I pulled into the Big Bug parking lot, shut of the car engine, and make a mad dash to the pit toilet nearby. I could hardly wait to enter the restroom for two reasons … to get out of the freezing wind, and to do my morning business. I anticipated a horrible smell as I hurriedly slung open the door but was pleasantly surprise to find a nice, clean smelling room that even supplied disinfectant for the seat! Thank you Patti, Bob Patti & amp (see Comments section below)!
This was to be the second time time I’d biked the Black Canyon Trail from Big Bug to Table Mesa, a trip close to 50 miles … 50 miles of some of the best trail in America.
My buddy Steve and I got our bikes all set up and all our gear on , then got back into the Highlander to allow the sun to come up and to warm a little before setting out.
After getting temporarily lost (a common occurrence for me) we finally found the trail as it skirted a fence alongside a sheep pasture.
The jackets, leg coverings, and gloves didn’t seem to help with the biting wind as we pedaled across flat grasslands. I took the photo above at the trailhead but actually the temperature dropped to 33.3 degrees just a mile into the ride (I was too cold to take my camera out at that time)!
Not only were we battling the cold we also had a tough time seeing where we were going. If the photo below seems tough to look at then you can image how hard we had to strain to keep on the trail, for straying off the trail here meant hitting some rocks or worse yet … ruining a perfectly good tire on a sharp cactus!
Last year we found the first segment of the Black Canyon Trail real rough due to thousands of cavities caused by cattle. This year we were pleasantly surprised by smooth trails and also no biting acacia plants (thanks again to Patti, Bob Patti & amp). We knew cattle still roamed the area based on these huge piles of droppings we had to dodge in some places … but gone were the hoof prints.
For the most part the Black Canyon Trail parallels Interstate 17 in a north-south direction, passing through some of the most beautiful desert scenery anywhere. What makes the trail more exciting is how the tread clings to the cliff faces as it winds into and out of several different ravines. Danger is always present … one momentary lapse of concentration could cause a long fall causing serious injury or death.
As we rolled across the road at the Antelope Trailhead I noticed a truck parked along the road with empty mountain bike racks, telling Steve we might see some other mountain bikers out on the trail. We figured they were probable youngsters and we would never catch them … but eventually we did. After pounding down a particularly rough stretch of trail we came across three young men in the process of changing a flat tire. When asked if they had biked this trail before one of them told us two of them had, but the guy with the flat tire had not. When they assured us they had everything they needed to repair the tire we pressed on.
Not long after I saw two young bikers (Ron and Patrick) screaming down the trail and sliding to a stop, asking about an upcoming turn-off, They said their buddy had had enough and had ridden to the highway and was going to meet them at the pie shop in Black Canyon City. The boys helped us find the trail after crossing Agua Fria Creek and then left us in the dust.
After passing the Rock Springs Trailhead we dropped down to the creek again where I soaked me feet in ice cold water. Steve was worried about the upcoming climb so he kept going.
The climb out of the creek ends at the top of the highest mountain in the immediate area and took us over forty five minutes. At the top we were rewarded by being able to see some artistic work done with the local quartz fragments.
Mother nature still blows my mind. How organisms adapt to survive in harsh environments never ceases to amaze me.
Steve is the photographer. He had a high quality camera and has studied light. Often times he will ask me to go back and re-ride a little piece of the trail so he can capture a certain setting. I took the photo below (without any staging) and am quite proud of how the light looks in the setting!
As the sun was getting ready to set and over 10 hours of riding we crossed the creek bed for the last time. All the major creeks were flowing, most just a trickle. “Some time I am going to come up here to see these things when the water is blasting down here,: I told Steve. “You can tell enormous volumes must push through due to the erosion.”
Tired and thirsty I rolled up to Steve’s car, the only car, in the Table Mesa parking lot. I felt happy to be done thrashing my body on a demanding trail and proud to have accomplished something most people can’t … but most of all lucky to be able to experience so much beauty along the winding path called the Black Canyon Trail.