Having survived the Double Century it was on to other new experiences. So, dehydrated and looking 10 pounds lighter than I normally am, I set out for the Phoenix, AZ suburb of Gilbert for some more desert action. I had never been to Arizona and I was excited to ride the Toa in a different environment than what we have here in the Rogue Valley.
Monday morning I was up early and ready! I had done plenty of research on places to ride in the greater Phoenix area and decided on the Hawes Trail System on the Northern edge of Mesa as it was only about a 20 minute drive from where I was staying. Luckily, the freeway system seemed to be laid out in a very efficient way and despite a good deal of morning commuters I found my way pretty easily to the Walgreen’s my online sources claimed was a good parking spot.
With a slight fear of being bitten by a rattlesnake or stung by a scorpion while riding by myself in the desert for the first time, I rolled onto the first trail at about 7:15.
No snakes. No scorpions. Just a sweet flowy trail to start with. As I cruised along a fenceline separating the trail from the multi-million dollar houses that the trail system bumps up against I nearly crashed a couple times. Partly due to my poor skills but mostly because I was taking in EVERYTHING. Having grown up in Humboldt County and then living in the Rogue Valley, the closest I had come to the desert was driving to Reno.
This was the DESERT!
I was having a spiritual awakening. I needed to change my life! I needed to throw away all my earthly possessions (except for biking stuff) and move here. Right now! Then, I remembered I had just had a Venti sized coffee at Starbucks and the caffeine was kicking in. Still, it was a pretty moving experience.
As far as the trails went, overall, they were very fun. Lots of rocks to climb up. Lots of rocks to descend down. Lots of rocks everywhere. And, sand. By the end of the first day my bike was covered in a fine dust and was squeaking from just about every place it could squeak from. I didn’t care. I had a smile on my face the whole time.
While the trail system wasn’t nearly as extensive as, say, the Ashland Watershed or Jacksonville’s Forest Park, it was big enough to spend 2-3 hours riding without having to backtrack much at all. I know there’s a lot of areas to ride within a 30 mile radius of Phoenix, but I liked Hawes so much, I went back the next day for more exploring.
Riding in Arizona is something I won’t soon forget and I wish I wouldn’t have had to leave.
Wednesday was spent on the 5 hour drive to Las Vegas and the subsequent debauchery (which in my case meant losing 50 bucks and going to bed at 8 o’clock) and Thursday was spent on the 8 hour drive from Vegas to South Lake Tahoe. While the scenery was amazing, it was also kinda depressing as I watched the transition from the spirit moving, desert landscape to the somewhat pleasing, but not the same Sierra Nevada landscape.
Friday morning, I was up early again and itching to ride. I don’t normally take 2 days off in between riding and I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike.
I met my buddy, Patrick, just past the second dam on little Jenkinson Lake in the Sly Park Recreation Area off Highway 50 about halfway between Tahoe and Sacramento.
Incidentally, I parked in the same place a couple years ago and did a road ride on the Mormon Emigrant Trail. I mention this here because it is probably the most fun out and back ride I’ve ever done and if you are ever in the area you gotta do it. Basically, its a 5000′ climb over 25 miles. Turn around and get ready to fly! When I did it, I think the climb up took me about 2 hours 15 minutes. The descent took just over 45 minutes.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. Patrick, living right by the lake, knows the trails very well and it shows when riding with him. While I haven’t the skill nor the desire to go downhill really fast, it’s fun to watch guys like him, Caleb Doane, and the other crazy people I see blazing down the trail in front of me before I can’t keep up anymore.
I had a blast riding around the pine needle covered trails. It was a big difference from what I had been riding around on just a few days earlier. It sort of reminded me of Ashland’s trails with softer dirt.
Once again, if you are ever in the area and looking for a place to ride, you can’t go wrong with the trails here. There’s something for everyone. Good climbs, fun flowing stuff with berms, and some downhill trails with big jumps. Patrick says there is constant trail building going on and I noticed there’s definitely more options than the last time I was there.
Unfortunately, the fun had to end and as I loaded the bike into the Adventure Wagon for the last time I was pretty bummed. The end of an amazing week was coming to an end. A trip that started in the Mojave Desert, took me to the Sonoran Desert, and finally the High Sierra was finally over. The only thing that was gonna cheer me up was getting my butt home so I could ride my bike on Saturday!
Almost forgot, I got some decent, if not shaky, video while riding through Joshua Tree National Park as well as AZ and near Tahoe. Maybe even some fun footage of me crashing and proving how bad I suck on a mountain bike! As soon as my Video Guy (aka Derek) gets something put together I’ll post the link.
Never stop riding!