West of Sedona, the red rocks of Mogollon Rim continue as a more dissected cliff band until the colorful Schnebly Hill Formation thins and only the yellow Coconino Sandstone remains. The last band of vibrant towers and fins sits on the north side of the Verde River, and it has looked particularly inviting each time I've been in the area. Looking at maps, the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness ends where the red rocks end, and immediately to the west sits a network of singletrack. That singletrack needed exploring.
My car sat up along the river not too far from these trails, quietly waiting to return home after my paddling trip. That provided a handy excuse to head deep into this area for another quick overnighter. Knowing full well how rocky, sandy, and overgrown these trails probably would be, I took my fatbike. It was a long ride up to the trails on a mix of pavement, rocky jeep trails, and old rail grade, but it sure was the right bike for the job once I reached my destination.
My bit of gear was packed quickly, and I soon found myself at Coyote Trick Tank, a huge drip tank. It was brim full, and I topped off my water not knowing if I'd have another opportunity to do so before the end of the day. Then I noticed something peculiar - muddy hand prints on the side of the tank. Hand prints with scratches. Claw marks. They completely encircled the tank! There must be some thirsty bears in the area!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the old trails in the area. It turns out many were closed to bikes even outside the Wilderness area. This was particularly disappointing. Most of the trails were in rather horrendous condition. I think they were only somewhat easy to follow because cattle regularly use them on their seemingly aimless wandering through the area. Catclaw tore at my legs. Prickly pears tried to stab my tires. And loose rocks churned beneath my tires.
Scattered among all the slow, painful riding were some real gems. I enjoyed these sections immensely. But in reality, I was happy with all the riding. It was new country for me: foreign views, unique geology, and some challenges I hadn't before faced. I also had the entire area to myself, not seeing a soul all day.
Late in the day, I coasted downhill to my car and loaded my bike in the back. Spring break had come to an end. My legs were spent. I had needles and thorns stuck in my legs and hands. And I had a pile of work that needed to get done on Monday. So I drove home, moving slowly even in a car, reflecting on all that could be crammed into a single week.