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ADV RidesRiding TerrainDesertNew AZBDR Trail System – Reporting From the Field

New AZBDR Trail System – Reporting From the Field

 Female newbie rider navigates the AZBDR trail solo on a XT225.

Published on 04.14.2014
View of the Grand Canyon from a short detour just off the AZBDR trail.

Lynda from St. George, Utah usually likes to do a lot of planning before she goes on a trip. But her well-planned Spring Break tour of Moab, Utah was thrown out the window when her boyfriend and riding partner broke his hand in three places. She only had a few days before her vacation would begin and now there was no time to find a substitute riding partner. If Lynda wanted to go riding on her time off, she would have to ride solo.

After coming across the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR), Lynda decided it would be the perfect solo Adventure Tour. The Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) organization had already done all the planning and map routing for her. She would just need to download the free GPS tracks, purchase the AZBDR Butler map and be on her way.

Lynda Wallenfels takes on the AZBDR Trail System Solo
Lynda’s boyfriend followed her in his car for the first few miles of the trip.

If you aren’t familiar with the BDR, it’s a non-profit organization that develops off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. They also provide maps, free GPS tracks and trip planning advice. The AZBDR is the newest addition in the growing list of State Backcountry Discovery Routes. The AZBDR trail system runs 750 miles across the state of Arizona from the Mexico-Arizona Border to the Arizona-Utah border.


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When the day of departure came for her trip, the thought of six days of riding solo made Lynda very nervous. She had only been riding motorcycles for a year and a half and this would be her first major solo ride. Part of the AZBDR would run along the notorious Arizona-Mexico border, which only added to her anxiety. She was also worried about picking up her Yamaha XT225 by herself if she fell during the trip. Breakdowns on the trail were also a concern, but luckily she had taken a motorcycle mechanics class at a local community college that gave her the confidence to handle any minor problems she might encounter.

At the start of the AZBDR trail system, Lynda’s fears had her feeling nauseous. But her adventurous spirit urged her forward and she was soon on her way. Riding along the Mexico border, she was fearful of illegal activity in the area. Warning signs motivated her to keep moving and avoid stopping for pictures. But she never saw a single person the entire time near the border. Everything was eerily deserted and she soon began to enjoy the wide open country and beautiful grasslands of the area.

AZBDR Grasslands
The AZBDR starts in open grasslands near the Mexico border and soon climbs to alpine forests in the higher elevations.

Heading north, she encountered the first major technical section descending down Red Cloud Mine Road just past the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. It was difficult riding for her with loose rocks and washed out road, so she put full focus on not dropping the bike. Lynda was a bit unsettled by the fact that this feature had not been mentioned on the AZBDR map or notes, but was able to make it through successfully.

Her next challenge was getting on the Interstate highway with her fully loaded XT225 geared down for off-road riding. Her max speed at wide-open throttle would be less than 65 mph and the flow of traffic would be 10 to 20 miles an hour faster. Lynda had never been on an Interstate highway before on her XT225, so she needed about 20 minutes of mental preparation before going up the on-ramp. Eventually, she’d arrive in the next town safely after being passed by a handful of semi trucks.

This would be just the first day of Lynda’s six-day journey on the AZBDR trail system. She would rely on the BDR’s guidance for gas, food and shelter throughout the trip, and improvise as needed. Along the way, she would encounter many challenges such as slippery creek crossings, a faulty clutch, road closures and freezing cold weather. Persevering through it all, she was rewarded with amazing views around Pioneer Pass, Cherry Creek and Tonto National Forest. Some of her favorite locations along the trail were the black sands of Sunset Crater, Views of the Grand Canyon and the unspoiled beauty of the Navajo Nation.

The amazing wildlife on display also made an impact. She witnessed ocotillo plants in full bloom and many saguaro cacti. She also viewed packs of coyotes, wild horses and even a bobcat on the prowl. The diversity of the landscape was impressive as she traveled through a range of desert canyons and high alpine forests.

Wild Horses AZBDR
Wild horses roam freely in the Navajo Nation section of the AZBDR trail system.

Lynda completed her trip successfully after 6 days and 918 miles riding from the Mexico border to her hometown in St. George, Utah. She was lucky enough to make it through her trip without any major mechanical problems or injuries. Her only real difficulty came at the end of the trip when she decided to eat a pork tamale for lunch from a gas station in Piute, AZ. She arrived home with a fever and quickly developed a wicked case of food poisoning, but at least she made it home safely.

During the trip, Lynda encountered several surprises and her experiences provide some valuable insights for future travelers on the AZBDR.

Lessons Learned from the Trip:
• Watch out for difficult trails around Red Cloud Mine Rd. and the Coconino Rim.
• Mogollon Rim roads are closed for the winter and don’t open until late spring.
• Turn toward Hwy 64 at the end of Coconino Rim for views of the Grand Canyon.
• The popular Antlers Restaurant in Young, AZ is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
• Navajo Nation permit office closes on weekends, so plan dates accordingly.
• Watch out for stray dogs and coyotes in the Navajo Nation land.
• Be prepared to ride on the highway for several portions of the AZBDR.
• Avoid eating pork tamales at gas stations!

We commend Lynda for her bravery and adventurous spirit. It takes a lot of courage to take on the AZBDR solo, woman or man. Completion of her trip proves that you don’t need a lot of riding experience or extensive planning to have a great adventure. The AZBDR and other BDR routes make adventure touring much easier for new and experienced Adventure Riders alike. We should all be grateful for the hard work the BDR has put in to produce these valuable off-road trails systems.

Lynda’s experience on the AZBDR also illustrates that these routes aren’t perfect and no one can predict everything you will encounter. When traveling these BDR routes, you have to be prepared for surprises. Roads may be closed and trail conditions can change dramatically after winter rains.

Remember, solo riding can be dangerous and should be avoided if at all possible. Sometimes circumstances prevent us from riding with a partner. Just make sure you bring along a Spot or other GPS based locating device so you can be found and get help in an emergency.

You can check out the full ride report “AZBDR solo on my XT225” on ADVRider.com.

Map of the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route

Author: Rob Dabney
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