Day two of the Sedona trip started off real leisurely with a respectable wake up time and a casual breakfast as we were not meeting the Over The Edge crowd until around 11AM.
The group ended up running a little behind schedule and Bryce from St. George got into town early, so we entertained ourselves at the trailhead with a bit of “Coon Hucking”.
I wanted to shoot some video today, but I have not completed my new helmet cam setup for my XC helmet, the only thing I had setup was my full-face rig. I was also not interested in carrying two helmets with me, one for videoing and one for climbing/non videoing. Since it was quite cool to brisk out, I decided to just do the ride with the full-face ride.
Once everyone arrived, we soon started off on the Munds Wagon Trail which was a pretty nice climb mostly following along a creek drainage. It did not take long to realize that the full-face helmet was not a good choice. The slow speed of the climb was not venting the helmet well and I was often rebreathing a portion of my own “dirty” CO2 rich exhales. This sorta sucked and I soon myself hanging near the tailend of this large and extremely talented group of riders.
We eventually worked our way up to the Damifino trail for a bit of slickrock climbing and some occasionally exposure. At the top of the saddle on Damifino (Mitten Ridge Saddle) we had a nice regroup and bit of lunch and some hangout time before hitting up the Hangover Trail. Hangover is a pretty new trail, and while neither on the maps nor fully “in the fold” of the official trail system, the cat is certainly out of the bag and the officials know about it.
This a pretty freaking amazing trail that is etched into a small ribbon of dirt high up on one of the monuments in the Sedona Valley. It gets its name from the signature rocks that hangover the trail in numerous spots. Some of them force you to crotch way down and use a little body English to clear them.
One of these such hangovers gave me a real life “Over The Edge” moment. The left end of my handlebar was going to clip an inside rock. Now this did not look like a particularly exposed section as there were bushes to my right. I went into a trackstand to see if I could figure out a way to get around it and decided to put a foot down. I even looked where my foot was going to go. I put my foot down and all of the sudden the outer six inches of the trail crumbles underneath me. I tip over into the bushes and go right through them! At this point, everything went into that freaky “I’m so screwed” slow motion. As I go through the bushes an expansive view suddenly opens up in front and below me. The narrow strip of vegetation that this trail was built on was ending within a few feet. Below that were hundreds of vertical feet of the gorgeous red and white banded slickrock which is part of what makes Sedona such an incredible place. However, at this particularly moment in time, I can assure you that this is not the preferred viewing angle of these formations. In those brief microseconds I could see that the slope was moderate for the first 30 feet but after that, things get quite steep.
If I started tumbling this was going to end somewhere between bad and lethal. It was at this point that I believe my brain went into full survival mode and what happened next I contribute to instinctual DNA programming and not really any high-level cognitive process on “my” part. I remembered a moment when my butt was on the ground, my back to the down slope, and my legs going up in the air. I grabbed at the brush, then dirt, then clumps of then the most incredible desert scrub grass that I have ever had the pleasure of touching that arrested the start of a tumble and somehow allowed me to get fully prone. My final position had everything above my armpits on the grass and dirt, while everything else was on the rock below. I was quite thankful for the extra belly chub that I can’t seem to loose as it was a good source of friction on the rock. I could also feel my bike laying on my left leg. I certainly did not want to move that leg as I’m sure that once that bike got going it was not going to stop. The full-face helmet also came in handy here as I had wedged the chin portion into it into the dirt to provide a little more resistance to the pull of gravity that I could so intensely feel now. I was stopped now and I was quite content to hold my own and not move as I knew folks were behind me. Within seconds I could hear Jason, Quentin and others screaming and heading my way. I was afraid that if they rushed to yank me up, they would dislodge my bike laying on my leg and send it sliding away, so in true MTB Addict fashion, I told them to get my bike before me. (The pictures would later show they the bike was in much less danger of sliding away than I thought at the time) Soon there were hands and arms pushing and pulling on me to get me back up onto the trail. When the first person went to pull me up, it took a couple of “manual override” mental commands to convince my hands to physically let go of the grass that I was clinging to. Once back up on the trail and looking down at where I had been I realized I could have climbed back up on my own, but in that moment while face down into the dirt, I was happy to wait for help. One thing is for certain, I cashed in a truckload of Karma Points with this one.
After a couple of hoots and hollers at the sheer joy of being alive, we were back to riding. Before long I realized that my front tire had gotten whacked by a cactus during the fall and the sealant could not take care of everything. So I stopped at top of a large steep slickrock section to pick out the thorns and put in a tube. Kevin hung back with me, while I spent a good 20 minutes getting the dozen plus cactus needles out. The rest of the group waited at the last saddle a good chunk of time before running on ahead. I think most people talk about loosing of some “Mojo” after an incident on the bike, but for some reason the opposite occurred today. Maybe it was joy that comes from cheating death relatively unscathed or just plain stupidity, but I had a great ride down the rest of hangover and straight up flew down the Munds trails back to the trailhead. We arrived back just a couple of minutes after the rest of the group got there.
The rest of the evening would be spent enjoying pizza, yummy beers, and hanging out in a stupidly huge hot tub built for about 50. While chilling in the hot tube I discovered that I too had gotten whacked by a cactus during the fall. I ended up picking out about 15 needles from my leg. A small price to pay indeed. It is good to be alive!