White Ridge Trails … Incredible Geology … Dangerous Ridge Riding … Quite a Place
I got out of bed, pulled on my riding clothes, started the truck, and crept quietly out of camp … headed to the White Ridge Trails. I did not want to wake anyone in camp, especially Cindy.
The sun was just below the horizon as I exited the convenience store with my blueberry muffin and coffee.
Back on the road I glanced at the clock on my dash … 7:30. “Perfect timing,” I thought to myself. “I’ll be to the trailhead by 8:00, and be riding by 8:15.”
I wanted to do the White Ridge ride and be back to camp no later than noon. Then we could eat lunch, load the kayaks back onto the truck racks, and do some paddling on the Rio Grande.
I figured I could easily finish an 8.3 mile ride in less than two hours The White Ridge Ride was listed as a blue (intermediate) with only 893 feet of elevation gain. No problem.
After taking my last swig of coffee I exited the truck and brushed off all the muffin crumbs.
The trailhead parking lot empty, probably not too unusual for 8:00 on a Wednesday morning.
I walked over to the kiosk and quickly realized I was at the wrong trailhead. By looking at the posted map I noticed White Ridge has two trailheads, and the ride I had planned began at the other.
“No problem,” I told myself. “Just a short piece down the (dirt) road.”
Less than five minutes later I pulled into the second trailhead … also empty. I pulled my bike off the rack and was mobile by 8:15.
Upon leaving the White Ridge trailhead I almost missed the trail on the Dragon’s Back.
As I cruised to the east I noticed the cliff face stretching off to the left (north). After veering left I came right to the Dragon’s Back sign.
When I had biked a half mile or so north on the Dragon’s Back I finally realized what the White Ridge was. It seemed to be a long hill heading off to the north, but missing one side. Like taking a French roll and cutting lengthwise, then removing the right half. The left side was steep, but the right side was straight down.
There were several places where the trail ran parallel to and a couple feet away from the cliff face. Other times the trail took me more to the western side of the ridge, with less penalty for veering off the trail. For some reason I feel better riding my bike alongside a cliff than walking.
The First Hole
At one point the trail dropped down a steep drop with a large hole in the white dirt. Any rider not paying close attention could easily drift off and land in the hole.
Farther north I dropped down off the white ridge onto a red dirt trail. A hundred yards farther and I was climbing up onto white ridge again. It was as if I had been riding on the Dragon’s Back, dropped down onto a sunburned neck, then had to climb back onto the head.
Cindy (my local source of geologic expertise) told me why the mountains would split like that and why the red dirt runs right through the white.
She said White Ridge was an uplifting of a gypsum dome. Maybe the dome cracked as the raising was taking place.
Climbing back onto the “head of the dragon” required a small hike-a-bike section. The review on the MTB Project site spoke of the hike-a-bike but I thought I might be able to ride it … maybe I was better than he.
The hike-a-bike was up a vertical rock that rose as high as my chest. No mountain biker was going to ride up that rock, not even Danny MacAskill. I had trouble just getting me and my bike up and over the boulder.
Once up onto the Head of the Dragon I stopped and took a few photos looking back down his body. Cindy later told me the reason for the abrupt drop off was most likely due to the east side dropping and the right side raising … causing a fault scarp.
From then on the trail was pretty much like it had been on the south side of the cut, eventually running under three vertical metal poles, like antennae. Do dragons have antennae?
The view was incredible, especially to the Rio Salado (Salty River) a hundred feet directly below. The threads of water reflecting the dark blue sky were in stark contrast to the dark red sands of the riverbed.
Getting off the northern end of the Dragon’s Back was rather tricky.
The trail was pretty steep and in some places the chalky white dirt was covered with loose, round baseball size clods. I had a little trouble obeying the note on the trailhead kiosk. Please … DON’T SKID.
Going to The River Below
The views of the river to the west kept getting better as I descended. Trees and bushes lining the banks added their autumn yellow hues to the scene.
The overall condition of the riverbed made me think about quicksand. Years ago I had come across some quicksand warning signs on the Little Colorado River and the state of this river seems similar.
As I rounded the end of the White Ridge I came into a wide open valley filled with many shrubs growing from the dark red earth.
Soon I came to a big yellow sign with a red 202 painted on it. (If you have any ideas about this sign please share in the comments section below.)
Behind the sign I spotted the huge red path cutting through the Dragon’s back.
Please click Weeping Springs for the next portion of this ride.