Tag Archives: Phoenix

Mountain Biking Progress: I See Contours and Grade Reversals

Ever since the IMBA Trail Care Crew visited I have entered a new stage in my mountain biking  journey.  Not only are my skills improving after the chance to have some one-on-one coaching in Sedona, but now when I ride I see trail design successes and failures. In fact sometimes it’s downright distracting.  Yesterday, I started rolling down a steep loose rutted section, and I began looking at the hillside to estimate grade to guestimate whether this section was built on the fall line or just constructed at too steep a grade and without grade reversals.   Next thing I know I’m putting a foot down before I bounce off the edge into a hungry cactus.  Not quite ready for that kind of multitasking.

Yesterday I rode at Usery Mountain Regional Park on a few beginner to intermediate loops.  It was awesome.  Lately I’ve been reading, IMBA’s “Managing Mountain Biking”.  In the first chapter they discuss what mountain bikers want: connection to nature, escape, fun, challenge, exercise, variety, connections, camaraderie, a sense of belonging, and facilities.  In just a 90 minute ride I was able to experience all of these (except camaraderie) at Usery Mountain.  They got it right every step of the way, starting with a nice  welcome from a volunteer manning the entrance gate.  She provided me with an easy to read  map with recommended trails for mountain bikers.  At the trailhead there was a clean restroom and clear signage.

I started on the Blevins Trail, which is a mostly flat winding singletrack that curves around eight foot tall chain fruit Cholla and Saguaros.  It’s springtime and many of the cacti were blooming causing me yet another distraction as I would screech to a stop to ooh and ahh over the pinks, oranges, and yellows.  I had brought my camera along, so I was able to alternate photography and biking.

The Blevins and Moon Rock trails were very fast, so even with my frequent stops I was able to get to the junction with Cat Peak quickly.  The trail description didn’t list difficulties, but I assumed (correctly) that going around this mini-peak would mean moving onto intermediate level trail with some more technical sections.

Cat Peak Trail involved climbing over badly eroded water bars, a technical challenge that I am just learning to tackle.  It’s nice to learn to ride over water bars, but I really hope that the sustainable trail building practices from IMBA will gain universal acceptance and we can replace these water bars with re-routes on the contour and/or grade reversals.

All in all I had a fabulous time.  I would love to go back to Usery Mountain to explore other trails.  Did I mention that while I was riding in Phoenix it was snowing in Flagstaff?  Desert riding for the win!


Photo Review: Hummingbirds and their Habitat

This morning I took a break from working remotely to go for a short walk in the desert.  I was hoping to find blooming cacti to photograph, but instead it seemed like hummingbirds were following me everywhere, so I got a chance to photograph them instead.

hummingbird on ocotillo

hummingbird on ocotillo

hummingbird on ocotillo

Week 7: Please Visit, But Check the Weather

Before the snow we had sunny warm days and I commuted by bicycle around town

The highlight of this week was getting a visit from my life long friend Rachel, who came to see us from Las Vegas with her husband and their almost 2 year old daughter, Monica.  Unfortunately, I was fighting and losing to a cold and there was a major winter storm, but other than that it was fabulous!  But seriously, when it’s 80 degrees in Las Vegas, 4 hours away, it’s really hard to believe that it can snow 18 inches in Flagstaff over the weekend.  They came into town Friday night as the wind was beginning to pick up and the temperature was dropping.  Saturday we enjoyed some time downtown and at Thorpe Park while the sky was still clear.  By that night there was a cold rain and overnight the rain turned to snow.  Snow, snow, and more snow.  The highways in all directions were closed Sunday morning.  Rachel and Luke had to wait and see, hoping for great plowing and no accidents.  Thanks to twitter we could follow the latest highway news, and were able to know when the highway had reopened.  Rachel and Luke made it safely back to the desert, where soon they will start complaining about the heat again I’m sure.  Next time we plan to visit them!

Rachel and Luke's daughter Monica

The snow cancelled my work on Monday and I stayed home to rest and recover from a cold

Volunteering:  Jay and Sharon volunteered with AmeriCorps Espirit de Corps Event at Riordan Mansion, picking up trash and raking pine needles (2 hours).  Jay also cleared snow at Riordan Mansion (3 hours).

Beer of the Week: Cosmic’s Irish Red

Something New:  I tried corned beef (which I don’t remember having had before) twice in two days!

Highlight of Being in One Place:  Having people visit you instead of the other way around!

Product of the week: 

Video of the Week:
Jay and Nate riding Black Canyon Trail north of Phoenix:

Week 6: A Long Weekend of Family and Fancy Fabrics

A vireo perches on a cactus in the park right behind Jay's parents house

This was a busy week!  We headed down to Phoenix for a long weekend in order to celebrate Jay’s dad’s award (Master of the Southwest) and to go wedding dress shopping with Sharon’s mom who flew in from Virginia.  Jay got to ride mountain bikes with his brother as I went with my mom and Jay’s mom to several different shops and tried on a couple dozen dresses.  I finally found a fabulous dress and was able to relax and enjoy playing with my niece Laya and enjoying the beautiful weather.  The weekend was a bit tiring, but it was a really special opportunity to be with family.

Morgan Holt accepting Master of the Southwest award

Morgan Holt accepting Master of the Southwest award

Now we are back in Flagstaff enjoying unseasonably nice weather.  Unfortunately Jay has a sinus infection and has spent most of the last two days in bed.  Hopefully he will be back to full health soon in time to spend this weekend with our friends Rachel and Luke and their daughter Monica who are coming to visit.

Sharon enjoying a mimosa after finding the perfect dress

We celebrated three Holt birthdays; it wasn't Laya's birthday, but she loved the ice cream cake!

Volunteering:  Sharon is volunteering tonight for Sun Sounds of Arizona (2.5 hrs).

Beer of the Week: Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Something New:  Sharon entered the wedding dress world, shopping at five stores with her mom and finally finding a gorgeous gown at the last shop.

Highlight of Being in One Place:  Being there for family.  Jay’s dad was recognized Thursday night as a Master of the Southwest and we got to celebrate with him.

Product of the week: 

Video of the Week:
Video of Jay and his brother Nate riding Telegraph Pass in South Mountain Park

Photo Review: Phoenix, An Active Desert

Yesterday I went for a photo hike in the desert behind Jay’s parents house.  I was amazed at how active the desert was with so many birds chirping and lizards darting around.  Soon the desert will start blooming again with beautiful bright cactus flowers, but for now spring is through song.


barrel cactus and creosote

turkey vulture in flight

51st Week in Review: Heading In Opposite Directions

laya painting

Our niece Laya learning to finger paint

As regular readers know, Jay and I got engaged last spring and have been in a very slow wedding planning process ever since.  Planning a wedding while also planning where to set up the tent every night and where we can volunteer is not easy (though from what I can tell, wedding planning is never easy, even if you elope).  Well, this week we had some wedding planning challenges, so we came back to Phoenix to regroup and now I am flying back to Virginia to do some in person planning (and visit family and friends of course).  Jay jumped at this plan because it comes with the opportunity for him to join his dad on a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado to go skiing.  Jay hasn’t been skiing in over a year and he is so excited.  I haven’t been home since August so I am also incredibly excited.  Win win!

Jay painting with Laya

Jay was in charge of the paint, he would ask Laya which color and where and how much, I think Laya liked picking colors as much as actually painting

Product of the Week:

Video of the Week: view below or click HERE to view on YouTube

Hours volunteered:  Sharon volunteered as a StartingBloc mentor (5 hours), Sharon volunteered as a Guest Guide at Project Connect (3 hours)

States: 3 – Arizona, Virginia (Sharon), and Colorado (Jay)

Budget: I got my final paycheck from UPS this week, so I think we actually came out even

People Visited: Cindi and Morgan Holt, Nate, Nicole, & Laya Holt, Melinda Bloom and John Tewksbury

Nights under the stars: 0

Best meal: Family dinner with the Holts, featuring cedar plank salmon, popovers, corn stuffing, green beans, and salad

Best beer: thanks to Matt who pestered us into buying the Anderson Valley Winter Solstice.  I really, really liked it and Jay just regular liked it.  We also got to visit the Phoenix Ale Brewery, which was great.

Mountain Bike Review: Pemberton Trail, McDowell Mountain Park

Before we left Phoenix, we had the opportunity to start the new year with a great mountain bike ride on the Pemberton Trail in McDowell Mountain Park.  A few weeks ago we were asked for advice on where a beginner-intermediate rider from out of town should ride.  When I asked Jay and his dad, Morgan, they both agreed that Pemberton Trail would be the best bet.  “Pemberton Trail?  Where’s that?  Why have I never ridden it?”  Well, it turns out that it’s about an hour out of Phoenix, but having heard about this trail I really wanted to check it out.

Pemberton is a great ride for a bicyclist like me.  It is a 15 mile loop, so it is a good workout with some variety.  However, except for a tiny pitch it is not technical, so it is a good confidence builder for a rider who is moving from beginner to intermediate.

Most people access the trail from the parking lot.  You can ride it in either direction, but either way you ride it you will start with an easy flowing section and then a long steady ascent.

This video clip shows the climb.  You are rewarded for climbing by getting better and better views of the mountains and being surrounded by more Saguaros.

My favorite part of the trail was the middle section where we got to pick up speed for some gentle wash crossings and rolling hills.  The video below shows a little section of the more flowing area of trail.

What goes up must come down.  In either direction you get to end the ride with a long steady descent.  I think the direction we chose was good because the trail was very smooth and wide and we could carry a lot of speed on the way down.

I did start to bonk on the ride about 3/4 of the way through.  We were riding in the early afternoon and it was unusually hot for January 1st.  There is no shade along this trail (like most in Phoenix) so I started to get dehydrated and low blood sugar.  Even with an easier trail it’s always important to remember to take care of yourself out there and bring plenty of water and snacks.  Luckily we had both and after sipping a gu in the shade of a creosote bush I was ready to finish the ride.

McDowell Mountain Park is a great biking destination.  They’ve been adding more trail lately and now they also have a pump track.  You could spend days exploring all the different trails available.