Mountain biking in Payson, AZ


Today we wanted something a little different. The dirt bikes were still dirty, and it was too hot to want to ride back into town on a road or dual sport motorcycle at 5 o’clock in 113° heat. We settled on mountain biking, something a little different, and chose the Houston Mesa loop in Payson. We loaded the bikes on Hal’s car, and we were on our way.

Oddly, when we started out, it was very hazy as we approached the McDowell Mountains:

“Oh, it’s just dust,” said Hal.

We had a dust storm last night (Saturday), and I thought that might be a plausible explanation.

But Four Peaks was nearly invisible:

We didn’t know then, but later we would find out it was smoke from a wildfire in Tonto National Forest that drew a veil over the valleys and mountains that we see on the way up to Payson.

We went to Crosswinds Restaurant in Payson, our favorite. Today, though, they served homemade muffins with breakfast. The blueberry muffin that I had was the best I’ve ever eaten, probably the best in the whole world! Crosswinds’ breakfasts are always great, but this was beyond even that.

Off to a good start, we drove up the road to Houston Mesa trailhead. It didn’t take me any time at all to get ready. Hal shot this photo of me as I was waiting for him to get ready. I should explain that “Foxy” on the “do rag” under my helmet to me means part of the Fox protective gear that I am wearing! When I pull the helmet down where it belongs, you can’t really see it. I like this particular do-rag, though, because it is thin and breathable, almost the consistency of gauze. Plus, it keeps the sweat out of my eyes.

As I always say, this is my sport, mountain biking. I love it and I’ve done it for a long time. I hope I can do it forever. Soon we got going on the Houston Mesa trail, which was supposed to be a loop of about 3.6 miles. The terrain was fairly flat, but there were a few short steep climbs.

I found this very cool rock formation about two miles in, and got out my little point-and-shoot Canon camera to take the photos.

Rocks rock! (I love geology!!)

I thought this was an interesting sign:

We kept going, now we were descending. I love flying downhill, but soon it became evident to me that the loop was going to be much more than 3.6 miles long. We kept going, though, and when we came to a steep rocky climb, I went down, slowly at first so I could choose my line, but then I saw the run-out was good, so I flew the rest of the way down. When I got to the bottom, a deer leaped across the trail in front of me! She was gone instantly.

When I looked to my left, I saw a big climb. As I waited for Hal to catch up, two guys roared by on dirt bikes! Hey! If I’d known I could bring a dirt bike here, I probably would have! That made me think that I want to do that, and soon! It will be great practice because I am not as good on the dirt bike as I am on the mountain bike.

I started up the climb. I was amazed that my legs felt as good as I did, especially since I am not in great shape for mountain biking, I haven’t ridden out on the trails for several months (too much heat), but I felt strong. My legs felt like they had some power in them, and that made me feel happy.

Hal was having a hard time at this point, pushing it up the steep, rocky climb:

At the top, there was this sign:

Hmm. Which direction should we take? We chose the north route. After a couple of miles, I realized that Hal was falling behind, and when he caught up, he said he was “done.” This was bad because we were nowhere near getting back to the car. We decided to go back to where the trail divided, and see if there was an easier route. I was hoping to find a paved road so it would be easier for Hal to ride, and after looking around a little bit, we saw a trail that appeared to lead back to a neighborhood that backed up to the forest land. Luckily, it did, and soon we were pedaling on pavement.

Eventually we made our way to Hwy. 260, where we had to climb on the road to Tyler Parkway, which we rode north and west to get back to Hwy. 87. About a quarter of a mile north, we got back to Houston Mesa Rd., and soon after that, we were back at the car. The last part of the ride had been a little worrisome, but we’d made it. We peeled our sweaty gear off, got in the car, and made a “beeline” down the Beeline to the first available Circle K. We were very low on water by the time we finished, and despite the big breakfast we’d had at Crosswinds, we were low on fuel as well.

We stopped at a Circle K to replenish:

We felt better after the bananas, water and Gatorade, so we headed “down the hill” toward Phoenix. To my surprise, by the time we were headed into the first turns toward Rye, I saw the smoke of a wildfire in the distance!

Evidence of the fire – a thick white column of smoke:

Then it dawned on me that the smoke was what had been making things so hazy all day. As Hal drove, I looked up at the clouds of storms forming in the west. The clouds were tinged dusky  copper-orange by the thin layer of smoke and were eerily beautiful. I couldn’t resist shooting several photos because I love clouds so much, and these were unique.

Eerily beautiful clouds:

Storm clouds building to the west:

Alas, the clouds did not follow us home as they did two weeks ago when we returned from the Alpine/Hannagan Meadow area, so we descended into heat of about 113° F. No wonder we didn’t want to ride into it. I appreciated being in the air conditioned car!

Soon, I was home and the bike unloaded. My legs were tired, but I felt great. I still feel great hours later, and I know I will sleep deeply and contentedly, dreaming of my next ride!

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One thought on “Mountain biking in Payson, AZ

  1. I must have a psychic connection with Hal because I’m tired just reading about him being tired.
    POTD: A tie between Rocks rock (that looks like a challenging uphill ride) and the first eerily beautiful clouds shot (shadow + clouds + smoke + sun makes it look really interesting).

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