiction I wrote and put it on his awesome site. But you, my friend, are Lloyd material all the way and I will remind you that he is a highly successful publisher and it seems to me you have here, evolving over the years, not a book but a series of books, travel guides, that are worth…well, a lot. I have never quite got over your Alaska to New Mexico trip that you somehow magically made seem like a dream I had: you just pedaled and camped and drifted South and then: you were there.

    Sometimes we get so close up on the work we are doing we can’t see it. But Lloyd does these really cool mini-books as giveaways for his Tiny House stuff. Why not cool little mini-books describing routes and trails and equipment and so on…

    I think Marin County is somewhere between Arizona and AK. Just a thought.

    tj

    • Marin would be something of a dream, I think. I’ll look into Lloyd’s work. As always, your words inspire me to keep at it.

      In a way, we all “pedaled and camped and drifted South and then: [we] were there.”

      That ferry to the Yucatan sounds like a good place to start.

  4. Looks like the black anything cage must’ve had a much shorter lifespan than your old cracked silver one, which is still hanging on the wall in my bike barn. Bummer. Does that mean your old 64 oz Kleen Kanteen went by the wayside as well, as it previously rode under the down tube?

    Seems like I say the same thing in every comment I leave here, but those are some terrific looking trails. I can see why you’ve featured Schnebly Hill more than once.

  5. Don’t ditch the KK yet. I’m a big fan of those, but use two 40 OZers. If the straps are long enough maybe you could wrap over the frame first to support most the weight? Those 64 0zers gotta be heavy. course ya still gotta get a new cage… Still enjoying your post!

    • I’ve used extra straps to support the bottle when the last cage broke. But, it still makes some noise while riding. A normal sized cage and a 1L bottle will suffice for the rest of the season. I do love the KK, for the pure taste of the water (milk, juice).

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