On Sunday we did a mini Aerie Celebration ride in a clockwise direction. Rama led the ride for the first half, so it wasn't how I would have done it but I can't have my way every ride. Just getting the group out to the Aerie trail to pound it in is a PR miracle.
We parked 100 yards south of the Dry Creek road and the Dry Creek gravel road intersection on a pullout off the pavement. From there we headed northwest on Girdner to Anaconda to AZ Cypress to Dawa to Cockscomb to the Cockscomb/Rupp intersection where went right (northwest) and headed up the new Cockscomb extension trail to the Aerie Red Rock Pass Parking Lot. From there we rode the small section (300 yards) of paved road over to the new Aerie trail (which hadn't been signed as of Sunday), which starts at the Aerie Road intersection and the Aerie Red Rock Pass Parking Lot Road.
By riding the newer Forest Service Cockscomb extension trail you get closer to the new Aerie trail than riding the Aerie Development Perimeter Fence trail. Hopefully, that section of the ride will be better marked to keep riders from wandering around trying to find the most enjoyable route.The newer Cockscomb extention trail is a well routed somewhat narrow trail that it a really nice addition to the Sedona trail network. With better signing it will definitely become a very popular section of trail to ride and hike.
Once on the new Aerie trail going in the northeast direction we followed the trail to the Deadman's/Boynton Canyon Parking lot (D/BCPL). Previously the trail had been signed with small signs showing riders that they were in fact on the Aerie trail. For some unknown reason the signs were removed, which doesn't reinforce to riders or hikers that they are in fact on the Aerie trail. Since there are over 12 signs necessary to mark the Aerie trail one has to wonder if the trail will ever be signed properly to keep riders and hikers on track.
After reaching the D/BCPL we headed up to Mescal to ride the cool rocky ledges and the medicine wheel to get an energy boost. Once dropping down the Mescal trail back to the Long Canyon Road we cross Dry Creek and hook-up on Lost Watch to Chuck Wagon to Touron to Lost Watch to the Dry Creek gravel road and back to the car.
Another better way IMHO to do this ride would be to go down Anaconda and turn right on the Anaconda Bypass trail to AZ Cypress to the OK trail to Dawa to Cockscomb to the Cockscomb extension trail. I think that route is less sandy riding on AZ Cypress and less difficult climbing on the lower leg of the Dawa trail that drops down to AZ Cypress. It is also a more of a faster XC style connection over to the Cockscomb extension section.
Note that currently the sign at the Rupp/Cockscomb extension trail only says Rupp on it. Some Good Samaritan has drawn in a small CC on the sign with a felt tip pen to try and give riders and hikers a better chance to reorient themselves to where they are at.
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