When you ride hard on a mountain bike, sometimes you fall, otherwise you're not riding hard."President George 'Dubya' Bush, July 2005, following a crash into a bike cop at the G8 summit, Gleneagles, Scotland
Dingo must have been riding hard because he flew off his bike took a 360, landed on his pack and came up smiling. We let out a big sigh off relief. This was no place for an injury. There is no shade and no water.We were in the middle of no man's land.
After driving to the Cameron Trading Post late Friday night, our group got up early and spent 2 hours on a gnarly Navajo back road in order to ride, carry and walk our bikes for 24+ miles in 90 degree temp at 6000 feet. We each carried in excess of a gallon of liquid and it was not enough. We cached some along the way. Elevation gain/loss was estimated at close to 3000 feet.
Our route was a closed jeep trail across the scrubby, gully, carved erosion surface of the Kaibab formation atop the Coconino plateau. Our destination was Cape Solitude. Now we understand why this promontory was named such by Clarence Dutton because, as he put it, "it stands solitary and alone". The Cape towers above the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers.
The bike ride was totally gnarly and bone jarring. Large rock, deep sand, and the heat wore us down. We lost the route several times. When we attempted to take a break under one of the few trees along the way hundreds of ants climbed onto our sorry carcases.
It was a short break.
Little Colorado River Gorge-Navajo Land
Keith the Hawk, Dingo Dan and Larry the Mountain Man from Alaska
This trip ended up being exploratory. We badly underestimated the degree of difficulty.
A Grand Canyon Ranger had told us that he had done it on a mountain bike and we were stupid enough to believe him. Perhaps he did do it, but not in one day.
The Gates of Hell?
At 12 miles, the watch showed 12:30. We had started riding at 9:30. We gazed across the plateau and Solitude looked a long ways away. Below us was a side canyon requiring about 600' of up and down one way. We estimated that we had a couple of hours left to get to our destination and calculated between 5 and 8 more grueling miles to negotiate. Coming back would be mostly uphill and a two hour drive out on the maze of back roads was necessary. A projection of our water, day light time, and personal tank capacities netted the correct decision, to turn back and log this one as a tough recon ride. We backed down. We would have to settle for views of the Chuar Valley region and the Painted desert. There would be no dramatic overview of the Colorado River today. It would be unfinished business and we would deal with that later.
We arrived back at the car at quarter to five, somewhat exhausted and fell into our camp chairs for the after adventure cerveza ritual.
The unfinished business was discussed and a future strategy developed. Like Angel Eyes in the Good Bad and the Ugly-we always finish the job.
Cooler Temps-in the fall
Take another back road route and try to get within 7 miles of Solitude. Our recon indicated that this is possible.
Get a Navajo permit and camp.
Day hike, Mtn Bike to solitude and return or get a NP permit and backpack in and carry more water.
We stopped in Flag for our traditional dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery and arrived back in Phoenix after midnight.
Thanks to Dingo for driving and to Larry and Keith for being such tough hombres in order to share such a "fun" adventure
Men Behaving Badly
Dingo Dog for constantly saying "Whose idea was this?" along the torturous route. This coming from the guy that absolutely loves this kind of stuff and is in his element while driving the worst back roads known to mankind.