We had thought about going to Arches and Canyonlands NPs for the weekend, but it was just too much driving, and Kate couldn't come with us. So, realizing that we hadn't used our bikes hardly at all since the first week we got here, Katie and I settled on a day of mountain biking in Sedona. This decision occurred regardless of the fact that neither of us had ever been mountain biking before. We meticulously researched trails on the internet, looking for ones that were suitable for beginners but still fun.
We had lunch at Martanne's in Flagstaff and then headed to the Cathedral Rock trail outside Sedona. This had been advertised as mostly easy. Apparently, "mostly easy" for seasoned mountain bikers means "like riding up a set of stairs on a bike" for beginners. I don't know how mountain bikers climb up successions of sheer 10-inch-high ledges on bikes, but apparently they do. We, however, were required to walk our bikes up to Cathedral Rock. Here our trail intersected with the Templeton trail, which was slightly more possible. It was a mix of slickrock (naked sandstone) and gravel with some rocky sections, and a little bit of up and down where gullies crossed the trail.
It was certainly beautiful, but it was a bit of a crash course for beginners. I found it difficult to retain balance on the rocky, foot-wide trail while traveling a rocketlike speed downhill or snail-like speed uphill. I rattled down jagged sandstone cuttings sure that I was going to vault over my handlebars and die at any moment. But I couldn't stop. I mean, when else was I going to get the chance to do this? To add to the incentive to stay on, there were prickly pear cacti lining the trail. Shortly after Katie nearly ran her bike into one, we decided to park the bikes between a couple of junipers and continue on foot. (Coincidentally, at this time, a pack of young male mountain bikers passed by as if they were out for a cruise on the smoothest pavement in the county.)
We walked down a set of switchbacks that led into Oak Creek Canyon. As we descended, the air got more humid and the vegetation more lush, until we were padding over sand in a jungle-like forest. Above us on the trail, someone was yelling something incoherent. I said I felt like I was in Vietnam. Katie asserted her belief that when we got to the creek, I should rise from the water with my eyes open and a knife in my mouth.
We came to Buddha Beach and changed into our bathing suits and had a very nice swim in the creek, which was cold and had little blue crayfish hiding in the rocks on the bottom.
We hiked back up and recovered our bikes, where we took them on a death-defying spin back along the trail. At one point I was trying to cycle up a steep rock slope when my horse reared, so to speak, and I pulled the bike to the side in an attempt to keep my balance. It turned and set off down an equally steep slope, at which point, in my attempts to put the breaks on, I managed to fall sideways and pull the bike over with me. I landed on my left knee. It didn't hurt much, but later I noticed I had blood washing down my knee and shin like a waterfall.
After we got back to the car we decided to tackle another trail our visitor guide described as easy, and pulled up at the head of the Bell Rock Pathway. This trail was certainly a good bit less rocky, but there was still a lot of up and down. Halfway into it my legs were dying. Then it began to get stormy.
As we reached the end of the trail and turned around, it began to rain, and it wasn't long before the trail got muddy. Soon it was impossible to ride without feeling clods of mud smacking against my shins and calves as the tires spun. And an occasional glob would land on my shirt, arms or face. One went in my eye. The bike was caked with it.
But if this messy race weren't reward enough in itself, the sun peeked out long enough to form a spectacular double rainbow over Courthouse Butte. It was the most vivid I've ever seen in my life, and the near end came right down to touch the ground at our feet. (Of course, it moved when we did.)
There was water gushing past us in gullies that had been bone dry half an hour ago. We were exhausted, wet and covered in mud but that only enhanced the impact of the moment. Sedona is known for its National-Park-quality, breathtaking beauty and for the "psychic vortexes" that supposedly dot the area, adding power to the prayers or meditations of anyone who chooses to practice there. I am personally skeptical about the vortexes, of course… and after visiting, I don't know why anyone should need a psychic vortex there to feel awe or a profound sense of being alive. It seems a bit irrelevant.
We made it back to the car as the sun was setting and documented our muddiness.
Not a fake smile:
Don't ask me how the mud got this high:
We should be visiting Canyon de Chelly this weekend, and it's hard to take a bad picture there. Stay tuned!