Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Exploration

The spring house at Veit Springs - one of the most beautiful sights in the Flagstaff area.


What a great four day weekend that was! I took it easy on Friday and Sunday but the other two days featured explorations.

Ancient pictograph at Veit Springs.


First up I led a hike at Veit Springs to view petroglyphs and generally enjoy spring in the high country. It was beautiful, though windy. We wandered off official trail to seek more mileage and got a bit lost, but we certainly got to see some forest that few other hikers see.

Skunk Canyon features some desert vegetation in the sunny areas.


On Monday I went out for a mountain bike ride into Skunk Canyon. I've hiked it before, but had never bicycled in, and I wanted to see how it linked up with some of the other approaches to Fisher Point. The canyon is a broad, sunny place that gradually heads downhill. I didn't start from the usual point, but the alternate route that I used from a small parking area on Lake Mary Road is a good beginning. It adds a little distance.

Skunk Canyon narrows.


The canyon narrows down in a couple of places and finally constricts to single track in a true stream bed, albeit usually dry. The vegetation ranges from semi-desert grassland to alpine species in the shady, steep-sided areas. Unfortunately the double track braids into true single track, split between a high road and a low road, and I chose wrongly. The high road was a little too difficult and risky for a solo rider of my low skill and I ended up doing hike-a-bike for a few minutes.

Fortunately, it didn't last too long, and Skunk Canyon opens up again shortly before the old tracks intersect with the Arizona Trail. From there I followed the AZ Trail over to Fisher Point. I decided not to ascend the short connector to the top, having done it before, but I did visit the cave at the foot of the promontory. It's one of the most beautiful spots in the Flagstaff region.

Fisher Point - another of the most beautiful places around Flagstaff.


I'm such a lackadaisical mountain biker that, as usual, I forgot to stop my watch as I walked around rubbernecking and taking photos. This habit causes me to register slow times. It's slightly embarrassing but I'm not a competitive person and I guess nobody really cares how fast or slow I am. Mostly I don't either. I compare my times and speeds only to my previous times and speeds. It's a good way to judge my fitness, but I tend not to pay attention to how fast other people are.

After visiting Fisher Point, I rode Walnut Canyon "upstream" to the junction with the Sandys Canyon trail, which turned into a beat down of hike-a-bike. There are bicyclists capable of riding up Sandys Canyon but I am not one, lacking both the technical skill and shear power to achieve it. I've pushed a bicycle up the trail before on an out-and-back so I knew what was coming but it was still unpleasant. I've done worse hike-a-bike a few times so by my very low standards it was acceptable though not fun. I was pleased that it didn't destroy me. I recovered quickly and resumed riding.

From the top, rather than going straight over to Lake Mary Road, I decided to follow some unmarked trail that headed in the right direction, but it didn't entirely work out. I ended up riding out into a neighborhood, probably over private land, although nothing was marked. The short road system still delivered me to Lake Mary Road and somewhat to my dismay, I realized that there were still a couple of miles of rolling hills to climb over to get back to my car.

It was a good workout, though the track from my Garmin watch seems to have understated the amount of elevation change. I'm unsure if it was literally inaccurate or if it is just that the route is deceptively difficult. In this case, you start on a plateau, drop down into a series of canyons, then must climb back out. But even after climbing back out, you have to deal with the long paved climbs on Lake Mary Road. Strava says it was a mere 594 feet of elevation gain, but that feels like an understatement. It's a rugged, difficult route that included inefficient pedaling on sandy trail in addition to the technical hike-a-bike.

I really enjoyed the ride. It was a fun day!


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