Day 9 - Flagstaff to Clint's Well – Sunday, April 24th
The next morning, we ate breakfast at a wonderful restaurant, called La Bellavia, which was a close contender to best restaurant of the trip.
We said our goodbyes to Laron (who was going to check out the Unitarian church in Flagstaff), and started pedaling. It was a route-finding challenge, trying to find our way to the Lake Mary Road on a bicycle route, and it had some significant climbs, which remained the steepest of the day until hours down the road.
At long last, we were cycling the Lake Mary Road, which had wide shoulders, marked as a bicycle lane.
Profile from Flagstaff to Payson
This day, we would make it to around mile 56 (Clint's Well). Notice that it is (for this day) a succession of short, steep climbs, ending up about 600 feet higher than Flagstaff. Our trials for the day were not to be caused by the climbing, but by the winds.
Cycling the Lake Mary Road
This is a wonderful road for cycling, as you can see. The scenery was great, with rolling terrain – none of it too steep. At the time, the winds were mostly a cross-wind, and not too strong. It was a bit cool, as is suggested by the fact that Malcolm is wearing a coat/windbreaker.
Near lower Lake Mary, we saw a small store, which wasn't officially open yet for the season, but they had some welcome snacks, which we purchased happily consumed.
Lower Lake Mary – not much water in it – precipitation has been low in Arizona
Lower Lake Mary was just a little farther down the road. As you can see, there wasn't much water in it. Note in the picture the direction the bicycle is pointed to avoid it being tipped over by the wind – a harbinger of troubles yet to come.
This was by far my favorite section of the trip, as I really like mountain scenery, with lakes nestled among the pines.
Just beyond Lower Lake Mary was (you guessed it) Upper Lake Mary, which did have a lot of water in it, since it is a water supply for Flagstaff.
Upper Lake Mary
This is a long lake, and we saw a lot of it as the miles ticked-by.
Middle part of Upper Lake Mary
Notice that Malcolm is having to hold onto my bicycle to keep the wind from tipping it over – another harbinger of trials yet to come.
The south end of Upper Lake Mary – note again that Malcolm is holding onto both bicycles
Beyond here was another short, steep climb to Mormon Lake. Before reaching it, we saw the sign for the road going around the west side of Mormon Lake. I pointed it out to Malcolm, explaining that we could go that way, but it would be about 7 miles longer. We, on the other hand, would be taking the main highway, which was shorter – a decision I was very confident about, at that time.
Ironically, if we had taken the longer road, we would have avoided the extreme difficulties were were (unknowingly) about to encounter. Also, we would have passed Mormon lake in less than half the time it actually took us. The reason is that the longer road goes around the west side of the lake, and stays in the trees, which until now, had been blunting the full fury of the wind.
Looking at the north end of Mormon Lake, already starting to feel the beginning of the wind's full fury
As we cycled beyond the limited protection of the few remaining trees, we were exposed to the fury of the strong winds, howling across the big flat occupied by Mormon Lake. It was a head-wind (holding us back), but mostly a cross-wind – so strong it was difficult or impossible to stay upright while riding. We had to get off and push, the bicycles straining against our arms in the strong winds. These winds were easily 35 to 40 M.P.H. in speed.
The Mormon Lake basin is easily 9 miles long, and it was turning into a 9 mile hike. Occasionally we would encounter a few trees, or a road-cut of 4 to 6 feet, which would allow us to cycle in it's protection, but mostly we had to just walk.
We came to a waterfowl viewing area, whose parking/viewing area had a solid wall. Here we sheltered for awhile, eating our lunch, then it was out again into the wind's fury.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the wooded section at the south end of Mormon Lake, and we could finally cycle again. Though this was another steep climb, it seemed a welcome relief from the fury of the wind.
We had to climb the hill before we got to the road going to the Mormon Lake Lodge (where there was food). We opted not to go there, since we would have to re-climb that hill, and might again be exposed to the wind, which would be a head-wind going west to the lodge.
So we continued on our way, thankful for the wind-break offered by the forest.
Climbing after Mormon Lake
Looking back, after more climbing
A relatively level area, heading toward Happy Jack
At the top of the first summit of a double-summit peak
At the 2nd summit – the highest point of the trip, in the late-afternoon sun
After that, we had a good descent to lower altitudes, then rolling, less-steep climbs and descents, heading for Clint's Well. We kept pushing on, hoping to make it there, since the Internet indicated there was lodging at Clint's Well.
But this was a long stretch, and time dragged-on. It got to be darker, and we had to put on our lights. At long-last, we saw the sign for the Happy Jack Lodge (which is actually near Clint's Well). We turned onto the short side-road, hoping to get a room, only to find that they closed at 5:00 PM.
It was totally dark, so we would have great difficulties trying to find a campsite – which would be exposed to the still-strong wind, so we laid-out our sleeping bags on the lee-side of the building, under the awning and (more significantly) sheltered from the wind.
On this day, we traveled 56.7 miles, at an average speed of 6.8 miles per hour. It was a long, hard day, but with the best scenery of the trip. We felt glad to have overcome the difficulties presented by the weather.
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