I had a business trip to Las Vegas for a convention last week. I am not too into gambling but Las Vegas is always a fun trip regardless. I decided that while I was there I would rent a mountain bike and hit up a different trail system. I have rented twice before (I usually end up in Vegas once a year) and both times rode Red Rock Canyon, so this time I wanted to try something different. Based on reviews from MTBR I settled on Cottonwood.
I drove out to McGhie's Outpost in a little one horse town named Blue Diamond. McGhie's is a little bike shop but they have two other stores in Las Vegas. I have been to both and they are nice. The Outpost was little more than a single room building with tons of bikes hanging from the ceiling and an awesome manager, Chris. Chris not only set me up with a bike, he asked where I normally ride and what type of riding I do. That squared away he tailored a route for me - marked it on my map and showed me pics on his computer of landmarks to watch for to stay on the correct trails. Awesome! I had mentioned to him that where I normally ride there is very little elevation (average max elevation at Palos rides is 75ft, average at Imagination Glen is 40ft) so he warned me the initial 4 mile climb would be tough. I had to question that - a four mile climb???
Started out on the trail and sure enough, climb, climb and more climb. For the most part it was fairly mellow uphill, with a couple steeper sections. Nothing I could not climb, but at about mile 3 I had to stop and take a breather. Mile 4 I had to sit on a large rock for a while and ponder what would happen if I died in the desert alone - would anyone find my body or would some coyote drag it into a cave never to be seen again? I am in fairly good shape and set a realistic ride of 14 miles based on what I ride weekly. I was seriously considering throwing in the towel and turning around - after all I was feeling spent, jello legs and all and I still had 10+ miles to go! I kept telling myself to push harder and keep going, it has to be just only a little bit farther. I had almost reached my breaking point when I reached the apex. Not only did the trail start falling away from me instead of sloping gradually upwards, but I had come around the mountain and there was now a nice breeze blowing. I must not have stayed exactly on the trail I was supposed to or Chris was going by estimates and not my Garmin - it was 6 miles of climbing. 980ft of elevation change from when I put my leg over.
Once the trail pointed down it got really fun and really fast. Came to a fork in the trail while cruising 20+MPH and thanks to the photo from Chris I instantly knew which way to go. Then I remembered him saying something about the downhill after the climb being 2 miles long and then going into some nice flowy singletrack with a couple of rock gardens. Game on! I actually had to stop on the downhill and rest my hands - we do not have anything like this in the Midwest!! I hit 29MPH and I was taking it easy - I did not want to crash in the desert. That and I brushed some of the local flora with my shoulder in a corner and it bit me. It felt like someone hit me with a bullwhip. Midwest plants to not usually draw blood, this one did! Note to self - steer clear of the plants! The scenery was awesome, the trail was fun - and hitting sandy sections in a downhill rut will really wake you up (and make me wish someplace in Vegas rented Fat bikes!).
About mile 8 I ran into a couple of hikers. First other humans I had seen on the trail - I had seen several small lizards and one rabbit like thing. After the downhill the trail split several ways and I remember Chris telling me something about where I was supposed to go but my mind was drawing a blank. I started down one trail, checked my GPS vs. my map and decided I was not going the correct way. I had now gotten my second wind and was really have a great ride - the way I has headed would have cut my ride short and there is no way I was climbing that mountain again to do a second loop! I backtracked and then I saw the trail that dropped into a ravine about 20' down. I remembered that from the briefing so dropped in. It was the start of that nice flow section. It lasted for a couple miles and then I hit a couple rock gardens. GPS had me on the right path so I kept cranking away, now a big smile on my face and more worried now that the ride would be over too fast, as opposed to my way up the mountain where I could hardly wait for it to be done! About this time I come to a small climb and at the top was a map. I climbed up and started looking at the map. After I confirmed where I was, where I was headed and that I still had a bit of water left I turned to go and saw a fellow biker about 15 feet way stopped on the rise. Glad it was a biker and not a rattlesnake because I did not see him standing there at all - and I had pulled out my phone/GPS, checked my paper map vs. the sign map, opened my water bottle... :-)
Had a good chat with the guy about how great the local trail was, how we have nothing like this in Chicago (or NW Indiana). How I was not at all ready for the climb up. Very friendly guy, I forgot his name but he is a local and I met him again later at the shop when I brought back the rental bike. I was thinking I only had a couple miles left but he told me it was more like 4 or 5 back to Blue Diamond. I started off again - glad to have some more trail ahead of me than I thought. I was at mile 11 at this point so sounded about right (given my climb was a bit longer than it should have been). The last few miles rolled by with some more rock gardens, some short but steep climbs and descents. Lots of fun and by the time I got back to Blue Diamond I was ready to be done. I pushed really hard for the last couple miles, worked up a good sweat. Decided not to get into the rental so sweaty so rather than head right back I turned onto the road and did a two mile out and back cool down ride.
GPS put me at 15.4 miles on the trail. I turned it off before my road ride, I did not mean to but I was sweating and hot and out of water.
One of the best rides of my life and the best solo ride I have ever done. :-)
I highly recommend it, although it really makes me question "mountain biking" in Chicago. We do small hill or trail biking. :-)