Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona

Dec 16, 2015 at 20:54
by Skyler Des Roches  
We landed in Las Vegas late on a Saturday evening, a day after Interbike, and were greeted by companions Nicholas and Lael – something more than complete strangers – outside the airport. Together we built bikes and rolled an hour through the city to the abrupt edge of the desert. A few hundred meters from the last buildings we unrolled our sleeping bags, sometime after 1 AM.

Though we hadn’t any real plans with them, our shared route toward the northern terminus of the Arizona Trail had us forming a sort of allegiance of independent nations that lasted a week. These days of mid-day Miller High-Life, interstate shoulders and city park bivouacs was more approach than experience and, but for the cold beer and good company, Panthea and I suffered from relatively low enthusiasm for most of it. Joining the trail near the Utah-Arizona border, chaffed and grumpy from too much high-speed shoulderless highway riding, was the relief we’d been waiting for and we intended to savour it. Our allies, in their equal excitement, seemed in a hurry to enjoy as much singletrack as possible each day. A stick jumped into my spoke, I hit a tree, and a half-hour of rolling, groaning back spasms ensured our second morning on the trail would be our last sighting of those indomitable speedsters.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

At the outset of our trip on the Arizona Trail, I’d mentioned to Panthea that a few options existed for getting across one of North America’s biggest obstacles. The Grand Canyon could be avoided on a 200-mile highway detour, or crossed on a steep footpath. For the latter option, I explained it was possible to ship bikes around in the shuttle bus used by rim-to-rim hikers. Later, as we approached the canyon, I asked whether we should ride around or ship our bikes around. Panthea replied, “I thought we were carrying them across the canyon?!”

“Oh. I guess we’ll do that then.” Plus, it sounded bad-ass. Scott and Eszter did it. Nick and Lael were doing it.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

We bought ratchet tie-down straps at a gas station in Fredonia, abandoned the ratcheting part, and built backpack straps out of the lengths of 1″ nylon webbing. My heavily padded fannypack took the job of waist belt, and Panthea’s ultralight stowaway backpack pretended to offer more shoulder comfort than the 1″ webbing. This might sounds like a good, creative solution, but it was actually terrible.

Perhaps worse than the brutality of carrying 60lbs of bike and camping gear more than 1800m down a canyon, and another 1500m back up, over 40km, were the endless repeating comments of flabbergasted tourists on the trail.

“HOLY MOLY FRIEND! That looks HARD!”

“You have no idea…”

Or,

“IS THERE GOOD RIDIN’ DOWN THERE, PARDNER?”

“No riding allowed until the other rim, actually.”

“WHAT?! Wait! You’re just carrying those things UP THE OTHER SIDE?”

“Yes. We are idiots. And no, this is not the first time we’ve done something this stupid.”

In the face of such interrogation, an inflated ego is maybe weightier than a fat-tired bikepacking steed. The sensible choice, the bicycle shuttle service, requires only $65 and an ounce of humility. Free of the angry monkeys on our backs, we could have enjoyed one of the world’s most scenic hikes with some dignity.
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

It took two days to reach the South Rim. We arrived unable to bend our legs, and could barely walk for several days afterwards. Still, none were more desperate than the final 5 miles. You see, the bottom of the canyon is a hellish inferno, an extremely dry 40 degrees centigrade. I had to consume an elephant’s ration of water to keep hydrated, and after two days, this fluid flux began to have a powerfully laxative effect.

Perhaps this is a natural response to high-flow fluid movement. Perhaps it is a hereditary reaction to the desert. My memory is imprinted with a scene from my first visit to the southwest on a family road trip in a station wagon with no AC: my father rinsing a deeply embarrassing desert sickness from the inside of his white sneakers at Utah’s Deadhorse State Park.

Either way, the final three rest stops were mercifully spaced 1.5 miles apart, saving me from embarrassment, encouraging a frenzied pace, and offering a potential explanation for the American habit of referring to toilets as restrooms. A bad ass indeed.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

As much as we wanted to make it to Flagstaff in two more days to meet friends coming down from Vancouver, our sore jelly legs would not allow it. Instead, Marius picked us up 30 miles short of old Route 66. Together with Marius and Adriana, we planned to ride the Coconino Loop, and then continue back down the AZT once they returned north. A day into the loop, thunderstorms brought us to a slippy, sticky halt in peanut butter mud. The following day we pushed and slid our way through rain and mud to a motel room in Sedona. Already a day behind schedule – a schedule that mattered as Adriana and Marius have real jobs and set vacation dates – we decided to bail on the Coconino Loop in order to maximize our enjoyment of Sedona’s world-class mountain biking trails.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Set among towering red rock pinnacles and the bluish hues of Arizona cypress, Sedona’s otherworldly scenery has inspired a blooming alternative culture and attracted a crop of hippies, freaks, yogis, shamans, mystics, phonies, and other white people suffering from “special snowflake syndrome”.

A barefoot couple relaxed with their barefoot, diaperless baby outside Whole Foods. Between rants about how western medicine was killing everyone, they held their child over the patio railing, so that it could unleash its torrent of baby diarrhea unfettered onto the landscaping. “If you eat dead things,” they reasoned, “you’ll be dead. If you eat living things, you’ll live.

At the cashier, someone exclaimed upon seeing the total of her bill that she’d go look up the significance of those numbers.

Back on the patio, a woman who proudly subsisted on a diet of brown slurry that she drank from a half-gallon Mason jar explained that she’d been going through a phase of wild energy and “was basically tripping out all the time.” Her friend replied earnestly with a tragic story of a broken heart. They each told each other how good it felt to talk.

Further down the road, a Lakota man offers “authentic Karma cleansing” with shamanism imported from Mexico and Los Angeles.

Still, seemingly rare in Arizona, Sedona’s eclectic community is committed to the beauty of their place, and has worked hard to maintain trail access and keep urban sprawl in check. As a result, there are no garish signs or billboards, and camping is prohibited with 10 miles of the town (to keep out the riff-raff). Despite Sedona’s absurdisms and conspicuous white privilege, the riding was so good, the landscape so genuinely moving, that this rabble remained checked into our motel room for three more superb days of riding.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Having failed to complete the Coconino Loop back to Flagstaff, Panthea and I found ourselves seemingly close to the Black Canyon Trail, made famous in last winter’s Rocky Mountain Bikes bikepacking video. If we were ever to have a chance at meeting Wade Simmons, this appeared to be it. And so, upon Adriana and Marius’ departure, we rode south on this alternative to the Arizona Trail.

Immediately outside Sedona’s mystic vortex, we met the other Arizona. Cottonwood: where pickup trucks can double as pedestrian overpasses, and Bud Light is a health food.

We climbed back into the pines, and descended scrubby hills onto an empty plain. Led along dusty roads, over fences, and overland across thorn-riddled fields by my trusty GPS, we dropped further out of the grasslands into a cactus-filled incinerator. Still hopeful that Wade Simmons might be escaping the 38°C heat in that now-famous kitschy country bar, we asked directions from a young couple parked near the trail. The man, all hunch and curled ball-cap, couldn’t speak through his lower lip, brimming with tobacco. The woman, wearing a camo sports bra and an enormous chrome handgun on her hip, pointed us down the road. Their lifted late-’80s Jeep wore the Confederate battle flag across its dash.

Would they have helped us if we weren’t white?” wondered Panthea out loud.

I replied, “I wonder if we would have spoken to them if we weren’t white.” These are realities I can never fully understand.

After a few miles, still no sign of beer or Wade, we accepted that no combination of lite beer and old freeriders could justify such a long detour behind the Johnny line, and made our way back to the Black Canyon.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

The winding, rolling trail brought us through a desert of thorn, rock and barbed wire. An inhospitable desolation, meticulously divided and guarded for the sake of a few struggling cattlemen, robbed us of moisture and energy. Welcome signs of the southwest abound: “No Trespassing, We Shoot.” And shoot they do. Every sign in Arizona wears a bullet wound. Where the trail crossed a dirt road, the air sang with gunfire. We passed men with high-caliber, semi-automatic assault rifles mounted in the back of pickups, exercising their suspension and their God-given rights, as they cleared a hill of vegetation.

The cowboy of yesteryear lives on only in romance. Gone is the way of life – the roaming, wrangling boy’s club – that has come to epitomize a distinctly American notion of freedom. Much as it strangled the desert, barbed wire ended the cowboy trade. No longer were they needed to collect and sort cattle, to drive the herds to a fresh water source. And still, this figure of untamed masculinity is worshiped as an idol in parts of the Southwest – his gunslinging, his unbridled independence, and his fetish for danger mimicked by his Arizonan facsimiles. They’re right that guns don’t kill people. Men with guns kill people.

I’m not fooled; the guns aren’t for security. They’re for the thrill of being a cowboy or a gangster (that other American folk saint), a prop for supporting a tantalizing myth of danger. I wish they’d only remember a third charismatic recluse: the jolly vagabond. For thrills and danger and freedom, Mr. Johnny Reb, I offer thee The Bicycle. Take one around the world, up and down a mountain, or both-wheels-drifting, all fast and loose like some kind of funky priest on two wheels. Just don’t take mine. You can have my bike when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Perhaps a greater obstacle than the Grand Canyon, the sprawl of Greater Phoenix lay between the end of the Black Canyon Trail and our return to the Arizona Trail. For sixty miles, we rode brand new bike lanes on grid roads through brand new suburbs. Cave Creek: private luxury; Carefree: a misnomer; Scottsdale: was desert a decade ago; Tempe: “we only care about football”; Mesa: built in 1960, last maintained in 1995; Apache Junction: built in 1965, last maintained in 1965. Technically, we barely entered Phoenix-proper.

This desert megopolis is one of humanity’s boldest experiments. Built on a vast and mostly waterless low desert plain, its residents depend on imported water and food, and climate control to protect from lethal 50°C summer days. We were witnessing an ephemeral piece of human history, the saguaro cacti in North Scottsdale front yards older than any home within the city limits.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

A day later, we were back on singletrack, and the Arizona Trail. This section, south of the Picketpost Trailhead, is perhaps the most scenic desert segment of the route, as it winds through cactus-forested crags and deep-cut ravines. But, with our bikes loaded with water, it was not easy. Slowed by evening thunderstorms, we struggled to make our next water resupply. By late afternoon when clouds and flashes on the horizon began to threaten again, we’d not reached our next reliable refill and were nearly out of food. Panthea made camp by the Gila River while I pushed through the brush to fill up from its putrid murk. With our flight from Tucson approaching, we left the trail again after a resupply in Kearny, and followed jeep roads to Oracle, at the base of Mt Lemmon.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

making home for the night

As Phoenix booms, many southern Arizona villages are going for ghost. We passed through played-out, exhausted old ranches, mines, and villages. Only the faded “No Tresspassing” signs and more barbed wire fences remain intact. Even so, the old cemeteries lay empty. Despite the austerity of the desert, staying long enough to die seems a new concept.

In Winkleman, most store fronts, excepting the Circle K, are all boarded broken windows. Outside the Circle K, as I sipped on pale coffee, another cowboy stopped his old pickup for a snack. His uniform – jeans, roper’s boots, a felted hat, mustache, and bulging belly – is ubiquitous from Amarillo to San Bernardino. His language too. We’d crossed an old and now unofficial border into the Hispanosphere. The man emerged from the convenience store with a cold Sprite, a corn dog, and a single Pulparindo candy.

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article
Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Images from Skyler Des Roches Bikepacking Down and Out and Up in Arizona article

Our route across the top of Mt Lemmon stood nearly 2000m above our low point on the Gila River. In a day, we made this climb on a blissful dirt road, avoiding a steep, rocky carry up the trail. Near the top, and in fading light, the sky unleashed another torrent. Without a rain jacket (what kind of British Columbian would need a rain jacket in the desert?), I pedalled hard for an hour into the cold deluge. We dreamed of a warm hotel room in the ski-resort at the top, but finally, soaked to the bone, I could no longer keep warm. We spent a night inside our tent, as it shook and flashed in a furious electrical storm, a few hundred feet below the high point. In the morning, we found lingering snow in the empty village of Summerhaven.

The Arizona Trail extends to the Mexican border. For us, it ended in Tucson, where we spent a day in Transit Cycles, hanging out with Duncan and packing our bikes into boxes for our flight onward to a family wedding.

Tucson from Mt Lemmon. A fantastic city.

From September 19th – October 24th, Panthea and I rode our mountain bikes from Las Vegas, NV, to Tucson, AZ. We found a land of stark beauty and troubled humanity, a place of contradicting hostility and warmth in climate and history. Perhaps October is the wrong month for a ride across the desert, but the beauty of the skies, towering thunderheads, and incandescent sunsets, make up for any struggles. We learned a Sonoran language, and in October the desert speaks in clouds. But, like music, even more is said in the silence between notes. When the clouds have exhausted their spark, a booming depth – the lifeless infinity of our night sky – tells a greater narrative.



About the Author-
When not exploring the mountains around his native Vancouver or away on bikepacking travels, Skyler Des Roches funds his adventures with work in northern forests. You can read about more of his trips on his blog www.offroute.ca. In a few weeks, once he's finished collecting enough digital zeros bushwhacking around Alberta's frozen boreal forests, he's bound for a new long-distance bikepacking route along the length of Chile. Stay tuned for that.

Thanks to Porcelain Rocket, Westcomb, and Easton for their support.


121 Comments

  • + 65
 Very inspiring article with great pics!

As a side note, bans on biking where horses and donkeys can ride (like Grand Canyon National Park) are absurd. We are one of the fattest countries on the planet and the last thing we need are restrictions on exercise.
  • + 20
 The concern with the canyon is the trails aren't very wide, and there is danger of falling off when horses/donkeys are coming the other way. I'm sure you've experienced bad trail etiquette, so image that when there's a 100ft cliff 3 feet from your left. I'm glad there isn't a dozen tourists flying down the hiking trails on rental bikes, having been there. Lots of riding around so it's no loss.
  • + 16
 @atrokz having hiked the Grand Canyon I understand that and the concern is valid. However, it's not too different than many trails in Utah and Colorado with exposure. The increased traffic would make a difference but there are many trails within the canyon that don't have exposure where bikes would be just fine. Mainly I just like to gripe about rules that prohibit bikers and allow horses.
  • + 3
 I agree on that. They could just list it trail by trail. Maybe they are concerned with liability.
  • + 60
 What a crappy quote to start an article with. Especially when they spend the rest of the article riding on the roads the ranchers built and sleeping in public areas ranchers helped develop. Let's get off Mount Pious about how mountain biking is such a "good" activity. We are the richest 1% in the world and we ride in circles on machines made by underpaid labour in the third world in forests someone else settled. Let's just pump the brakes on this angel complex we seem to have about ourselves.
  • + 8
 @ryan83 while there are trails with similar exposure, the traffic level through the canyon is not typical, and it's a national park. I'm right there with you on bike bans, & we're doing what we can at the local level to support STC to get bikes into wilderness areas, but even I think there should be a few places in the country that are preserved as pristine as possible, especially when they're as unique as Yellowstone, or The Canyon, or Yosemite. I agree about the horses though: if we're going to ban bikes, horses shouldn't get a pass, either.
  • + 4
 @employee - buy stuff that isn't made by slave labor then. There are plenty of good options. I have two great bikes where the majority of the parts are made in first world countries.
  • + 7
 @schofell84 I am very supportive of that. I choose to buy products manufactured on the continent often. My issue is with the hypocrisy of crapping on ranchers with the first sentence of the article then riding trails ranchers blazed and sleeping in public places that would not exist without ranching opening up the western US.
  • + 1
 Send the horses to the fertilizer plant. Put bikes on trails and watch the trails grow n prosper.
  • + 2
 "FOR THE LORD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE MADE RANCHERS, MINERS, AND LOGGERS TO KEEP AND PROTECT HIS CREATIONS!
  • + 2
 Very jealous and kudos for trecking the AZ backcountry. Some of the best terrain I have ever seen is in northern AZ. Unfortunatley I did not have a bike while traveling but this is a destination for the ultimate experience. Bring anti-venom, lots of water and a 454 casull.
  • + 11
 @emoloyee7 yeah, I'll admit the quote set the wrong tone and was a mistake. I like reading Ed Abbey's rants though. But of of context of Abbey's source article, it looks bad. My bad, not the tone I meant to set. Met some great folks and some colourful characters in Arizona , and sure loved the riding (which apparently didn't come through clearly). Pinkbike is the harshest critic, and I'll take your point as helpful feedback.
  • + 2
 You probably read the articles in penthouse instead of looking at the pictures.
  • + 3
 @Skylerd appreciate you setting the record straight and owning it. It looks like an amazing trip and you got some great pictures. Hat's off to your sense of adventure.
  • + 53
 I love Pinkbike travel articles, but my take on this is:
1. Your traveled from one post-resource-extraction community to another on a month long vacation- a form on entitlement many would like, but few attain.
2. You saw some people and made some pretty harsh judgments based on nothing more than your preconceived attitudes and their appearance, with a modicum of knowledge about local history.

Speaking for myself, (as another resident of a different post-resource etc.) we love it when the tourists come to town to tell us what backward hicks we are. Sarcasm aside, your writing comes across though written by sophomoric a*sholes.
  • + 11
 +1 on that. I was writing an almost identical response, but I'll just prop yours instead. Came off as a self important douche.
  • + 4
 Reads like suspiciously an Evertt Ruess letter from Vaga Bond for Beauty. While it might wreak of some truths is it sure is pretentious.
  • + 2
 @codypup 100% agree.
  • + 3
 Add my props...@codypup

@skylerd - your description of the people you encountered is just plain lazy...stereotypes often hold some validity, it doesn't mean that you write in the same generalizations...any more than you would use a famous person in reference to the way someone looks...it's just lazy. I do complement you in that there were some really nice images here but, again you were lazy...using the same image repeatedly without additional context...and the Instagram style lunch bag shots?

I can see you are better than this article. As you head south on your next adventure maybe try to engage in the community you are passing through rather that fly over it.
  • + 1
 Not MTB but a good example of having a positive view of wherever your adventure leads you
advrider.com/index.php?threads/rach-ed-ride-the-tat-on-honda-c90s.1085263
  • + 43
 Pictures: good. Authors: annoying af.
  • + 41
 'White Privilege': Check.
Hoplophobia: Check
Bigoted perspective of locals: Check

Tumblr worthy. Great pics though!
  • + 25
 As a local: Their perspective on Arizona isn't as offbase as you might think. Sedona is absolutely a colony of white, aging, new age mystics, with all ridiculous prattle about vortexes & fear of things like GMOs & vaccines that entails.

As for their encounter with the people out in the desert with guns: I've had the exact same thoughts run through my head. There's some scaaaaary people out here who probably aren't responsible enough to be armed.
  • + 2
 I hear you on the Sedona part. It was entertaining to visit, coming from a cold, cynical city like Toronto. Privilege? Not really, unless ignorance is privilege in which case it's one anyone can enjoy Wink Actually found all the yokels friendly and nice once you get past the appearance and 'high-caliber-assault-machinegun-rocketlauncher'.
  • + 8
 I live in far north Peoria, so Black Canyon is more or less my local trail and I ride it weekly. I have come across a ton of rednecks with guns shooting and have even had some shot across the trail over my head close enough to hear the bullets wizzing. Obviously they were so stupid they didn't realize they were shooting over a trail til I hit the deck and yelled at them, but they quickly got on their quads and GTFO'ed. So that is really that far off base for that section of trail they rode. But they could have at least recognized they were riding in an area with the US imperial system and not metric Wink
  • + 1
 Sure was well written. Agree about the distorted perspectives, though.
  • + 9
 I'd rather meet a cowboy with a gun than a confused, bigoted, angry, pseudo-liberal, pumpkin spice latte drinking statist city girl with a gun..
  • + 1
 No shit! Haha, "You offended me by opening the door for me, you shit kickin mountain bike f*ck! Imma kill you!" (I doubt this is how a confused, bigoted, angry, pseudo-liberal, pumpkin spice latte drinking statist city girl with a gun talks, but I'm not part of that circle so I don't know how she would talk lol ) Guns ain't the problem.
  • + 12
 I thought the Author just hated Americans; it was an awful article; it ended in this, "We found a land of stark beauty and troubled humanity, a place of contradicting hostility and warmth in climate and history." Dude need to climb off his thrown.
  • + 3
 Agree. It is seething with a holier-than-thou biggoted attitude. Wonder how much beef he ate farmed by ranchers on the trip.
  • + 7
 The author of this article is a complete idiot, bigot, asshole. Next time you're privileged enough to enjoy a trip like this, focus on the positive. People are different everywhere. Just because someone doesn't look like you or talk like you doesn't give you the right to generalize and judge. The Arizona landscape is beautiful and so are the people.
  • + 3
 Huh, just had a realization.. Trying to be a fear and loathing in Arizona, mtb edition?
  • - 5
flag bholton (Jan 15, 2016 at 7:14) (Below Threshold)
 Really well written article. The dry form of cynicism and colourful use of metphor was a pleasure to read. The pictures tell the story of great riding, the words tell the story the pictures can't, what was going through their minds.
  • + 41
 Great pics, but can we please avoid the social justice warrior crap on our mountain biking website?
  • + 2
 Ya, the opening quote prompted me to skip this entire article. Extremely misinformed and screams of democrat.
  • + 15
 mxben, you got both feet on the same slippery slope as the authors.
  • - 1
 YUP
  • + 9
 democrat, republican, or alien, who cares? The only politics we should be concerned about here on PB are the UCI and local trail associations
  • + 6
 wpplayer-the story and subsequent comments aren't about politics, but about some Canadians adopting an attitude people in the US are famous for, called "Ugly Americans".
  • + 9
 Yeah that quote was a bit harsh, albeit before the end of the great depression and even a little bit now, ranchers and farmers were absolutely pillaging the surrounding environment, without realizing that their actions would in turn destroy their entire livelihoods. While land management is much better now with crop rotation and limiting the number of cattle on a ranch to avoid overgrazing, we still have a long ways to go. For example, I was driving from Tucson AZ to Deming NM and on the side of the road, there are humongous cotton plantations and nut orchards in the middle of the friggin desert. That worried me whole lot because they are getting their water either imported from the Rio Grande, the Colorado River, or pumped from the Ogalalla Aquifer. That aquifer isn't being recharged nearly fast enough to make up for the withdrawals that are being taken out of it. There are simply far too many people in the American Southwest doing far too many water intensive activities. Sorry for going on a rant, but I think it is an incredibly important issue and if we don't do anything about it soon, we're all up Shit Creek, without a paddle...or a boat. Also, those are some kick ass pictures.
  • + 1
 Politics and social justice absolutely have a place on a mountain biking website. This holds especially true for bikepacking, an activity that frequently involves more intimate interactions with local populations. The article itself was a very insightful personal account of what I'm sure was a remarkable experience. Having had the experience of living in central AZ for a good number of years, I don't really find the authors description to be all that far from how I may describe it. In the interest of diplomacy, however, given the Abbey quote, mentioning "new ranchers" or some of the land management partnerships would have been a good move. The Diablo Trust, based in Flagstaff, is a great example of what can happen when ranchers and environmentalists work together. As for the politics aspect, it's apropos given the folks up Oregon. What if some bikepackers were planning on sleeping at the Malheur Nature Preserve? They'd be SOL, unless they remembered their Blue Ribbon Coalition branded frame bags.
  • + 0
 Pedantic mostly reasonable comment until you indulge in baseless profiling at the end. As a member of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, I can say with some confidence that what is going on in Oregon has nothing to do with BRC. Please inform yourself with some facts about an organization dedicated to responsible legal access to public lands before you Slagle on them in a public forum
  • + 0
 codypup, the comment was not intended to deride the BRC. Rather, I had hoped to suggest the folks in Oregon may take more kindly to a BRC patch than, say, one from the Sierra Club. I was trying to support my point of the necessity of politics in mountain biking conversations. In the interest of avoiding tangential conversation, I'm going to take a pass on defending my knowledge of the BRC. Alas, my apologies at the offense.
  • + 2
 Pedantic-no apology necessary. If I was thin skinned, I would have no business being on the Pinkbike message boards.
  • + 37
 I would go to his hometown in Canada but I would hate to be ruffed up by a hockey playing moose. I hear the lumber jack pancakes are so big you only need to eat three times a week. Its great for those who are out there pumping tar sand....

Seriously, who do you think you are to go to someones home and make generalizations about them and nit pick their way of life?
  • + 26
 @Skyler Des Roches

Great article but The Cowboy way of life is not dead in Arizona. I grew up on a 40,000 acre cattle ranch outside of Wickenburg, AZ. My family still owns an operates this ranch today. We have about 600 head of cattle and 72 horses. I now live in SLC for school and work but those are my roots. BTW, MTB there is amazing, its full of steep mountains and the trails that exist would blow your mind. My secret zone!! Well I guess not anymore..
  • + 2
 secret zone as in wickenburg or arizona as a whole??
  • + 3
 @ sagebrown

ah hah, there in lies the secret...

Ill give you a hint...

If you look you are too surly see them. However, they take shape by ones imagination.
  • + 22
 Being from there, I have a lot I want to say on this subject. However It is really hard to articulate complex points through this medium. I mean It's safe to say stereotypes do exist for a reason, but there is a lot more that makes up a cultural identity than a stereotype. Not all people in Arizona are hicks. Not all Cowboys are ignorant, mindless, irresponsible gun wielding, capitalist rednecks. I grew up as close to a Real Cowboy as anyone will ever get or see and I can tell you im not a short sided ignorant redneck.
  • + 3
 it is supposed to read, "short sighted" ignorant redneck.
  • + 21
 This is a giant steaming pile of shit, but yes good photos.
  • + 18
 Writer sounds a bit intolerant of people not like himself...
  • + 11
 “Would they have helped us if we weren’t white?” wondered Panthea out loud.

I replied, “I wonder if we would have spoken to them if we weren’t white.” These are realities I can never fully understand.

Give me a break man... Because there are SOOOO many black people in Vancouver, right?

Dude, there's like... three black people in ALL of Canada, so let's dial down the self righteous tone a little bit.
  • + 5
 Ummm, no. There's a whole mix of people up here, and for the most part everyone gets along.
  • + 9
 The irony of them assuming they are racist judged solely on their appearance. Priceless.
  • - 4
flag skylerd Plus (Jan 14, 2016 at 16:43) (Below Threshold)
 Being Canadian, I never really learned about the Confederate battle flag. So after seeing it a few times, I looked up what it meant. Here's what I understand: it was a battle flag for the Confederate army during the Civil War. After the war, it was largely forgotten for years - until it was revived as a banner of the KKK. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting what the battle flag means today, but from what I found, it's intended as a conspicuous symbol of hate, not unlike the swastika. Forgive me if I've got that wrong, but that was what made our interaction with those people pretty nerve-wracking.
  • + 4
 Like any symbol it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Some people appreciate the flag for its history, some enjoy it for its symbolism of rebellion, some just think it's cool looking, and a small faction do like it as a racist symbol. I know several people who have confederate flags around and none of them use it as a racist symbol. Heck, one of them is black! Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.) was a major collector of Nazi items and swastika flags. He just thought it looked cool and appreciated the craftsmanship. He couldn't have been further from a racist. The moral of the story here is of course: don't judge a book by its cover.
  • + 1
 @skylerd & @ninjatarian It's a little more complex. It was brought back into widespread usage in the late '40s by the southern dixiecrat movement, an organization who had as one of it's fundamental tenants: "We support the segregation of races." It was not flown over any official building in the US, after the war, until the civil rights movement in the '50s, & the government officials who enacted the laws or proclamations that put it in those places were specifically doing it to protest the civil rights movement, in support of segregation.

It's original history isn't exactly sparkling, but it's modern history is rooted in racism against blacks. I'm all for individuals to have the right to fly any flag they want, but considering the context, & the motivations of the people who put that flag up in front of official government buildings, it should be removed from any official government building not dedicated to telling the history of the civil war. (museums, essentially.)
  • + 2
 No one said anything about government buildings. The context of this discussion relates to the article- random people who use the flag for decoration, in this case, a Jeep. I don't know anyone who flies the flag as a racist symbol. I'm fairly certain that no one I know with the flag has any knowledge of the "Dixiecrat movement" or their racist ideals. There are no doubt some people who use it as a racist symbol, but many don't. The point I was making is that in the modern world (not to be confused with the 1940s south) I would not automatically assume someone with the flag is a racist.
  • + 3
 @skylerd brought up the history of it's modern revival. I was simply correcting his knowledge, & providing context for the modern debate on it's usage.

Which is completely rooted in racism. I'm sorry that you don't like that, but not liking the facts doesn't make them not the facts. Some people may be ignorant of it's role in recent history, but that doesn't make a flag used as a rallying symbol for racism suddenly no longer a symbol of racism, it just makes those people ignorant.

Lemmy collected war memorabilia, including Nazi flags. But he didn't fly them in front of his house, because he understood that there's a fundamental difference between collecting things from history, and waving the banner of a group of people who murdered people they didn't like.
  • + 12
 Great job as always, but I found the writing a bit cynical this time. On a side note, look on the guys face coming out of the Phantom Ranch House is priceless! Thanks for sharing your adventures.
  • + 9
 Gotta love it when an otherwise epic adventure in an epic place, as evidenced by epic photos, are eclipsed by bigoted political commentary. Tip: your work would be better received and appreciated by keeping your agenda to yourself, or at least do a better job of cloaking it.
With that said, Arizona is a unique and incredible place; I lived there for a few years and loved every second, to the point where I've returned at least once every year of the past decade, even if just for a weekend. You'd also find that the diverse people and cultures are a fantastic mix, if you'd lower you nose long enough to actually get to know them. You'd be amazed at how quickly those "assault" weapon-toters as well as the hippies will go way out of their way to help *anyone* when they need it most.
  • + 13
 Wow. That was terrible. Full tourist mode.. Beat it kooks.
  • + 7
 Now that you have come and ridden in Arizona and witnessed all of the crazy redneck gun toting tobacco chewing right wing crystal loving mystics...... please do not come back. Thank you.
  • + 5
 I couldn't make it through the article but I love riding in Arizona. It's hard to beat trails like National, Holbert, and Geronimo. I've found the mtn bikers, hikers and everyone overall is really friendly there. I just need to win the lotto so I can get a winter home there.
  • + 8
 Awesome. Love this stuff.
  • + 8
 Tempe: “we only care about football *AND SLUTS!*” lol
  • + 3
 yeah sluts!
  • + 4
 Just don't marry one!! They say a leopard can't change its spots? Well, a slut can't change her herpes!
  • + 3
 You callin me a SLUT!
  • + 2
 Just callin em as I see em!
  • + 7
 This would have been so good if the author didn't type a single word and just posted the pictures
  • + 4
 On behalf of a huge portion of Canada I apologize for the nasty words in this article. Lots of us don't care if you have a jacked truck or AR15. The author is an ebarrassment.
  • + 3
 WHAT? You mean other parts of the world are different than where I live?!

Open your mind buddy.

This article comes off as complete intolerance and is really just a bummer to read. Consider your audience on this website and concentrate on the stoke of the ride and what bonds us as humans rather than what divides us.

Poor form. I hope Pink Bike pulls this piece of intolerant judgement.
  • + 4
 Good summary of Mesa and Apache Junction. I still have so much more to ride even though I have grown up and lived here my whole life. Just when I think I have ridden everything I realize I have barely scratched the surface.
  • + 3
 excellent photos and great writeup, but like edward abbey, your choice of words was perhaps a tad provocative. prickly, even. the azt and sedona are on my bucket list, though, and this only feeds my desire to get there.
  • + 2
 “everybody has their own opinion & each and every opinion has its own validity”. while listening to a mix-tape just now; if I had a track that came up that didn't match my own opinion, i wouldn't care or give any hate to the author, i would just skip it. i believe that a writer should tell it like they lived & saw it, with a poetic tone. for that @skylerd i give you much creds. this was one of the most interesting reads on the pb main page I have read in a while. your writing style really captured the moment, made it interesting and was very well done. bringing up poignant and comical observations brought tears of joy, not of contempt, all the way through - at least for me. good writing takes with it no remorse.
  • + 5
 Nice photos. Please don't come to Colorado with your privileged attitude, you won't be welcomed.
  • + 11
 Certainly no privileged attitudes in Aspen, Vail, or Boulder.
  • + 1
 Yes! This is sick! Finally AZ is being recognized for its mtb potential! I know all of these places, this is so sweet. Its worth stopping for the ride folks. We got some good stuff going down here. Come shred Tucson next time you are around. Cheers!
  • + 3
 I met Skyler up near Tenquile lake. Really interesting guy and a brilliantly smooth rider! He also helped me with a flat truck on my truck! Keep at it!
  • + 1
 So I find the opening quote to be very insulting. How is some city/suburbia douche with a $6k carbon bike that drives everywhere any better? Consumer do-gooders are bigger pieces of shit than most ranchers I know. Keep buying that i-phone, designer bike and prius...
  • + 3
 Incidentally, Picketpost catches a lot of people out: I know experienced bikepackers who've failed multiple attempts on just that section.

It's brutal, so don't feel bad.
  • + 1
 Well, I'm just disappointed. Thought I was settling in to read an awesome BICYCLING story; however, it's just another blowhard spewing worthless opinions. You know they say opinions are like a*sholes, so is this dude.
  • + 1
 great landscapes, great photos, great adventure, great article guess bikepacking causes a strange reaction, to say the least, on folks who see it. just as man's expression at phantom ranch's front door
  • + 0
 Looks like a epic trip. one of a life time!

Being a 5th generation rural Arizonan i don't consider my self entitled to anything here. I do however feel i speak for most people when i say that the most annoying perception of a "out of state visitor" is the author of this article! Ranching is very alive here. As educated as this author wants to sound, educate your self better. Typical naturalist extremest. next time your in rim country ride some of the newer trails near Pine. Scratch that, prefer you didn't.

To make it short. Keep your rhetoric to your self!!

"FOR THE LORD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE MADE RANCHERS, MINERS, AND LOGGERS TO KEEP AND PROTECT HIS CREATIONS!
  • + 2
 Epic landscape, great photos and words. Hoping you left only tiremarks/footsteps :-)
  • + 3
 Shh... Plus wheels and boost 110 hubs involved!
  • + 1
 I love how bitter the author is that everyone around them isn't the same flavor of crunchy hemp seed granola as they are. If you don't like guns... don't own one!
  • + 1
 Save yourselfs from reading the article, cool pictures though... Not sure I would want to go on a riding trip with this world view though....
  • + 3
 Tone deaf perfection.

right click "save as webpage, complete"
  • + 2
 Pinkbike makes me feel sooooo poor sometimes Frown
  • + 10
 You mean every product review? New MIPS helmet, $1500, new 27.5 Carbon Wheels $12000, new jacket $1459.99.
  • + 10
 When I m looking for bikes on jensonusa, every time I apply the "High to Low" filter, I get the same "poor vibe".
  • + 6
 @robbienroll and when you convert the Dollars for BR Reals... all i do is cry :'(
  • + 16
 Careful you guys... you're going to upset our obviously "underprivileged" author, who somehow can take a month off work to ride his bike across the socially oppressive south western U.S.

He just might come down to Brazil to set you guys straight.
  • + 3
 If setting them straight means free bikes, then I'm all for it! Even if the bikes aren't for me.
  • + 2
 "free bikes". That's a term I don't read often!
  • + 1
 free? it's rare the word "discount" on high end bikes here.
  • + 1
 it looks too safe to be fun.
  • + 7
 Just because you can ride on jeep roads, doesn't mean all there is down here is jeep roads. Most people who come from out of town actually freak out when they see our trails(& from the writeup, they didn't even hit the good stuff on the front side of Lemmon.)

We have rocks & cactus that will try to kill you incessantly, as well as steeps that make good riders cringe, I assure you.
  • + 2
 I've heard a lot of good riding exists around Sedona. Been there for hikes through Zion, Bryce, CG, etc, but didn't take my bike. Now I need to take my bike there or rent one.
  • + 3
 I bet there is good riding around there. My comment was about the pics. It may appeal to life style-trend following bicycle consumers... But this ain't an adventure... After all they ride in tennis shoes
  • + 3
 @atrokz It isn't just Sedona. We've got some great, seat of your pants techy, trails in other parts of the state, Tucson & Flagstaff being my two favorite callouts, as well as South Mountain in Phoenix, & I love riding in Prescott, though it's not nearly as technical. Our only real missing feature is a real gravity fed bikepark. There's riding at Sunrise, but it's all very old school, freeride era gnar. Though they have a new manager up there that seems to be trying to improve things, & we're perpetually trying to get Ski Valley onboard for bike usage.
  • + 1
 Yea that's what I hear. Buddy @tosh spent a while down there and had great things to say about it.
  • + 2
 atrokz , Sedona is awesome. It's about 75 minutes north of me and I try and ride there at least once or twice a month. Way better than Moab in my opinion.
  • + 1
 That's what I hear ^. Lots of slickrock there too apparently. I'll be down later this year for some riding, more than likely.
  • + 1
 @groghunter...Sholo and Snowflake are amazing too.
  • + 1
 @preach For XC? I was raised up there, but haven't lived there for years. However, I can't see Showlow (& especially Snowflake) having the elevation change for any AM or DH riding, at least not until you get far, far east onto the rez.
  • + 2
 Sedona has great trails. As did south mtn in phoenix. Arizona is def worth the visit. This spring I intend to return for a sedona/flaggstaff riding trip
  • + 1
 @groghunter...The Granite Dells trails in Prescott are actually quite technical. Lakeshore Trail, Constellation Trails, Willow Lake "Slickrock" loop...try them out and I think you will agree. Very unique and an absolute blast to ride (if you like techy stuff).
  • + 1
 Good to hear, I didn't make it that far (west? north?) on the single trip I've been, we basically camped at White Spar & just rode from there up towards the trails around the Whiskey course.
  • + 1
 I would love to do this also,,someday,,
  • + 1
 I want the same ride I want the same ride!!!!!))))) Good trip!
  • + 0
 Infinitely cooler, more interesting and more worthy than Rampage.
  • + 1
 Judgmental much?
  • + 1
 Jealous..
  • + 0
 After reading your shit again, you are definitely not welcome back..
  • + 2
 We are stuck with him full time...guess how that feels.

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