Please join us on our final ride in the White Mountains, this time on the Lake Mountain Spur Trail.
This ride is interesting because that thumbnail above is where we rode in the caldera of an extinct volcano! It looks innocent enough until you realize it’s also at 8500′ (2590m) and the site of former magma flows.
I mentioned in my last woefully old post that we were planning an adventure to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona. Why go there? Because the White Mountains is on my list of “special places”. In this post, we live up to that promise with a lovely diary of our adventures including Airstreaming, mountain biking and camping.
I’m sure by now it’s come through I deeply miss traveling full-time in the silver tube, but there is one benefit to living in sticks & bricks – those brief opportunities to escape the bonds of careerdom are even sweeter when the diesel motor is roaring and the horizon is ahead.
And so it is.
As the kiddos head back to school, the sun sits lower in the sky and mother nature is about to release her triple-digit grip on the valley Fred and I embarked on a multi-day adventure to the high country.
We were equipped with a gaggle of new technology, including a GoPro Hero 6 and more suction cup camera mounts than an octopus. We made our way into the wilderness to do some serious dispersed camping and to review no less than three mountain bike trails.
To get there we pass through Payson, up the Mogollon Rim, though Show Low, then Pinetop and finally to Los Burros Campground.
See It! Live It! YouTube It!
For the visually oriented you can see part one of our adventure at our YouTube channel here! And then continue reading on below for a written account of how Fred almost got eaten by a bear.
Ok, Fred wasn’t almost eaten by a bear, but you will see some nice pictures and a dachshund in the woods, what could be better than that?
Phoenix to Payson
Our stop in Payson usually includes a quick bite at Sonic.
And a quick adjustment of the GoPro hanging off the back of the Doxi Bus.
The Mogollon Rim
Immediately outside Payson the drive then takes us up “the wall”, or more correctly the Mogollon Rim. This rift is a violent uplift that runs east to west splitting Arizona essentially in north and south halves. Any drive north in Arizona, therefore, ultimately climbs up this jaw-dropping terrain.
At the Mogollon Rim visitors center you can look out over the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. When I think of Arizona this is where my mind goes.
Booking Los Burros
After gorging ourselves on photos we moved on, passing through Show Low then Pinetop and ultimately into the far eastern arm of the national forest’s Los Burros Campground. As for booking reservations at Los Burros, I’m kidding. Where we’re going we don’t need reservations – Los Burros is free!
For amenities, this campground has a vault toilet.
In exchange for this sparsity, though, you get unbelievable views of flower filled meadows, giant trees and blue sky.
Sites are first-come-first-served and there isn’t any running water or trash pickup. You pack everything in and pack everything out. It also happens Los Burros forms the trailhead for the Los Burros Loop, one of the best trails we rode up there.
Finding Los Burros completely full is uncommon but we arrived close to Labor Day and the campground was full, so we were forced (aka thrilled) to do some dispersed camping along one of the many fire roads in the area. We landed only a quarter mile away in a lovely aspen grove.
Does it get any better than this?
Ginger doesn’t think so.
Amenities & Activities
Stuff Not Mountain Biking
Close to Los Burros there are a number of small towns, a casino and an interesting watch tower used by the forest service during high risk months for spotting smoke.
You can even pop into New Mexico with a fairly short drive. But make no mistake, Fred and I were here to mountain bike so that’s what we did!
I’m going to come at you soon with more detailed reviews of each of these trails but Fred and I rode three different loops over three days and here’s a primer.
Los Burros Loop
The Los Burros Loop was the most aggressive ride of the trip topping out at 1,900′ (580m) climbing and 13 miles (21km) distance.
This trail consists of highly volcanic sharp single track…
And epic stretches of aspen and pine.
Land of the Pioneers
Land of the Pioneers was less aggressive at 688′ (209m) 9 miles (14.5km). There’s a story to tell about this ride but I shall hold that until my next post.
Lake Mountain Loop
The Lake Mountain Loop was a ‘make your own adventure’ ride as I call them but lets just say to get up there it involved some walking.
Anyhoo, how many time do you get to go into an old volcano caldera? Well that’s what the loop is, a trail around a volcano!
No smoke or lava here, though – just lush greenery.
Ok, you knew it was coming. Flower time! With all the rain this season there were more flowers and greenery that I’ve ever seen here so I must share.
Ok not flowers, but mushroom can be kinda cute?
And … fern type things…
What Could Go Wrong
It had to happen I suppose. After a pretty good run with the Airstream she decided to get a little grumpy. Maybe she’s telling me she doesn’t get to go out enough?
The first night at our sweet sweet location we discovered the furnace wasn’t working. This wasn’t entirely fatal as we did have the generator and the heat pumps worked fine, but that’s only when the generator was running which usually isn’t overnight. That made for a couple of mildly uncomfortable sleeps but not unbearable. The ultimate diagnosis? A failed limit switch.
Bad Bed Mojo
The first night at our sweet sweet location I went to roll out the guest bed which cleverly lies under the front sofa and literally ripped the decorative fascia off with my hands. Examining the wreckage I could see the stupidity of the design: The panel is held on by three small wood screws that are a) too shallow so as to prevent poking though the decorative laminate and b) prone to self-releasing in the continuous shock and vibration environment the trailer offers.
The obvious solution was to draw three #8 machine screws through the front of the fascia and affix them to the aluminum bed frame with lock washers and nuts then cap the machine screw heads with the same white button covers as are used in ten thousand other places in the trailer.
To Be Continued…
Fred and I kind of lost our mind on this trip, we have three more videos on the way as we review each trail we rode. It sure wore Ginger out.
In the meantime take this away with you, the White Mountains are awesome, and should you have the opportunity go there!
Please join us and enjoy our 10th YouTube episode as we share a detailed exterior walk-through of our 2016 Airstream International Serenity 30′! We’ve been waiting months to make this video and it’s finally here!
And yes, if you were wondering, this video is different. After living in this Airstream for over a year we have many observations to share, so unlike many Airstream aficionados we’re not shy about pointing out where the Airstream falls short. We hope that after watching this video not only will you come away as much of an Airstream enthusiast as we are, but also a realist about what to expect from these metal monsters.
And fear not, we’re following this video up next week with an interior walk-through that offers even more detail.
Please join us for our 9th YouTube episode, E1.9 Airstream of Scottsdale Full Model Tour. In this video we go full geek-out mode and take a tour of the full range of Airstream Travel Trailers starting at the very top with the Airstream Classic and winding up at the end with the Airstream Basecamp.
It’s 4th of July weekend and time to Airstream again! For the next few days we’re up here at Prescott’s White Spar Campground. We already did an extensive review of this area here, so instead we’re using this time to blog about what’s new – in this case, more mountain biking!
The Wolverton Mountain Trail is rated as a blue-black and after comparing notes on the ride we agree with this rating.
This 10-mile (16km) out-and-back begins across from the campground and immediately slaps you in the face with aggressive sustained climbing that meanders anywhere between 5% and 10%.
I think the trail might be better named “Touched by Fire”, though. The climb takes you through dense scrub and evidence of a terrible forest fire sometime in the past.
One thing that caught us off guard climbing here was the exposure – there is so little foliage, and so much dead-fall, the temperatures already hit low 90s (33C) by 9AM.
By the end of the ride we’d both worked our way through most of our water.
The climb consists of moderately technical surface though much of the trail is steep off-camber single-track and crushed rock like this. It never occurred to me why the campground was named “White Spar” but it turns out the term “spar” refers to any bright crystalline substance.
We only made it 4mi (6.4km) in before turning back, the altitude and heat was getting to us.
On the descent you are greeted with an extraordinary view; San Francisco Peaks visible in the distance.
Also we took some time to smell the flowers.
And… enormous private telescopes?
We’ll absolutely ride Wolverton Mountain Trail again, probably on Tuesday. By then we should be adjusted to the altitude and we’ll head out a little earlier. Seen you soon with more Airstream updates!
My heart is heavy as we are now back in Phoenix….and therefore, not Moab. As I work my way back into my professional life, it occurs to me there are a few additional thoughts to share about Moab from previous trips, so enjoy some random musings.
What’s In a Name
I find it totally fitting that even the name Moab is somewhat mysterious. For me the Paiute origin story, referring to the word moapa, meaning “mosquito”, has the most resonance. Still if Moab was instead named Vina or Uvadalia I suspect it would have exactly the same energy and feel.
But keep in mind – all of Moab and surrounding area is amazing. Do you really need to pay for it, when everything is amazing? For example, drive up Utah 128 from Moab to Interstate 70 along the Colorado River, it’ll blow your mind. Or, Utah 313 to Dead Horse Point. I happen to find the drive through Canyonlands more rewarding, and the view at the point equal to the task (though yes you do have to pay for that too). Or for free you can ride the Zephyr trail (mentioned later) that crosses into the north end of the park.
Still, we stayed in Arches one time (see the featured image) because, well, everyone said it was the thing to do. The park has essentially one road that you can drive for an out-and-back, at the low low fee of $25, or, you can pay the low-low fee of $25, drag your trailer all the way to the end of the 28mi (45km) road and maybe get a camping spot.
A year ago we made a point to get to the park early and found the front gate can’t (or won’t) tell you whether the campground is full, so we paid the stupid fee and drove the 28mi (45km) and we discovered that almost no sites fit the Airstream, and ones that did were occupied. You can’t mountain bike the park, you can’t take your dogs out anywhere except on the streets & campground and cell coverage is terrible.
Despite these setbacks the campground host took pity on us and offered us a one-night stay in the host’s spot because they were staying in the ranger’s cabin. For this we are profoundly grateful, but my take on Arches National Park is that the park is pretty cool but the fee is outrageous for what you get.
Mountain Biking Pipe Dream
Pipe Dream is a blue/black trail that runs directly along the western edge of town. I found this trail more black than blue so I never got any zen here owing to the habitual dabbing and dismounts. I can still see it being a handy go-to trail if you lived in Moab as an excellent “work on your skills” destination.
Mountain Biking Zephyr
Zephyr is considered more of a connector than a destination trail, but nevertheless we rode it once to see what’s there.
The oddity about this trail is is crosses briefly into Arches National Park for free, and it offers some truly heart-stopping landscapes such as these. Though this looks like an undulating landscape of routine slickrock, look closer and you’ll notice the beginnings of a verdant canyon filled with water, green trees and birds. Though the trail itself was, for me, entirely forgettable the “Planet of the Apes” like scenery absolutely made it worthwhile.
La Sal Mountain Range
The La Sal mountains just blow my mind. I just can’t get over the juxtaposition of looking up at the mountains and seeing snow when it’s 100° F (38° C) in the canyons.
Also I don’t know why this amazes me, by the La Sals are considered part of the Rocky Mountains and a source of Uranium.
Fred and I rode The Whole Enchilada a couple years ago, which starts high up in a snowy aspen grove and bottoms out on the Colorado river. We caught a shuttle from the previously mentioned Poison Spider Bicycles, but honestly, the shuttle should go two hours earlier – it was hot as hell and I wound up with early signs of heat stroke at the end of the ride.
Overall we both found the ride a little too extreme for our sensibilities, and agreed that the Porcupine Rim portion of the ride was the most enjoyable and least deathy. The final segment down to the river, though, was way more than either of us would do again.
Still, it is pretty amazing to start a ride in snow and wind up over 100°!
I forgot to mention Milt’s Stop N’ Eat in our previous blogs. Milt’s is a kitschy actual 50’s era diner located on Moab’s former main drag. They serve exactly the right food for after mountain biking including delicious burgers and yummy salty fries. We highly recommend the experience, though sadly they’re closed Mondays.
But Emily, you didn’t mention the most Moab of all Moab mountain bike trails, Slickrock!
I’d have some pictures for you if my crappy Buffalo NAS hadn’t taken them to the briny deep, but I’ll commit heresy here: We didn’t like Slickrock.
Stone ● Cold ● Silence
Here’s why – the trail is blue/black. Fred and I tried Slickrock a few years ago really before we should have. Specifically, Slickrock is steep – like 100% grade steep. That requires massive fitness, and we found we just didn’t have it at the time. And fitness is important when you’re pumping your way up this massive incline with your eyeballs exploding out your face and there’s just no place to bail. If you stop your’re sliding to god knows where.
Someday we’ll do it again, especially now that we have the fitness and the skills. But I still remember it, and I suspect I’ll like Klondike Bluffs better (gasp). We’ll see!
And that, my friends, is what Moab is all about. There’s always more to come back for and great stories to tell (someday ask me about Magnificent 7 and almost dying in a Uranium tornado).