Fly to Phoenix—Rob from Eugene, me from NYC—take the English 2-9’s out of the 26x26x10 cases at the airport. Rob’s brother in law meets us, picks up the shells, shakes hands, drives off. Minimal gear haphazardly piled together, we’re a strap velcro stuffsack tangle that gets shoved into the cargo space of the Sedona shuttle, whisk us a couple of hours north. Plan to ride red there then bikepack back to PHX by a track to Prescott, ultimately linking up to the Black Canyon Trail, a short January holiday.
Check into lodging, build bikes and finger trace the must do map routes. For me it’ll be shake off sloth and that first day bright simple sunshine pedal into clay paths through palo verde and brush, distant orange rocks, upkick buck drift with my timing all off out of the turns and lofting the front wheel, skeptic eyeing drops where my lucid reason has forgotten how to mountain bike even if my body hasn’t quite.
It’s been maybe eighteen years since I’ve ridden here. More trails and fancier restaurants, still one of the greatest concentrated places to mountain bike in North America. Yes, the crystal harmonic vortex whorl of the sense that they’re standing somewhere profound, and they are. We’re riding on 1955 pulp sci-fi Mars, even while the blunt air pours into our head down heaves, look down to the valley floor.
Evenings, stand by the hose in front of the lodge and gun off thick concrete earth. Two chairs in front of the door, we’ll sit with our puffy jackets on and drink tea, some javalinas work their way through the patches of green in vacant moonrise lot.
Tomorrow a film of ice on the puddled water, the desert smell, casting about for the traction and lean our tires turned ground colored again.