Rides & reports of motorcycle adventures..

6/10/12

Grand Canyon 2012


I'll set the stage first.

Tom, from prescott, is riding a honda 650 xrl, &; 2 of his riding buddies from California came over to ride with us.  Terry, also on a honda 650xrl, &; Bill on a honda 650xrr.  Kim &; i are in sedona.  Kim is riding a kawi 250, &; i'm on a yammie 250wrx.  All are moderate to excellent riders, the youngest is pushing 50, &; Tom broke 70 some time back.

Tom, Bill, &; Terry ride over near sedona.. mostly on dirt, &; we head up stoneman lake road, &; go through mormon lake &; wynona ranch road up to flagstaff.

Up near mormon lake, it is near 7k ft elevation, &; it is nice &; cool in the pines.  Here are Kim, Terry, &; Tom coming down the road.

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Wynona ranch road is where the boulders begin, &; the road gets interesting.  We had a few gnarly spots on the way, but they start increasing in intensity here.

Terry is leading the way here, picking out a safe line through the boulders.




Wynona ranch road is a  great day ride that we like to do at other times during the year.  It makes a great inclusion in the grand canyon ride.  It's not too long, or too rugged, but is challenging &; scenic.. &; it's on the way to grand falls on the rez.




We gassed up &; had a snack when we got to flag, then continued on up leupp road toward grand falls.. aka, chocolate falls.  There would be no falls today.  The road to grand falls was sandy, wide, washboarded, dusty, &; fast.  Tom passed all of us &; got to the falls first.

Here are the riders:  Me, Kim, Tom, Terry, Bill.  Behind us is the mighty grand falls.  This is the little colorado river, &; here it is mostly a spring runoff from the white mountains in central eastern az.  It also flows during summer monsoons.

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We took another short break here, then continued along reservation roads to cameron.. about 40 miles through sandy washes &; long flat roads.

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We saw some wild horses in the distance, but since they have spring foals, they usually don't come close.  They are hunted &; caught by the Navajos, &; stay away from humans.  Very rarely we've seen them within a hundred yards, crossing the road, or galloping up into rocky heights.

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This section of the ride is one of Tom's favorites.  If we dare suggest another route, he would pout for weeks, so we now consider the ride through grand falls as essential to the grand canyon destination.  It is a fun ride.. the roads are sandy, there are some washes you have to go through, &; some rocky sections to keep you alert.



We very seldom see any vehicles here, but we did cross paths with an advrider on a yamaha going the other way.. but neither of us stopped to chat.  There are a few older hogans, &; some inhabited trailers &; small homes that the ranchers live in.  But it is  very isolated.  You feel a long ways from civilization, which is what we want.

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There were a few spots where the sand got deep or blew over the road in long heaps.  If you kept your speed up, they weren't a problem.

Eventually we made it to cameron, where we would cross the little colorado river again.. this time over a bridge.  We would double back to gray mountain, where we connected with the gray mountain truck trail, another fantastic road going the way we wanted to.  This was still on the Navajo reservation, &; was a very rugged road.. lots of rocky climbs, turns, dust, &; more wild horses.

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The gray mountain truck trail mostly climbed up to 7k ft.  We dropped below 6k at cameron, but climbed again.  The views were long, &; it was still very sparsely populated.  There is one ranch early on the gray mt trail, but none after that.

This clip has a short view of some horses galloping over a ridge at the beginning.



About 1 minute into the next clip, there are some more wild horses crossing the road in front of me.. a mare &; her colt are on the left, not being able to cross in time.



At the very top, you can see the little colorado river canyon below.  This is the same river that we crossed at grand falls & cameron.  We would see it again in a few days on the cape solitude ride.

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We came down the switchbacks, and proceeded down pavement for a few miles until we came to another dirt road.. a blue-gray gravel improved road.  Not far to the grand canyon lodge, now!


These videos are all in high def, so you can switch them if you have a fast connection.. it makes the rocks bigger & the offroad look tougher.  Mostly it increases detail, so you see things better.

Coming down the switchbacks to hwy 64.


Fast & dusty on graded gravel.


We came from the east, & followed what used to be a nice dirt road.. we seldom saw any cars on it, but for some reason, the park service felt the need to grade it & dump loads of blue gray gravel on it, which made it very dusty.  We had to spread out a lot on this road.  But eventually it brought us into the park, & we rode to the village & checked into our hotel.  Notice the difference in vegetation between the last video & the next one.  We start getting into pines again, as the elevation gets back up around 7k ft.



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Some of us split a pizza, had some beers, & watched a basketball game on the bigscreen.. no camping/roughing it for us!  I had been turkey hunting & camping with my son for the previous 4 days, & this was the lap of luxury for me!

But no trip to the grand canyon is complete unless i get to stop by & visit my mule friends.. they always listen attentively, nod to me with understanding, & are very sympathetic to all my troubles.  The other guys don't seem to understand the deep spiritual connection i have with the mules.. plus they like the apples i bring them.

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Kim & i got about 150 miles in.. the other guys added about 80 more.  The roads were long & dusty, but we made it without any real trouble.

end of day 1.

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Day 2.

Tom's shoulder has been troubling him.. he had tommy john surgery on it a while back, but he still can't throw fastballs, or ride very long.  Terry, too had not ridden much in the last year, so 2 long days of riding were enough for him.  Kim was glad to have the other guys make excuses, so he would stay with them.  That left Bill & i to ride this day.  We met at the maswik cafeteria & had a hearty breakfast, then we suited up & left the sissies to sachet around the park while the real men went on a ride.

Bill was low on gas, so we rode out on the dirt to tusyan & gassed up.  Then we ran down some very dusty roads until we got near the rez.

We rode out to the west.. toward the havasupai reservation, but stopped short of there & cut through some nice 'almost' single track.  These roads were pretty tight, & snaked their way through the woods.  Bill doesn't get much of this kind of riding in s. Ca, so it was a nice change for him.



We got some dead ends.. i hadn't ridden this in a few years, but we eventually found our way through.

Along the way, we came across the same old truck that Tom & i had seen a few years back.. it is on a very remote, rugged road, so hadn't changed much that i could tell.  We think it is an old dodge, but there are no markings.  The story behind it is when Tom got out of the rough riders, he came out west to watch over the grand canyon for Teddy.  When motor vehicles became available, he picked up this truck to ride out to the rim & watch for poachers or squatters.  Anyway, here is Tom's old truck:

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The destination overlook was near the bass trail head.. some  cool views to the west.

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We took a break here, then headed for an old fire tower.  Not really grown up yet, we could not resist the urge to climb up it & look around.

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Bill was able to get a faint cell phone signal, so made the best of it by sending a picture of the views.  It took a while, but made it.  We climbed down & continued our adventure.

A few years back, Tom & i had ridden a road south from the tower, but it kinda disappeared.. we lost it & found ourselves wandering in the trees & brush until we could make it to a little more recognizable road.  This information did not deter Bill in the least.  He wanted to see if we could get lost, too!  Armed with his trusty gps, showing very little information, other than were were in az somewhere.. we headed across the remnants of a road.

This is long.. for my clips.. over 10 minutes.  I include all of it as proof that we didn't get lost, nor wander for days in the scrub pines & chaparral.  Bill was able to see time worn remnants of a trail, & he stayed on it.



The dirt roads on this side were very rutted.  You had to be careful in those or they would pitch you over the side of the road.  It was also quite dusty, & we took turns riding point.  My gps had gotten a glitch, & i lost my topo maps & some other reference points.  All i had was some way points on a blank screen.  There were a lot of roads criss crossing & going every direction, & many were not on the map & none were marked.  We found a gate back into the park.. we had been out of the nat park for a while.. & followed a bee line road back to the village.  It had some rocky sections.. some nice steps & ups & downs, but nothing we couldn't handle.  We were back in town by mid afternoon.  We sauntered over to the ice cream shop & indulged in 2 scoops of dryers finest.  ..not a bad lunch, but we'd need dinner in another hour or so.  Tom missed his long island iced teas, so we stopped at the bar & Bill bought everyone a round.  We drank to his generosity, & then staggered back to the rooms, it being almost dinner time.


Terry was back from being a tourist, & we all went back to the cafeteria, then back to the rooms where Kim, Tom, & i watched another playoff game in basketball... well.. i made it to halftime, then drifted off.

End of day 2, for me..

Day 3.  The search for solitude.

This is the highlight of the ride for me.  The destination was Cape Solitude.. at the confluence of the colorado & little colorado rivers.  It is a long, rugged ride, starting in the park, then going into the rez, then back into the park.  We go from pines to sage & grass.  We have steep, rocky switchbacks, long sections where the road almost disappears, & a few turnarounds & backtracking.

We start early, since it will be a long day.  We grab some breakfast at the cafeteria, then head out toward the desert view tower at the far end of the park.  It's about 30 miles through 7-8k pine covered roads, & at 8am it's pretty chilly.  There are 4 of us, as Terry had to go back home this morning.  He left earlier than we did, to get a jump on the long ride.

Some of my videos don't have any sound.. my camera is getting old, & i guess dust has gotten in & makes a bad connection with the mike.. not a big deal.. you can only hear motor & wind noise, anyway.  Also, remember to change them to high def if you've got a fast connection.. the detail is better.

We got to desert view, gassed up & started down the switchbacks.  Some of these are pretty rugged.. rutted out, loose rocks.. tricky riding, but we all made it ok.  This first section is one of my favorite view rides of all time.  You ride along the rim of the grand canyon, with killer views at every switchback.


Then we head away from the rim, toward the reservation.  The vegetation starts to get more sparse as we descend in elevation, & things open up in the distance.  But the roads stay pretty rough.


By now, we're on the rez.  ..very few ranches.. sometimes we'll see wild horses, but not this time.  We go for miles & hours through these rough, lightly traveled roads.  Very few people get out to the cape.  Near the 4 minute mark in this video, i go off the road on a steep climb, & have to get reorganized to get back on track.


There are some pretty steep, rocky sections, with high steps in them.  You'll go down one, then up the next.  We take few breaks, but we have a long ride ahead of us, so you never get much of a break.. the road is always bringing up a new challenge & something you need to be alert for.


I'm still having some problems with my maps.. i had some nice topos loaded, but they got glitched out somehow, so all i have is the regular maps that come with the unit.. they show some dirt roads, but not all of them.  They also show some roads that aren't there.  I follow one of those roads to a gated fence.  We get through it, but the road disappears & we have to turn back.  We get back on track after a short side detour..  There are 2 really big, steep, rocky climbs we have to do before we get to the cape.  This is one of them.  I have to stop at the top & let my heart catch up with the rest of my breathing.


By now, the road is less traveled.  It is clearly marked, but no vehicles have been on it for a while.  We still are winding around, going up & down some pretty steep, rocky sections, but the destination is worth it.



There is one last climb.. possibly the gnarliest one.. that we have to go up before we reach the cape.  I try to keep my speed up, because i remember it from before.. very steep, lots of steps, loose rock.. all the things that make riding this fun.


We finally climb the last rugged section, & have a little bit of easier riding for the next few miles.  Here's where the views start to open up, & glimpses of the canyon come to view.  This is what we came here for!  The long ride has finally brought us to our destination.  We have found Solitude.  Cape Solitude.


Cameras just cannot capture the grandeur of these views.  We were all awestruck by the distances & both rivers below.  The little colorado is turquoise green, from travertine in the water upstream.  It is very cool.

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I this shot you can see both rivers coming together.. the next picture shows the confluence.
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Here are the riders that made it to solitude:
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We stopped for a snack.. stared at the vast expanse, & pondered the meaninglessness of the other guys' existence.  But we knew we'd have to ride back, eventually, & there were ominous looking clouds in the distant southeast.  We got ourselves psyched back up & headed back the way we came.

I didn't take any more videos, and we didn't have any significant problems to record, anyway.  No one crashed, had bike problems, ate a big sandwich, or any other photo worthy event.  We just bounced along on the bikes & returned the way we came.

But we didn't go back up the switchbacks by desert view.  No, we went up the infamous gray mountain truck trail.. this time from the north side of hwy 64!  My camera ran out of juice, so i was not able to record this groundshaking event.  But we did stop at an old hogan.  Bill got closer for inspection.

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At the top, we came back to hwy 64 & most decided to head back on pavement, through the park.  But Bill was not through with his adventures.. He followed a dirt road, missed a turn, then followed another until he got back on the blue gray gravel road we came in on.

We were tired.. but went to the cafeteria for dinner.  No one wanted to sit in the pizza bar to watch tv, so we walked over to the market & bought a 6 pack to take back to the rooms, where soft beds & easy chairs awaited.

End of Day 3.

Day 4 was uneventful.  We had breakfast, then Tom & Bill rode back on the pavement to Prescott, while Kim & I took the pavement through Flag back to Sedona.

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