The weekend I arrived in Flagstaff just happened to be when my hometown holds its major festival so for the first time on this trip I was feeling just a touch homesick. Luckily though Flagstaff has a festival that somehow managed to exceed the wonderful weirdness of my hometown festival. I say exceed because unlike Flag my hometown doesn’t have a bike parade! Before the festival gates opened hundreds of people (including yours truly) bike through closed streets in costume. I almost missed this awesome event though because I was thoroughly distracted on a bike tour!
The Flagstaff Urban Trail system or FUTS currently stands at about 50 miles of designated bike paths throughout the city with plans to expand by another 80 miles in the next few years. The paths wind through a variety of environments everywhere from the park that follows the river through the downtown core to the strip mall esque area out by the highway. While the latter might not be particularly scenic it is FUTS combination of utility and recreation that make it such a community asset.
Speaking of recreation though, FUTS intersects the Arizona National Scenic Trail which runs almost 800 miles from the Mexican border through Utah. This is just one of the many outdoor recreation attractions that Flagstaff possess though and is somehow not the most impressive. After all it is very difficult to compete with the Grand Canyon which sits just a short train ride north on the Grand Canyon Railway.
I somehow was lucky enough to have the time in my schedule to visit this totally amazing park though I unfortunately had to leave Stevie in Flagstaff. Luckily (for me and you) Bright Angel Bikes Is a company in the Grand Canyon which makes sure that if you’re interested you’ll never be without a bike for the time you’re there. Specializing in both bike tours and rentals they might be one of the coolest places to visit on the south rim (not just because they carry some pretty amazing snack food) but because they are really great people. That being said I might be biased because I spent a lot of time with them and took advantage of both their tours and bike rental.
The tour was great for a couple of reasons. First off it covered everything from the biological diversity to the daredevil history of the Grand Canyon. Secondly it was low key enough that I could see anyone really enjoying it as it is designed to be as approachable as possible. Finally, Matt and Aaron (my tour guides) were not just knowledgeable but incredibly passionate about the Canyon and the work they do for it. They were also just great sports and put up with my endless array of questions and requests for photos.
After the tour I rented a bike which was great not just because they are incredibly useful for getting around the south rim; but because banking into a turn with the desert to one side and the canyon to the other is really not describable. I don’t know if I have ever felt so alive, and its not because I am an adrenaline junky (I promise I hate heights) its just an obscenely beautiful place.
As amazing as riding the rim was though, I don’t know if it compares to descending below it. I had originally planned to descend part of the South Kaibab trial alone but because of an excessive heat warning, Matt from Bright Angel Bikes agreed to go with me. That turned out to be a very good move because I ran in to a bit of trouble on the way out. It was nothing serious but I definitely wasn’t carrying enough water and got very cocky on the descent making the hike out significantly more painful than it needed to be. Moral of that story? The canyon is so big because it eats everyone’s ego’s. Listen to every park service warning and remember that it is not a park in the traditional sense. It is an amazing totally irreplaceable experience however in order to maximize what you get out of it you definitely need to take the canyon and all its risks seriously.
I don’t know what to say except I was in Arizona in 120 degree heat and I want to go back. I guess that says more than anything else