The Sacred Peak of Doko oosliid (Mt. Humphreys) is not only the highest point of Arizona, it also becomes the center point around which the ultra-distance ride of “Around The Peaks” revolves. I took this shot from about mile 28 from my bike while riding. This is her northwest slope, still holding significant snow. Come with me, as i join my two teammates, Gary and Kristen, on our ride last Sunday!

Traditionally run as an old school Mountain Bike Race known as, “The Soulstice” before getting permits for forest service access roads became too expensive, this 63-mile circumnavigation of the Kachina Peaks which hover over Flagstaff now remains a testpiece for local hammerheads and a quasi-epic for the nonstop flow of visiting outdoor athletes.

This is Gary and Kristen at the top of Snowbowl Road. Desperate for high alitude base miles if i am to race the Iron Horse Bicycle Race at month’s end in Durango, it did not take much arm bending when during last Saturday’s road ride, Gary suggested i accompany he and his girlfriend, Kristen on a “Peaks ride” the very next day. i’ve done an alternate version of the route, yet they were going to do the traditional version which gathers up a whomping 6,800′ of climbing over 63 miles ranging in elevations from 7,200′ to 9,450′. Kristen and Gary are both pro level MTB racers, so i would be assured of a brutal yogic outing to test my body, mind, and spirit.

The route starts basically a stone’s throw from my front door at the Schultz Creek Trailhead, whereupon the Zen of Up begins with a 9 mph average speed up the world class singletrack toward Schultz Tank. 4.5 miles and 800′ later, you’re ready for the first of several knee-cracking climbs; let me introduce you to the Weatherford Trail. Upon this sliver of singletrack which jogs and jags up an expert level trail loaded with ‘babyheads’ (loose, fist-sized stones)for 1.6 miles to an elevation of 8,600′, your kinesthetic and oxygen consumption capacities will surely be tested. i was stoked that i ‘cleaned’ the whole section, using the bouncing image of Gary just ahead of me to forecast my effort.

It’s a beautiful spot where the kids (Gary and K) had a bite to eat and i sucked luxuriously upon a Vanilla PowerGel. We had already climbed over 1,400′ in about an hour yet, our ride had barely begun. Soon, we jumped upon our two wheeled ponies and rocketed down a singletrack trail that hooked us up with the Freidlein Prairie Forest Road for a screaming fun 7 mile descent to the pave of Snowbowl. Time to sit in and spin; 5 miles of up, up, up on pavement to the spot where the above picture is taken; chalk up another 1,000′ of climbing, then choke down your doubt as you realize you have yet to even turn the corner of the massive Sacred Peak!

After sniffing your way through the notorious babyhead-trail-from-hell Colton Trail where once a local stud mountain biker had to be ‘coptered out after crashing on this section during an early running of the Soultice, you find yourself ont the Nirvana like rolling forest road of Hart Prairie Forest Road…8 miles of spectacular riding through fernwood forest and aspen meadows before making a hard right onto Forest Road 418 where i took my opening photo shot. this section, 11 windy miles, is a mental workout covering vast high country glades and washboard gravel roads. hang a right for 1 mile to here:

yup! Locket Meadow Road (aka; FR 552)is where, after 3.5 hours and a ton of climbing in your legs, you arrive at the real Souls-test! this Gravel Road which was Brahmanically Blessed by being closed to ALL CARS and ATV’s!!! YEAH!!! climbs from this spot of about 7,300′ to Lockett Meadow at 8,500′ in only 3 miles then turns into an absolutely endless 1.5 mile singletrack to a 9,400′ snow shelter cabin. Yup, you read it right; 2,100′ in only 4.5 miles. and at this junction in the ride, you feel every friggin’ inch of it! here are some pics that i took for you from my bike as i futilely tried to keep Gary in sight as he blasted up this final section, ‘like a madman possessed.’ actually, Gary was cranking so hard because he was now out of water and the only possible source of water was up at the snow shelter cabins which would take about an hour of intense climbing to reach…would the water spigot be open for the season yet? if not? Gary and each of us would be risking some pretty severe dehydration…

on the Lockett Meadow Road the Painted Desert falls away from your right shoulder nearly the entire ascent; absolutely gorgeous! The Ceiling of the Southwest!

Lockett Meadow revealing the “IB” or Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks. Our endless 1.5 mile singletrack tackles the aspen forest dead center in this shot.

Dazed and confused…Gary threw the dice and came up short. I arrived at this Snow Shelter Cabin area about 7 minutes behind the flying Gary only to find him wandering aimlessly back and forth in front of the water spigot muttering,
“It’s not on, it’s not on.”

Without water for an hour and 4 and a half hours into our ride, Gary was hurting. In fact, since we had ridden up to the snow line, Gary was eyeing the snowdrifts like a baby looks at her Mother’s nipple… however, Brahman once again Provided, as some local hikers came strolling by as if angels in Vibram-soled drag. Gary knew one of the three hikers, yet each were more than happy to let us refill our water bottles. Phew!!!

After this rest, we placed our ginger-skinned asses upon our skinny seats and held on tight for the 15+ mile descent down WaterLine (FR 146) and Schultzy back to the little Mountain Town that i have come to love so much!

Thank you so much Gary and K! i had a GRRRREAT time and my paltry pre-season feels more fortified thanks to you! in fact, i’m thinking about crankin’ that bad boy again this Sunday!

Any takers?!?

love and sweat and keep the rubber side down.

Om So Ti,
coach ilg

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