The Northern Arizona post-dusk sky was glowing in a dark shade of bombastic dark blue as it fought to transition into a light shade of black. A pack of coyotes yiped, yaped and howled in the distance. There may have even been a Nighthawk screeching in protest over the commotion. I had just rode some of the best singletrack ever and was now sitting in a camp chair in this half-dark mix. Pleased with the moment yet ready to find my tent and sleep, hungry with eagerness to start riding again the next day while in a semi-trance as all this unfolded before my eyes and ears.
We had found a nice, secluded, dispersed camping spot at the end of a perfect trail in Prescott, Arizona, on the second night of a 5 day, 4 night guided trip last October. There was no campfire, just the shining night sky reflecting off the high desert dirt among the silently still Ponderosa pines and alligator junipers as nature’s evening drama unfolded.
We didn’t need that campfire
Mars was glowing red, Jupiter and Saturn paired up, fighting for attention with Orion, The Perseus Arm and the rest of the Milky Way. A stunning cap to an amazing, warm October day on a perfect mountain bike ride at 5,000 feet.
Why was I here? Prescott, Arizona, is the newest trip for Western Spirit, conceived by guides Natalie and Willie and utilizing much of the famous Prescott Circle Trail loop. This married couple has deep ties to this old western cowboy community and an explosive knowledge of its amazing trail network. Natalie grew up in Prescott so by proxy Willie has become a local of sorts as well when they’re not on the road leading other adventures with Western Spirit throughout the year.
As we sat the next morning at 6 a.m. in the chilly morning air that was preparing to give way to a warm if not summery October day’s ride towards a stunning lake, the smell of freshly brewed coffee swept through the campsite and a selection of breakfast treats were waiting before the main course. In this quiet time I asked the couple about this new trip.
Natalie and Willie dreamed of a true point-to-point ride to call their own at home. As a bit of background, Western Spirit is very adamant about riding into camp at every location. Sometimes that includes a mid-ride, after lunch shuttle to make it happen. Not in Prescott, the pair knew just how to make it a completely shuttle-free trip (save for a 20-minute van ride to the very start of day one from the initial meeting location) thanks to the vast network of spider webbing singletrack that surrounds, weaves and intersects through this entire mountain destination.
Generally, it takes about two years from idea to action for a new trip of this caliber to be born, every piece of the puzzle has to be approved by forest management and local ordinances related to routes, attendee numbers and camping locations. And then, if there are any stops in state forest campgrounds those need to be reserved at least six months in advance. It takes a lot of work and fees before it even starts.
Our group met at a downtown hotel for an 8 a.m. start on day one. The van loaded up for the above-mentioned one-time shuttle to keep us off a major highway to the first trail head. That was the last time we got in the van, doing a full circle from Lynx Lake to Thumb Butte and then back into downtown five days later. It was all singletrack riding right into the next campsite every day for a “home cooked” dinner and then waking up in the morning to fresh coffee, the best breakfast ever and then back onto the trail network. As mentioned, our guides and route designers were very specific that they wanted a true point-to-point trip with no shuttling and they succeeded far beyond expectations.
One of the neat things about this kind of trip is that you can show up solo (as I did) and have a great time riding bikes with like minded folks. Sure, we were all kinda quiet on the first morning but as soon as that first ride was done and the beers cracked open stories started flowing and we were just a group of riders out having fun every day, talking crap, waking up, riding bikes and having fun like we’ve known each other forever. After all, isn’t that what riding choice singletrack and sleeping in a tent under the stars for a week with new friends is all about?
Just don’t forget Bocche Ball.
Western Spirit has new 2021 Prescott trips, as well as a vast collection of other locations planned with all COVID safety precautions in place for this year. After all, isn’t being out in the open air away from civilization on a bicycle the best way to get that vacation in? Check their website for all the info on upcoming trips.
The best sort of ‘independence’ is independent wealth. Since we don’t have that, in order to maintain our independence from the undue influence of advertisers and would-be ‘influencers,’ we need you to subscribe. For the price of a latte per month, you can keep us rolling.