Rides & reports of motorcycle adventures..


riding the rez. Chocolate Falls, rocks, & rain. 8/20/10

Ridin' the Rez.  8/20/10

Kim, Tom & i met at the sedona exit off of I-17 to for a ride to the Navajo Reservation.  With the recent monsoon rains, we hoped there would be some water in the little colorado river, & grand falls, aka chocolate falls would have some flow.  Tom rode over from Prescott, & we were off, going up the old blue grade into the mountains in the mogollon rim.

The ride up stoneman lake road.. this used to be the main road to flagstaff before they built I-17.

It was about 4k ft where we left, & we would get up near 8k elevation.  The rim country is nice & cool this time of year.  We had some puddles, but nothing too dramatic.

We did a little exploring.. took a different route than we usually do when in these parts.  Naturally, we had a bit of backtracking to do, gates to cross, some pretty rocky roads, too.  It was nearing 11am when we got to the morman lake area.

Back on some easier roads, we enjoyed the trees.. nice cool pines & some aspen stands.

This is Morman 'Lake'.  It's an open meadow that can get filled with water in a very wet season or high snowfall.  We had a pretty wet winter, but it was pretty dry by late spring.  It did make a  nice wildflower display, though.

We lost a little time on the rim, so decided to jump on the pavement for few miles.. lake mary road to wynona ranch road.

Here we got onto the wynona ranch road.. some of it is a boulder field.. just rain drainage.

This went on for several miles.. we took a couple of stops for rest.

We could see the vegetation change.. the pines started to give way to open chaparral.  Cows looked hotter & crankier.

Off in the distance, we could see the san francisco peaks for a reference.

The road also opened up & got easier.  We passed more cows & continued the ride up toward the Rez.

We crossed I-40 & stopped for lunch at the 2bar3 saloon & steakhouse.  It's kind of a biker bar, now, on the distant outskirts of flagstaff.. where renegade bikers like us hang out.  It was decent.. reasonable, but not cheap.  Nothing to take pictures of, though.

It was after 1pm, so we decided to take Leupp road up to grand falls.  It is paved, so we cut some of our off road riding.  The last 10 miles or so to grand falls are sand roads.. with some ruts & a few boulders to keep us alert.

The big question on our minds was:  Would there be any water in the Little Colorado river?  Tom & I came here last month & it was dry as a bone.  Would the recent monsoon rains provide some decent flow at the falls?  Our question was soon answered.

Who would go first?  Someone had to record such a monumental feat, & Tom was already camera ready for the brave pioneer who would venture across.  Kim didn't hesitate, but blipped the throttle & took the plunge.

I followed suit.  The water wasn't too deep.. just to the axles at the deepest point.  But the underlying concrete low water crossing was in pretty bad shape.. still it was better to stay on the concrete, as Tom would soon illustrate.

Kim & i were surveying the mud on the other side of the river when Tom began his crossing.  I just turned in time to catch him taking a dip to cool off.

It looked like he had taken a gallon (or more!) of chocolate milk & dumped it all over himself & his bike.  He had gotten too close to the edge of the concrete, & had gone into the rocky river bottom.  Obviously, you could not see the rocks on the bottom, so we had to man handle the bike back to the concrete crossing.

Kim sat motionless on his bike, in answer to my question, 'who's going to go back & help him?'  So i guess i volunteered to slosh through the muddy torrent & help our poor soggy comrade.

Using our water skills, we maneuvered the bike out of the rocky river bottom & back on the safe concrete.

Now we would have the mud to go through..

Even though Tom's bike had fallen over, he had killed the engine right away, & got it up before water got into the air intake.  It started right up with no problems.  Had water gotten into the air intake, we would have had more problems on this day.  But Tom's quick thinking.. with no regard for his own comfort or appearance.. saved the day for more fun riding ahead.

The mud turned out to be much easier than it looked.  I got across with no issues.. just stayed in the ruts that some trucks had made.  Tom & Kim went off to the side, but it wasn't too deep, & they got across, too.

We went the rest of the way to Grand Falls, which was a few hundred yards from the river crossing.  This was the Little colorado river.  It runs from the white mountains near snowflake, az, to the Big Colorado river in the Grand Canyon.

Now there was pretty good flow in it.  The mud gives it a chocolate coloring, hence the alternate name of 'Chocolate Falls'.  I'll have to ask Tom how it tastes.

Just for reference, here's how Chocolate falls looked a month earlier, when Tom & i came back from the Grand Canyon:

But it had a nice roar to it, now, & was muddy & well named.  Even though they were splattered with muddy water & soaked from the crossing, the bikes were happy to pose at the overlook.

Chocolate Tom, with Kim looking on sympathetically..

I asked Tom if he wanted to see it from the other side.. we could cross back so we could get some other shots from a different perspective.  But he was happy enough to see it from this side.. so we didn't cross back.  It is nice seeing it from the different points of view.. it's pretty dramatic.

Tom & I had taken our boots off & Tom removed some of his gear for drying.  The sun was hot, & things dried out a little.. not that it mattered as the day wore on.  Kim somehow managed to stay relatively clean & dry throughout the ordeal.  Here he is demonstrating the swimming stroke Tom employed while in the water, & Tom displaying his nice chocolate stained t shirt.

Drier & warmer, we continued our way into the Rez, following some nice sand roads as we headed up toward the next crossing at Wupatki.. there aren't that many places to cross the Little Colorado river.  If we could not cross at Wupatki, we'd have to go all the way to Cameron & cross at the bridge.

As we rode toward Wupatki, we saw dark clouds & falling rain in the distance.. right in the direction we were heading.  Perhaps it would move on by the time we got there.  Perhaps not.  There were also a few lighting bolts in the distance.. another enjoyable prospect for us to face.  The air cooled, & the winds picked up.  In the next clip, you will see the rain start to fall as we rode along.

I had brought my rain jacket, & i think Kim had one, too.  But Tom only had a thick cotton sweat shirt.  He seemed to enjoy the rain.. He takes great pride in his appearance.. always nattily attired, so perhaps he welcomed the rain as an alternative to washing his clothes.  So Kim & i did not put on our rain jackets.  We would suffer with our riding comrade & ride unprotected in the downpour.  I could not let my poor nuvi gps take the rain, though.. so i stopped & put it in my tank bag.  Someday i'll get another waterproof gps, but for now this works ok.

The rain continued, & so did we.  As you can see, the terrain was very open.. no cover anywhere.  We could only ride on & get through it.  The temps dropped quite a bit, & the water ran through my mesh jacket, pants, & into my already wet boots.

The other problem we had was the road started to get slick from the rain.  A thin layer of slippery mud began to form on the road.  Fortunately, it was pretty straight, but there were some interesting spots with ruts & turns.

After about 20 miles or so, the rain began to diminish.  The skies cleared, & the roads got wider & sandier.  We eventually got to the Wupatki crossing.

It looked deeper & more ominous than the Grand Falls crossing!  We pondered whether to cross or to continue another 30 miles to cameron.  We were already wet.  Might as well try crossing.

It was a bit deeper than the other crossing, & it was harder to make out where the concrete bottom was.  There was a little disturbance in the water from rocks about halfway, so i made toward that, then aimed to the other side.  The water was a little over the axles, but the bottom was even.. a little bumpy, but no big holes.  Next Tom would attempt to cross..

He was riding too close to the edge, & got tossed off the concrete bottom into the rocky river bottom.  But now he had the skills & experience to keep it upright.. plus he was mostly cleaned up from the rain & didn't want to get muddy again.  He got off & expertly maneuvered the bike back onto the crossing & safely out.

But now it was Kim's turn to cross.  Would the pressure get to him?  Would the stress of getting his outfit muddy make him choke?  Nah.  Cool as a cucumber, Kim rode straight across, almost yawning as he went.

We were heading for open, sunny country.  The road would be paved in a few miles.  It was after 3pm, & Tom was ready to head home, so we cut short the ride around the Peaks we were considering.  Tom still had about 150 miles to go back to Prescott, & Kim & i had about 100, so we hit the pavement & headed south.  The air was dry & much warmer, so we finished drying out as we rode along.

We came in the back way to sunset crater nat. monument.. most people don't come through the reservation to get there.  This was an old volcano.. not that old, though.  .. still a lot of volcanic rock & cinders around.

But we didn't stop to site see.. we kept on the throttle & headed home.

I stopped for gas in Flagstaff.. Kim & Tom had the big tanks & didn't need to.  Kim & i went down oak creek canyon, into sedona & home.  It was around 200 miles for us, & probably 100 miles more for Tom total.  It was a very scenic ride, lots of interesting terrain, very varied.  We had pines, open desert, chaparral, & lush riparian sections to ride.  River crossings & overviews were icing on the cake.

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Sedona, Arizona, United States
Semi-retired home builder. Musician. wr250x adventure rider. Amateur philosopher. Innovator. Tech & gadget freak, genealogist.