Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gulch Riders in the Sky (Verde Valley)

Today, the gulches of the Verde Valley, prelude to Mingus Mountain in the distance

I started off Labor Day weekend riding through some of the gulches of the Verde Valley to visit Dead Horse Ranch State Park (post coming later this week) by the most "as the crow flies" route possible, knowing that this would be a bumpy, rocky, sandy, possibly scratchy with cactus and other spiky plants, route. Some of the gulches, or dry washes, have tire tracks, and are clearly used by off-road vehicles. Some narrow down to footpaths, and some are just rocky dry washes. I didn't know completely what I would run into, and that was part of the fun. I just jumped on Bip the unsuspended steel mountain bike, (with the skinny tires seen in the current blog header) on a hot September afternoon and started riding in the general compass direction of my destination.

(gulch safety note: if it is raining at all, or even looks like rain, stay out of the gulches, they are subject to flash floods that sound like angry hissing beasts, and will toss and crush anything in their paths including rocks and cars as if they were weightless)

The Verde Valley continues to grow in population, and has become quite a retirement area, but still retains some essential desert characteristics, like cooling down significantly after the sun goes down, unlike Phoenix with its heat island of concrete and construction. The Verde River runs through it, which at its typical flow rate (61cfs at this moment, near historic lows) would be considered little more than a stream in non-desert locales, although it runs through a wide bed watering a green belt of old Cottonwoods and a thriving river zone, and is a critical source of water for this large, otherwise dry valley.

The main towns of the valley are Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Cornville. Jerome is up the mountain on the way out of the valley, and Sedona is up the road a piece the other way.

Mescal Gulch: let's ride down there!

Sandy conditions, pretty loosey goosey with the skinny tires

Rocky, gulchy, hike up, tear down

Streets transition to gravel and then to gulch

The old Clarkdale Highway looks a lot like a gulch itself

My gulch navigation was both successful and enjoyable. I road through Old town Cottonwood on the way to Dead Horse, and got to experience a full spectrum from residential street to gulch to Highway 89A, an excellent prelude to the trails of Dead Horse.

More feet than people: I like em that way (this just in, Clarkdale has a few more people than feet. Oh well.)

My only regret was that there were a few sections where fatter tires would have helped: the stretches of sandy wash, some of the rocky sections, and some of the rough stuff would have been more comfortable with less air pressure. But the gravel, the streets, the flat sections, and a lot of it was a blast with skinny tires, so I stuck with them. 

Up next: Old Town Cottonwood.


  1. What's with the crosses at Mescal Gulch?

  2. Steve the crosses are small roadside shrines erected in memory of someone who died in a car crash in this spot. Some of them have names, some candles, some are simple like these, other more elaborate. Do you have these in Texas? They're everywhere in AZ.


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