Coconino loop, part 2
|A quick stop to doctor a heel blister.|
It was sunny but cool. We were above the desert now and were moving through a forest of oak and fir trees. Brown-orange oak leaves carpeted the ground and their crunch underfoot brought to mind autumn, even though it was late March.
|Some sections required the bike to be carried - luckily they didn't last long, that thing was heavy!|
|The summit of Mingus Mountain.|
|Descending towards Yeager Canyon|
We picked up a slightly more major road which mostly descended, and our pace picked up. Near a cattle guard, we met a couple of farmers looking for some lost cows. They were elderly and curious, and the woman said she had done similar trips on horseback when she was younger. I guess our bikes are our steeds, except that we have to power them ourselves.
|Audun grinding the gravel.|
|A hot afternoon on smoother dirt roads near the Verde River.|
The route climbed for the rest of the afternoon, first on nicely groomed, then on increasingly steep and technical roads. My heavily ladened pack pressed on the small of my back and I gulped down sugary treats to keep my energy levels up. By the time we found a flat stretch of trees in the cool forest at 5:30 pm, we were both exhausted and agreed to call it a day. In retrospect, this afternoon was the most exhausting dirt section, and this was the most tired we felt on the whole trip.
We pedalled fast red roads through the frosty morning towards the outskirts of the town of Williams. I felt creaky and fatigued, typical of day three on a trip like this. As we approached Williams, I knew our toils before resupplying in town were far from over. Two miles outside of Williams, our route veered left off the main road, and we began climbing towards the peak of Bill Williams.
|Just a smooth morning warm-up before Bill Williams.|
I felt very out of breath, and couldn't decide if it was the altitude (we were headed to 2700m/9000ft) or the fatigue. It felt like we were crawling up the mountain and that we would never make it up to the top. Relentless forward progress, I told myself, think about that ultrarunning adage. If you just keep moving, you will make it.
|The face of tired and cranky on the climb up Bill Williams.|
Queue the snow.
All I could do was walk my bike downhill in disappointed silence. We had decided to follow a GPX track we had found online, and follow it we would. This is ridiculous, we are ridiculous, I hate this mountain, I thought. At least this builds massive amounts of character. As if I need more character.
|Relentless forward progress.|
Fuelled by sour gummy worms, I finally got below the snow line and had a fun time on rideable trails, although we had to haul our bikes over some blown down trees. At the end the riding grew a little to technical for me (think big rock drops!), and I grew frustrated and grumpy. We could have just bypassed this whole ordeal in two easy road miles! (Seriously though, I wouldn't have. In for the penny, in for the pound, as they say.)
In Williams, I raided the local Safeway and came out with blueberry Pop-Tarts, more energy bars, crunchy chickpeas, almonds, crackers, pepperoni and, inevitably, more water. It was hard not to buy more. Then we went by the local Mexican joint and snarfed down extremely greasy quesadillas and burritos. We sat outside, partially to keep an eye on our bikes but also so we could take our shoes and socks off and air out our toes. Because we're classy like that.
|Francisco's Mexican Food in Williams. Not exactly fine dining.|
|More red gravel outside of Williams.|
|Smooth riding in Sycamore Canyon. It wasn't all like this.|
|Late afternoon on Garland Prairie Road.|
We were living the simple lives of bikepackers: sleep, ride, eat, repeat. Three days down, and two to go.
To be continued...
- The Wild Bazilchuk