I live in the mountain bike heaven of Flagstaff, AZ. A little ways down the road is buff singletrack that winds through Ponderosa forests. The Arizona Trail is just up the hill and the red rock biking of Sedona is not too far. I love to ride. But I don’t ride often enough, and I don’t ride fast. Several years ago I was introduced to bikepacking. What an incredible idea! It combines two of my favorite ways to spend time, mountain biking and backpacking into one amazing activity. I soon found my way to Bikepacking.net and discovered that one of the signature routes was right out my back door…the CocoMingoBob. Two hundred and forty miles of mountain and desert riding. I read more – Chad Brown and Scott Morris had posted the route. Mike Curiak posted a wonderful slide show, and I knew some of the trails around Flagstaff. The fast guys rode the loop in four days or less. They race the loop (now referred to as the Coconino 250) every fall. Maybe I could do it in six days? Three years ago I gave it a try, and failed miserably. I was too slow, I was too heavy, not my gear…me. I was exhausted. I made it to Cottonwood, Arizona and had to be rescued by one of my boys. But I don’t give up easy. I tried again the next fall yet failed for other non-biking reasons. The fall of 2014 seemed like a good shot. I got 8 days off of work, so it was time to take the maps out. The route works pretty well for a slow rider, with good camping that is evenly spaced. Water is a problem, but not insurmountable. Below is a brief day by day summery of my trip(s)

Day 1 – Arizona Trail

Coconino 250: A Slow Ride
Fischer Point
Schultz Creek Trail Head to Dairy Springs Campground (29 miles). I got a late start as the paperwork seems to never end, but I had a great day of riding overall. Rocky Ridge makes you work right out of the gate. Fischer Point always makes me smile. Such a beautiful place right outside of Flagstaff.  The climb out of Skunk Canyon required lots of pushing. Anderson Mesa is always a challenge, but this year the wind was not bad and the trail was dry. I arrived into camp way too late.

Day 2 – Arizona Trail

Coconino 250: A Slow Ride
Schnebly Sunset
Dairy Springs to Munds Road, Forest Service (FS) roads to the top of Schnebly Hill (22 miles). The Arizona Trail from Lake Mary Road to Munds-Mormon Lake is a joy, contouring Mormon Mountain. My friend Keith joined me. We traveled FS roads to an open country camp off Schnebly Hill Road looking out across Sedona to the Verde Valley and Mingus Mountain. There was a spectacular sunset as we watched the storm come in. No water, but there is water at the ADOT work yard just off I-17. Fill up.

Day 3 – Sedona Singletrack

A storm came in. The rain and tornado warnings got me pulled from the trail for a day and I had to resume from Cottonwood, so Day 3 happened two months later… Schnebly Hill to Redrock State Park; Lime Kiln Trail to Dead Horse Ranch State Park (35 miles). The Munds Wagon Road gets me every time. This year was no exception as I went over the bars, but no injuries. The rest of the riding is awesome slick rock country with technical, fun trails.
Sedona Singletrack
Classic Sedona
The Lime Kiln Trail is tough. Rocky and steep in east, too much sand in the west. It would be good fat bike country. The final two miles are wonderful coming in to Dead Horse Ranch, even in the dark. Good camping with water, but make reservations! For meat eaters there is great barbecue at Hog Wild just out of the park and coffee at Crema on the way out to Mingus Mountain.

Day 4 – Mingus Mountain

I started up FS roads to the top of Mingus Mountain (14 miles). Climbing all day and into the night. I took the “Mingus Bypass,” but I still had to push a lot. There were some beautiful views that night and the following morning.
Coconino 250: A Slow Ride
Cottonwood from Mingus view at night.
Coconino 250: A Slow RIde
Cottonwood from Mingus view in the morning.

Day 5 – Mingus and Yeager

There is no water at the Mingus Mountain Campground, so I rode unloaded for about five miles to the Potato Patch Campground for water. I filled up and headed back to camp for breakfast. I then took the Yeager singletrack down Mingus, then private and FS roads to the Verde River at Perkinsville (32 miles). The Yeager singletrack is wonderful with a fun descent. 6Yeager Single Track, Mingus MountainNot too technical, but you have to pay attention. The roads on the western flank of Mingus Mountain were long and lonely. There are some incredible views of the upper Verde Valley to Sycamore Canyon. The bugs were bad and they pushed me up the Perkinsville Road a couple of miles. Sycamore Canyon Red Rocks

Day 6 – Verde to Williams

Perkinsville Road and FS roads (30 miles) – This day crushed me. The climb isn’t as steep as Mingus, but it seems to go forever. Camping away from the river meant less water on the way up. Trail angels on ATVs gave me a half liter. The storm a few days earlier had left some running streams once I finally got into the Ponderosa forest, so I was able to filter more. I passed on climbing Bill Williams Mountain. My awe of the endurance racers grew more. Once again riding in the dark. My wife met me for a night camping. Thank you honeybunch, you lifted my spirits!

Day 7 – Williams to Wing Mountain

Coconino 250: A Slow Ride
Pomeroy Tanks
Sycamore Rim, FS roads (44 miles) – First day of hunting season! I was wearing my red jersey and bandana. My wife brought water, but Dog Town Lake would have been a good source. There were still lots of streams flowing from the storm. The Pomeroy Tanks and Paradise Forks of Sycamore Canyon are really beautiful . Tough, rocky riding, but worth it. More water at the Parks Feed and Mercantile Store. Open country camping is available on the flank of Wing Mountain.

Day 8 – Wing Mountain to Home

Wing Mountain Moto Trails to Hart Prairie Road to Bismark Lake to the Arizona Trail to home (22 miles). The Moto trails were fun and Hart Prairie road was busy. A late afternoon meeting (dang it!) prompted the cut off at Bismark Lake. I had hoped to get to FS 418 to catch more Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail from 418 to Snowbowl and then back down to Schultz Creek is a joy to ride. Smooth, twisty and great views. A wonderful way to end an epic ride! 10Arizona Trail Aspens Many thanks and much love to my wife for letting me go, camping with me and all the rescues over the years. Thanks to Flag Bike Revolution for fixing my derailleur and front brake on the rain day. Thanks to Keith for riding with me. For point to point details, altitude changes and GPS check www.bikepacking.net and Arizona Endurance Series description.

The Gear

coconino 250: a slow ride
My BIke!
Turner Sultan, well equipped. Porcelain Rocket Handle Bar, Cockpit, Frame and Seat Packs. Bedrock Packs Honnaker Hydro-Pak. Ergon BC-3 backpack. Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 SL, BA Hart Mountain sleeping bag and pad. Optimus stove. Backcountry Pantry (Vegan!) Dinners, Oatmeal, Justin’s Maple Almond Butter and Mayan Wonder Bars. DISCLAIMER – The Coconino 250 is a hard ride. It is long and in many places quite technical. In places it is very remote. It’s Arizona. It could be hot as hell or snowing. Late September weather is a fair bet. I rode the majority of the ride alone. Most (including me talking to other people) would say that is a dumb idea. If I hadn’t met trail angels heading up to Williams I would have been in trouble. Three riders is a much better number. Know your gear and how to fix it. Be ready for rough country. I usually carried 4 liters of water (when you’re slow you go through more water and food). My food was up in a tree most nights to discourage bears. Carry a Spot or other Personal Locator Beacon.

One Comment

  1. michael ackerman

    Wow- Way to perserve Tod! Going back time an again is very tough mentally- you sir, earned it. Your story is an inspiring tale of getting it done. Thanks for sharing!

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