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Old 05-17-2012, 07:34 AM   #1
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AZ - The Hunt for Fresh Air - Cottonwood Dual Sport Ride

Slowred (KTM 350 XCF-W) and I (KTM 530 EXC) had the day off Tuesday and were looking for a ride. Several fires are burning close to (or on) some of the best riding in Arizona right now. We needed a plan to stay out of the danger zones and we wanted to steer clear of the smoke. Breathing hard and deep with the combustion byproducts in the air wouldn't be good for us.

We considered Sycamore. But it's too close to the Sunflower fire.

Trails northwest of Crown King in the Bradshaws? Too close to the Gladiator Fire in Crown King and the winds were pushing smoke northwest in the morning.

Flagstaff singletrack? Almost non-existant with the Coconino travel plan that came out May 1.

But we had this track that Nightstalker sent out. It was supposed to be for a ride in June. He won't mind if we prerun it, right?


The starting point is near Cottonwood. This is looking back toward Jerome on the hill. It's not clear here, but it is less smoky than further south.



We parked my evil truck at the Catholic Church. Would we come back to a bunch of priests performing an exorcism on it?



Starting North we took this fast road with patches of sand and a couple of little bumps.



There are a couple of jogs and corners in the road to be aware of, but otherwise it's a fast cruise.



Looking for a little more excitement, we deviated from the route to check out smaller roads (closer to one lane rather than two!).



It was on the GPS and this time it was on the ground, too!
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Old 05-17-2012, 07:51 AM   #2
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It's still a fast road.



And dusty!



Getting closer to red rocks. We must be nearing Sedona!



Looking East you can see the effect of the fires in that direction.



There are a lot of these little berms in the area.



And they make good jumps, as Slowred demonstrates! They aren't big, but landing flat on the other side from a run-up in third gear made my wrists hurt!
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Old 05-17-2012, 07:55 AM   #3
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Into the red rocks!



Looking East. There is a little canyon there, but it is a little hard to see in the pic.



Looking back at Slowred.



Just one gate so far.



Slowred's fast orange!
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:08 AM   #4
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We followed a powerline road for a while after the jumps. It's a little rocky and some of the hills have little ledges, making them more challenging than the flat roads we were on. Good stuff! I was inadvertently giving myself more challenge by having my steering damper's slow speed circuit turned up so that the high speed circuit wasn't as effective. I was also perfectly jetted... for low elevation and cool temperatures. I failed a couple of climbs that I shouldn't have.

I'm guessing this runs when the coffee shops in Sedona to the East all dump the remnants of their carafe's at the end of the day.



This is one of the challenging* hills.



*Challenging because Slowred goofed up on the ledges toward the top. It's really not that bad, but everybody makes mistakes.



A little further North we came to the first BIG gate. This area is open to hikers, equestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and Jackson Pollocks, appparently.



The gate is pretty imposing, but there is an easy path around it to the right.



And then we climbed! That's about 1000 ft over a straight line 1/2 mile. I don't know what the switchbacks add, but it is STEEP!
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:15 AM   #5
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Slowred approaches the peak of the climb.



A place to tie up the tired horses?



Nice view from up here.



It's hard to capture exactly what is going on here, but there is a nice slope to the right of the trail. It's very cool looking in person!



Looking East toward the red rocks of Sedona.



The effect of the fires really kills the view.
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:19 AM   #6
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Interesting layering going on in these mountains. That hill in the distance is steeper and more treacherous than it looks. There is a spot about halfway up where there is no margin for error on the left. You would just drop straight off the mountain!



Slowred took pictures too, I have proof!



Smoky views to the East.



But the west is relatively clear!



Slowred nears the top of the climb. You can sort of get a sense of the slope to the side of the road here.



Shortly after the climb, we're in pines!
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:36 AM   #7
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We found the trail head for the Taylor Cabin hiking trail. Apparently this trail drops almost 1800 feet to the valley floor in less than three miles!



Slowred checking out the damage from fires in past years.



It almost looks like a prescribed burn since the trunks are charred, but some trees still have their tops.



Tall pines and two track. This is big bike territory!



Slowred is making it fun by riding on one wheel.



And there he goes.



So far we are still following powerline roads.

Yardstick screwed with this post 05-17-2012 at 09:46 AM
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:46 AM   #8
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Slowred on one wheel again, riding next to a water tank.



Looks like this road acted as a fire break.



Slowred getting a little practice in for when we get back to the hard sections.



I was cruising down one of the dirt roads at speed when I saw a deer in the distance. As quickly as I could, I started braking and unzipping the camera pouch. As I was still coming to a stop I noticed a frightened little baby deer scrambling to figure out what to do. When I stopped a few feet from the little guy, he dropped to the ground on the side of the road, put his head down and ears back, trying to disappear into the short grass. Of course I could still see him, maybe 5 yards away, but I couldn't get the camera out and booted up in time. He ran away. I caught him mid-trot in the woods with the zoom. The inset shows the full-size crop.


And there's his mom.
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Old 05-17-2012, 08:51 AM   #9
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After the hills with ledges early on and the one climb with the potential for disaster if you go off the edge, the most challenging thing is trying to keep from cross-rutting at speed in the hardened mud ruts.



Crossing pavement at Boy Scout Camp Road.



We got excited when we saw singletrack!



But our excitement was quickly deflated.



Slowred checking out the map. I bet we could ride the whole thing and be out before anyone knew we were in there.



But we didn't. Back to dusty gravel roads.

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Old 05-17-2012, 09:02 AM   #10
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Looking North, we are about 20 miles West of Flagstaff here. No evidence of fires up there!



Coming up to the 'T' intersection that Slowred is approaching here, I slowed and looked both ways before starting to cross. But somehow missed the big, KTM colored...



TRUCK! He was far enough off that it wasn't even a near miss.



These are some well maintained dirt roads!



At the turn, a sign said, "Rough Road Ahead". It turned out to be a smooth, high speed road covered in loose gravel. It wasn't rough at all, but it did put us both into high speed weaves until we reached White Horse Campground...



And lake! You'll have to forgive the crappy panorama. I should have done more to control the exposure for each shot. It gets the point across, anyway.

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Old 05-17-2012, 09:18 AM   #11
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Slowred approaches another 'T' intersection.



The choices are; A five mile ride out to what we think is an overlook toward the trails we were traveling on earlier, or to the right brings us to Jerome with food and fuel. Since Slowred was on the three fiddy with its 2.5 gallon tank we decided to save the exploration for another day.



Maybe on a pedal bike.



Further south, this is the first sign that indicates we are on (or near?) the Great Western Trail! And it's a little rocky and rough close to the sign. Still fast moving, though.



Until we encountered these guys. You can almost hear them saying, "None shall pass!" The gray one tried to skewer me as I passed. Shifting to second gear with the changing RPM's spooks these guys.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:24 AM   #12
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Off to the side of the road is some kind of mining operation. Or maybe just flattening some hills to build houses with nice views.



Slowred cruising on the curvy road.



I see a high speed low drag kind of ride going through here in the future.



Nice bridge for keeping our feet dry crossing the Verde River. Although we probably could have hopped across.



But the signs say 'No'!



So we continued to cruise toward Jerome.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:32 AM   #13
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This image is out of focus, but you can see the smoke makes for some interesting skies!



More smoky sky.



Mining operation in the foreground and some haze in the valley below.



Our goal is Jerome, on the hill! We deviated from the tracks again somehow and took the shortcut...



to Food!



We were too quick to dig in and didn't get the obligatory food shots. Maybe next time. We were concerned with Slowred's fuel situation. At 105 miles in the hills near Jerome his low fuel light came on.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:35 AM   #14
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He made it back to the truck with fuel to spare! Sort of...



My GPS says we went 114 miles.



I think you can guess where that steep climb is, early in the ride.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:40 AM   #15
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On the way back we could see flames from the Gladiator fire in the Bradshaws. In the morning it didn't look very threatening. It turned into a serious inferno by the afternoon. It would be sad to lose the town of Crown King. I suspect the vegetation on the 202 and Bradshaw trails is in iminent danger if it hasn't been partially consumed already. I hope we don't lose those trails!



Flames in the hills.



A little less zoom.



The big picture.
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