Switchbacks, travertine & solitude.
I got up to catch some early morning views while Tom went through his morning routine.
We were heading for the east side of the canyon & knew we'd be in for a long day. So we got an early start & gassed up in desert view at the east entrance. We went down the rocky switchbacks that came out in the Navajo rez. It was very rocky, steep, rutted & required all our concentration, riding skill, & dumb luck to navigate.
We left desert view about 7am & started down the rocky switchbacks.. they were even more washed out this year, & had deep loose ruts added to the steep decline. That made the descent a little tricky, especially being distracted with the awesome views.
There were a couple of pretty gnarly sections on this road.. we had to roll along a narrow ridge to miss some deep ruts, & some of the turns were in steep, loose rocks. But we made it through, & weren't planning on coming back this way for the ride back.
Some of the next few pictures have a small tower in the upper left corner.. this is the desert view tower.
Eventually, we made it down the steepest switchbacks, & began heading east into the Navajo rez.
The road continued to be very rocky, had lots of ups & downs, some loose steps, & occasional ruts. We would get a workout today, & have to be very alert for the whole ride.
Along this road there were several ruins.. some smaller hogan foundations, some old wooden remnants, & lots of rock stacks of unknown function. Some were fairly new, others were very old.
The road continued, becoming more open & arid. Junipers disappeared & sage, low shrubs & small cactus dotted the countryside.
Along here we had our only mechanical mishap.. a bolt had vibrated out of Tom's rack somewhere, & was now flopping uselessly on the side of his bike. Finding it seemed impossible, & we couldn't find a spare that would work. So we pushed some zip ties through the hole until we could get a replacement bolt.
Our problems temporarily solved, we continued along the long & winding road.. miles & miles of open road with plenty of surprises to keep us awake.
Somewhere along here, Tom remembered he used to be a racer, & got tired of my plodding pace.. he flew by & increased our speed for a while, but the long road takes it's toll with the constant concentration, & he eventually slowed down to a more leisurely pace.
There were no breaks.. no flat stretches of easy riding, but rocks, hills, ruts & off camber riding for hours.
We didn't stop because we thought we'd need all the time to get to our destination & back.. but we could have stopped a few times to refresh & recharge.. next time we will.
When the rocks thinned out some, the ruts replace them.. i got tossed off the road a couple of times by the ruts.. no spectacular crashes, but i did have to regain control & get back on the road.
We kept hoping the next hill would afford us a view of our destination.. but for miles we only saw open spaces & rocky grades.. the road endlessly stretching out before us.
Finally we made it to our destination: The confluence of the Little Colorado & the Colorado rivers: Cape Solitude.
We were not disappointed. The views were spectacular. The sun was high.. it was nearly noon. The visibility was pretty good, even with the smoke from the north rim fire. We had a pretty good breeze blowing to the west, so it kept the smoke away, & it kept the temps down. We were in the 5-6k ft range, so it was hotter than on the rim, but not too bad. The sun was pretty intense, though.
We were also a little closer to the river from here, & could see rafts on the river.. they were tiny specks, but we could see them.
We stopped & had our lunch here.. looking out across the vast expanse. Cape Solitude was aptly named. We didn't see another person along the entire road. No hikers. No jeeps. No bicycles. ..just an occasional bright green lizard & a chipmunk scurrying across the road.
To the north, the river was a bit straighter as it came to the rivers confluence..
The bikes were tired, too, and seemed to enjoy the views.
As we started to walk down to get a better view of the little colorado river, i noticed this guy under my jacket on the bike.. he snapped his jaws at me & made a funny chirping noise. I thought he wouldn't be any happier than I if he got under my jacket on my person, so i got a stick & relocated him to a nearby bush.
The confluence. Tom & i both wondered why the water was blue from the Little Co. river. I looked it up later & found it was because of travertine & limestone in the canyon above, which turns the water blue. It dissapates when it hits the main river. During high water, it is muddy. It was kind of cool seeing it bright blue. You can see a group of rafts right above the blue water. There were several more coming down river. I'm zoomed in 5x in this pic.. you can't see any better detail with the naked eye.
Here's the view to the east along the little colorado river canyon.. the river is blue all the way.
Back north along the Colorado..
More pics of the area..
This was definitely a primo destination spot. we oohed & ahhed at the views for a while, took lots of pics, & finally decided we should head back.. we had to backtrack for about 30 miles of pretty tough terrain before we got to a different way out.
I didn't take many more pics, since we'd been this way before. It was still pretty fresh in our memory.
We eventually came to where we had come down, but we didn't go back via the rocky switchbacks.. we thought we'd take the 'easier' way of going up the gray mt. truck trail to hwy 64, then return on the pavement. I didn't take any pics or vids, but i had forgotten how long & steep & gnarly the climb is from the Little Colorado river plateau. It went up for nearly 2k ft, & was almost as tough as the casner mt climb, but with more steps. But we finally made it through, & got on the pavement. We went through the east entrance & got back to our room. Too tired to go out, we crashed & napped for about an hour before heading over to the pizza joint at Maswik for pizza & beer. We were too tired to walk over to the tavern for our usual rounds before dinner.
Tom said this was the toughest ride he'd ever been on. But remember, Tom forgets anything more than a few days old, so it probably wasn't really the toughest. But you get the idea. It was a rugged, gnarly, challenging, & long ride. Would i do it again? In a heartbeat.
End of Day 2.
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