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“Get ready to shred the red!” said George Miraval, a mountain biking maestro of the auburn desert landscape of Sedona, Ariz.
If not for the gray streaks in his ponytail, I might not have guessed the age of this youthful and enthusiastic septuagenarian. Part Berkeley hippie (he studied there in ’69) and part extreme adventure enthusiast, Miraval has Native American blood — and thus has ties to the sacred Native lands of Sedona. He was the perfect guide to lead me and a group on a three-day mountain biking adventure through the high desert of Arizona.
As the resident mountain biking expert of Sedona’s luxury Enchantment Resort, he was leader of an excursion that he helped forge: the annual Ride the Red Rocks mountain biking program, which draws adults of all ages and abilities each late October through early November. Outside this mid-autumn week (strategically held during their low season), mountain biking is still very much available, as it’s one of the big to-do items of the destination.
With more than 200 miles of mountain biking trails in an expanding network, Sedona rivals longtime mountain biking mecca Moab, Utah. Enchantment is just one place that provides mountain bikes and guidance for this sought-after activity; other outfitters, including Hermosa Tours and Sedona Mountain Bike Academy, also provide rentals and guided tours. However, they don’t necessarily have someone like Miraval.
“It’s time to get your ya-yas out,” he told us after breakfast, as we prepped for the day in the bicycle staging area. High-end Pivot and Trek mountain bikes were provided (as they are year-round), with full, cushioning suspension fitted to individual size and build.
In no time, my intimate group of 10 cyclists headed off into the wilderness. (All participants were divided into three groups of about 10 people, and Miraval and two other guides alternated groups each day.)
Enchantment Resort, along with its sister property Mii Amo, a destination spa, lies in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon; the canyon is believed to be the place of origin for the Yavapai-Apaches, Hopis and Navajos. As soon as our front wheels rolled off property, we were immediately in physical contact with sacred and spiritual land.
In fact, the resort itself has a prime view of one of the four main vortexes of Sedona: the nearby “Kachina Woman,” denoted by its male counterpart rock formation, “Warrior Man.” Together, they consummate an ethereal energy in Boynton Canyon. Many believe these vortexes are portals to other dimensions in the spiritual spectrum, and they beckon many a New Age hiker and yogi.
Biking in more grounded territory, I was on the trail, “shredding the red.” As an avid road cyclist back home, I kept up with my fellow intermediates, and Miraval mixed up our route with easy and challenging terrain. Through the brush of chaparral bushes and juniper trees, we ebbed and flowed with the undulating landscape — the bikes’ suspension absorbing all the bumps. Some trails had steep inclines while some had more natural obstacles to clear, but the unifying characteristic amongst all the trails was the awe-inspiring scenery: the grand, crimson landscape of sandstone, only humbled by the giant ceiling of blue above, peppered with crawling clouds.
Sometimes we rode up to “slick rock” flat trails that hugged big sandstone spires. Other times, we rolled down to the gravely patch of a dried-up riverbed, using all our might and forward momentum to ride up the other side. And, occasionally, we took a tumble — but figured that was all a part of the adventure.
Miraval and his team of guides were very helpful in teaching us new techniques to conquer the rough terrain.
“We want to make you tingle,” Miraval said to us. “But safely.”
On trails such as Mescal, Yucca and Canyon of Fools, we rode left, right and then climbed up hard — only to be gratified with a gravity-powered downward ride. The most memorable descent was on the adrenaline-pumping Aerie Trail. Miraval described it as a fun, BMX rollercoaster ride: fast, with many back-and-forth curves, but with banks to keep your balance and maintain the speed. Conveniently, it ended right back near the resort, where Enchantment and Mii Amo’s luxury amenities and gourmet dining options were readily available.
In the end, the mountain bike rides were relaxing yet exhilarating, and tiring yet rewarding.
Back at the hospitality tent, Miraval had a post-ride stash of special local brews for us.
“It’s in the chest labeled ‘NOD,’” he said. “Stands for ’Gnarly Old Dude.’ That’s me.”
He then explained his use of the “N;” noting that otherwise the acronym would be ‘GOD’ — and because no one pronounces the G.
It didn’t matter to me if it was NOD or GOD. I was just content that a Gnarly Old Dude was there to guide me through shredding the red in Sedona. It was fitting that later that afternoon, we rode our bikes, in classic Western fashion, into the sunset. Parts of me tingled — but safely.
The DetailsEnchantment Resortwww.enchantmentresort.com
Ride the Red Rockswww.ridetheredrocks.com