Simmons & Co riding the Black Canyon Trail on the new Sherpa
The Black Canyon Trail – Words by Wade Simmons. Photography by Margus Riga.
For some, adventure is defined by harrowing near-death experiences. For me, having the
intent to adventure is what defines it—even just getting away from civilization for a short
while. And with that in mind we organized a trip to Arizona’s Sonoran Desert for an overland
bikepacking trip early this spring: three self-supported days on the Black Canyon Trail’s 80
miles of secluded singletrack.
The roll-call included Olympian Andreas Hestler, shiny new tattooed freerider Geoff
Gulevich, renowned filmmaker Brian Vernor, Rocky Mountain product guy Alex Cogger, and
washed up old freerider Yours Truly. Our first goal was to escape the Pacific Northwest’s
winter weather, and our second goal was to test Alex’s fancy new bike design.
We fumbled with our gear for hours in the parking lot of a Prescott motel the night before
departure, packing and re-packing, adding and discarding. Ultimately we probably did pack
too heavy, but there are the necessities of course: coffee, chocolate, down, wool, and
whisky. Fully loaded, our steeds probably tipped the scales at 45+ lbs, and I was less and less
sure that this was going to be fun.
There was something liberating in the first few pedal strokes that next morning leaving our
drop-off zone, an innocent abandon of responsibility and order that comes with an
uncertain weather forecast and only a vague itinerary. Fortunately, the overland bikes
performed just as Alex had promised. It was evident in those first few miles that having our
houses and kitchens packed along with us wasn’t going to keep us from having fun. It might
have been the combination of increased overall mass and over-sized tires, but whatever it
was we were having a blast absolutely ripping up the desert terrain on these fully loaded
pack-horses—skids, drifts, airs, and all.
The Black Canyon Trail runs roughly 80 miles North to South. Beginning on a high plateau, it
winds through rolling grasslands before descending into a landscape of Saguaros, Chollas,
and other Sonoran Desert flora. We were treated to chilly nights and frosty desert mornings,
but once that sun rose, layers were peeled and we had to contend with the steady,
relentless heat of the day. The landscape we encountered was fully alien to us, full of
incredibly beautiful things just waiting to stab you the moment you stray from the trail.
Between the bullet-holes in everything and the buck-naked rider we ran into on day three, it
was clear this trip was about getting weird in the desert.
We had been modest in planning our daily mileage expectations, allowing for explorations
up various drainages, relaxed lunches by the Agua Fria river, and the necessary sessioning of
worthy trail features. Each night however, our camp spot was reached a little later than
expected, assembling tents and cooking dinner by the light of our headlamps.
Grizzled old-timers and keyboard adventurers alike might be disappointed by the lack of
hardship we encountered—water wasn’t hard to come by, we ate enough, the bikes worked
flawlessly, and the dire weather forecast never materialized. But for us, the trip was a
complete success. We had a blast, it was an insight into new possibilities, and the best
adventures are the ones that inspire future adventures.
For more information about Rocky Mountain Bicycles and the Sherpa visit bikes.com.
Words: Wade Simmons | Photos: Margus Riga | Film: Brian Vernor