This evening, I stood atop an awkward stepped chute with an annoying left-hand turn half way down. It wasn’t too steep, and it wasn’t too long, but I just couldn’t figure out how to navigate my way through it. After a half dozen failed attempts, I found myself back up at the top with a new strategy. A noisy scrub jay flew overhead and I glanced up only to realize that the late evening sun was casting a golden glow and deep shadows all about the granite fins and towers looming above me. I was so focused on this one short section of trail that I was missing out on such spectacular lighting in a rather magical place. I soaked it in for a good long while before giving the chute one last go. I failed again and was soon hiking my Horsethief up the opposite side of the deserted little canyon. I got back on, cleaned a series of ledges that had stymied me last week, and then somehow, quite ungracefully I might add, scampered up a steep set of steps. It was fun to be on a trail through such challenging terrain.
Out of breath, I found myself on one of the higher points around. The sun was just about to disappear beneath the somewhat snowy Bradshaw Mountains to the south. My new home sits in the pines just above town at the foot of the low peaks. A subtle sliver of the bottom of the moon was rising between the Sierra Prieda and Granite Mountain to the southwest. Last week, Caroline and I found ourselves in remote country far beyond those peaks, exploring rough two-tracks that seemed to lead to desolate yet beautiful places no one ever visited.
To the west, I could just make out where the Circle Trail drops out of the basalt-capped hills along that edge of town. I spent a good part of one day my first weekend here riding that loop, 50 miles of almost entirely singletrack circumnavigating the community. It was a good introduction to all there is to find here.
Across the northern skyline, Mingus Mountain and the Black Hills stood steadfastly in between the Prescott area and the Verde Valley. I’ve heard rumors of steep trails that descend nearly 3,500’ off the precipitous east face of Mingus. We can thank six million years of slip on the Verde Fault for creating that magnificent valley, as well as the red rock cliffs of Sedona just beyond. A bright white blanket of fresh snow blanketed the San Francisco Peaks far to the northeast, now bathed in a fading hue of purple.
My view to the south was blocked by the rounded profile of Glassford Hill, the gentle looking volcano that has been dormant for more than ten million years. Yet it still seems a bit odd to have a volcano sitting nearly on my doorstep. Far beyond Glassford Hill is the Arizona Trail, a route that has seared countless vivid memories of both beauty and agonizing suffering into my head.
A grin spread across my face as I looked back down to find the next white dot that marked the slickrock trail that I had been following. Never before have I had the pleasure of finding myself with so much unknown country in all directions. The list of adventurous rides and hikes that need to be done just keeps growing. I originally moved out West for school, but it’s the vast expanse of public land that kept me out here when it was time to move on from Boulder. Now I find myself in “Everybody’s Hometown,” Prescott, Arizona, with a whole new backyard to explore. It seems like a daunting task, but I suppose there are worse problems one could have.
Ever found yourself in a brand new playground with a willingness to explore? Tell us about it!
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After growing up in Minnesota, I’ve been lured away by the rugged charm of the mountainous west. I relish every opportunity I find to spend a day (or days) on the bike, linking together unknown trails and forgotten routes through deserted country, enjoying the simplicity and unpredictability. When driven to race, I am growing ever fonder of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity. www.krefs.blogspot.com